Here's some random photos of a recording session with German Goldynstein:
German himself is criminally under recorded, with only one tune on Frank London's new CD, though lots of his students have gone on to record his material. I played on a studio session led by Michael Alpert over a year ago but as of yet, there is no sight of it's release.
Saxman/Clarinetist Alexander Kontorovich suggested that we try and do a recording session here during Klez Kamp, using an empty hotel room, the staff as a band and King Django's mobile recording rig. Everyone has graciously donated thier efforts to making this happen for German.
We're squeezing in recording sessions around our teaching schedules and 2 days in I can honestly say I'm quite impressed. With any luck we'll have a good reference CD (w/ accompanying sheet music book) for German to sell and for everyone to enjoy. Hopefully the the "proper" studio set will see the light of day as well and German will get deserved day in the sun.
Follow all the "fun" at the Klez Kamp blog.
To quote a friend of mine, it's taken me a year since his Tzadik Records release to "get" what he's doing. Now that I have, and have taken the time to actually learn his material (I hear musicians outside of Austin actually do that, rather than just show up for the gig and fake it) I would humbly recommend you seek out the CD. It's an unlikely convergence of Mr. Alexander's musical history which included expressive jazz, klezmer and eastern European music and even hardcore thrash. I will be playing the electric bass, which I am not known for and possibly with good reason. (see circa 1983 pic.) Wish me luck.
After that there's rumor of a salsa gig with Frank London and Anthony Coleman, but it could be apochryphal. If you know of anything fun to do in NYC on the 24th please do let me know. The morning of the 25th I head up to Hudson Valley Resort to attend and teach at the annual Jewish Music/Culture retreat called affectionately "Klez Kamp." I will report and fun occurs.
I'm back in Austin in the new year with regular gigs with the Ridgetop Syncopators and Lil' Alice and her Monkey Butlers. Best wishes for a safe new year.
And Merry Christmas.
Hebrews-feel-included-during-Christmas" musical interlude.
Sure enough they turned to me to provide the tune and once again I spun out a lame version of my most detested Jewish musical memory (Hava Nagilah not withstanding.) It's available right now for local digital cable subscribers at Channel 8 On Demand.
For contrast, here's my 2002 version. A swing-rhumba featuring khazan Neil Blumofe and Rubinchik's Yiddish Ensemble.
Not the insipid "Happy Holidays" or it's lame cousin "Season's Greetings."
Christmas. The celebration of the birth of the Christ child. Let's call a spade a spade and leave it at that. Y'all run this place and you're doing us no favors in your clumsy attempts to include us non-Christians. Jews in America have akwardly attempted (and in fact suceeded) to make Hannukah a big deal, which observant Jews will remind you it is not. Ramadan come and goes and few folks bother to notice. African American have concocted a Zwanzaa of thier very own and God bless them. It's no more "authentic" a celebration than the pagan winter celebrations than the Christian Church coopted for "Yuletide."
When Pat Robertson and me are on the same page of an issue, you best pay attention.
And Merry Christmas.
My name is Mark Rubin and I approve of the following message:
Manifesto of the Rootless Cosmopolitan
My old pal Rohkl puts into words thoughts and experiences that have rolled around in my head for years. Only in a much more far measured and thoughful way than a product of the Oklahoma Public School system like myself could possibly do.
After a mighty unpleasant conversation concerning "Zion" (read modern Israel) and "Golues" (literally "the exile"meaning the modern diaspora) with some members of my local synagogue a few years ago, I had a mind to change the name of my Yiddish Ensemble to "di Freylhke Galutniks" (yiddish=The Happy Exiles.) Now I'm certain I will. That is, if we ever get another gig. I usually have to go to Europe to play Jewish.
It must actually be coming out as Warner Independent has a website for it now. Release date is now October 16th 2006 so they say, but I don't trust these people. The rumor on the street is that if Hoffman wins the Oscar for his portrayal of Truman Capote, we go straight to video. Well that would be a damn shame, knowing the back story of this film and the heaping piles of BS that had to be traversed to create it.
