Yiddish Art Trio brings a collection of influences to Klezmer outfit

Clarinetist Michael Winograd, accordionist Patrick Farrell and bassist Benjy Fox-Rosen have carved out a unique niche in the larger klezmer shtetl as the Yiddish Art Trio. It’s a concert ensemble that plays original, forward-looking compositions but also is deeply immersed in the multi-ethnic roots of klezmer. 

Lest you think that puts the band out on an esoteric limb, Fox-Rosen readily assures: “We can play great dance and wedding sets, too.”

The clarinet’s liquid phrasing slides like butter across a hot grill as its timbres constrict and inflate, moving from a laugh to a sob in a heartbeat. The accordion bellows imply Old World histories as well as Latin American, Caribbean and Azerbaijan cultures. The contrabass carries a pulse rooted in Macedonia, Romania, Vienna, Transylvania and America. 

It’s common at Yiddish Art Trio recitals to see a room full of people dancing in their seats — so get ready for what has become the group’s regular January appearance in Los Angeles, this time at the Skirball Cultural Center on Jan. 24.

Fox-Rosen grew up in the Pico-La Cienega neighborhood and went to Jewish schools: Temple Beth Am’s Pressman Academy and what is now known as Milken Community Schools. He played in the jazz band and sang in the choir, and he credits Russell Steinberg, Milken’s music teacher, for being transformative and inspiring. 

“He started the music department there,” Fox-Rosen said from his in-laws’ home in Austin. “He made a chamber group out of a ragtag instrumentation and wrote a new Hayden arrangement for us each year.”

At The New School in New York City, he studied with the great jazz bassist Mark Dresser, also from SoCal. “Mark has a very scientific mind and curiosity to understand the bass,” Fox-Rosen said. “He plays at the highest possible level and he’s someone to be emulated.”

Fox-Rosen received a Fulbright grant for 2012-2013, which sent him to Moldova to study Romanian folk music and to do some ethnographic research on vocal music. Unfortunately, he said, “I got there 20 years too late. Most of the older singers had left or died off.” 

He delved into native forms like doina, the Romanian improvised music that was incorporated into klezmer. “The word ‘hora’ is a Romanian word,” Fox-Rosen said. 

The bassist met Farrell in Serbia in 2006 when Fox-Rosen was on tour and his future colleague was a tourist. Farrell, speaking from his New York home, said he grew up “all over the place, but mostly Ann Arbor, Mich; I was an Army kid.”

He was trained in the piano classics, and Bela Bartok was his gateway to Eastern European music. He studied with Macedonian accordionist Goran Alachki and recently with Margit Kern in Germany, adding: “They were very helpful but I’m mostly self-taught.” 

For a non-Jew, Farrell’s dedication to the genre is impressive. “Klezmer and Yiddish music speak to me,” he said. “I love the improvisation and how the melodies lay over the chords.”

Fox-Rosen praised his band mate, describing him as having “incredible intuition” and “quick ears.” 

“He really understands the dance and the rhythms,” Fox-Rosen said. “We both know exactly where we want the beat at all times.” 

Could this be due to the bassist’s jazz background? “I think it’s in spite of that,” Farrell said. “It’s more a byproduct of his grasp of Hungarian and Romanian music.”

Winograd entered the picture when Fox-Rosen met him at KlezKamp, the yearly Catskills conflagration of traditional musicians (convened in 2014 for the 30th and final time). Winograd has an abiding love for the work of two master clarinetists: Dave Tarras (1897-1989) and Naftule Brandwein (1884-1963).

“Michael is one of the premier contemporary klezmer clarinetists,” Farrell said of Winograd. “He’s always expanding the vocabulary of ornamentation, but never excessively.” 

The trio began as the Michael Winograd Trio but as ideas and collaborations ricocheted, it morphed into Yiddish Art Trio. When it’s pointed out that the name could denote stuffy art music or function as a put-on, Fox-Rosen smiles. 

“It’s a little of both,” he said. “We’re trying to create serious concert music of our own compositions. We don’t play the klezmer hits, but if we do, we’ll do it in a different way.” 

Farrell added: “We’ve all learned from the older players of the 1940s and ’50s who have passed. The klezmer revival is secure now, so we don’t feel the need to mix it with rock or fusion. We want to play our own music that ties in to the traditional klezmer but pushes it forward.”

The yearly winter sojourn to Los Angeles is something they look forward to. “Tex-Mex tacos in Austin are all right,” Fox-Rosen said, “but they can’t hold a candle to the traditional Oaxacan food we can get in L.A.”

Click here for more information about the Yiddish Art Trio’s Jan. 24 performance at the Skirball Cultural Center.

MUSIC: ‘That Yemenite Kid’ Diwon makes a mix tape — in Yiddish

NEW YORK (JTA) — Courtesy of Diwon, the artist formerly known as DJ Handler and otherwise known as the executive director of Modular Moods and Shemspeed.com, comes this fresh mix of pop, hip-hop, electronica and . . . Yiddish?

We spoke to “That Yemenite Kid” and asked him what’s up with this unusual release.

JTA: As an artist and producer you’ve focused on highlighting Sephardic and Yemenite Jewish music as an alternative to what some see as the Ashkenazic domination of the Jewish cultural scene. With that in mind, what’s a nice Yemenite kid like you doing in a Yiddishe place like this?

Diwon: I’m half-Yemenite. My other side is Ashkenaz. That is the side that came out here. Don’t forget, I started a klezmer punk band in college called Juez. So this really isn’t too far out for me. I think just because of the recent change of my artist name from DJ Handler to Diwon and some of the press around the music, now I’m seen as very Yemenite and the past is sort of washed over. I’m definitely more passionate about the Yemenite music I’m making because I feel that there has already been a big Yiddish and klezmer music revival.

At the same time, I don’t know of any Yiddish mixtapes that have ever been made — you know, Yiddish through the eyes of a street mixtape DJ. It was a challenge to take the source material flip it over my own beats and remixes and then throw in some of my friends who are fusing Yiddish with electronic music and what not. Plus that Andrew sisters “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen” is so hot. I DJ it in clubs all the time. That in itself was almost reason enough to create this mixtape.

JTA: I notice you have some Hebrew language stuff in there as well. That’s going to make the Yiddishists angry . . .

Diwon: Ha! I don’t know. I guess some controversy is good.

There is a lot of great classic Yiddish music out there that, beyond revivals from Golem and Socalled, most young Jews today are completely unfamiliar with.

Click for streaming audio

JTA: Do you see any potential for the reinvigoration of Yiddish music as anything more than a novelty for this generation?

Diwon: I could see why people would say that Socalled is a novelty, but you could argue the music isn’t a novelty because he grew up listening to Yiddish records and this is how he makes Yiddish music — as opposed to say, an artist who put one Yiddish thing on their non-Yiddish album, as a novelty.

It’s a tough question to answer since most artists fuse different elements and genres and influences into their compositions. I don’t think that it’s novelty if an artist fuses their tradition into their music if it’s done in a sincere way and not with a smirk.

JTA: But what about for the consumer? So let’s say your doing Yemenite music isn’t a novelty, it’s an expression of your identity, but for the average music consumer, it’s a novelty. Take Matisyahu for example. Did non-Jews buy his album because he’s a great reggae artist, or because he’s an amusement?

Diwon: I think it depends on the consumer. One who isn’t that familiar with the tradition might buy it as novelty. But someone who knows the music and likes Yiddish or Yemenite music will buy it to expand their collection and for them its not necessarily a novelty purchase.

I know non-Jews who bought Matisyahu’s record because they like reggae. But then there are tons that probably bought it off the hype that was fueled by the novelty of it all. But I don’t think any of that matters. If he had put out one record and then went to making regular, non-Jewish reggae, I think it would be different. People would say “what a fake” and “what kind of marketing stunt is this?” But the fact is this is his true expression. He tours the world playing it and he is onto his third record, making it. It’s obvious that he doesn’t view it as a novelty. And the fact that he is still successful at it shows that it’s definitely more than a novelty. That and maybe the fact that he doesn’t wear a suit and a black hat anymore.

JTA: How’s the Jewish music scene holding up in light of the current economic downturn? Is your label, Modular Moods, surviving, thriving, dying?

Diwon: Well stateside we’re still alright. It’s a bit harder when I tour internationally, but no matter what I’m still going to grind and get as much good music out there as possible. If only to cheer up the people who are down due to the economy.

JTA: Well, giving away free music helps!

Diwon: Yeah, well music is basically free nowadays anyway, so why try and front? I feel like I give 75% of my music out for free and use the other 25% to fund it all and survive.

JTA: So what can we expect from Modular Moods in the coming months?

Diwon: Don’t miss the Sephardic Music Festival this Chanukah in NYC, the Shemspeed 40 Days 40 Nights Tour of college campuses in February, and a slew of new songs and albums unlike anything people have ever heard. We ain’t gonna stop now.

Calendar Girls Picks and Clicks for September 13-18: When Ladino met klezmer, Torah Slam, a lawerlyy


The City of Los Angeles and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa sponsor an annual emergency preparedness fair as part of the Great Southern California ShakeOut: Are You Prepared? The fair seeks to educate Angelenos on the importance of being prepared for disasters, natural or manmade, such as earthquakes and riots. Activities will include live safety demonstrations, disaster preparedness exhibits and interactive programming for children. Sat. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Free. Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits, 5801 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. Also, Sept. 20 and Sept. 27 (different locations). (213) 978-2222. ” target=”_blank”>http://www.afhu.org.

