Confronting Institutionalized Anti-Semitism with Laughter

I mean, really, what else can you do?

One of the highlights/low points of shopping in the old city center of Krakow Poland is being confronted with little carved figurines of the traditional Polish depiction of a Jew: a hook nose Hassid counting gold. The Poles for their part simply explain that it's a symbol of good luck and abundance. Like when a merchant frames his first dollar, Poles will give a new couple or a new business a little Jew doll clutching a bag of gold as an expression of good fortune.

Uh huh.

So popular these little dolls that now they even have mass produced plastic versions with the phrase "Na Kase" (to the bank) emblazoned on them. I choose one of these, and a ridiculous local folk dress hat, as my souvenirs. I guess to be somewhat generous, to be anti-Semitic formally, you would need Jews around in the first place and that question has been handily settled, not but 30 km from the center of Krakow in fact. I highly doubt that I could get away with a displaying a drunk Mexican doll at my place of business, but actually I do recall buying such from a street vendor in Piedras Negras once. Whatever, it's still creepy and the only response I can muster today is laughter.

As it happens, the little plastic Jew I picked out bears more than a passing resemblance to reed man Alex Kontorovich. Backstage before the big concert, and single Grosz in hand, he deigns to pose with the doll for Lorin Sklamberg's camera. Witness:

A good likeness, no?

Well, we all gleefully gather around the display of Lorin's digital camera to see the results, when the Festival's staff photographer snaps this candid shot:

Can he know what we looking at? Can he know what is going through our minds, especially the fat dude in the funny local hat? Why are we laughing? To keep from crying maybe?

The folks who run the Festival of Jewish Culture in Krakow who are putting on this shindig are wonderful. Moreover they have made amazingly great strides in reminding their countrymen of the integral and vibrant Jewish community that once thrived there for centuries. But as long as there's a picture of a Jew counting gold inside every Money Exchange counter ("Kantor," not Cantor, dig?) and you can buy these insulting figurines, and moreover you see no problem with it, then there's quite a bit more inner work to be done in Poland.



Celebrate Brooklyn & a day with Andy Statman

Celebrate Brooklyn, Prospect Park, July 15
“What’s to celebrate?” would be the logical question for a Texas boy like me, and why would a confirmed southerner be involved? Frank London would be the answer to all that and to be the low end of his house band of his ambitious “Yiddish Carnival” show the hook that gets me up there. His local tuba man can't make the gig and thus he must import one. The idea is to come in for a full day of rehearsals on the 13th, play the big gig the 15th, stick around a day or two to rehearse with Andy Statman and then jet away to a Klezmer Brass All Stars gig in far off rural Slovakia. The gig is a something of a complete blur, four hours in running time with 10 separate set ups. I'll be on all but 3 of the acts, so it's a long day for me.

I don’t screw up Adrianne Cooper’s 6/8 Afro-Cuban arrangement of an old Yiddish ballad too awful bad. I dug in deep to Cantor Jackie Mendelsonn’s khazones. Jackie had a heart attack not too long ago and it seems to have both have mellowed his bluster a bit and deepened his already deep, deep groove. I was sorry he only had 2 numbers. Wolf Krakowski *, along with his fine guitar slinger Jim Armenti, put in a solid set with me on the electric bass this time. (Thanks to Klezmatic's guitarist Boo Reiners.) I got to rock out a bit and even threw down some of my best one-drop as well, working hand in glove with drummer Roberto Rodriguez, who by the way I would like to work with more often. (I can't believe I just said that about a drummer.)

Me and Wolf backstage

Got to see Art Bailey’s new band, working in a more Romanian-Jewish bag, which I enjoyed greatly even if Art was still pale from a long bout with bronchitis.