Working with "Infamous" Director Doug McGrath was one of the most enjoyable experiences I've had in either the music or movie business, and he is roundly understood to be one of the few real good guys out there. To have his original vision snatched away by another studio, then presented in such a watered down version that was then released to great acclaim proves that Hollywood truly can be the deepest cesspit that the Christian Right rail on about. I pray that the movie comes out and that the story Doug wanted to tell gets out there, warts and all.
I'll admit it. I'm more than a little interested in Romanian village musics.
Not as worked up about it as my pal Bob Cohen. Bob lives in Budapest and leads a crackerjack Jewish band there called Di Naye Kapelye that has released 2 of the most enjoyable CD's in my collection. I've ranted about him before. Recently, he found this here blog and then sent me the following photos of his summer trip into the Sub Carpathians in search of cranky old fiddlers who could maybe remember a Jewish melody. He's one of the most generous fieldworkers I've ever encountered in the whole of the alleged Jewish Music "scene." It's my pleasure to share his stories and Fume's picture with y'all:
"OK, these photos are from my October trip, taken by Fumie Suzuki. The Australian tsimbl player Tim Meyen and fiddler Pip Thompson were with us. The idea was to hit Maramures looking for more older fiddlers and to gather more info on the Ovitch family band in Rozavlea, who were the Jewish Dwarf Circus known as the Liliput troupe. The Discovery network is doing a documentary film about them based on the book "In Our Hearts We Were Giants" by Negev Koren, and Di Nayes had recorded some of their repetoire for the film. (My note: No, he's not joking. Only Bob can get away with the preceeding statement with a completely straight face.)
Churaru is a fiddler in Petrova, Marmaures, who still plays some of the older Jewish repetoire learned via the Jewish fiddler remembered as "Benzine" (this is what happens when people have to remember a name like BenZion) who played with his father.
Players of Vioara cu goarne (Stroh Violin) at the Fekete To (Black Lake) peasant fair in Negreni, Transylvania. Fair happens the second weekend of October yearly in Negrenio, about an hour north of Cluj. Seen are Traian from Bratca, Dorel Cordoban, who makes and sells these fiddles, from Comunna Lazuri, Ghitsa from Zalau, and me on kontra violin.
Ion Covaci from Saliste, known as Ionu lui Grigore, nicknamed "Paganini". He plays with Ion Pop from Hoteni a lot, and played a whole set of Jewish wedding tunes for us, including acting out the role of the Badchen (called Mashalinke in these parts) during the ceremony. Some of these tunes are on our next Naye CD.
Nicolae Covaci from Dragomiresti, one of my favorite old fiddlers. In Maramures they say you don't learn fiddle, you "steal fiddling." I steal a lot from Nicolae. I worked with Nicolae's older brother, Ionnei from Ieud for several years. Ionnei died two years ago, but Nicolae is still a good source for memories of the Jewish musicians who used to play in the region. Both Nicolae and Ionnei played with the Shloimovich family band before WWII. Ionu lui Grigore remembers hearing that band but didn't actually play with them. Nicolae strings his fiddle with telephone wire and tunes.
Mitsitsi is Gheorghe la Urecche ("George the Ear") the older fiddler from Leordina. He and his son were digging a ditch when I met them,dropped everything, and started to play for us. Great folks. Mitsitsi's father played with the Jewish fiddler "Benzine" regularly before WWII, they were partners in a smuggling operation across the Tisa river to the Carpatho Ukraine. Benzine apparently worked alone as a Badchen and fiddler who regualrly hired local Covaci clan Gypsies to accompany him when there was a Jewish wedding. Remebered as a somewhat "weak" fiddler, Benzine had the area pretty much to himself since it was a long haul to get the preferred Shloimovich band across the central mountain ridge that divides Maramures. This area is already heavily Hutsul, and you can hear the "Hutsul hesitation" in the phrasing of his Jewish tunes, especially the Jewish De Jale (doinas.)