” vspace = 8 hspace = 8 align = left border = 0>is perhaps nothing he enjoys more than writing about religion. Today, Kirsch will discuss his latest book, “The Grand Inquisitor’s Manual: A History of Terror in the Name of God,” which explores persecution and violence in the name of righteousness. Sat. 2 p.m. Free. Barnes & Noble, 1201 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica. (310) 260-9110. ” target=”_blank”>http://www.valleycitiesjcc.org.

We live in a city where summer continues well into December and so do the pool parties, picnics and barbecues that the rest of the country bid farewell to after Labor Day. Taking advantage of our unique environs, Jewish Singles Meeting Place, for singles in their 40s and 50s, is inviting you to a Gourmet Western BBQ Party at a home in Sylmar. Be sure to R.S.V.P. before noon on the day of the event. Sat. 8 p.m. $12. Sylmar. (818) 750-0095.


In addition to facing paralyzing fear, families of children with cancer have to deal with financial hardships, emotional and mental strain and the difficulty of keeping a family intact. Larger Than Life offers aid to families in Israel who are struggling through just such a crisis. Larger Than Life’s annual gala in Los Angeles ” target=”_blank”>http://www.largerthanlifela.org.

Learn about klezmer and Ladino music, enjoy brunch and receive a free pass to the Autry National Center, all at the “Klezmer-Ladino Convergence.” ” vspace = 8 hspace = 8 align = right>, which was founded by singer, scholar and ” target=”_blank”>http://www.autrynationalcenter.org.

The Von der Ahe Library at Loyola Marimount University is hosting a five-part reading and discussion series. In “Let’s Talk About It: Jewish Literature, Identity and Imagination,” theology professor Saba Soomekh, who has written several essays about California’s Persian Jewish community, will lead the book-based discussions on the theme “Neighbors: The World Next Door.” Books discussed will include “Journey to the Millennium” by A.B. Yehoshua, “Red Cavalry” by Isaac Babel and “Mona in the Promised Land” by Jen Gish. Sun. 2 p.m. Through Dec. 7. Free. Collins Faculty Center at Loyola Marymount University, 1 LMU Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 338-4584. ” target=”_blank”>http://www.thirtyyearsafter.org.

The man known as the “Yiddish Indiana Jones,” Yale Strom, and his band Hot Pstromi, will ensure that “Angels & Dybbuks: The First L.A. Klez Fest” is an event to remember. Strom delves into all that is Yiddish, whether it’s music, books, film, theater or photography. Strom will also offer workshops on klezmer instruments and history. Sun. Events begin at noon. $20-$80. McCabe’s Guitar Shop, 3101 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica. (310) 828-4497. motek11111@yahoo.com.


A pudgy toddler whose cheeks are delightfully doughy may be cute, but a plump preteen could turn into an obese adult with myriad health problems. Educate yourself about the dangers of pediatric obesity at the Children’s Health Forum, which is sponsored by the American Committee for Shaare Zedek Medical Center. Professor Ronald Nagel, associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and professor Francis Mimouni, chair of the department of pediatrics, will speak. Kosher lunch will be served. Mon. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. $50 (requested donation). Luxe Hotel, 11461 Sunset Blvd., Brentwood. (310) 229-0915. westernregion@acsz.org.


Everyone is invited to Los Angeles’ first cross-denominational public Torah study. With the High Holy Days coming up, The Journal decided to get everybody together for a “Torah Slam,” ” vspace = 8 hspace = 8 align = right>a knock-your-socks-off Torah study with five great rabbis: Elazar Muskin (Orthodox), Ed Feinstein (Conservative), Mordecai Finley (Reform/Chasidic), Haim torahslam@jewishjournal.com.


Jordan Elgrably’s resume reveals that he’s had a prolific career as a Sephardic writer and activist. Tonight he speaks about his personal journey as an American with roots in multicultural Morocco in “The Loquat Tree, or the Art of Being an Arab Jew.” His audiovisual presentation is sure to be moving, funny and insightful. Wed. 6 p.m. Free. Los Angeles Public Library, Robertson Branch, 1719 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 657-5511. ” target=”_blank”>http://levantinecenter.org.


Good cause. Unlimited alcohol. Cold, hard cash prizes. So, come get some chips at the fifth annual No-Limit Texas Hold-‘Em Poker Event benefiting Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles’ mentoring programs, which help children reach for their dreams. Thu. 6:30 p.m. (lessons), 7:30 p.m. (tournament). $200 (advance), $230 (door). Hollywood Park Casino, 3883 West Century Blvd., Second Floor, Inglewood. (323) 456-1159. ” target=”_blank”>http://www.gelsons.com/services/CC/index.asp.

Tikkun olam is a monumental Jewish value. Jewish teens can get involved with the Friendship Circle, an organization that supports children and young adults with special needs. The Friendship Circle Teen Volunteer Open House offers a chance to learn about the organization’s many volunteer opportunities. Thu. 8 p.m. Free. Friendship Circle, 9581 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 277-3252.

JDub throws off the label and opts for change

Golem live (‘Romania, Romania!’) at the Knitting Factory in NYC June 2007

JDub was never supposed to be just a record label, and as JDub records celebrates its fifth anniversary with a free concert on July 27 downtown at California Plaza, it is more clear than ever that the organization’s founders have greater ambitions than merely putting out good Jewish CDs.

Aaron Bisman, who co-founded the label with Jacob Harris when the duo were finishing college in New York, readily admits those ambitions.

“We believed there were legs for the idea behind the label,” Bisman says, his eyes alight with the passion of someone who after a half-decade is still excited by what he is doing. “We wanted to change attitudes about Jewish music and culture. We wanted to create something for young Jews, our contemporaries, to create spaces and music that would make them want to be there.”

And it wasn’t about making money. What sets JDub apart from other Jewish music purveyors is their not-for-profit status, which allows them to seek grants and work closely with other Jewish nonprofits. The Six Points Fellowship program, a partnership among the label, Avoda Arts and the Foundation for Jewish Culture, substantially funded by UJA-Federation of New York, is a good example.

“We wanted to bring together artists who had never done a specifically Jewish project before,” Bisman says.

The two-year fellowship program provides 12 artists with a living stipend, financial project support, professional development workshops and ongoing peer- and professional-led learning opportunities.

The vision has already begun to bear fruit. Having built a strong foundation in New York, Bisman and Harris have begun the slow, hard work of expanding their outreach to Los Angeles and other cities with a substantial Jewish presence. They have already cleared a major hurdle, receiving a “Cutting Edge” grant of $250,000 from the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles. In the long run, the idea is to create spaces and events for young Jews, whether affiliated or not, with the goal of making Jewish culture cool.

“They have figured out a way to allow their contemporaries to find a way to comfortably express themselves,” says Marvin Schotland, CEO of the Jewish Community Foundation. “It’s another way in a complex environment to test what will attract other people to get comfortable with their identity and to take some step beyond showing up at a concert. JDub has the capacity to get them to show up at a concert, but they’re interested in doing more than that, and they are interested in connecting with other participants in the Jewish community. We believe this initiative will have a major impact on the Jewish community in Los Angeles.”

Of course, no one is expecting an overnight transformation of Los Angeles’ diverse, diffuse Jewish community. JDub’s program is designed to build gradually, creating links between self-identified Jews in the arts communities, the Jewish communal world and audiences. And somewhere along the road, JDub also hopes to nurture new bands and performers to sign to their label.

In the very short term, the July 27 concert is a useful launching pad for JDub in Los Angeles, highlighting two of their bands — Golem, a hard-driving klezmer-punk-gypsy fusion, and Soulico, a powerful crew of Israeli DJs whose guests for this performance will include the Ethiopian-Israeli MCs of Axum and Sagol 59, the grand old man of Israeli hip-hop. In its sheer atypicality, the double-bill is typical of JDub, Bisman says.

“Both [bands] help us fill in the picture of the diversity of the world of Jewish music we’ve always been striving for,” he says. “Eastern European Jewish — and non-Jewish — folk tunes played as rock and punk, led by an amateur female ethnomusicologist, and an Israeli DJ crew building original hip-hop out of Middle Eastern melodies and rhythms.”

Not coincidentally, both groups have new CDs scheduled for release in early 2009. (Hey, we said they weren’t just a record label.)

“New York has been our base of support and our home,” Bisman says. “But our plan is to grow as a national organization, to find artists and funding outside New York City.”

Schotland is optimistic.

“For us, while the art is significant, it’s the vision they have for the utilization of the art to provide a way for young Jewish adults to identify with their Jewish identity [that] was most impressive about their proposal,” he says. “The proof of the pudding will be five years from now.”

Golem, Soulico, with Sagol 59 and Axum as guest artists, and Slivovitz and Soul will be performing free at Grand Performances (California Plaza, Waterfront Stage) on Sunday, July 27 at 7 p.m.

There’s no shame in the Shondes’ melodious yelling

Master of musical fusion blends klezmer with salsa

These days, the world is constantly getting smaller, and musical styles don’t respect national or traditional boundaries. Matisyahu, for example, has made a name for himself by fusing Eastern European Chasidic strains with Jamaican reggae.

At the Skirball recently, Chango Spasiuk performed songs that combine his Ukrainian heritage with his Argentine upbringing. Practitioners of world music are constantly exploring ways to fuse disparate musical strains in new and interesting ways.

Given all that, it should not be a surprise that there is a new group that combines klezmer with salsa. Odessa/Havana — “The Explosive Jewish/Cuban Musical Mash-Up” — a musical project that brings together these two musical traditions in a jazz context will perform at the Skirball Cultural Center at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 29.