After the daunting experience of rehearsal, I bowed out of the Fyvush Finkel set letting Jim Guttman, the far better sight-reader and a man better acquainted with Yiddish pit orchestra playing take the chair. (At the rehearsal, I get hopelessly lost in the chart of Fyvush's signature tune "Ihk Bin a Border by Mein Wife" and simply played down the tune from memory. After the rehearsal, Ian Finkel, Fyvush's son and musical director who really requires his own essay in so many ways, turns to me with his xylophone mallets menacingly close to my chest and says pointedly "I know what you are doing. And it's not going to work. You have to play what I wrote, OK?")

Both Jim and drummer Rodriguez have to read from these ridiculously long, old school theater charts that allows no room for page turning, or really even looking away from the notes for even a moment. Not a strong point for an Okie bred folk bassist. Robert was pissed that he hadn't thought of finding a sub and was thus presented with this sight:
The Finkel boys are in fine form and even when Fyvsh strays from the arrangement, Ian’s firm direction keeps the wheels on and the audience is unaware anything is amiss. Did I mention he's a virtuoso level xylophonist? No really, he is.

The Brothers Finkel

I get to sit out sets by the Klezmatics and my old pals the Klez Dispensers, but then it’s back on stage with a tuba this time for longer sets with Joanne Boarts, the Klezmer Brass All Stars and then the grand finale featuring a northern Brazilian drum ensemble, Maracatu NY. “A happening if ever there was one,” as Pete Socolow would say.

Here's a review of the event in the AARP on line magazine. Here's some Flikr pics I found online as well.

Not but 10 minutes after the final note and the threatened rain appears, scattering the crowd back to their homes. These Yankees do not linger around much I’ve come to find. They not big on moseying as well. If you get any socialization, the “hang” as we musicians call it, you’ll get it on the gig or the rehearsal. In my lifestyle, the gig is simply the part of the day that we musicians happen to be onstage; a day filled with hang, drinking, eating and basically talking shit and stuff. These folks up here seem to be all business, in and out and away to someplace else, all in the time it takes a bumpkin like me to pack up my gear. It was an odd tribe that settled here I guess, though I'll reckon they get more done in their day. I'll wager I may have a better time at it all myself.

Though I must say Mr. London is the exception to this rule. Noting the 4 hours of after gig jamming, ping pong playing and drinking that occurred at his pad after his set with a ethno-Jazz ensemble down the street at Mo Pitkins. There is a reason I think we get along so well, and this idea of musical relationships that flow over the obvious commercial motivations and leak over into the expression of every day lifestyle is one I can readily relate to. To my mind, we in the arts are never compensated enough for the REAL work that goes into our craft, so you better be having a good time while you are toiling. Otherwise, you might as well consign yourself to grinding out an increasingly meaningless existence tied to a cubicle somewhere. There you will find the financial and social security that that sort of labor engenders, but possibly devoid of the life experiences that give one a story worth telling. A conundrum at best, especially given the fact that I will return to Texas quite a bit shy of my mortgage payment, much less the electric bill. Sigh..

No matter, the next day find me rehearsing the with amazing Andy Statman. I wish to go on record here and state that I want this gig. Bad.
In Andy's music I have the first chance to fully express the totality of my musical experiences up to this point. To put not too fine a point on it, he is simply the best Jewish clarinetist working today and the finest Bluegrass mandolinist I have ever heard. Period. Heap on that wonderful original material, a genius level drummer-percussionist (Larry Eagle) and a really great cat to hang out with and you have the total package. And to put it as modestly as I can, I am simply the right man for this gig.

The fact that Andy is roundly ignored in the "klezmer" scene is your best example for why those folks are for the most part are completely and utterly full of horse shit. In many ways Andy's personal return of the music of his youth, he was a star pupil of Dave Tarras after all, was responsible for the whole "revival" scene years ago. (What were you doing in 1977 when Andy released his "Klezmer Music" LP on Shanachie with Zev, now Doud, he's a Muslim these days, Feldman?) No one on the "scene" can begin to touch his yikhes and I guess he's cut out of the spot light simply out of the obvious embarrassment.