The Rusyn/Hutsul band from TecsE (long umlaut on the o) comes from the other side of the Tisa river in Tjaciv (Yiddish:Tetch) the Ukraine. A lot of Jews used to live in the area, and part of Perele Gluck's family hail from there. They are absolutely one of the best old style Carpathian bands around, and they come to Budapest every couple of months. Josika (accordion) Misa (tsymbaly) and Yura (drums and plonka - birch bark leaf held in mouth) are brothers, sons of Manya Chernovich, the main fiddler in Tjaciv until his death. The fiddler, Ivan, married into the family. Ivan played drums with his father from Visk, and at the age of 9 he was included with his pop playing on a 1969 Soviet boxed set of down and dirty Ukrainian folk music that I have as well. They play Rusyn, Hungarian, Maramures Romanian, and some Jewish pieces. While hanging out with them they also played some classically Jewish Klezmer pieces - I figured they had copped a Klematics CD someplace - but they didn't even think of these as Jewish, but as "Moldavian pieces." They have a great CD out on Hungary's Ethnophone label. (My note: I have this CD and I recommend it highly.)
Finally, here's and old black and white pic of a Hutsul band found on the web someplace... Josika told me that in the classic old style bands there might be a clarinet, but not today... the accordion takes that voice now.
Check out his true story of fiddler Ion Petre Stoican, who traded being a spy for his government for a recording contract. Too strange to make up. Stoican has long been one of my favorites and my band actually worked up a few of his tunes. I never knew the back story, which sounds like it would make a great movie script.
Report from the International Accordion Festival, San Antonio TX, 10/16-17.
This from next month's 3rd Coast Music Magazine:
"High spot was the sanctioned busking of Ben Schenck and Patrick Farrell of the Panorama Jazz Band with Mark Rubin. Low spot was Rubin sitting in with the Lower Chodsko Trio, but not wearing the group’s uniform, a bitter blow to Czech music purists and those of us who would pay good money to see Rubin in knee pants and stockings."
Good shot of my Miawy Bass (small, 3 string bass) much beloved in the Texas Polish community.
(photos by Lloyd Wolf)
(by Mexico's most famous, and incidently Shomer Shabbat, Mariachi uniform tailors, El Charro.)
Bad Livers Uber-Fan Greg Perry came and documented several of the performances on video. He's made a DVD that I'll be he'd be willing to share with anyone who asked on it.
The All Stars have a brand new spanking CD entitled "Carnival Conspiracy: In the Marketplace All is Subterfuge." It's a truly amazing document that I played tuba, baritone horn and even guitar on one track. It's available on Germany's Pirhana label, but you could find it on line I'll reckon. 5 Stars. Proud to be on it.
Here are my accomdations at the Workmen's Circle Summer Camp, better known as Circle Lodge. Better you can't see the floor...No lie, this is where they put me up for 2 days when I went up to perform with the Youngers of Zion.
God bless 'em, but this is where old fashioned lefty Yiddish Culture find themselves today.
Photo by Cookie Segelstien and jet lag.
I first met him at the National Folk Festival in Bangor ME a few years back and. He and I played what I still recall as my most cherished session of fiddle music until the wee hours of the final night there. I had never met anyone who played with such simple straight forward drive and energy. I don't play much Old Time music since the Bad Livers folded, so it was quite a treat.
It was my great fortune to run into him yet again at the National, but this time in Richmond VA. This years line up was a fine a selection of top flight traditional music spanning from the great Savoy Family of Eunice Louisiana, all the way to the frenetic Bulgarian Wedding Band of Ivo Pappasov and Yuri Yunokov and just about every where in between, including Yupik Eskimo dancers and Cowboy Poets. I was there as a member of Frank Londons Klezmer All Stars in a very rare USappearancee and just to make it interesting the Festival asked us to back up singer/folklorist/single handed Yiddish revivalist Henry Sapoznik. Whats not to like?
The gigs were uniformly amazing, but far more satisfying were the late night sessions tucked into every conceivable corner of the Radisson Hotel all the artists were being housed at. These picking parties are legendary, and this year did not disappoint. In the course a single evening we played Jewish frelaichs with the locals, played salsa tuba with the plena band from Puerto Rico and backed up the amazing fiddler Spencer Thorton of the White Top Mountain band in a particularly spirited and moving session that included hillbillies and Jews in a whole new and wonderful context. (Spencer is suffering mightily from emphysemama, and every stroke of his bow was matched with a desperate gasp for air. Even so, he stayed in for the fun as long as he could take it, playing with sureity and strength of spirit that belied his physical frailties. We hit it off in a big way, and I dearly look forward to seeing him in good health again real soon.) That all said, I did NOT get in any tunes with Kirk that night and I feared I might not at all.