During a telephone interview, David Buchbinder — the Jewish jazz trumpeter who founded the group and who composes (or co-composes) much of its music — said that he first felt the close ties between Jewish and Latin music many years ago.

“Even in my early days of playing klezmer,” Buchbinder said, “I heard the connections and noted that they shared modes and scales, similar melodic approaches, a strong rhythmic drive and deep spiritual underpinnings”

Twenty years ago, Buchbinder was in a recording studio, laying down tracks for a klezmer CD.

“I was working a chorus into one of the pieces,” Buchbinder said, “when a merengue tune came out,” referring to the exuberant merengue music and dance from the Dominican Republic.

He included that merengue-style in the finished product. “This made perfect musical sense, and it remained in the back of my mind.”

In 2006, Buchbinder was nominated for a Juno Award (the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy) and was asked to put together a musical group for radio concerts. He invited pianist Hilario Duran — a fellow Juno nominee, originally from Cuba — to join him.

“The musical idea in getting together with Hilario,” Buchbinder said, “was not necessarily to fuse klezmer and Cuban but rather to create and play jazz that has both influences in it.” And, indeed, their music, as heard on the promotional CD, is rich and complex, embodying elements that Jewish and Cuban music have in common: from foot-tapping, celebratory joy to moments of profound dirge-like sadness.

“The musical associations [between Jewish and Cuban music] are many-faceted, multilayered and rich indeed,” Buchbinder said, “rooted in their common ancestry on the Iberian peninsula and sharing Arabic, Roma — Gypsy — Sephardic and North African forebears…. After the expulsion of the Jews [from Iberia] … a minority went to Eastern Europe, so that stream flowed into Yiddish culture.”

Buchbinder’s first Canadian concerts with Duran, who also lives in Toronto, were sold out, and people were turned away, which is unusual for a new musical project.

“I think what happened,” he said, “is that people found the idea fascinating. I also think that Jews have been mightily attracted to Cuban music for many years. The Miami association, the whole mambo craze in the 1950s, was fueled by the American Jewish community.”

Buchbinder and Duran have composed music specially for Odessa/Havana. “People who attend the concert,” Buchbinder said, “can expect high-energy, unique music that is rich, dramatic, intense, challenging but ultimately very accessible.”

Buchbinder gives part of the credit for bringing different streams and traditions together to Toronto, which, he said, “Is truly a multicultural city…. It’s an incredibly diverse atmosphere, a rich mix of different cultures. And a mix between cultures.

“Toronto is moving … to what I call post-multiculturalism…. At first, the attitude was that one should celebrate one’s own culture, which meant looking backward toward the culture that people came out of. But then it changed, and now people are dedicated to creating new, unique art that combines different streams in new ways.”

Buchbinder practices cross-cultural fusion not just in his musical life but in his private life, as well. He’s married to Roula Said, a dancer-musician-actress.

How did he meet his wife?

“I met Roula in the large, floating group of musicians and performers that are part of the Toronto scene…. We knew people in common and met at a party about eight years ago. We liked each other and took it from there. She’s of Palestinian-Christian background. We have a daughter who’s 4 1/2. Some people can’t imagine how we did it, but we’ve aligned in life.”

Buchbinder and Said have also aligned in their art.

“We’ve worked together on several projects,” he said. “‘Feast of the East,’ which brought together different musical groups from the Middle East. And we did a series of concerts: ‘Imagine the Sound of Peace.'”

Both personally and professionally, Buchbinder is the master of fusion.

Odessa/Havana will perform on Nov. 29 at 8 p.m. at the Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 440-4500

A Musical Odyssey, Comic Con at the Shrine, Two’s Company, Man Ray


Pack a suitcase with excitement and wonder because tonight you will be embarking on “A Musical Odyssey.” Your journey begins in the South Bay and takes you first to hear the symphonic sounds of Jewish klezmer and choral music performed by the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony. Your next musical port of call will include mystical melodies from Spain, Persia, Yemen and Israel performed by the talented and ubiquitous Yuval Ron Ensemble. Featuring vocals by Tehila Lauder and dance by Melanie Kareem, the Ensemble will whisk you away to the Holy Land with their “‘West Bank Story’ Suite,” a compilation of music from the Academy Award-winning short film. Proceeds from this auditory odyssey will benefit the religious school at Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay.

8-10 p.m. $50, $75. Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, 1935 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Redondo Beach. (310) 377-3510. ” target=”_blank”>http://jewishjournal.com/geekheeb/.

10 a.m.-5 p.m. $8. Shrine Auditorium Expo Center, 700 W. 32nd St., Los Angeles. (818) 954-8432. ” border = 0 vspace = ‘8’ alt=”Alan Menken”>” target=”_blank”>http://www.alextheatre.com.


” target=”_blank”>http://www.bonhams.com/us.


Comedian Lahna Turner’s ” target=”_blank”>http://www.improv.com.


The golden age of screwball comedy in Hollywood began with a handful of Jews in the 1930s — Billy Wilder, Ben Hecht and Sidney Buchman are just a few names synonymous with slapstick. Jon Edelman is bringing back the farcical, the ridiculous and the fast-talking with his wacky post-modern “Screwballs.” Set in a tiny desert inn, the play has a classic screwball plot involving a divorced couple who can’t seem to let go and end up swapping bodies. The result is, as you can imagine, disastrous and hilarious and screwy.

Thu.-Sun., through Dec. 15. $20. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles. (310) 477-2055.


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” target=”_blank”>http://www.oscars.org.

Good albums drown out naysayers’ dire predictions

All in all, 2006 was a very good year for Jewish music. Fourteen CDs won the five-star plaudit, which is certainly a hopeful sign and a pointed rejoinder to those naysayers who have been proclaiming the death of (choose one): 1) klezmer; 2) new Jewish music; 3) old Jewish music.

On the downside, however, four of those albums were the products of deceased composers/artists. But still, the Kiddush cup is better than 70 percent full.

Here are my top 10 Jewish records of the year in alphabetical order:

Morton Feldman: “String Quartet (1979)” (Naxos). From a performer’s standpoint, it would be hard to imagine a quartet piece more physically demanding than this one, which is nearly 80 minutes long, meant to be played very slowly and features some truly mind-blowing shifts in dynamics.

Feldman was one of the most creative and rigorous of Webern-influenced serialists, and his work rewards — no, demands — close attention. If you can give yourself over to this piece of music completely, you will be richly rewarded, but it is almost as tough a test for a listener as it is for a performer. This recording by the Group for Contemporary Music is masterful.

German Goldenshteyn: “A Living Tradition” (Living Traditions). This is not merely a very fine album of traditional klezmer, it is also a historical document of 20th century Jewish culture of incalculable value. Goldenshteyn, who died earlier this year at 71, was a bridge between the Jewish musicians of pre- and post-revolutionary Russia and the young musicians of the American klezmer renaissance.

He was a walking encyclopedia of klezmer tunes, carrying in his head more than 800 songs, almost none of them known here. Fortunately, he imparted them to those younger musicians, and they are being published posthumously.

Equally fortunate, he was recorded in December 2005 at KlezKamp so that we have an auditory record of his playing to go along with the notated one. He was a superb clarinetist, with a bedrock sense of time and a deep, throaty tone.
The band that backs him is excellent, and the sound is remarkably good, given that this session was rather off the cuff. A must for anyone who cares seriously about klezmer. Available from www.livingtraditions.org.

The Klezmatics: “Wonder Wheel” (JMG). This CD continues the Klezmatics’ collaborations with the Woody Guthrie Archives, which is looking like a very fruitful pairing. Drawing a wide range of moods and tones from the archives collection of previously unset lyrics, the band gets to show off its considerable range, from a funky faux-Latin “Mermaid Avenue” to a lovely Calpyso-ish lullaby, “Headdy Down,” to a weirdly Asiatic/alt.country “Pass Away” to a klezmer “Goin’ Away to Sea.”

One of the surprises of the set is how profoundly spiritual some of the Guthrie lyrics are; one expects the good-natured progressivism of something like “Come When I Call You” and “Heaven,” but the deeply felt religious feeling of “Holy Ground” is unexpected and moving.

David Krakauer and Socalled w/Klezmer Madness!: “Bubbemeises: Lies My Gramma Told Me” (Label Bleu). This is by far the most interesting synthesis of hip-hop and klezmer attempted to date. It helps that Krakauer and Socalled are on the same page; that Socalled’s beats give a deliciously herky-jerky underpinning to Krakauer’s natural affinity for eccentric rhythms, and that the band is one of the best in this music. If you come for Krakauer’s clarinet playing, you won’t be disappointed. He’s in fine form here.

For the most part, the hip-hop elements won’t put off the true believer, although the bizarre, dirge-like “Rumania, Rumania” may prove hard for some to swallow. But it is precisely in the synthesis, the mix of phat beats and klezmer, the use of sampling and cut-and-mix, that this CD represents a significant step forward.

Ljova: “Vjola: World on Four Strings” (Kapustnik). After hearing this extraordinary album, you’ll never tell another viola joke again. Ljova, a Russian émigré now living in New York, is a superb player and composer, and this set, mostly of originals, ranges in emotion and colors across the globe.

Multitracked alongside accordionist Michael Bregman, Ljova is a virtuosic violist who can make the instrument do just about anything, and the set runs gracefully from the poignant to the jolly. This brilliant debut is available from www.kapustnik.com.