I would think that Andy's inability to suffer poor musicianship presented as "folk"style and the whole cloth, made up "fakelore" of 99% of Klezmer theory (both staggeringly rampant in upper echelons the so-called Klezmer community) has placed him firmly on the outside. And guess what? Like he gives a damn. In other words, my kind of people.

So I wait for Andy to arrive at the little schul in the West Village where he plays regularly. Larry is running late, so Andy pulls back some tables in the basement, sets up his axes and then dives into an original number. He leaps into his music with the sort of two fisted, take no prisoners confidence that I have yet encountered amongst the Yankees. It was the sort of approch I was introduced to originally as a kid playing bluegrass back in Oklahoma, that I honed on the stages of honky tonks across Texas and that same hair-standing-up-on-the-back-of-your-neck kind of sound that I find in New Orleans and Serbian Gypsy brass bands and in Romanian Tarafs today. In other words, I am home.

My first show with the Andy Statman band is at the Lincoln Center in NYC, the evening of August 19th. (I turn 41 the day before, quite a Birthday gift.) We play again the following night, with special guest Ricky Skaggs, at Congregation Derech Amuno. Hopefully the first of many more to come.

* It is with great sadness that I report the passing of Wolf’s mother just a few day later.

More pictures from Krakow..

Here's a series of photos from the Festival of Jewish Culture in Krakow, sent to me by photographer Wojciech Karlinski:

Sound check kibbitzing with Alex Kontorovich and Dan Blacksberg
Great musicians, even better pals.

Witness the glory that is the mighty Jupiter model 590S Sousaphone. This beast was the sole foundation of the Grand Final concert, providing a solid pedal note for an amassed ensemble of over 40 musicians. Couldn't have done it without it.

And for your edification, this years ridiculous local headwear.
Only the latest in a long series.

Rehearsing with Frank London on the banks of the River Wistula. What you can't see from this angle is the 8 piece Brazilian drum ensemble that Frank is conducting. Yes kids, it's not an act. That's how he looks off stage as well.

Here's a link to the New York Times article that ran about this event.
For the record, as the Times did not note it, that's Steven Weintraub leading the dance and Lorin Sklamberg on the vocals. Oh, I was the bassist for the dance band that is pictured here as well.


Montreal Jazz Fest : Notes from the Jewish Ghetto

So while we’re hanging out in the backstage area the Krakow festival waiting for his sampler unit to dry out (it got rained on and now wasn't working and making him quite anxious,) I asked Montreal golden boy Josh Dolgin (ne “DJ SoCalled") where I was gonna eat when I hit his home town in 12 hours. You know, the important things. Without a moment’s hesitation, and belying his terror at the prospect of hitting the stage without the device he's built his entire sound around, he says “You’ll get a beef sandwich at Schwartz’s.”

Now with my orders clear I board the tiny set of regional jets that will take me from Krakow to Montreal for the big Jazz Fest. On my final flight I am joined my Beyond the Pale’s Martin Van de Ven, a cat I had never met before but who was playing his ass off in Poland every time I saw him. His accordionist Sascha had been bumped off an earlier flight and as recompense he was sitting in Business class on our flight as well. We all met up in the Montreal airport, bleary eyed and completely out of it from a weeks playing and assorted rambunctiousness. When we get into the festival provided transport, we start talking over when we planned on eating. Martin said the Schwartz was a good call and in fact they had catered his wedding some 15 years ago, hauling their famed meats down to Toronto for his reception. “That’s all fine and well for you all” Sascha speaks up “but I’m headed to Montreal Bagels.” He then begins to regale us with the most romantic and detailed description of the Montreal Bagel operation, noting the unique process of adding honey to the water they are boiled in and then the long wooden poles that the bagels are laid out to dry on. “They are not your New York bagels mind you,” he explains “They are good Lithuanian bagels, you cannot get them anywhere else.” Martin and I are so punchy from hunger and lack of sleep that we listen completely enraptured. It’s settled: Schwartz’s and then a bagel.

