The Magic of Digital Distribution

Just in time for the Corporate Gift Giving Season! A spate of re-issued music for you to download and enjoy.

First up is the critically acclaimed 1st CD by central Texas's finest ever Jewish Music ensemble, Rubinchik's Orkestyr. Click on the CD cover and be directed to iTunes, or you can snag a limited edition hard copy at CD Baby.

A rare Bad Livers release is in the works soon as well.


On being Thankful

Growing up in my house, Thanksgiving was roundly understood to be a national holiday, but a goyische holiday nonetheless. Like the very confusing Halloween that precedes it by a few weeks, it was something we "observed" yet rarely participated in. That is until about 1973 when one of our former boarders, a candy chemist from Pakistan, sent us a frozen 40lb turkey by train.

See, my dad was the director of foreign student relations for Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, and my mom taught English as a foreign language for ESL. We also took in some of these students as boarders, which exposed me to a damn sight wider spectrum of folks that most Oklahoma Public School kids get to meet. As surrogate "Americans" my mom felt the need to play up the typically "American" holidays for our guests and their friends so they wouldn't be lonely and confused when the whole shut down for Easter (yet another confusing mix of Pagan and Christian rites I never got a good handle for either.) One of these kids who passed through our house made it to a good paying gig as a quality control chemist at the Ferrara Pan candy company of Chicago. I could go on for hours about Ferrra Pan, but suffice it to say the invented Boston Baked Beans and the concept of eating candy in a theater. As a perk at his gig there, he was given a monster turkey every Thanksgiving. Great news, but he's a Hindu and bird flesh, no matter how traditional, was out of the question for him.

Rather than decline the gift of his bosses, he instead remembered my family's attempts to acclimate him to American culture. After contacting my dad, he then thoughtfully sent it along to us via Amtrak freight, along with a note that we should continue our own family tradition of presenting Thanksgiving to "strangers." Over the years we presented what was essentially an American Passover, ritually explaining every little detail of the Thanksgiving table and menu. We fed Pakistani’s, Bangladeshi's, and Somali's in Stillwater. And when we moved to Norman in 1976 we kept it up, feeding recently expulsed Iranian Jews and Bahaii's, Japanese football players and Mexican aristocrats. As well as the saddest Russian exp-pat I've ever met who came to OU to teach meteorology and stayed drunk and melancholy the whole day.

It was a tradition that continued at my house until my father's untimely passing in 1982. After that, it was strictly Turkey loaf, canned cranberry sauce, hillbilly souris and trailer park mishegoss at my house. As soon as I could split, I did and I haven't looked back.

Now like a true blue nearly fully assimilated trailer park Jew that I am, I have always taken out this next to last weekend of November to be thankful in one way or another. For many years I was a guest of my pal Machelle and her Wiccan buddies, dining outside enjoying the entrance of Fall. After that I would drop in on Andrew Halbreich's famed jam session-feasts. Now that I have a relative in the neighborhood, of late I've spent the day with my cousin Jason and his family, which is probably where I'll be next week as well.

It's been a pretty damn terrible year actually, only financially however, and truthfully I had no idea how I was gonna make it all line up. However, somebody out there, maybe somebody reading this, has been working behind the scenes to help me and my wife out. It has made the difference for us, no foolin', between making the ends meet and not.

As I don't know who you are, I cannot thank you personally. But I will promise you this. Your kindness to me and my wife has illustrated to us just how important our relationships with our friends and community are. On a personal level It gives me the strength to focus on the continuing effort to fight the negative impulses that folks, myself included, too often give in to and it redoubles my commitment to the struggle to creating positivism and goodness in the world. I am more thankful now than ever before.

And thanks for that, most of all.


Alice Spencer and her Monkey Butlers


May I have your attention:

Uke master Pops Bayless and my self have this running conversation for years now. For some reason that we have yet to properly divine, it seems that our 'side project" endeavors always seem to end up being both the most fun and the most creatively successful. We work hard to get an audience with our own bands, but the one that we get hired to play in just for fun always makes the great record and then people seem to like a lot. No complaints or anything, but it is odd to see happen over and over again.

This is never more true that with vocalist Alice Spencer and her new CD "Joe's Basement." I worked with Alice and her hubby clarinetist Ben Saffer in their popular dance band Victrola several years ago, and Ben has been in everyone of my bands since I first met him in 1998, most notably as lead voice in Rubinchik's Yiddish Ensemble. They assembled the most motley and unlikely group of musicians (Joe Cordi on piano, Pops on banjo and myself on tuba) to back up her amazing vocal talents and despite everyone's baggage and tsouris, it works. And how.

This band is dangerously good.

Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of the new CD. Recorded utterly live without overdubs in Joe's basement last fall, it is but a faint shadow of the juggernaut that the band is live. Still I recommend you pick it up to hear Alice's intuitive genius with not only lyric but attitude in the fine selection of honky-tonky blues, whorehouse ballads and scuffles .

See if I'm lying.

** (7/17/2014) **

Well, it wasn't meant to last it seems. First came the deceits and then the clumsy cover ups, as Alice and her then husband sought to start a family without informing the band; effectively altering every assurance of commitment to the project they had made up to that point prior. By the time the pregnancy showed, Pops and I pointedly shared our disappointment with situation and were in turn summarily sacked. Rather than even doing it face to face, I got a phone call as was told to "Tell Pops he's fired too." Classy.  Alice and Ben tried in vain to keep a band together relying on local a melange of "vintage jazz" hobbyists but folded for good soon after. There's a big stack of unsold CD's in a garage somewhere I'm sure. An awful shame as from what I remember, it was a damn fine release. I don't even possess a copy myself.

This must be a long-arching pattern for the very talented Ms. Spencer as she eventually left her husband, and their now two young children, to split for her native St. Louis where she would take up with an old band mate and engage in a series of ill conceived projects.