Jeremiah Lockwood: “American Primitive” (Vee-Ron). Lockwood got his start playing straight-ahead acoustic blues, and this fascinating recording draws on that part of his background. But “American Primitive” is anything but straight-ahead.
Imagine Captain Beefheart “unplugged,” and you have some idea of what this set sounds like. Dark and brooding variations on delta blues and the darker currents of bluegrass, filled with jangling guitar riffs and strangulated vocals. Not to all tastes, but a brilliant calling card from Lockwood.

Frank London: “Hazanos” (Tzadik). Since I acquired this, a week hasn’t passed in which I haven’t listened to it at least a couple of times. That is, to say the least, not usual for me, but it tells you how much I love this record.

Working with a brilliant rhythm section (David Chevan on bass, Anthony Coleman on keyboards, Gerald Cleaver on drums), several other superb musicians and several brilliant voices — most notably cantors Jack Mendelson and Simon Spiro — London has crafted the single-most compelling fusion of jazz and Jewish traditional liturgical music that I have heard to date. This is simply one of the best records I have heard in 10 years. Go buy it right now. Period.

Roy Nathanson: “Sotto Voce” (AUM Fidelity). From the start, this is clearly a very different Nathanson album, with human beatbox Napoleon Maddox supplying the rhythms and Nathanson coming up with a lot of the words. The result is a very satisfying, frequently funny and always witty jazz excursion, anchored by Nathanson’s superlative sax playing and fellow Jazz Passenger Curtis Fowlkes offering his usual trombone ingenuity.

The album runs the gamut from a vaguely satirical but surprisingly deeply felt “Sunrise Sunset” to a funk combustible “Sunny.” And all five band members contribute nicely judged vocals.

PASSOVER: Songs for a Swinging Seder

Of all the Jewish holidays, none is so firmly rooted in the home and so joyously celebrated with song as Passover. This simple fact would lead you to expect an avalanche of Passover records, but this year the avalanche is more like a mild rain of pebbles, at least in the quantity department. The quality is pretty high, but don’t count on finding much for your own seder table. These records should come with the warning: “Trained singing professionals; do not try this at home.”

The two most unusual and interesting of the four new CDs both use hip-hop as a touchstone. Samples, cut-ups, rapping, multiple overdubbing with hard beats — the usual package — used artfully by Craig Taubman on “The Passover Lounge” (Craig + Co.) and Josh Dolgin, better known as SoCalled, on “The SoCalled Seder: A Hip-Hop Haggadah” (JDub).

Taubman’s outing is more musically conservative, generally staying close to the familiar holiday tunes and drawing on a trippy vibe that nicely complements his breezy tenor singing. Co-producer Luke Tozour provides some tasty beats and samples and a lot of friendly ambient sound. (Hey, guys, my seder never sounds this mellow — where is all the screaming and yelling?) It’s a nice little package that turns the Four Questions into juicy, dreamy funk and the recounting of the plagues into something like “old-skool horror” rap. If Taubman has his tongue planted firmly in his cheek, the humor is affectionate and endearing.

SoCalled, unsurprisingly, is after something tougher, with more street cred and a straight-razor edge. Taking samples from old how-to-do-a-seder records and slicing and dicing them into a bubbling stew of breakbeat sounds, scratching from P.Love, klezmer instrumentals from Elaine and Susan Hoffman Watts, high-powered sax funk from Paul Shapiro, and a startling rap from Killah Priest on the plagues, he has created a Pesach for downtown hipsters. I love it but I’m pretty sure my zayde would not. As the old joke goes, if he were alive, this would kill him. Be forewarned.

If you are seeking a more traditional Passover recording, you might be more comfortable with “The Spirit of Passover: Voices of the Conservative Movement” (Cantors Assembly/United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism), a sampler that was actually released last year but which didn’t turn up on my desk until a few weeks ago. The current issue of Judaism is devoted to a long discussion of the current state and possible future of the Conservative movement, but if you want a truly vivid portrait of the many directions in which its adherents are pulling, this CD is the thing.

The record opens with a burst of Hollywood Strings-style kitsch that suddenly turns into a veritable explosion of “Ki Lo Na’eh/Had Gadya” sung by the Three Jewish Tenors. Meir Finkelstein, Alberto Mizrahi and David Propis sound like the musical equivalent of human cannonballs on this gleeful tribute to Moyshe Oysher, but it’s not a great idea to open a record at this energy level, because anything that follows is bound to be a letdown.

And much of what follows is a new-agey, Celine Dionish ode to Rebbe Nachman written by Jeff Klepper and sung by Eva Robbins, although nothing is quite so dire as “The Empty Chair.” Things couldn’t get worse than that and, fortunately, they don’t. Indeed, there are some real high points: a lithe “Dayeinu” performed by the Syracuse Children’s Chorus, a supremely simple but powerful “Hodu Ladonai” from Sam Weiss, a haunting “Livbavtini” in which a multitracked Ramon Tasat duets with himself and an audacious “Prayer for Dew: Tal” in which Moshe Schulhof sings with a recording of the legendary Yossele Rosenblatt. If you look up “chutzpahdik” in the dictionary, you’ll probably find a photo of Schulhof, but to his everlasting credit, he holds his own with the man most consider the single greatest hazzan of all time. (Available from www.TheSpiritSeries.com.)

The final entry in this year’s Pesach sweepstakes is a somber one, Max Helfman’s “Di Naye Hagode” (Milken Archive/Naxos). Helfman’s oratorio is not, strictly speaking, a Passover commemoration in the strict sense of the word. Rather, it is a 1948 piece he wrote in memory of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which began on Passover in 1943. Using the seder as a structural armature on which to mount “di naye hagode,” that is, “the new telling,” Helfman wrote a frequently powerful, occasionally bombastic piece for choir, narrator and orchestra. This recording features particularly forceful contributions from the Choral Society of Southern California, the Los Angeles Zimriyah Chorale and narrator Theodore Bikel, who never succumbs to the temptation to “emote,” wisely allowing Itzik Fefer’s stark, bleak text to do the hard work. The CD also features an effective rendition of Helfman’s “Hag Habikkurim” and a surprisingly mournful “The Holy Ark.” The result is one of the best releases in the Milken Archive series to date.

George Robinson is the film and music critic for Jewish Week. His book, “Essential Torah,” will be published by Shocken Books in fall 2006.


It’s Not Your Zayde’s Klezmer Anymore

Musician Eric Stein felt disillusioned with rock ‘n’ roll. He spent years slogging away in a band without “making it,” so he started looking for something else.

He considered being a history professor, but then, a new instrument and an old style of music changed his mind.

The instrument was a mandolin and the music klezmer.

“There was level of musical sophistication that goes with the kind of music you can play on the mandolin, and my intention was to start a new acoustic-fusion thing, with an emphasis on string and wind instruments,” said Stein, who went on to form Beyond the Pale, a klezmer-fusion band.

“I had been brought up as a secular Jew, and I didn’t know much about Jewish music except that it was dorky,” said Stein on the phone from Toronto, where his band is based. “But when klezmer got hot a few years ago, I found that the music really spoke to me on a cultural level. All the time, I was trying to play other people’s music, but this is the music of my family and my history.”

Stein’s approach to klezmer — seeing it as part of his heritage, but wanting to put an innovative, modern stamp on it, is typical of today’s klezmer revival. More and more musicians are attracted to the music, but want to move it beyond its European folk roots.

Hence, bands like Beyond the Pale fuse klezmer with reggae, jazz, ska and bluegrass music. As a result, klezmer keeps one foot in its shtetl past and another in the post-modern present.

“That’s why we called the band Beyond the Pale, because the expression means something that is unexpected and beyond the bounds,” Stein said. “[The name] refers to the Jewish roots of the band, but it also refers to the idea that we want to get outside of the rules — to pay homage to the traditions, but at the same time express ourselves.”

“Consensus” is the name of Beyond the Pale’s new CD, but while the title implies harmonic accord, even compromise, the tunes on the CD do not. Although not disharmonious, the tunes startle the listener with their complex boldness.

In “Whassat,” for instance, the 10th song on the CD, a clarinet melody starts off plaintive and wailing, only to be overlaid by a thumping base beat that builds into a rhythmic crescendo that is less “Tevye” and more jazz club.

In “Skalavaye,” Beyond the Pale gives a modern, ska-tinged rendition of a 1940s Yiddish classic, with contemporary nods to Yiddish humor. “Halevai (I only wish that) I was a keg of beer,” warbles vocalist Josh Dolgin. “So you could quench your thirst with me, my dear'”

For Stein, the CD, a live recording of a Toronto concert, epitomizes the new direction of klezmer.

“Historically, klezmer music was just about extinct by the mid-60s, for all sorts of different reasons, such as demographics and the Holocaust,” Stein said. “So for the first 15 to 20 years of the klezmer revival, [which started in the 1970s], the overriding influence was about ‘Let’s rescue what was forgotten and bring it back.’ But in the 1990s, we have the second generation of the klezmer revival, and that is when things really started to evolve. [The musicians] were marrying klezmer to jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, funk and reggae.”

Klezmer was not only becoming musically assimilated, but moving beyond the confines of the Jewish community. Stein is the only member of his five-piece band who is Jewish, and the band’s audiences have also changed.

No longer do klezmer bands attract only the bubbes and zaydes who remember the music from the old days. Now, in many venues, klezmer audiences can be primarily non-Jewish.

“People from within the Jewish community are embracing it, and using it as a way to express their own cultural heritage, but it is also having a life outside of the Jewish community altogether,” said Martin Van de Ven, Beyond the Pale’s clarinetist. “It has become [a style of music] with its own direction and way of doing things. More and more musicians are getting involved with it….”

“It is really evolving beyond just a Jewish form of music,” he said.