We check in the nice hotel close to the Festival ground in downtown Montreal and meeting in the lobby and then hail a cab. After a short jaunt we find the modest deli with two great lines of people out front. Like many “local” joints they have a well defined process that my appear daunting to the out-of-towner (note Katz’s Deli on Houston in NYC and their little tickets.) We have mistakenly gotten into the “to-go” line, but quickly figure out the process and get into the proper queue. Almost immediately 3 seats open up at the counter and we are in. The waiter can tell we are not from around here as we are looking at the menu. He states plainly “Look, what you’re gonna get is a beef sandwich. It’s what we do here. The best deal is to get a beef plat and make your own sandwich, a small should do you, but you’re hungry, go for the large. You can always take some home. Being punch drunk, I go for large.


I do my best work but I barely make a dent in it. Martin went for the small and then midway in he turns to me and says “You know. I’m a vegetarian. I haven’t eaten any meat at all since my wedding.” I ask him how he’s holding up, noting that I myself have fallen into a protein induced semi-coma. “Alright” he reckons “but we might look for some yogurt on the way home…”

Here's a toast of satisfaction from Martin and Sascha.

While we were walking down the street to the hotel, we walked past a crowd that had gathered a truck that had slammed into side of a building for some unknown reason. What was wild was that everyone was paying attention to a simple everyday single car wreck, when they should have turned around and seen one the the finest and best defined rainbows I have yet encountered. People be funny that way:

So while we're still walking back to the hotel, I hear the familiar restrains of a New Orleans style street band.
Lo and behold who do I see on the big, honking gate trombone, but Ms. Genevieve "JaJa" Duval, Montreal native and member of the amazing Panorama Jazz Band. I haven't seen her since Mardi Gras, and if she seems to be glowing that's because she's preggers and has begun to show ever so slightly:

At a break in her parade, she hips me to a brass band "blow out" later that evening at a local club where her Semel Rebel Brass Band will be throwing down with the Eastern Quebec based Fat Tuesday Brass Band. I'm invited am encouraged to drag along any of the Jew music blowers that I might run across. Martin signs up immediately, and when I run into young Dan Blacksberg and Micheal Winograd, they too join up. (For reasons best left unreported, neither Dan or Mike have been accommodated with a room, so I move them both into min, which was in fact a suite and had plenty of space for everybody.)

With nothing else to do between now and then, I meet up with the rest of Martin and Sascha's band, Beyond the Pale and head off for lunch.

We catch a bite at mandolinist Eric's favorite sandwich joint. In a matter of hours they are on the GM stage, where all the Jewish themed acts will be appearing all sponsored by the patrons of KlezKanada, where they play an enthusiastic crowd:

At the gig I learn, and it's always fun to get the details long after it too late to develop the proper attitude and responses, is that I am here at the graces of a patron who has in fact funded a "Jewish" stage for several nights at the Montreal Jazz Fest. That is to say, this is not so much a Jazz Fest appearance as a "KlezKanada at the Montreal Jazz Fest." Ironic for me as I have only ever attended that event once, and as a camper and not faculty. We have been graciously afforded all the respect and such as befits a Jazz Fest act, but the circumstances of our performances are quite different than I imagined. No matter, I was brought here at great expense to throw down in the manner that I am known for and that's precisely what I intend to do.

So Beyond the Pale wraps up at 10pm and most head off to sleep, which no none has done much of after playing a week in Poland an all. A 11pm rolls around, I hook up with Martin, Dan and Mike, strap on my brand spanking new Jupiter sousaphone and all four of us head to the nightclub where JaJa said to meet. We walk and walk and walk, thinking we may have gotten lost when all of a sudden we hear the combined skronk of two whole brass bands pouring out into the street. Not only were there the 15 or so players of both bands onstage, but a further sousaphone player was sitting in as well. Not missing the a beat, we walk in the door playing along and jump onstage with them for a burning session of funky New Orleans street music. The vision, and maybe the sound of, 4 combined sousaphones blatting in unison sends the audience into crazed palpitations.

