Records I keep going back to. Volume one.

Seeing that our local NPR station (KUT radio, 90.5fm) is now completely programmed by the Music Director, leaving virtually no opportunity for the DJ to play his own choices*, I determined that I don’t need all these damn CD’s piling up in my office anymore. If I can’t share this music with anyone anymore, then might as well digitize it all and keep it to myself.

Like many folks are doing these days, I’m shedding the biscuits and keeping the tunes. MP3 sucks it may be true, but it’s manageable, easy to store and compress and share with others. I have not one, not two, but 3 hard drives (one stashed off site) to back up all my stuff however as I wish not to screw up completely.

There has been an unintended positive consequence to all this however. I get to listen to everything I load into the iTunes, and thus find some real gems that I may have overlooked otherwise. It reminds me of a similar experience many years ago, when I got my first CD changer. I would pop in 5 new CD’s, load in a blank 90 minute cassette tape and let it rip on “shuffle.” I’d take the tape with me on tour and through this exercise got exposed to a lot of good material I might have missed. The “shuffle” on my iTunes now serves exactly the same function only now I have 1700+ CD’s to choose from now. Ain’t technology grand?

So while I do this tedious task, I’ll got a few lines about records that I seem to be going back and listening to. Stuff you might have missed yourself and might do well to seek out.

Dave Stuckey & his Rhythm Gang “Get A Load of This” Hightone Music Group, 2000.

Here’s one that I really think didn’t have its day. Loaded to the gills with some of the finest roots pickers in Austin and recorded old-fashioned style at the bass players front living room, Mr. Stuckey hopes to evoke the freewheeling glory days of west coast hillbilly swing and in more than a few moments is quite successful. The casual environment of the session’s surroundings, coupled with the genuine joy of each others company while playing this material sets this CD head and shoulders above your run of the mill “gee I wish it was the 50’s” revivalist set, (which strangely most of these folks work in.) They really sound like they just discovered this stuff, they hit it hard and losse and by golly convince me too, even on tunes I’ve heard way too many times before. Stuckey’s originals stand up well to the classics as well. Truthfully, I’ve never heard any of these players sound better even on their own releases (with the possible exception of Dave Billers amazing LeRoy’s Blues, but that’s another essay.)

Hamstrung by being too scene-driven, and then released on a notoriously lousy label, it's a wonder it got out at all. Worth checking out.


OKeh Rhythm & Blues, Various Artists

Look around and see if you can’t find this CD reissue of the old double LP. It was my introduction to actual Black music, found at a record shop in Dallas TX in 1987. I make no small comment when I say it changed my musical life profoundly. Titus Turner, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Big Maybelle, the Ravens, even Little Richard and stupid novelty song about Willie Mays.

Holy cow. This stuff is big, loud, raw even when smooth and in your face. Made me reconsider ‘the Blues’ entirely which was only represented to my up to that point by balding middle age white guys slinging vintage Stratocasters at the open mic night at VZD’s in Norman OK. Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf LP’s were in my collection, but this uptown but way lowdown expression was a new one to me.

Led me to Big Joe Turner, Wynonnie Harris, T Bone Walker and eventually to Dallas native Zuzu Bollin who I was lucky enough to have played with a time or two before his untimely passing in 1990.

Sony eventually released an expanded OKeh collection, but it didn't have the same impact as these 28 tunes did all collected together.

*****, must find and cherish

*bear that in mind when they come asking you for money next pledge drive.


OK God, I give up...

If your point is a meditation on mortality, then I got it last week with Clifford Antone. Then German, now this:

Ellamae (Bobbie) Waite Rubin died Sunday, 11 June 2006 in Tucson, AZ. At her request, no services are planned.

Ms. Rubin was born April 13, 1914 in Olney, IL, the daughter of Delilah Verne (Howard) and Elias Berg Waite.

She was an excellent beautician, and was admired for her ability to style hair and give non-frizzy permanents, even when they were first introduced. Bobbie also worked with her family in a nursing home business in Connecticut, and later opened and operated her own care facility in Tucson in the 1950s and 60s. Her pink home, Rancho Toda La Vista, on Thornydale Road just north of Ina, was a landmark used by pilots training at Davis Monthan Air Force Base. For a few years her sons delighted in telling of their mother’s ranch in Tucson where she raised 10,000 head – of mice for research labs in Tucson.