Beyond the Pale will perform June 1 at 9:30 p.m. at Tangier Restaurant, 2138 Hillcrest Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 666-8666. For more information on the band, visit

7 Days in The Arts

Saturday, May 21

Ah, love. We get a heaping helping of it at the Getty’s “Love Story Weekend,” which continues today. Hear noted actors read short stories by noted writers — Regina King reads Charles Johnson, Alec Baldwin reads John Updike and William H. Macy reads Etgar Keret.

May 20-22. $15-$20. 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 440-7300.

Sunday, May 22

Klezmer fuses with Middle Eastern rhythms in Yuval Ron and Sha-Rone Kushnir’s new performance of original music and stories, “The Legend of Baal Shem.” Sponsored by the Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity and a grant by the city of West Hollywood, the free concert honors West Hollywood’s large Russian Jewish immigrant community with a focus on the Ukranian-born founder of Chasidism, the Baal Shem Tov.

4 p.m. Free. West Hollywood Park and Recreation Auditorium, 647 San Vicente Blvd. (323) 658-5824.

Monday, May 23

Richard Nanes’ classical crossover music has been performed by the London Philharmonic and at Lincoln Center, with his “Symphony No. 3, The Holocaust” world premiering at the Kiev International Music Festival. You’ve heard his music on the Bravo Network, and possibly on EWTN (the Global Catholic Network). But for those who want to own his “Symphony No. 3, The Holocaust,” the opportunity has just now arrived. It’s available on video and CD through the Web.

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Tuesday, May 24

Gary Baseman’s illustrations have appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone and on the cover of the New Yorker. This month, however, you need look no further than our own fair city. “Gary Baseman: For the Love of Toby” opens this month at Billy Shire Fine Arts, featuring cartoonish depictions of the lovable cat Toby in different curious and sometimes naughty situations. Base man indeed!

Noon-6 p.m. (Tues.-Sat.). 5790 Washington Blvd., Culver City. (323) 297-0600.

Wednesday, May 25

Sunday marked the opening of UCLA Hillel’s Dortot Center for Creativity in the Arts’ new photography exhibit, “Resistance and Rescue in Denmark,” by Judy Ellis Glickman. But for those who missed it, the show continues through June 30. The images depict the history of the rescue of Danish Jewry during the Nazi occupation.

Free. 574 Hilgard Ave., Los Angeles. (310) 208-3081.

Thursday, May 26

Jewish music mixes with Latin beats in this evening’s Skirball concert featuring Septeto Roberto Rodriguez. Rodriguez and his band perform songs from his latest album, “Baila! Gitano Baila!” and the public gains free admission to the Skirball’s exhibits, including “Einstein,” before the show.

7:30 p.m. $15-$25. 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500.

Friday, May 27

Chuck Goldstone has mused on everything from PC vs. Mac users to the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes, and now has a new book of humorous writings out titled, “This Book Is Not a Toy!: Friendly Advice on How to Avoid Death and Other Inconveniences.” If you missed him yesterday at Dutton’s in Brentwood, he reads some of his silliness in person today at Vroman’s Pasadena.

7 p.m. Vroman’s, 695 E. Colorado Blvd. Pasadena. (626) 449-5320.

Singing Klezmer Isn’t Hard to Do

Neil Sedaka is a punctual, polite musical legend, and at 65, he still likes being a mama’s boy.

“I do. I like being protected,” Sedaka said. He grew up in a loving Sephardic/Ashkenazic home in Brooklyn, where he practiced piano for hours. It was a sheltered Coney Island Avenue universe in which, “my sister fought my battles in school,” Sedaka said. “To me, the raising of a voice was very jarring. My mother told me that everything I did was perfect.”

When it comes to catchy tunes with perfect melodies, the world often has agreed with Mama Sedaka (now 88 and living in Ft. Lauderdale). And while having Andy Warhol paint your portrait and seeing one’s songwriting skills praised in Bob Dylan’s recent autobiography are great, it is the Yiddish songs he grew up listening to that now claim Sedaka’s melodic soul.

His CD, “Brighton Beach Memories: Neil Sedaka Sings Yiddish,” cost less than $10,000 to produce, prompted a Carnegie Hall concert last summer and is now coming to the Wilshire Theatre this weekend — complete with a klezmer band. The show’s second half will be from Sedaka’s own large repertoire, with the show’s first half dedicated to Yiddish tunes such as “My Yiddishe Mamme” and “Shein vi di L’Vone” (“Pretty as the Moon”).

“I grew up on these songs. I wanted to do something that was close to my heart,” Sedaka told The Journal in telephone interview from his Park Avenue apartment. “But I have to tell you that this CD has taken a life of its own.”

Since dropping out of Juilliard in 1958, Sedaka’s 1,000 songs have included nearly 50 hummable and singable hits, including “Love Will Keep Us Together,” “Calendar Girl,” “Stupid Cupid” and “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do.” A product of Manhattan’s 1960s Brill Building songwriting factory, his music has been sung by Frank Sinatra, Cher, Sheryl Crow, ABBA, David Cassidy, Mandy Moore and The Monkees. A hit single this year came out of “American Idol” — Clay Aiken’s rendition of “Solitaire.”

“It’s a big body of work,” Sedaka said. His high baritone voice prompted a compliment decades ago from fellow Las Vegas Hilton staple Elvis Presley. “He said to me that when he was in the Army, he would go to the jukebox and sing the ‘Sedaka songs,'” he said.

Sedaka has had a noteworthy place in American music for four decades; he became a comfortable perennial who did not let himself turn into a tortured titan like Sinatra or a forgettable one-hit wonder like The Imperials, Haircut 100 or Luscious Jackson.

One does not cringe when VH1 asks “Where Are They Now?” of Sedaka, because he usually has a hit somewhere, including at least one Billboard chart-topper each decade since 1958. Even while touring the Great Wall of China, the songwriter marveled at his Chinese guide singing one of his songs on the tour bus, the tour guide then refusing to believe Sedaka when he identified himself.

His hit-making consistency and songwriting discipline also have made him a man entirely lacking in public scandal. His work is remembered more than anything else, overshadowing even his enviable 42-year marriage to fellow New Yorker Leba Strassberg. The couple, who met in the Catskills, have two children — daughter Dara, a recording artist, and son Marc, an L.A. screenwriter — and twin granddaughters, Amanda and Charlotte.

He also finds Israeli audiences enjoying him when he sings Hebrew versions of his hits; his decidedly “charitable” last name (tzedaka means charity), he said, “has been very helpful.”

Yet, Sedaka admits that for all the pop hits he has written and heard played, hummed or sung in elevators, supermarkets and cocktail lounges, writing pop music is not bubblegum and can require as much elaborate creation as a Bach symphony.

“The hardest thing is to write a simple melody,” he said. “I do wish that I could write something a little more complicated, but it’s not me; it’s not my makeup. I’m very disciplined. It was kind of a long, long career. It never went to my head.”

His evergreen tunes (before Aiken, Elvis recorded “Solitaire”) means Sedaka has not had to work the ’50s hits revival circuit.

“I love oldies, but I never had to do those shows,” the songwriter said.

Sedaka’s choice of rock ‘n’ roll and pop over classical notes initially irked his mother, who saw her baby as the next Arthur Rubinstein. When someone suggested that young Neil, with his unique high voice, become a chazan, his mother dismissed that, too, insisting he would be a concert pianist.

But success smiled on his mother’s dashed dreams when at 19, his songwriting brought in royalties of $42,000.

“I bought her a mink stole,” Sedaka said. “That made the difference. We call it her Hadassah tallit.”

Neil Sedaka performs Saturday, Dec. 4 at 8 p.m, and Sunday, Dec. 5 at 2 p.m. at the Wilshire Theatre, 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. Tickets are $35-$55 with an eight-ticket limit. For more information, call (323) 468-1770 or go to

7 Days In Arts


Aaron Samson wrote and stars in “Not Dead Yet,” a piece inspired by his grandfather’s memoirs of his Russian past: working for Leon Trotsky, the consequent threat of execution by Russia’s communist regime and his quick escape to the United States where he began a new life. The one-man show follows the journey of a grandson, Jacob Samson, back to Russia to find his roots and the missing pieces of the story his grandfather Leo wrote down. It plays today at the Elephant Lab.Runs Saturdays, through Sept. 18. 8 p.m. $10. 1078 Lillian Way, Los Angeles. (323) 878-2377.


Might wanna throw some buttered popcorn into the picnic basket tonight for the Hollywood Bowl’s movie night program, “The Big Picture.” John Mauceri conducts the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra in selections from MGM/UA movie scores, as scenes from the films are projected on the Bowl’s giant screen. The James Bond series, “Rocky,” “The Pink Panther” and “West Side Story” are some of the featured films.7:30 p.m. $3-$88. 2301 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood. (213) 480-3232 (for tickets).


Horn in on High Holiday fun with shofar-making activities this week. The Hebrew Discovery Center holds a Shofar Factory Party on Sunday for kids ages 5 and up, while Calabasas Shul holds a shofar-making workshop at the local Albertsons today.HDC: Sept. 5, Noon. $7 (per child, include slice of pizza and refreshments). (818) 348-4432. Calabasas Shul: Sept. 6, 5-6:30 p.m. $5 (per shofar). (818) 591-7485.