There were quite a few drinks passed around, and I took quite a bit of photos, none of which make much sense. Though this one, a motion study of the drum section of the Fat Tuesday Brass Band turned out nice. Something I noted about these two bands was the participation of female musicians which between the 2 acts worked out to about 40%. Why there aren't more women in our field has always confused me.

Late into the morning we crawl back to the hotel and prepare for the next day (the same day really,) for 2 acoustic sessions with Alex Kontorovich's ad hoc Goldenshteyn Bessarabian Brass Band. Alex has been asked to field a team of musicians drawing from the bands already scheduled to play the festival in an attempt to recreate our beloved German's (a"h) sound. Showing great loyalty to me, he insists that I be brought in special and be included as tuba player. Since I'm already there, I'll be the string bassist for the swing-jazz influenced Klez Dispensers as well, hoping to create good value for the sponsor's dollar. It will mean shedding a lot of new material, with special emphasis on their arrangements, mostly by pianist Adrian Banner which are lovely.

At this point I was too busy working to take pictures, but the brass band sets when well, with the new horn dominating the entirely acoustic stages as I had hoped.

During which we met an interesting brass band called Marsh Dondurma from Israel of all places. They played a wide mix of music including some of my favorite Meron-Hassidic melodies and New Orleans music as well. Reminds me of the Panorama Jazz Band in fact, only with just slightly less moral authority. Jumping about on stage they put on a good show as well. Hanging out with them, we learn that they mostly met as bandsmen in the IDF during their obligatory 2 years military service. Stranger ways to start I band I guess.

The evening of the big show comes and it's back to the GM Stage for the Dispensers set. Even normally confident Alex is a wee bit intimidated on material he hasn't thrown down in quite a bit and like me is reviewing the charts right up to show time.

Please note the traditional Russian-Jewish study tool:

"Russian Standard" Vodka. Alex picked up a bottle at the Krakow duty free and hauled it to Canada for this very purpose. Not quite battery acid, but damn close and best served chilled with a little orange juice chaser to cut the metallic taste.

Earlier in the week, I made a point of checking out the string bass that was provided by the back line company for that stage and sadly judged it to be just terrible. Not a bad bass per se, but the pick up sound was basically useless. I had brought my little Ashbory bass with me to the sound check just in case, but to my great surprise, the sound engineer had brought his own personal bass for me to play this evening. Not only that, he had shown up early at the job site to get a decent sound out of the amp. I am pleased beyond words.

Here's a pic from the gig, taken by fiddler Amy Zakar:

Well all the hard work has paid off, and the band sounds slicker than two snakes swimming in a bucket of snot (that's an Oklahoma way of saying everything went very, very well.) I had about as much fun on this bandstand as I have ever, really. They ought to hire me more often in fact.

Here's the audience, which evidently was the largest "side" stage attendence for the whole week. The local press seemed to like the set as well as it was singled out as the 2nd best set of music at the Festival. Pretty amazing when you realize all the great talent that appeared.

I sleep that night for the first time in about a week and then head back to hot, hot Texas for all of 5 days. Then its up to NYC, Brooklyn, Slovakia and more tales to tell.....


12 Minutes to Levon Helm

Alrighty then...

In a course of events too strange and convoluted to relate here, in precisely 12 minutes I go onstage at the original Woodstock Festival site in Bethel NY to play with Levon Helm. We start with "Rag Mama" in the key of E, which is no fun when your tuba is pitched to Bb and the original recording was in F. Evidently, I'm getting the lead break on the tune.

You will wish me luck.

Here's the link from Levon Helm.com, great shots of both me and Frank London if you scroll through the pics to see.


