It's Official. I'm a "Superstar."

In the"modern klezmer world" at least.
According to Frank London, evidently.
Read his interveiw about the new Klezmer Brass All Stars CD :"Party Until You Are Beyond Rationality, An Interview with Klezmer Musician Frank London."


Mark "Rocks Out"

Here's a pic from shutterbug/clarinetist/proud father Bob Blacksburg. His very talented son Dan plays trombone with Frank London from time to time, and on NYE he was in Aaron Alexander's band. Bob has an eye and hauls his camera just about everywhere. (See his pics from Klez Kamp 2005 here.)

I'm guessing this pic was taken during my "solo" in 9/8 where I was encouraged by band leader Aaron to "go free."

Free indeed!

More fun with Google Translations

Reviews of Frank London's Klezmer Brass All Stars "Brotherhood of Brass," still one of my proudest recording achievements.

Words clumsily translated from the Foreign Press:

"frank London occupies with its Klezmer Brass of all star impressively that it a Klezmer beyond of schluchzenden clarinets and jammernden play the violin gives... after-felt the common roots of the music of Jews, Mauren and gypsies. If in political regard times school made."- Swabian newspaper 02/2004

"Stempenyu" - one says ehrfuerchtig in the Jewish world to a talentierten musician. Here directly 27 is to be heard from this sort to." - Jazz dimension

"a completely mad, alive plate. Blowing music purely in all-finest development." -Klezmer.de

"impetuous up to the Hektik, omitted are for an unlimited period durable and to each opportunity recommendable sixteen the titles." - West Time

"a marvelous Blaeserfest rings out from our Hifi plant." - Jazzeit

"there are moments in those radix complements easily from the hand goes. Today is it again so far." - South Wind

"listening it rather, as London Freaks integrates also tones south the white sausage equator in their Katechismus of subversiven blowing. Madly." - Amazon.de


Get Serious, Mr. Pancake

Here's one that slipped right by me.

Check out this CD of children's music made by my pal Frank Meyer. He's out in my front yard right now making a fence out of recycled bamboo, which is what he does for a living. But his real calling is funny songs. I've known him for years when he was the string bassist for one Austin's most underrated blues acts called the Mannish Boys (featuring a very young Gary Primich on harmonica.) He's just released the fabulously titled "Get Serious, Mr. Pancake" appropriate for children of any age. "Too Bad About Bugs" is the runaway hit I'll bet.

Some of Austin's most talented pickers contributed; Erik Hokkanen, Kevin Smith and Danny Levin to name but a few. Besides playing a bunch of tuba and bass on the disc, there's a hilarious photo of me gracing the back cover, as Mr. Pancake himself. Buy it and see it for yourself.


Scenes From the 9th Ward of New Orleans

From my pal Emile Francis:

Hi All,

Sorry about the morose pictures, but I drove through the Lower Nine for the first time yesterday (Thursday), and was amazed. Pictures just don't do it justice.

Scene from the front porch
The levee
Barge on the block.


To "the City" and NYE

Fellow KK staff member Dan Peck and I have what is now an annual tradition. I actually first met Dan years ago when he was working at John Hatton’s CD booth at Fiddle Tunes up in Port Townsend. Under a very friendly administration there, I had been invited to teach and perform four years in a row. I suspect that he had something to do with my coming on board at Klez Kamp as well, but at both events we hardly see each other during the week due to the working commitments involved.

I know Dan to be a fine old time banjoist and guitarist on top of being a swell guy. Rather than take the chartered bus back to the Workmen’s Circle Building in Manhattan after KK, Dan will drive me back to his place in Jersey City. This year he treated me to a trip to his ancestral home, am old Scots-Irish enclave called Kearny. There he took me to the most fabulous Fish and Chips shop I’ve been to on this side of the pond. Then a walk through the parks he used to play in as a kid in the brisk Jersey cold and then back to his place to eat the home made short bread we got from the restaurant. It was almost a date I tell you.

Having slept little if at all during the week, we both collapsed after a beer and didn’t wake till nearly 2pm the following day. Dan bravely loaded me back into his SUV and made the treacherous trip into midtown this New Years Eve Day, just to deliver me to my job site. I take lunch at the Stage Deli with a Texas Ex-Pat friend of mine who concurs that these Yankee Jewish men are generally weak and pathetic; nobody knows how to two-step up here and thus how hard it is to find a date. We catch up but she’s got a hot date with a nice Goyische boy in Hoboken ( a veteran no less) and I have a sound check to make.

If you ever wondered if you were out of shape, strap 40 pounds of luggage to your back and drag 100 pounds of tuba and electric bass behind you in a driving snow 15 blocks through midtown Manhattan. You will ‘feel the burn” I guarantee you. I get to the joint early, a very odd place in my estimation, called Makor. I was here on Christmas Eve checking out my friend Alex Kontorovich’s band when it was packed to the gills with wild eyed, desperate Jewish singles. I can safely say that in all my life I have never encountered that particular energy. I had up to that point never been in a “Jewish” bar for that matter, much less a “Jewish singles bar.” It was more than a little off putting I’ll tell ya. The word stereotypical comes to mind but I will try not to dwell too much on it.

