Klez Kamp Report v 1.0

Hard to take time out and tell you anything as life here at Klez Kamp is a little like being trapped in a Yiddish speaking submarine, only the food is a little better.

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.



Tomorrow morning I catch a flight for NYC, arriving just in time to hop a cab to Park Slope in Brooklyn and play a set with Aaron Alexander's Mix Mosh Midrash at 10pm. Aaron is on my SHORT list of drummers I like to play with and as a member of Frank London's Klezmer Brass All Stars I have built up a great musical rapport with him. I was particularly honored that he asked me to be a member of his group, playing a set his original compositions at this gig and then a week later at Makor for their New Year's Eve show.

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.


A Tale of Two "Dreydl's"

Very soon, local Time Warner cable news channel (News Channell 8) will be airing it's annual "hey-let's-air-a-hannukah-song-once-an-hour-for-a-day-to-make-the-local-
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.

Merry Christmas

Yes, Christmas.

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.


Jewish Culture Manifesto

(Note to Non Jews, ignore this as it doesn't involve you. Move along. Nothing to see here...)


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.


Now it's "Infamous"

First it was "Every Word Is True." Then it was "Have You Heard." Then the competing script "Capote" came out and everybody fell in love with Phillip Seymour Hoffman's acting. Now it's "Infamous." So back in January I was in NYC recording Gwenth Paltrow. Then in March I was on a sound stage here in Austin acting out my part.

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.


Bob Cohen's October Romanian Expedition

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 TecsE (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.



Even more Romanian Goodness...

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.