OK, it went pretty darn good. I rode up with Frank London who was subbing for the regular trumpeter. (I'm in NYC for a big gig, but that's another post yet to come.) It was his idea to bring me up and then just spring me on Levon unannounced. That's what we call in this business a good buddy. We got there, Louis London tagging along for "color," set up back stage and waited to hear if I was cool. After a short wait I was shuttled in to meet Levon himself. His team worked super professionally and super classy to make sure the Boss never had anything but a great day at the office. He was after all recovering from a really serious cancer battle. His boys all had "Helmland Security" blazed on their t-shirts and they meant business.

Levon said howdy, asked me a few questions, then apologized for the key change (due to his recovery) and bade me to hang out with the band. I did the sound check and then hung out for a good long while with the band who were in a word, amazing. Conan O'Brien guitarist Jimmy Vivino, multi-instrumentalist Larry Campbell, reed man Eric Lawrence and pianist Brian Mitchell all stepped up and played, as a NYC friend of mine likes to say, "like men." Larry did a duet with his lovely wife that was son heart achingly beautiful I actually cried.

And Levon. Holy shit!!! he looked so good and healthy after just beating back throat cancer and all. Screw the Band, I'll take Mr. Helm on a bad night. Jeez, I mean his time and feel on drums and mandolin were at turns impeccable, iconoclastic and deeply, deeply musical.

I got up and did my damnedest 16 bars in E on Rag Mama, and Levon was smiling the whole while. Even got called back for the encore.

As we were leaving, Mr. Vivino paid me one of the best compliments I've had to date. After hanging out several hours, chatting and shooting the shit as musicians tend to do when gathered., Jimmy shakes my hand and says "Man, you may talk a lot of shit. But brother, you back it all up.."

Now I'm smiling....
Larry Campbell

Jimmy Vivino


Krakow: Jews, Food, Absinthe, More Food, Madness

Notes from the Festival of Jewish Culture in Krakow Poland.


Hard to get it all written down, what with jet lag and constant work and such.

Good news starts before the trip however. After making some discreet inquiries and quite a bit of convincing (black belt buttering up in fact) the fine folks at Jupiter Band Instruments allowed me to take one of their brand new, professional Sousaphones on my travels this summer. I am beyond words in gratitude, as my beloved 1890's Cerveny BBb Helicon has finally been repaired for the last time. One more clumsily baggage handler and she'll never toot nor blat again, and I just couldn't live with that prospect. In her place I have an amazing Jupiter Deluxe model 590S, silver plated, 4 valve sousaphone with hard case. Couldn't be a better start for a tour.

So I leave the Austin Airport at 11am on a Tuesday and I arrive in John Paul II Airport Krakow at 1pm the following Wednesday. This is what happens when you live in Texas where there are no direct flights to just about anywhere. I'm somewhat used to it by now, but a whole day in a plane or waiting to board one can grind one down. I took a guitar with me to kill the layover time and it was worth the extra baggage.

When I do land, I'm greeted by a very friendly driver who assures me that I am to be taken to my favorite hotel on the whole Earth (Hotel Eden, central Kazimerz) and that I should just take it easy and rest. Well, I "rested" plenty in a cramped airplane seat and seeing as I came all the way, I suggested that they take me straight to Jill Gellerman's Hassidic Dance Class. They have been languishing without a bassist for several days and playing for Jill's class was the highlight of my Klez Kamp experience last year. The band is an ad hoc assemblage of musicians pulled from the many ensembles performing at the festival that week. I am greeted by old pals Frank London, Sanne Molricke, Christian Dawid, Dan Blacksburg and by a few new friends Martin Van Deven (Beyond the Pale) and Dan Kahn. Rather than make the already strapped and harried festival staff locate me a bass to play, I have brought along a borrowed Ashbory bass. It looks and plays like a toy, but by golly, through an amp it makes a damn fine bass sound. As the airlines continue their part on the War on Art, we bassists will have to become more comfortable with alternatives like this in the future.

But I digress, onto the food.