After our final appearance at the festival, which will be a whole other story, we high tailed off to Buzz and Neds Real BBQ on 1119 N. Boulevard for what the locals tend to call the best in town. Buzz is MOT (last name Grossman in fact) and said we were welcome to come play for our supper. The locals were in fact not lying and the beef ribs could have been the best I ever ate, with sides you dont normally run into (pickled cucumber and onion salad made from scratch anyone?) We played then ate and then played again, a set just as inspired and wonderful as any I have played with Frank London. Simply put, hes Great High Sultan of Chaos, able to create great beauty and art out of whatever and whoever he finds. Amazing time and fun stuff, but still no picking with Kirk.
Imagine my happiness to walk into the lobby of the hotel to see a circle of chairs set out with Kirk in the corner, fiddle and banjo close at hand. Next to him is guitar maker and picker Wayne Henderson and evidently theyd been playing quite a bit before we got there. Henry sits down tight next to Kirk, who hands him a fine old snake head Gibson banjo. Waynes hands have been hurting from a weekend of picking so he lets me play his guitar, which is a little like having Stradivari hand you one of his fiddles. I can honestly report that it was among the best guitars I have ever played. I slide in tight next to Henry, already sitting knee to knee with Kirk, when Kirk says "Why not one of them Poole numbers?" Why not indeed?
Did I mention Kirk was a damn fine fiddler? No really, he's much more than that. In his own humble way he just sits there and plays absolutely the simplest and most plainly beautiful fiddle I have yet encountered. And he makes it seem so easy, so easy that the subtle nuances of his playing could be lost on the casual observer. He has a new CD called "Grandpas' favorites" which as I'm sure you figured out by now I strongly recommend that you rush out and buy. It's a great cross section of his native repertoire, played and recorded well.
If I am very luck this year I find my name inscribed in the Book of Life, I will consider it as a sign from the Almighty that I will eventually get to play with Hank and Kirk again.
Ben Schenck of the Panorama Jazz Band has found himself my house guest of late. We've been out making the scene, and playing with the local cats. Check it out.
Yesterday, a friend of mine, a musician of good spirit and a veteran of this country’s armed forces died.
Jon Baily, a banjo player, from California, spent his last years in Austin, Texas supporting the Austin Banjo Club and the Austin Traditional Jazz Society.
I met Jon at a Traditional Jazz Society function. He scrawled on the back of his business card the directions to the Banjo Club and insisted that I show up the following week. I did.
Jon went out of his way through those, my first couple visits to the Banjo Club, to make me feel welcome and to insist on my return. From those first visits to the Banjo Club on, Jon would share his love for music with me through telephone calls and emails. He would insist that I come pick up some band’s CD that made him think of me. He would email me all manner of information concerning music in all its forms that he found of interest.
Jon's love for music and his desire and willingness to share it were impeccable and so very appreciated.
Jon was also proud of the banjo pickers in the Club who were veterans. He summed up their stints in the military for me on different occasions. He shared with me any story that filtered through him that related to our nation’s warriors.
I’m ever thankful for having gotten to know this man and will live more fulfilled having been gifted by his hearty spirit.
If you have the extra time in the days following, take a minute, please, and realize what’s good around you. Be thankful for the elders in our musical family and take heart in their vitality and nature. Without these good people, our lives would be less.
Thank you, Jon Baily. I will continue to play tunes to the best of my ability for you!
- Ryan Gould
Sitting there, solid as a rock, with his beloved Paramount Plectrum banjo. Always ready with a joke and an infectious smile, Jon was one the reasons why I so much enjoyed visiting the Austin Banjo Club "rehearsals" on Monday evenings.
