Recording Forró in Austin

As I write this, we're setting up the studio to record accordionist Rob Cortu and his new trio project.

Rob specializes in a wonderful style of dance music from Northern Brazil called "Forró," and is well know in the NYC area for his bands Forro in the Dark and Forro For All. This new project features himself and fine local percussionist and a Brazilian violinist.

They played an amazing set set at a local club last night and we're in the studio today to try and get some of that all down on tape.


Just Another Day on Eldridge Street

So I was interviewed for the Forward.com about a strange event that took place in NYC recently. I was not invited to it, nor did I think it was a very good idea in the first place. But for some reason I "said publicly want many others would only say privately.." Just my luck, huh? I do appear musically on the podcast as a member of the Klezmer Brass All Stars.

For the record I said quite a bit more in fact, but interviewer John Kalish used only my most charitable statement about the event's dubiously talented organizer. However, the less said about such ill conceived and poorly rendered wastes of time and resources (like a $150K Rockafeller Grant for instance) the better.



Simchas Torah in Waco

Yes Virginia, there are indeed Jews in Waco Texas.

Have been for a mighty long time in fact. Nicest people you'll ever meet as it turns out. I got a call from Mike Levine, the shammes of Temple Rodef Shalom, asking if I could come help celebrate Simchas Torah with his congregation and their relatively new Rabbi. Rebbe Rovi Motem holds the distinction of being the first Reform rabbi ordained in Israel, and he's doing his level best to expose his congregation to every aspect of Jewish religious expression. There was in fact a time you wouldn't have thought twice about hiring a band for any of the important holidays. Now, it's as rare a hens teeth (or a kosher BBQ in Williamson County.)

Here the torahs come down off the bimah. Note the amazing "A frame" design. It was a amazing building in fact.

Mark Rubin and his Jews of the Golden West. Olliver Steck, accordion, Mike Stinnet, clarinet and Steve Schwelling on poik (the traditional drum.) We played as the congregation carried the torahs around us, stopping seven times for particular blessings.

After a motzi and a brucha, a bissl nosh, fun di Tabl music provided.

Well here's a surprise!! This is my sainted Godmother, who travelled all the way from Stillwater OK to see the show, (and her great grand kids too...)

Work like this is very rewarding for me, to perform Jewish music within the context that it was originally intended. We'll come do it for your congregation too. Just drop me a line and we'll work out the details.


London Report, Classical Culture edition

Jeez, I'm falling way behind. Let's scroll back to August now.

So after my 2 weeks with the Youngers, I head home for 4 silly little days and prepare to teach at KlezFest London. There's lots to talk about as far as that goes, but I'll start with a photo play of my one day off there. What does the Okie Jew do in the Dirty Old Town? Well friends, he tries to drapes a little classical culture on his hayseed, no college degree having fat ass.

On my last trip to London 4 years ago, Aaron Alexander and I headed to the British Museum so I could look at the Rosetta Stone. Yes, THE Rosetta Stone. I have no idea why I am entranced by it, but it is how we know a lot of what we know about the ancient world today. So, I see the big rock and then head to Assyrian collections. There I stumble across a series of relief carvings in celebration of a Royal Lion Hunt. Got to tell you people, I was completely blown away by the experience, really moved and in a way I had not planned. Just as I was having one of teh 3 emotional experiences of my life up to that point, the sirens started blaring and we were all kicked out of the Museum thanks to a "suspect device" being found on premises. Bummer of the highest order. On my return trip, I must see it all again.

Well, as soon as put a hand full of change into the admission box, I note that the "Lion Hunt" is out on tour, in China of all places. Oh well, plenty of time to see the rest of the place. Here's my highlights all the same. (Can you believe they let you take pictures of this stuff?):

Everybody said I should check this out, but really Greek culture kinda bores me. Personally, I think they should send this stuff back to Greece. The Brits bought it all off sleazy Turks as it turns out.

Ah, Mexico. Now there's some good old fashioned scary stuff.

Nobody since has had as good a handle on gore fueled, blood thirsty religious practice like the Mayans did. Here's a depiction of an Bird Jaguar's wife running a thorny rope through his tongue as a sacrifice. Please note that Bird himself is holding a needle that he'll be using to the the same thing with, only through his pecker. I kid you not.

Mayan glyphs. Written language as an art form.

Mardis Gras? Not quite. Afro-Peruvian Carnivale get ups. Wild.

The biggest Dias de las Muertos figures I've ever seen, suspended from the ceiling. No artist name given, but they are the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse.

In the Roman Briton section, a mock up of the oldest stringed instrument ever discovered.

Aha! Not all the Assyrian stuff is gone. This is one half of a relief that would have stood at either side of a gate. It's like 30 feet tall and breath taking.

Now here's something you don't see every day.

Russian Revolutionary Ceramic Plates.

Collect a whole set!

Here's a Kandinsky...

OK, the camera battery died, but there was a fab collection of Islamic Art that bears mention as well.

I head back to the job site for dinner and a performance. Then Frank London tells me that the famed "Proms" are still on and that starting at 10pm there will be a concert of modern composers. We book it to Royal Albert Hall, pay our 6 pounds and rush up many, many flights of stairs to the standing room only ring at the very top of the Hall.

It's a wonderful performance by the Scottish National Orchestra. Fiddler Cookie Segestein has played that piece before and explains some of the odder aspects, like members of the orchestra each hitting a little glass bar in somewhat random fashion. Live music is just amazing, period, and in this venue with this group its perfectly indescribable.

We walk home, going around Hyde Park and back to the hotel, my feeble brain completely unable to process the depth of art and culture I've been exposed to in a mere 14 hours.

It's days like this that I get on a plane and leave Texas every once and while.