So later, I find Cookie Segelstein and PJ Horowitz out the the street foraging for dinner, we snag Frank as well who suggests a place not far where they dress up the waitresses in ridiculous costumes and pump Chopin into the dinning room at full volume. Down the block and up a piece on Ulica Midowa we find Polokowski's. It's as big as a postage stamp and packed to the gills, but everything looks good and smells even better. In deference to my buds back in Texas LinkPolonia, I go for the Cabbage Rolls and Garlic soup. Not as good as the kind I get at Brian Marshall's place in Tomball TX, but damn fine all the same. We will return here again and again.

Of special note was a Pirogi shack 2 blocks the opposite direction which offered many variations of the classic Polish staple, called I think "Pirogi." I laughed when drummer Scott Kettner ordered the "Mexican" pirogi, but stopped chuckling when he offered me one and found it to be wonderful. I stuck to the traditional meat, cheese and fruit varieties. Once again, this restaurant was tiny, smaller than the smallest taco counter back home, but packed to capacity and damn cheap.

As this is a Jewish Cultural event, we make a point of finding as much trafe as possible. Here's what's left of my very first Pork Shank, split between Frank and myself:

It was amazing.

So most of my time was spent rehearsing for the grand finale concert, a concept Frank outlined with his last CD Carnival Conspiracy. On the record Frank collaborated with Scott's Maracatu drum ensemble, but the budget for this trip only allowed for Scott. To make up the rest Frank located a Brazillian Samba School from Warsaw called "monkey rythmn" in Polish. Now understand, Samba and Maracatu are both from Brazil, but they are as different if you will as Ashkenazic is from Sephardic. All Jews maybe, but not the same. To our great fortune, we find the Polish drummers have done their home work and learned the rhythms of Frank's CD. Every day, we go down to the banks of the river and played through the material, creating arrangements on the fly. When I'm not there, I'm either playing for the Hassidic Dance class or the big dance party on Thursday night. Otherwise, it's seeing the other concerts or jamming until 6am every night at the Alchemia Club.

Then there was the Absiynt House.Actually, the less said about this, the better. We were in a foreign country and all. Let's just say I spent a lot of time here.

Needless to say after a few days of the above, it all kind of runs together. So here's some random scenes:

Folks in Krakow seem to like to dude up their wheels. Dig this on the hood of a FIAT. I was entranced actually.

I guess if you're going to import a mess of Jews into your town for a week, it's only prudent to have a few Cossacks around as well, just to keep everything in balance. You know, just in case. I mean, I'm not overstaying my welcome when presented with a dude like this.

From his instrument and the markings on his kit, I'd reckon he's a Ukrainian and that's a bandura. But I could be mistaken. He had a lovely gruff voice, somewhere around the Howlin' Wolf range, but he seemed beat down and weary of plucking out ballads in the street for the tourists. He got a hand full of Zlotys from me though, hoping he'd pass my hotel room during the next pogrom....

Here's young trombonist Dan Blacksburg contributing both to the local economy and to his own adult onset type 2 Diabetes with some kind of sugar whipped onto a stick. I passed opting to use my caloric intake instead for the many, many Zubrowska's I would be having later.

The next few scenes are from my camera, taken onstage while we playing the a modern arrangement of a hassidic niggun dedicated to Rebbe Nachman, now set to the tune to the infamous "Numa-Numa" song. Which we played to a stunned audience of over 25,000, over and over again, finally marching out into the crowd. Polish TV was there to capture it all, so see if I ain't lying....

To my left, you'll see Beyond the Pale's mandolinist Eric Stein, the Polish Brazilian drummers and Steve Weintraub dancing.

Ahead of me, cantor Ben Zion Miller, a rapper who's name I cannot recall (but he was wonderful, a member of SoCalled's crew,) Micheal Alpert and Jeff Warschauer and a really big crowd...

And then there's me, with my shinny new horn and a TV camera man I nearly killed twice. You can see Rob Schwimmer over my shoulder playing, I shit you not, a theremin. Absolutely essential to the Numa-Numa song.

Here's a great shot of the Klezmer Brass All Stars set from the Festival website:

And then 8 hours later, it was off to the Montreal Jazz Festival.....