JDub worldwide concerts add synergy to the season

The buzzword in business circles is synergy. That’s what JDub Records was looking for when it began to think about its third annual Chanukah event.

And when Daniel Brenner, vice president for education at the Birthright Israel
Foundation, told JDub heads Aaron Bisman and Jacob Harris that he was interested in doing a project with the nonprofit music label, the buzz of synergy filled the air.

The result is the most ambitious Chanukah program yet for the label, a set of concerts planned Dec. 8 around the world — Los Angeles; New York; San Francisco; Seattle; Boston; Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; Moscow; Mumbai; Tel Aviv; Rio de Janeiro; Toronto; Sydney, and possibly others — as a way of reminding Jews of their global connection to one another and a good reason to party in earnest.

“We knew we wanted to do something bigger and better, and Birthright came at the
right time,” said Harris, the label’s vice president. “Birthright has all these
alumni on the ground, so we’re expanding our reach. And we’re bringing them a
quality program for their alumni.”

Brenner admitted that his original concept was a bit grander, perhaps a little
too much so.

“I had the wildly ambitious idea of doing this all around the world on the same
night in 50 cities,” he recalled with a laugh. “I had to be talked off that
cliff. I certainly wanted the global Jewish peoplehood theme, which is one of
the things Birthright people get to experience in this one night.”

In a sense, he noted, that is the key to the whole Jewish experience, the
fellowship feeling that exists despite the Diaspora.

“We’re blown to the different corners of the world, and here we are seeing one
another for the first time. I wanted to recreate that feeling on one night,” he
explained. “The secular analogue was Dick Clark and the New Year’s ball dropping
around the world. I wanted that global sensibility. This is something in which
we are all together on this special night.”

While the Clark analogy still holds, the result is slightly more modest,
although the program has continued to expand during the planning stages.
For Birthright, JDub was the perfect partner.

“I felt that JDub had already cultivated such a great group of Israeli and
American artists, this would be one way to kick-start this thing,” Brenner said.
“And they’ve gone beyond their own bands and found some exceptional talent for

Bisman noted: “Our Chanukah efforts have often been about launching new bands,
but this is obviously different. We wanted to hit significant audiences in a lot
of different places at once. We tried to design shows that make sense of each

“We knew, for instance, that for San Francisco, we wanted to get Apollo
Sunshine, because their indie-rock sensibility blends so well with the city’s.

We want to make interesting shows. It was not easy, but it was fun,” he added.
Ultimately, it always comes down to what is possible.

“It depends on who’s available on the date and who’s in town,” Bisman said, “We
wanted to have more Israeli bands involved, but to fly in an Israeli band for
one show is just impossible.”

The choice for Los Angeles is a particularly interesting one. The headliners are
JDub artists Balkan Beat Box, who have played the city several times before. And
the presence of one-half of the Israeli rap group, Soulico — the other members
will be at the New York concert — makes perfect sense, since both groups offer
spirited Israeli takes on hip-hop.

So why not have the Cambodian surf-rockers, Dengue Fever, play on the same bill?
It may seem counterintuitive, but both Harris and Bisman think the blend is

“The pairing speaks to the overall mission of JDub, promoting new Jewish music
and cross-cultural dialogue,” Harris said. “[Dengue Fever’s] manager is Jewish;
they are an indie-rock world music collective that is very interesting. They
reached out about playing with BBB and Golem [another JDub band] specifically.”

And what they’re doing with Cambodian music is related: “There’s a rich ethnic
history and a sense of being a Diaspora music that doesn’t fit within the
mainstream Western world”

“With Balkan, you need another band, a bunch of different voices,” Bisman added.
In general, JDub has been working to expand its presence in Los Angeles. In the
past year, it has hired its first full-time staff person for Los Angeles, and,
as Harris noted, “We’re trying to get local artists involved, doing parties like
we did when we got started in New York, and our bands are going to be doing a
lot more West Coast touring.”

Although the label’s Los Angeles profile was already simmering, JDub expects it
to blow up very big with this event.

“I think L.A. is going to be the biggest party of all the Chanukah shows,” Harris predicted. “I expect there will be nonstop dancing on the eighth.”

The Los Angeles show, featuring Balkan Beat Box, Dengue Fever, Soulico and the Festival of Rights, will take place on Dec. 8 at the Echoplex, 1154 Glendale
Blvd., Los Angeles. Doors will open at 8 p.m.; show will begin at 9 p.m. For
more information, phone (213) 413-8200 or visit http://www.goeight.com.

Balkan Beatbox live in France

Swingin’ Chanukah with Kenny Ellis; The Klezmatics at the Disney; Three More Tenors

Saturday the 16th

To our knowledge, only one man can claim all of the following titles: writer, director, actor, comedian and Dixieland jazz clarinetist. Artist of all trades Woody Allen focuses tonight on that latter occupation. He and his crew, a.k.a. Woody Allen and his New Orleans Jazz Band, perform in a rare large venue appearance at UCLA’s Royce Hall as part of their first North American tour.