(No really, it was really spooky. I don’t mean to fixate, but it bears mention. You had all these nice ladies, mostly in teams of three for some reason, all dolled up and out in the prowl, just as cute and accessable as could be. Then you had these creepy dudes in suits paying no attention to them at all instead hitting on the goyische waitresses. It was in a word, gross. I guess all that "Sex in the City" crap is for real. These poor people have no way decent way of being introduced properly. Thank the good Lord I was raised up in a place where couples dancing to a hot C&W band is an accepted form of courtship, and gentlemanly manners and Southern Graces aren’t considered quaint nor provincial. It ain't for nothng I married a Texas gal. And I’ll admit I used to carry great enmity for the Yankee; just a wee bit for the War of Northern Aggression, but mostly for my Yankee Jewish kin for being so stereotypically, well damnit, Yankee. Now I only carry pity for them. Bless their poor, lonely hearts.)

The gig goes splendidly, with Aaron Alexander’s Midrash Mish Mosh rocking way harder than you’d think a NY downtown art ensemble could muster. Then magically with a very few personnel changes and me setting down the electric bass for the tuba, Frank London’s traveling circus act of Chaos Incarnate oft titled the “Klezmer Brass All Stars” played right up to the cusp of 2006. It’s all a haze after that, but I do remember getting in a good hang backstage with Micheal Wex and Frank and his lovely wife Tine, a cheeseburger at the West Side Grill and waking up well rested on Aaron’s couch.

Here’s a prayer for the New Year. A healthy and prosperous year to all.


Klez Kamp Report v 1.1

As I write this from seat 20 B (exit row, aisle) of the plane taking me back to Texas, I am reminded how difficult it is to both live in a moment and to take proper note of it as well. So much went on during my week of teaching, playing, interacting and such that most of it zipped by with little notice. I brought a camera, but never had it handy when the fun stuff happened for instance.

Highlights include the following:

a) 1st nights staff concert, which was interminably long as usual, however punctuated by Jim Guttman’s amazing interpretation of a Beregovski dance tune in the style of Mingus’s Big Band. Made all the more wonderful by a solo section featuring Pete Sokolow’s stride break. Magic moment that I hope was captured on tape (or digital or whatever.)

b) Drinking a fine bottle of Zwack Slivopalinka with my Traditional Ensembles class. Our percussionist, Karen, had received it as a gift and generously shared it with all. The Hungarian Kosher slivo is my favorite and was happy to have a taste again.

I had a fine group of folks assigned to me this year including some familiar faces from years past. I laid a couple of Cookie Segestein arrangements on them and they made fine work of it. Sometimes I truly wonder what my classes must think of me. They come to study Yiddish culture and music and then they’re presented with a trash talking Texan who speaks Yiddish in the North-Central Oklahoman dialect. It must be a shock, especially to the Europeans who show up. At any rate, I have what I think is a clear, well-researched, stage proven and culturally informed agenda about this music and how to better perform it. I’m never fully certain however that I’ve gotten it all across to my class, especially in such a short time.

c) Jamming with Pete Sokolow in the lobby. He let me sit next to him and ham fist my way through a few numbers on a borrowed tenor banjo. I will mark my time sitting listening to him play James P Johnson and Eubie Blake numbers on a poorly tuned spinet as one of the great musical privileges of my life. No foolin’.

d) Lunch and dinner. Never made Breakfast, but the kitchen staff did real good this year, even with a glat Kosher menu. Josh Horowitz did refer to the “beef flavored laxative” in reference to the roast beef one night, but that was a single glitch. I’m sure I gained 5 pounds at least.

e) The schvitz. That’s Yiddish for steam room. Located in the Spa in the hotel’s basement.117 degrees steam heat, clean and pleasant. I was there half and hour each afternoon, concluding with a dip in the whirlpool. This resort could be the best facility they have had the event in, and I’ve been in 4 different places thus far.

f) Hanging out with really great people: Hank Sapoznik, band mate and KK founder who was cool as a cucumber this year. Cookie and Josh, who along with Hank could be the folks who best share my ideas about music. Seeing Alan Watsky again and playing his cool guitars and kvetching about the fiddle business. Working extensively with Jeff Baker (King Django) who is even hipper than I assumed, and playing all week with Aaron Alexander who I knew was great but forgot what big fun he was. Barely saw some of my old companions as we were all working hard; Frank London, Deb and Jeff Warschauer, and Micheal Wex who is having a great year, hopefully the start of many more as his biblical 7 years of want has been going on for about 28 now. (Buy his book BTW.)

In conclusion, there are other places that have similar concepts in teaching Yiddish culture, but having attended quite a few as both student and instructor, I can safely say that none provide the depth and breadth of exposure at the Living Traditions Klez Kamp. It’s the first of its kind and remains the gold standard that all others copy, so in some senses you’d be foolish to go elsewhere. Many participants I talked to this week said as much to me on several occasions.