The Mexican Jewish community isn’t one that gets much ofa spotlight, but for filmmaker Guita Shyfter, it made sense to focus on her ownroots and community. “Like a Bride” (“Novia Que Te Vea”) is the result. Thefilm’s uncommon subject matter is made more unique by its treatment: the storyof two women friends coming of age in 1960s Mexico City is told primarilythrough dialogue in Ladino and Spanish, with some Hebrew and Yiddish, as well.It is newly released on DVD. $17.96. www.amazon.com



Klezmer goes upbeat in the latest CD by Yiddishe Cup,”Meshugeneh Mambo.” Six parody tracks pay tribute to klezmer comedian MickeyKatz, with the rest offering up original or reworked “neo-Borscht Belt klezmercomedy” tunes, and the titles say it all: “K’nock Around the Clock,” “I Am A Manof Constant Blessings” and “Second Avenue Square Dance.” $15. www.yiddishecup.com .


Sports nuts despair not. With the close of this summer’s Olympic Games also comes the opening of “Game Face: What Does a Female Athlete Look Like?” at USC Fisher Gallery. The exhibition features photographs of women from the 1890s to today participating in sports from hunting to ping-pong to soccer. Creator Jane Gottesman has compiled images from myriad sources, including the Associated Press and various renown photographers including Ansel Adams, Robert Mapplethorpe, April Saul and Annie Leibowitz.Runs through Oct. 30. Noon-5 p.m. (Tues.-Sat.). Harris Hall, 823 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 740-4561.


The Nuart goes behind the music tonight, presenting the L.A. premiere of “End of the Century,” a documentary about the seminal punk rock band, The Ramones. From their interpersonal disputes to their struggles for fame, the doc takes a hard look at the hard-living band that arguably failed to achieve the recognition they deserved until long after they’d split.11272 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 281-8223.

Clarinetist Finds His Klezmer Voice

"I came to klezmer quite by accident," said virtuoso clarinetist David Krakauer.

He was a noted classical musician around 1987 when a chance encounter on a Manhattan bus changed the direction of his career.

Seated nearby was the accordionist from a klezmer band that played in front of Zabar’s, across the street from Krakauer’s 10th-floor apartment on the Upper West Side.

"The music used to waft up through my windows," he said. "Suddenly, I realized it had made an impression."

The son of a psychiatrist and a violinist, Krakauer had known little about Jewish music or culture growing up in an assimilated home in Manhattan. Yiddish was the language his grandparents had used when they did not want younger relatives to understand their conversation. At Juilliard, Krakauer assumed he would embark on a career of playing Brahms and Mahler with perhaps some jazz on the side. He did so while making a name for himself as a member of the Aspen Wind Quintet, by performing with new music groups such as Continuum and teaching at Vassar and the Manhattan School.

But Jewish music crept up on Krakauer, 42, who’ll perform his unique brand of nouveau klezmer at the Skirball Cultural Center March 21. Around 1978, he said, he attended a concert by the then-elderly clarinetist, David Tarras, who had merged klezmer and swing in the 1920s.

"He didn’t play so well anymore … but there was just something about his sound that gave me the shivers," Krakauer said. "[It] was the rhythm, the cadence, the way the sounds went up and down. It reminded me of my Belorussian grandmother’s voice, when she said things like ‘David, so nu?’"

Krakauer’s own gravely voice crackled with excitement as he recalled meeting that klezmer accordionist on the 104 bus headed uptown in the late 1980s.

"She asked me to recommend a clarinetist who could play with her band, and I think she assumed I’d name a student," he said. "Instead, the words spontaneously flew out of my mouth: ‘I’ll do it.’ It was as if I instinctively realized, ‘I know nothing about being Jewish, but I want to connect.’ I felt like klezmer could be my connection, through sounds, notes and music."

So Krakauer began studying old recordings, learning the proper ornaments and the lilting or frenetic technique required to perform traditional dances such as the doina or freylach. He played weddings and bar mitzvahs, assuming the endeavor would become a musical hobby, not a career.

But then he was invited to play with The Klezmatics, an American band spurring the exuberant klezmer revival of the 1980s. When he traveled to Germany with that group around 1989, he performed in front of thousands of dancing, cheering non-Jews. The same thing happened throughout Eastern Europe and especially in Poland, where Krakauer returned more than seven times to teach and perform. While coaching a group of young musicians in a ramshackle barn off a dirt road in Sejny, he recalled, even a dour farmer paused to tap his feet in the adjacent field.

Of the continuing non-Jewish obsession with klezmer, Krakauer said, "I think enough time has passed, since the Holocaust, for Europeans to wonder, ‘What Jewish culture have we been missing?’ We klezmorim are viewed as representatives of that part of the Eastern European soul that was destroyed in the Shoah."

But Krakauer, like The Klezmatics, wasn’t content just to perform traditional pieces in a straightforward style. In the mid-1990s, he formed his own band, Klezmer Madness!, which weds classic Jewish music with contemporary forms such as jazz, rock and hip-hop. Today, he is part of a wave of musicians who are continuing to push the klezmer envelope, according to Yale Strom, author of 2003’s "The Book of Klezmer." Such bands include the world fusion-infused Flying Bulgars and Strom’s Afro-Cuban Klazzj.

Krakauer’s latest forward-thinking CD is "Live in Krakow," which he recorded last year in the city that bears his name. The energetic album features samples and beatbox by DJ Socalled; it also includes Krakauer’s original composition, "Klezmer a la Bechet," based on an imaginary 1920s meeting between black New Orleans jazz clarinetist Sidney Bechet and the Ukrainian Jewish clarinetist Naftule Brandwein. Another track, "Love Song for Lemberg/Lvov," combines a waltzy melody with atonal sounds mimicking "screams of the Jewish dead," said Krakauer, who is still prominent in classical music circles.

But even as he stretches the genre, he still wants klezmer to sound like klezmer. It has to remind Krakauer of the music he heard wafting in through his windows back in 1987: "It has to suggest my grandmother’s voice," he said.

For information about the Skirball concert, call (310) 440-4500. For tickets, call (323) 655-8587.

7 Days In Arts


A bit of old Ukraine comes to the LBC today with “Night Songs From a Neighboring Village,” a collaboration between Alexis Kochan’s ensemble, Paris to Kyiv, and American klezmer group Brave Old World. The theme and title for the show are based on a poem by Ukrainian Yiddish poet Herts Rivkin. The groups present the fruits of their union today, a blending of traditional Eastern European, modern jazz, mainstream Ukrainian and Jewish Ukranian music.

8 p.m. $21-$28. Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 Atherton St., Long Beach. (562) 985-7000.


You can keep your PJs on this Yom Kippur, thanks to the Hallmark Channel. Originally meant to provide the homebound with a way to worship on the holiday, the idea was conceived by Rabbi David Baron of Temple Shalom for the Arts. Today, “Yom Kippur: Prayers of Atonement” will be broadcast in more than 47 million homes. The half-hour program only offers highlights from the Day of Atonement services, but does feature performers Jason Alexander and Theodore Bikel as well as director Arthur Hiller, talk show host Larry King and film critic Leonard Maltin. So, would God be offended by an “Avinu Malkeinu” rendered in your jammies? At 6:30 a.m., we’re thinkin’ he’ll understand. But if you’re planning to catch the later airing on Adelphia, we recommend something a little more appropriate.

Hallmark Channel: 6:30 a.m. (Sunday). Adelphia Cable Channels 10 and 20: 6 p.m. (Sunday), 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. (Monday).


Winning the award for most original promotional item this week are the folks who are getting the word out on “Garmento.” Making a good movie will probably get our attention, but if you want a sure thing, we suggest sending padded underwear in the mail. Turns out the male “falsie” plays an integral part in this film that reveals what the shmatte business is hiding in its pants. See it tonight after breaking the fast.

$6-$9. Opens Oct. 3. Laemmle’s Music Hall, 9036 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills. (310) 274-6869.


Sweet Baby James comes to the Greek Theater tonight, and gets some help from L.A. native Kate Markowitz. James Taylor will perform songs from his new album, “October Road” tonight and tomorrow. Markowitz, a singer/songwriter in her own right, recently released her first solo album, “Map of the World,” on Compass Records. The 40-something singer has made a day job of backing up stars like Taylor, K.D. Lang, Shawn Colvin and Billy Joel.

7:30 p.m., Oct. 7 and 8. $45-$70. 2700 N. Vermont Ave., Griffith Park. (323) 665-1927.


On Yom Kippur, Oct. 6, 1973, the armies of Syria and Egypt, with the help of other Arab countries, launched a surprise attack on Israel. While Israel was ultimately victorious, the war was perceived as a failure because of the country’s general lack of preparedness and because Israeli intelligence wasn’t able to predict it. This month, the University of Judaism commemorates the 30th anniversary with the Yom Kippur War Exhibit — documenting it in pictures, maps and news clippings from that time.

10 a.m.-4 p.m. (Sunday-Thursday), 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (Friday). Runs through the month of October. 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. (310) 440-1282.


By day, Jane Simmons helps expose the kiddies to art at the Zimmer Children’s Museum, but by night, she’d like to expose the grown-ups. Hence, her new gallery space, called appropriately, galleryjane. Currently on display are 20 Polaroid emulsion transfer prints and 126 iris prints, all images of Los Angeles, by Catherine Dudley. Make an appointment with Jane to check them out.

Runs through Oct. 31. Los Angeles. (213) 841-2213.


More Sept. 11 stragglers today, but don’t hold it against them. Beginning today, the Nuart screens “September 11,” a collection of documentary and narrative interpretations of the attacks from 11 different countries, including a piece by Israeli director Amos Gitai. The one restriction imposed on the directors was that their films be exactly 11 minutes, nine seconds and one frame, to correspond with the European date format 11’09″01. The French artistic director Alain Brigand compiled the pieces into one 135-minute movie.

