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.