8 p.m. $25-$125. Royce Hall, UCLA, Westwood. www.uclalive.org.

Sunday the 17th

” target = “_blank”>www.kennyellis.com

Thursday the 21st

Chanukah Concert Picks Up the Pace

About three weeks before an annual Chanukah concert, Kathleen Abraham renews a Jewish ritual little practiced outside the county’s borders.

On her day off, Abraham left home at 5:30 a.m., stopping at a convenience store to fill a 64-ounce coffee mug before heading to the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa. Besides java, Abraham’s other provisions include a nosh, cell phone, PalmPilot and beach chair.

Her goal: to be at the head of the box office line to buy a block of 100 prime seats at the Dec. 7 Chanukah show for parents and congregants of Newport Beach’s Temple Bat Yahm.

“I thought they were psychotic,” said Abraham, who spurned the box office rush when first hearing about it four years ago. “We ended up in the cheap seats,” conceded the cantor’s assistant. Not this year.

She and a dozen other designated ticket buyers from day schools and synagogues reprise the predawn ritual more typical for a touring rock star.

This year’s 2 p.m. concert, produced by Newport Beach residents Dr. Gordon and Hannareta Fishman since 1995, will take a fresh, faster-paced approach with more musical continuity. Each of the 11 children’s choruses, drawn from throughout the community, will perform music arranged and composed solely by singer-songwriter Sam Glaser, who headlines the show.

With a lineup of representative choruses from each Jewish denomination, Fishman contends no other place in the country orchestrates such a pluralistic Chanukah event.

Synagogue and school choirs will perform Glaser songs in small groups and as a large ensemble. They will accompany the singer along with a seven-piece band. The show will also feature an Israeli dance troupe from Irvine’s Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School.

To shorten the show, cantors will forego individual solos. “It’s a great format,” said Cantor Jonathan Grant, who won’t miss his turn in the spotlight. “Kids put in hours and hours rehearsing. It’s an enormous way of teaching the value of Jewish community.”

Previous concerts relied on a musical theme, such as Broadway tunes, to unify presentations by individual choruses. Each cantor selected his own music and a celebrity typically served as a master of ceremonies.

However, last year’s turnout showed signs of audience fatigue with many unfilled seats in the second and third tier. Since much of the audience is made up of parents of performers, attendance ebbs and flows with the size of each chorus.

The Fishmans decided to revamp their approach after attending an all-Glaser concert last February put on by the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony at the lovingly restored Alex Theater in Glendale.

“He was touched by the fact that the audience was young and old, Reform, Conservative and Orthodox,” said Glaser, a record producer and performer, who adopted Orthodoxy as an adult. He took the plunge into Jewish music in 1991 and has since produced 12 CDs. He brings high-energy pop rhythms to songs in Hebrew and English.

“Music is a very special language,” Glaser said. “It’s cross-cultural and cross-denominational. Words penetrate the intellect but music goes straight to the soul.”

Creating a platform that would appeal to the community’s diverse Jewish groups is what initially motivated the Fishmans, who relocated in 1993 from Detroit and its more established Jewish community. Only six synagogues participated in the first concert held at Irvine’s more intimate Barclay Theater. “We had to talk them into it,” Gordon Fishman said. “They weren’t doing anything for one another and were jealous of their fiefdom.”

He dangled an incentive too good to pass up: half the proceeds from ticket sales, priced this year at $18 and $36 for adults and $9 for children. (Bat Yahm, for instance, alone takes in a minimum of $1,200 from its share of ticket sales.) The result is that the concert is generally only promoted within organizations sending a performance group. The only marketing that reaches a general audience is an ad included in the Performing Arts Center program distributed during other shows.

The Fishmans, who underwrite whatever ticket sales don’t cover, sought a bigger house after averting a near riot in the first year by the sellout crowd. The Performing Arts Center presents different logistical problems, such as drafting one adult volunteer for every 10 kids.

And sometimes well-intentioned diversions go awry, such as an intermission appearance one year by the television superheroes known as the Power Rangers. The second half was delayed by 15 minutes because the audience refused to return to their seats.

Or last year’s ceiling drop of Chanukah gelt, which set off a stampede of sorts that scattered kids while parents impatiently waited at pre-arranged pick-up doors.

“I’ve learned we can’t do everything,” Gordon Fishman said.

One unexpected result is the Fishmans’ own social calendar is now crowded with cantorial music. Having become acquainted with cantors throughout the county, they now accept invitations to three or four concerts a year that individual cantors organize at their home synagogue. “When you give a little,” Gordon Fishman said, “you get a lot in return.”

The curtain goes up at 2 p.m. Dec. 7 at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. Tickets, $18 and $36 for adults, $9 children, can be purchased at the center’s box office or Ticketmaster.