$7-$9.25. 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles. (310) 281-8223.

The other Mark Walberg (not Marky) hosts a new reality series on TBS beginning tonight. You may remember him from such shows as “Temptation Island,” but tonight, the name of the game is “House Rules.” Three couples with penchants for interior design but no formal training, compete to makeover three ugly homes. Viewers will vote on who rules at the end of the season and decide who gets to keep the house they’ve fixed up.

8 p.m. TBS Superstation.

Skirball Celebrates Europe’s Best

A single album, inherited from his late father, led disc jockey Max Reinhardt to rediscover his Jewish musical roots. The recording was “Mish Mosh,” by comedian and klezmer clarinetist Mickey Katz: “He does a version of Dean Martin’s ‘That’s Amore’ as ‘That’s Morris,’ which my father, Morris, was forever playing for his Jewish friends,” Reinhardt, 52, recalled from London. “As a kid, I took in the jokes, but I couldn’t help but notice the stuff Katz played at lightning speed in the middle that had nothing to do with Dean Martin.”

As he spun the disc in ’93, Reinhardt — known for bringing world music to London’s club scene — was riveted by Katz’s wild but precise klezmer breaks. So began a journey that brings him to Los Angeles this month to perform with a Jewish world music band, Dis/Orient.

The group is among a dozen acts to appear in Zeitgeist: The Harry and Belle Krupnick International Jewish Arts Festival, which kicks off at the Skirball Cultural Center Aug. 10-28 and continues in winter 2004. Unprecedented in the United States, the festival spotlights Europeans who draw on Jewish tradition to create edgy, contemporary work. Artists include Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Holland (see below), the jazz-infused Cracow Klezmer Band and the quirky Danish dance company, Rosenzweig.

The program — along with Los Angeles Yiddishkayt Festival — should help place Los Angeles in the forefront of a Jewish cultural Renaissance that began with the klezmer music revival of the 1970s.

Zeitgeist began in 2001 when Skirball program director Jordan Peimer set off on a series of research trips to find performers to bring back to the Skirball. In a Paris underground club, he discovered Les Yeux Noirs, a band that combines klezmer and Gypsy strains. In a theater in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, he encountered the Jewish director of the multicultural Ilkhom Theatre. In a London cafe, he met with Reinhardt, who described how Katz’s brilliant album ultimately led him to collaborate with a another kind of Jewish virtuoso, Sephardic grandmaster Maurice El Medioni.

An impressed Peimer raised approximately $1.2 million (including a $300,000 grant from the Harry and Belle Krupnick Endowment Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles) toward a festival dedicated to the cutting-edge European artists.

“Jews feel much more like ‘the other’ outside the United States, which is reflected in their work,” he said. “The attitude is, ‘I’ve got this interesting story to tell and chances are, you haven’t heard it.” Reinhardt and Dis/Orient do just that by blending El Medioni’s Algerian Rai music, Sephardic Andalusian sounds and hip-hop-infused klezmer.

“We’re showing that Jewish culture belongs not just at bar mitzvahs, but within the burgeoning roots and world music market,” he said.

Zeitgeist begins with a family festival Aug. 10. For information, call (310) 440-4500; for tickets call (323) 655-8587.

Songs of Simcha

By day, he’s a manager- purchaser at an Orange County plywood company. But when the boards are cut and the purchase orders are filed, Steve Chattler does what any Jewish businessman might do after hours: He breaks out his drums and plays klezmer music.

As a member of the South Coast Simcha Band, 44-year-old Chattler brings those traditional Yiddish melodies to the Southland. He took an interest in the 19th century Eastern European music while playing in the orchestra at Temple Beth David in Westminster back in 1999. There, he met clarinet player Renah Wolzinger, who introduced him to this distinct Jewish-rooted music.

The upbeat, mostly instrumental tunes, that were traditionally played at weddings and bar mitzvahs dating back to the late 1800s, fascinated the drummer, whose previous experience included rock and jazz. “The old klezmer recordings basically had only a snare drum and maybe a bass drum,” Chattler says. “To try to simulate that on a drum set is like a whole new challenge.” He and Wolzinger recruited a violinist, a bass guitarist, a trumpet player and a saxophone player to form a complete klezmer band of their own.

After playing a few freebies at synagogue brunches, the group sought out paying gigs. While looking for audiences, the musicians quickly learned that they needed to expand their repertoire to make a living. “Klezmer music is where we like to stay,” Chattler admits, “but do people want to hire us for three hours of klezmer music? The answer to that is probably a flat ‘no.’ So, we usually do 45 minutes of klezmer music, a little bit of Israeli music and then some classic dance tunes.”

Because of the style’s ethnic roots, the South Coast Simcha Band has become popular in the multicultural arena. They’ve played for the Orange County chapter of the Interfaith Council, an organization that encourages unity between different cultures. While the bulk of their audience is over 50, Chattler says he often notices that younger generations appreciate klezmer music. “We played the Hebrew Academy in Westminster, and there was a good group of young people 18 to 25. They were dancing and whooping it up right along with us!” he laughs. The music does appeal to all ages on some level, Chattler says, “because most people have heard this [music] at one time or another in their lives.”

Some of best numbers include the Yiddish tunes “Odessa Bulgar,” “Ot Azoj,” and, of course, “Hava Nagila.” When the audience begins responding to the music, the band distributes plastic tambourines and has the crowd clap along. “It’s just an amazing thing to get over 100 people in a line dance. It beats doing the Macarena — but we’d play that song, too, if we had to!”

When he saw his family tree, Chattler felt an even deeper connection to his craft. It turns out that his great-grandfather was a singer in Poland, another country where klezmer music has strong roots. Wolzinger discovered that her grandmother was a Yiddish singer, as well. “It’s like completing a full circle,” Chattler says.

Strike Up the Klezmer

This is not your grandmother’s halftime show. Unless of course, Grandma grew up in a kibbutz or shtetl with a 145-piece marching band in residence.

Santa Monica High School’s Viking Marching Band and Color Guard performs at halftime during the school football team’s home games. Band members from the school, which is familiarly known as Samohi, also travel en masse to field competitions throughout Southern California.

Under the direction of Terry Sakow, past Samohi field shows have been built around tunes from Broadway shows like "Phantom of the Opera" and from the classical music repertoire. For the just-concluded 2001 season, the band stepped outside the norm to present "Shirim" (the Hebrew word for "songs"), a field show dedicated to Israeli and klezmer music.

Assistant director of bands Carl Hammer, the product of a Mormon upbringing, took charge of arranging such familiar Jewish numbers as "Zemer Atik," "Hava Nagila," and "Jerusalem of Gold" for the marching band.

Among the musicians, Matt Leonard — who happens to be Jewish — has won special acclaim for his schmaltzy solo clarinet work. But the Samohi band, which prides itself on its ethnic diversity, attracts members from a multitude of backgrounds. At the last competition of 2001, Muslim band members performed while fasting because of the onset of Ramadan.

Judges have strongly praised the Samohi show for the originality of its concept. Band members have walked off with numerous honors, including a Grand Champion Sweepstakes trophy. The reaction from Samohi students and parents has been equally positive. Doug Campbell, a Christian parent of a band member, relates, "Klezmer music is not something I’d heard before. It’s a very pleasant sound. I’m thinking of buying a recording."

Ari Rosmarin, a featured clarinetist, says the show’s high point always comes when the musicians, along with a color guard waving blue-and-white banners, arrange themselves in a Star of David formation. The star, Rosmarin says, "usually gets applause … even in Orange County." Rosmarin is hardly inclined to see the applause as a manifestation of the onlookers’ Jewish pride. "I think it’s a recognizable shape, and they appreciate that."

Gershwin at CSUN

Joseph Vass, creator of the acclaimed revue, “Gershwin the Klezmer,” didn’t know what klezmer music was until he was well into his 40’s. “I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as Jewish music,” admits the founder of the Minnesota Klezmer Band, which will perform “Gershwin” at Cal State Northridge Nov. 18-19.

After all, the jazz pianist hadn’t had a whit of Jewish education while growing up the son of a refugee from the Nazis in Illinois. He couldn’t tell you what a Torah was.

Then, while attending the New Orleans Jazz Festival in 1990, he chanced to wander into a coffee house where a klezmer band was playing. “I felt I was hearing a language I’d been meant to speak,” recalls Vass, now 53, who began scouring record stores for elusive klezmer recordings and inserting Jewish themes into his jazz compositions. “Jewish music became my obsession.”

Along the way, Vass joined a synagogue, began studying Hebrew and the Talmud, and listened with new ears to the music of the Jewish American composer George Gershwin. Though Gershwin is largely perceived as a popularizer of jazz, Vass heard something else in “Porgy and Bess” and the clarinet slide of “Rhapsody in Blue.””I recognized a certain kind of rhythm; a long, flowing melody that reminded me of Jewish music,” says Vass, whose research underscored Gershwin’s Jewish roots.

In “Gershwin the Klezmer,” we learn that the composer recorded piano rolls of Yiddish songs, now lost; that he wrote a klezmer tune called “Vodka” and started work on an opera, based on “The Dybbuk,” for the Metropolitan Opera. We learn that “It Ain’t Necessarily So” draws on the rhythm of “Avinu Malkeinu” and “S’Wonderful” on the Yiddish tune, “Noach’s Teiveh,” by Abraham Goldfaden. We learn about the other Jewish American composers – Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin, Rodgers – who drew on cantorial and other Jewish music for inspiration.