Bobbie was best know for her hugs. She shared them everywhere she went and even passed out cards asking all around her to give more hugs. She loved to travel and took trips to Hawaii, Australia and Japan as well as throughout North America. She was an excellent bowler and won trophies in state and national tournaments for many years. She golfed, skied and danced until she was in her 80s. She greatly enjoyed volunteer work at Northwest Medical Center and received awards for her long and faithful service.

Bobbie is survived by her son and daughter-in-law, Howard and Mary Rubin, Mesa, three grandsons and their wives – Mark and Lainie Rubin, Austin, TX, Aaron and Patti Rubin, Oklahoma City, and Jason and Rebecca Rubin, Austin; a granddaughter and her husband Karen Rubin and Avron Bernstein; and grandchildren Willa, Isaac, Adam, Mara and Reesa Rubin, Lauren and Tess Hermes and Tyler Lindsey; special friends Steven and Sandy Ellinger, Steve Jr., and his wife and children, as well as many nieces and nephews.

She was preceded in death by her parents, a son Robert Hilliard Rubin, and her three brothers and two sisters.

In lieu of flowers, please make donations to a veterans’ charity or to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.


More on German Goldenshteyn

The following is an email* I received from Michael Alpert about German’s passing which expresses a many of the same feelings I have about the man and his contributions, most of which we were only beginning to realize.

Micheal writes:

Dear Friends,

With deep, deep grief and a enormous feeling of loss, I am writing to inform you that German Goldenshteyn, master Bessarabian traditional clarinetist died yesterday morning (Sat, June 10), apparently of a sudden heart attack or stroke, just one week short of his 72nd birthday.

At the time, he was engaged in his second favorite social activity -- fishing. If there is any positive dimension to his untimely death, it is that he died doing one of the things he loved best, in the midst of the nature he so treasured, and at the height of public appreciation by colleagues, students and audiences.

As many of you know, German embodied a distinct combination of love, warmth, kindness, humor, irony and playfulness, as well as a street-wise and wryly philosophical attitude toward the world and his fellow human beings. But he was not made of sugar. At times the pain of his devastating early years as child survivor of the Nazi and Romanian Holocaust would well up in him. Tears would pour down his face at the gut-level surfacing of memories he could barely recall, or he could wax fierce and bitter, yet in a way that always passed quickly, like a sudden storm that lashes rain momentarily before giving way again to blue sky and shafts of sun.

He was modest to a fault, but knew exactly who he was, and took gentle pride in his extraordinary diligence at all he undertook -- whether his early years as a machinist turning steel at a lathe at the Kirk Agricultural Equipment Factory, or painstakingly notating and indexing the Jewish, Moldavian, Ukrainian and Russian melodies of his native Dniester Valley, played by him and his fellow musicians -- Jewish, Moldavian, Ukrainian and Rom -- at village and town weddings throughout southwestern Podolia and northern Moldavia.

There is so much to say, there is nothing that suffices. H' teyn v H' kakh. As German would often say: "...vifl yurn got vet mir nor geybn." -- as many years as G-d gives me. Hot tears flow, a smile comes remembering his witticisms and hearty laughter, a huge, sad, empty hole remains that he occupied in our lives.
Godammit, why did he have to leave now? There is so much more to do, but there will never again be German to share it all with, to watch the determined look on his face as he played, completely in the moment, to share a joke with in his hearty Bessarabian Yiddish or eloquent Russian or downhome Romanian or Ukrainian or his ever-suprising English, to wrangle with over a turn or articulation, to watch as he patiently and lovingly encouraged young musicians, to lift a glass with and toast lekhayim, to bring us the living spirit of shtetl and village weddings, the mud and the snow and the vodka and the gasoline and the fires burning in the night air...

But he has bequeathed us a legacy of melodies deep and fiery, merry and heartrending, and it is ours now to carry on and play, celebrate, dance to, study, pass on to yet future generations, and tell them that we once knew a German, and he gave us these tunes to make our own...

German Goldenshteyn a"h is his survived by his wife Mina, their daughter, son-in law and grandson Klava, Borya and Alex Rozentul, numerous relatives, neighbors and landslayt (compatriots) in New York, Philadelphia, Vienna, Israel and Ukraine, and an entire community of musical friends and colleagues throughout the world.

*(I’ve edited out the parts where he talks about himself however. God love him, my old friend Michael tends to put himself at the center of attention even at someone else’s funeral.)