Life dealt Jon a bad series of hands late in life, but he mostly kept it to himself and soldiered on with great humor and dignity. He was a father, and veteran, and a great bon vivant. Above it all however, Jon played the hell out of the banjo. It gave him such happiness. Not just the instrument itself, for which he had an inate gift, but the fellowship and joy of playing music with others. You won't find his records anywhere. But he will be remembered very fondly by the literally thousands of people that played for, playing concerts at retirement centers all around the Austin area, and by his banjo brothers at the Austin Banjo Club.
I'm a better man for having met him and I miss him more everyday.
Welcome to Heaven. Here's your banjo.
The ex-pat owner made me and the other musicians staying there just as comfortable as I've ever been anywhere. It was almost off putting how nice they were. I got over it quick however.
They had something called a "salt grotto" in the basement of the hotel. It's a small room filled with 6 tons of salt, as if you found yourself deep in a salt mine. There's gently running water in the corner, mood lighting behing the walls of salt (nice touch) and comfy chairs to lounge in. A nice waitress brings you a Tatanka, a favorite summer drink made of one part apple juice and one part Zubrowska (Buffalo Grass) vodka, and you just chill. I found myself in there just about every night I was in Crackow, winding down with fellow performers.
Here's the website, with an interesting legend about the building where the Eden now stands.
I first met him in his native Belgrade Serbia. I'll let his website tell you more about him, but let me simply add that beyond being a fine fellow, he also happens to be the best "slap" style upright bassist I've ever encountered, either in person or on record. He's got skills and techniques that simply boggle my mind. Did I mention he was a nice guy? He even gave me a hat.
Check him out.
I stumbled upon this interview I gave back in 2000 while doing advance press for the Bad Livers Blood and Mood tour.
It was in the messy aftermath of a gig at the 400 Club in Minneapolis MN mentioned in this very interview, that sealed my decision to turn off the lights on my participation in Bad Livers. He calls me up on my cell phone and runs up about 2 1/2 hours on my phone, while we're driving through a snow storm in Wisconsin. The writer senses I'm a little "morose" in this interview, please know that I am in fact reading from a 3 x 5" card given to me by my band mate in an often vain attempt that I keep the journalist on our talking points about the "new direction" of the band. However, the stuff about dying on the highway and preconceived journalistic agendas is all me.
I'm a much happier camper these days. No, really.
For the last 3 years, I've been travelling to Europe as a member of Frank London's Klezmer Brass All Stars, playing all over Central and even Eastern Europe.
It's been quite an amazing for me journey musically, culturally, even spiritually, not to mention physically. Our tour schedule just last year took us from Vienna to Belgrade, from Riga Latvia to the small village of Vladichin Han, just a few miles from the Serbian border with Kossovo. I just returned form a concert in Chemnitz Germany, and in June will return to Vienna, by popular demand, to open the famed Weiner Festwochen as well as a concert tour of Italy.
One of the highlights of my experience with this group has been our collaborations with the Boban Markovic Orchestra, Serbia's finest Gypsy Brass Band. We recorded a CD with them, "The Brotherhood of Brass" in Budapest in 2001, which was released the following year on the Pirhana label. Just last year, we recorded a track for their latest CD "Boban I Marko" in Belgrade.
That CD was featured on NPR's "The World" recently, and just in case if you missed it, I've included a link where you can hear the story as it was broadcast, including the tune we recorded with them: and old Hassidic melody given the Gypsy treatment.
I've also posted a photo diary of our trip to Serbia, including the recording of the CD. You find even more photos from our many trips posted here as well.
It was quite an experience travelling Eastern Europe and Austria with Gypsies. Not always a pleasant one at times, made all the more chilling by the recent horrific treatment of the Rroma population in the Czech Republic, and news that the Austrian Government is building jails in Romania to house "Romanian criminals" (mostly Rroma) outside their own country. Anywhere that you can openly discriminate against gypsies and other "outsiders", you can be sure that Jews can expect the same treatment eventually. All I know how to combat this ignorance is to continue to return to Eastern Europe and elsewhere, identifying myself unabashedly as a Jew and attempting in my own small way as a musician to illustrate those things that bind ALL peoples together, rather than what makes us different. I invite you to visit this site with links to Rroma Rights organizations.
I also have quite a few things to share with you about the Jewish community of Belgrade, but that's a whole other story and you may contact me off line about that.
Shabbat shalom, and best to you!