The revue also includes Vass’ tune, “Bulka’s Song,” that commemorates the day he learned he lost family in the Shoah. The 13-year-old pianist was practicing in the basement when his father showed him a photograph of the Holocaust memorial in his Hungarian hometown. Inscribed upon it were the names of his martyred relatives. “That was how I learned I was named for my grandfather, who died in Auschwitz,” says Vass, who feels he’s continuing the tradition of klezmorim interrupted by the Shoah.

“Gershwin the Klezmer” aims to show their continuing contribution to the musical zeitgeist: “It’s really about the Jewish soul of American music,” Vass says.

See “7 Days in the Arts,” for ticket information.

Catching Up With Klezmer

Consider these points on the compass – Italy, Australia, the Netherlands, the Balkans, Baltimore, Boston, New York and Toronto. What do they have in common? They are all represented by klezmer recordings this month. (They also include four-fifths of the American League East – doesn’t anyone play klezmer in Tampa?) If ever there was any doubt that Jewish music is a universal language, these records put it to rest.

Budowitz: “Wedding Without a Bride” (Buda Musique)

The brilliant European band recreates the experience of an old-world wedding, complete with badkhones. As with their first CD and the Khevrisa set (below), the sound is not what you are expecting. The traditional East European klezmer sound is driven by tsimbl and violin, with brass and clarinet taking a distant back seat. A magnificent piece of historical reconstruction that is also a pleasure to listen and to dance to. Rating: * * * * *

Charm City Klezmer: “Charm City Klezmer” (self-produced)

Great fun from “Balmer,” a terrific party record. Bouncy Jewish music with the requisite mix of swing and peppy East European dance tunes. I can’t wait for these guys to come north again, because I suspect they’re even more fun live. (Available from www.CharmCityKlezmer.com) Rating: * * * *

Cooper, Adrienne and Zalmen Mlotek: “Ghetto Tango” (Traditional Crossroads)

A magnificent but relentlessly disturbing record. Cooper and Mlotek are two of the best that contemporary Yiddish music has to offer, and this collection of songs from the ghettos of the Nazi era is brilliantly performed. As might be expected, every song here is corrosive; even the lullabies carry a powerful accusatory charge. A great record but certainly not a comfortable one. Rating: * * * *

Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band: “Tsirkus” (Traditional Crossroads)

Their most variegated set to date, ranging from chamber jazz to Kurt Weill-inflected lieder. A concept album in the best sense, perhaps not as much fun as some of their other sets, but intellectually stimulating. Rating: * * * * *

Full Metal Klezmer: “Full Metal Klezmer” (Cane Andaluso)

Dark, brooding music from an Italian quartet (alto sax, bass, guitar, drums). Imagine Sonny Sharrock teamed with Jackie McLean playing with the Paradox Trio. A lot more metal than klezmer, but as electric avant-garde jazz it has its moments, especially on the driving, Middle-easternish “Desert.” (To order, e-mail airstudio@tiscalinet.it.) Rating: * * * * *

Khevrisa: “European Klezmer Music” (Smithsonian Folkways)

In the same vein as Budowitz and Alicia Svigals’s solo album “Fidln,” this is an attempt to recreate the sound of 19th century Jewish music. Violin and hammered dulcimer predominate, and the result is musically astute and historically accurate and informed by a certain passion, but it feels a little like someone’s dissertation. An important record, but not a fun one. Rating: * * * * *

Klezmer Conservatory Band: “Dance Me to the End of Love” (Rounder)

The usual fine craftsmanship from KCB; you’ve got to love anyone who can turn out such consistently listenable, danceable, singable music, played with such a high level of musicianship. Except for the title cut (Leonard Cohen is sardonic; Judy Bresler is a wonderful singer, but sardonic she ain’t), this is splendid stuff. Closer to the roots than some of the their more recent recordings, a must-buy record. Rating: * * * * *

London, Frank, Lorin Sklamberg and Uri Caine: “Nigunim” (Tzadik)

A masterpiece. Three heavyweights combine forces for a set of Hasidic tunes performed with extraordinary power. Impeccable playing, and Sklamberg’s reedy tenor works perfectly here. If you are serious about Jewish music, you should have this record. Rating: * * * * *

Metropolitan Klezmer, featuring Isle of Klezbos: “Mosaic Persuasion” (Rhythm Music)

It sure didn’t take long for these guys to emerge as one of the best traditional klezmer bands around. Their first CD served notice that they were a force to be reckoned with, and there’s no sophomore jinx. A tighter, more unified sound than ever, with leader Eve Sicular booting things along from her drum kit. A band that can handle any tempo and a wide range of moods with equal mastery. Rating: * * * * *

“The Rough Guide to Klezmer” (Rough Guide)

This CD cannot by any stretch of the imagination be called a historical introduction to klezmer nor, despite the title, does that appear to have been the intention of Simon Broughton, who selected the music and wrote the generally informative notes What this intelligently programmed set offers instead is a sampler of the wide range of the styles that the New Klezmer encompasses, from the traditionalist (Budowitz, Alicia Svigals) to avant-jazz-klezmer (the Klezmatics, Naftule’s Dream). Someone looking for an entree into this beguiling music could do a lot worse than this set; the serious klezmer fan, however, will find it pleasant but superfluous. Rating: * * * *

Shawn’s Kugel: “Most Precious of Days” (Popover Productions)

Shawn Weaver continues to explore the jazz-klezmer connection in this excellent follow-up to his band’s eponymous first set. A wide range of influences at play here, from Russian folk (“Dancing with the Little Ones Medley”) to Middle Eastern, but the primary sounds are jazz-inflected, from the big-band swing of “Az Ikh Vel Zogn” to the World Saxophone Quartet stylings of “Scokne.” A great party album. Rating: * * * * *

New York-based writer George Robinson is the author of “Essential Judaism: A Complete Guide to Beliefs, Customs and Rituals” (Pocket Books, $27.95).

Music From Home

On a warm spring evening this month, the boisterous strains of Eastern European music wafted out the window of a large, Spanish-style home in Santa Monica. Inside the high-ceilinged living room, an unexpected sight greeted a visitor: Jewish and Romani (a k a Gypsy) musicians diligently rehearsing side by side.

A Jewish bass player vigorously bowed beside a Romani accordionist playing so fervently that sweat poured from his brow. A Yiddish consultant belted out the Romani anthem in the mama-loshn while a Rom sang the response in his language. In the middle of it all, klezmer maestro and attorney Barry Fisher supervised like a proud parent, jangling a tambourine in one hand as he ticked off the musical numbers on a clipboard.

The rehearsal was in preparation for an upcoming “YK2” concert, “Hot Wedding Music,” which will feature the pieces that Romani and klezmer musicians played for centuries at nuptials across the old country. Before the Holocaust, both sets of musicians traveled the backroads of Eastern Europe, collaborating and competing and performing at each others’ weddings and special events. Some of the tunes have been lost to Jews but are still a vital part of the Romani tradition.

If anyone could bring together 17 top L.A. Jewish and Romani musicians, it is Barry Fisher. His first exposure to the Rom took place in the 1960’s, when he chanced upon a Rom encampment while hitchhiking through a remote part of Macedonia with his melodica. Fisher, who co-founded L.A.’s Ellis Island Band during the klezmer revival of the 1970s, continued his association with the Rom by playing at Gypsy events throughout the Southland. As an attorney, he has been an advocate for their Holocaust reparations and for their right to practice the ancient craft of fortune-telling, which culminated in a landmark case Fisher argued and won before the California Supreme Court.

The upcoming “Wedding Music” concert, he says, merges his interest in things Jewish andRomani. “It’s an exploration of the culture of two peoples who have traditionally been vilified and romanticized,” he adds.

Another native Angeleno, musician Michael Alpert, will return to Los Angeles for concerts of the “YK2” festival. At 46, the violinist and vocalist for Brave Old World is considered one of the pioneering virtuosi of the klezmer revival.

The son of a Lithuanian immigrant father, Alpert grew up in a Yiddish-speaking home in West L.A. He fell in love with Yiddish music through the songs of the workers and the partisans he learned at the school, run by Yiddishist-communists, that he attended from the age of 6. The only child of older parents, he felt a keen desire to help preserve their precious, waning Yiddish culture before it was gone.

His efforts included the co-founding of a band, the Chutzpah Jewish Orchestra, in the 1970s. Brave Old World came about in 1989 to turn klezmer into a Jewish art music for the concert stage. At “YK2,” the klezmer supergroup will perform pieces from its most recent CD, “Blood Oranges,” which serves as a trip to “Yiddishland,” a place that no longer exists in Eastern Europe but is alive in the souls of contemporary Jewish musicians. The album seeks to answer the question, oft posed by Brave Old World members, ‘Where would klezmer be today if not for the Holocaust?’ ”

In another “YK2” concert, Alpert and Brave Old World will share the stage with the Canadian-Ukrainian group Paris to Kyiv, whose forebears came from the same shtetls as many Ukrainian Jewish immigrants. The concert, titled “Night Songs from a Neighboring Village,” is “very moving to me,” Alpert says. “It’s an encounter between Jews and Ukrainians after 50 years and [the] historical wedge between us.”

“Hot Wedding Music” takes place Tues., May 16, 8 p.m., at the Skirball Cultural Center, (310) 440-4666. Brave Old World performs Thurs., May 18, 8 p.m., at Cal State Northridge, (818) 677-2488, and Sat., May 20, 8 p.m., with Paris to Kyiv at the John Anson Ford Amphitheater, (323) 461-3673. An artists’ talk at 7 p.m. will precede the concert. – Naomi Pfefferman, Entertainment Editor