Pictured with me and German above is young Alex Kontorovich who not only single handedly produced German's only CD, he was also his most attentive disciple, himself a displaced Russian speaking Jewish clarinetist. Others may claim to have introduced us to German, but it is through Alex that his musical legacy has the most worthy exponent. A man of few words, he shares his thoughts on German as well:

Dear Friends,

As some of you may know, earlier this year some folks and I recorded a CD with a wonderful musician, husband, father, and grandfather, German Goldenshteyn. He had numbers tattooed on his arm from the war which left him an orphan, and a collection of 800 melodies from his 50 years on the bandstand. I was gearing up to email you all about the release party for his CD (which he had in his hands for a month before his heart attack while fishing two days ago) but today was his funeral. Now I'm not the overly sentimental or melodramatic type, but we lost a real gem. German exemplified how a musician active in the business can float above the everyday bullshit and politics of the industry and always keep in mind that our job is simply to make people happy. I never left his house hungry or sober, and hope the lessons we've all learned from him will stay with us for many years to come.

The show must go on; German wouldn't have it any other way. If you want to learn more about him and listen to clips of his playing, visit:


(Needless to say, the proceeds will be passed along to his wife.)

Our concert of German's music in Poland three weeks from now will go on, just instead of a celebration it will be in memoriam.

My best regards to you all, and my prayers to the Goldenshteyn family,


Alex V. Kontorovich


German Goldenshteyn RIP

Too sad for words...

I got the call while standing in a field in Eden NC after a day of wonnderous music.

Frank London tells me that German is dead. A sudden heart attack, while out fishing with friends just yesterday. Hank and Dan from KlezKamp are here with me and we cried like babies and hugged and cried again. A series of frantic calls to his friends and musical compatriots confirms the worse.
Damn, he was just starting to get going, a CD and everything.

Words fail me and I will start sitting shiva with a good roaring drunk...Vodka probably...


Charlie Poole Festival & Contest

I'm off to Eden NC this weekend to help out at the 11th Annual Charlie Poole Music Festival. My old pal and Klez Kamp founder Hank Sapoznik scored a gig on the directing board of this wonderful event after releasing the amazing "You Ain't Talkin' to Me" Poole box set for Sony/Legacy last year. He and Klez Kamp manager Dan Peck invited me along to MC, judge and whatnot. I guess my qualifications come from the big Sing Out! article I wrote last year.

There's a big concert on Friday night and then an old time fiddle and banjo contest all the next day.

Should be a big time. Might actually get some picking in as well. Ah, to be amongst the goyim again.....


Mexico. It's hot...

..and not so many Jews.

Veracruz Jazz Festival. Second anual event in Mexico's famed Gulf port.

I'm hired to play banjo with the strange and amazing Panorama Jazz Band. They have a fine banjo player, but she don't like to travel (wha?!) which is fine by me as I'll be the cat who get's to go to such wonderful places and play good music.

Here's the crib notes:

1) Parading on a float in downtown Veracruz with a combined Panorama and Mahogany Brass Band. There are two local models flinging candy at the assembled.

These people like candy way too much.

2) Panorama's tuba player John Gross doing something I always obsess about and forgetting his leadpipe at home. He visits a local hardware store and then fasions a make shift one with AC tubing and duct tape. !Viva Technologica de Mexico!

3) Drinking and eating on el Zocolo, the public square in the center of town (which in Catholic Mexico means next to the catherderal.) The New Orleanians refer to it as "Jackson Square," except there's way more street musicians here. Mostly crappy "Norteno" accordion bands, like I don't get enough of that at home. Did see a couple of amazing Sones Jarocho trios and a community brass band playing the heck out of Danzon music. Decent Mariachi too, but I can get that any night that Relampago is playing here too..

4) I am presently the size of 3.75 average Veracruzans. Don't ask me how we found out.

5) Do not eat the BBQ. No really. Even if they sponsored the whole festival. Just don't do it. Not when the tamale vendors are right around the corner.

6) The Okie Jew was featured singing a Church of Christ Hymn played by a New Orleans Jazz band in Mexico, at a festival run by a Lebanese pianist. Chew on that one for a while.

7) The consul general of Honduras has offered me a place to run away to. Laugh if you like, but Jews are taught from an early age to "be comfortable, but keep you passport current." Historically speaking we're due for a pogrom right about now, and I have the man's cell number.

8) Flying back to Houston and then running down to the Miller Ampetheatre to play with Brian Marshall for the 17th annual Accordion Kings Festival.