Mames Babegenush is an award-winning klezmer music band from Denmark. On their new album With Strings, Mames Babegenush goes beyond klezmer, exploring the traditional musics of northern and eastern Europe.
As the album title indicates, the brass and woodwind-fueled Mames Babegenush collaborates with a string ensemble featuring violins and cellos.
The lineup include Emil Goldschmidt on clarinet; Lukas Bjørn Rande on saxophone; Bo Rande on flügelhorn; Nicolai Kornerup on accordeon; Andreas Møllerhøj on bass; and Morten Ærø on drums. The Livestrings ensemble includes Andrea Gyarfas Brahe on violin; Lisa Marie Vogel on violin; Sidsel Most on bratsch; Samira Dayyani on cello; and Live Johansson on cello.
With Strings is a vibrant album that takes the listener on a wild ride throughout klerzmer music and beyond.
Malmö-based vocalist and composer Louisa Lyne has focused most of her career on Yiddish songs and their history. Her album A Farblondzhete Blondinke (A Blonde Astray) features traditional and original songs and instrumental compositions. She performs with her regular band, Di Yiddishe Kapelye. The musical arrangements are closer to chamber classical music than klezmer folk music featuring strings, grand piano and accordion.
Louisa Lyne has a fascinating vocal style that goes with the exquisite fiddles, guitar and piano instrumentation.
The lineup on A Farblondzhete Blondinke includes Louisa Lyne on vocals; Edin Bahtijaragic on accordion, cajón, vibraphone, glockenspiel; Robin Lyne on guitar and backing vocals; Irina Binger on violin; Martin Eriksson on double bass; Anders Thorén on grand piano; Anna Thorstensson on cello and backing vocals.
Munich singer Andrea Pancur has developed a fascinating new genre called Alpen Klezmer, an unconventional mix of Bavarian and Yiddish traditions. You’ll hear classic Bavarian brass, accordion and dances along with Klezmer melodies and instrumentation, tango, Middle Eastern rhythms and even flamenco palmas (handclap percussion).
Andrea Pancur researched in archives for ancient melodies and added her own lyrics. The CD booklet includes German-language lyrics and English-language translations.
The lineup includes Andrea Pancur on vocals along with a long list of talented musicians: Christian Dawid on clarinet and saxophone; Ilya Schneyveys on accordion, guitar, vocals ; Alex Hass on bass and vocals; Alan Bern on accordion and piano; Lorin Sklamberg on vocals; Johann Bengen on percussion and vocals; Michel Watzinger on dulcimer; Evi Heigl on violin; Stofferl Werl on trumpet; Hansjorg Gehring on trombone; Anja Gunther on clarinet; Szilvia Csaranko on grand piano; Hermann Haertel jun on violin; and Guy Schalom on drums, payk, washboard and palmas.
Trumpeter and composer Frank London is a member of the Klezmatics, Hasidic New Wave, has performed with John Zorn, LL Cool J, Mel Torme, Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy, LaMonte Young, They Might Be Giants, David Byrne, Jane Siberry, Ben Folds 5, Mark Ribot, Maurice El Medioni and Gal Costa, and is featured on over 100 CDs.
His own recordings include Invocations (cantorial music); Frank London’s Klezmer Brass All Stars, Di Shikere Kapelye (the Inebriated Orchestra) and Brotherhood of Brass;Nigunim and The Zmiros Project (Jewish mystical songs, with Klezmatics vocalist Lorin Sklamberg); The Debt (film and theater music); The Shekhina Big Band; the soundtrack to The Shvitz; the soundtrack to Perl Gluck’s Divan and four releases with the Hasidic New Wave.
His projects include the folk-opera A Night in the Old Marketplace (based on Y.L. Peretz’s Bay nakht oyfn altn mark), Davenenn for Pilobolus and the Klezmatics; Great Small Works’ The Memoirs of Gluckel of Hameln and Min Tanaka’s Romance.
He composed music for John Sayles’ The Brother from Another Planet andMen with Guns; Yvonne Rainer’s Murder and Murder; the Czech-American Marionette Theater’s Golem; and Tamar Rogoff’s Ivye Project, Live in Crackow, Poland, 2001.
He was music director for David Byrne and Robert Wilson’s The Knee Plays, collaborated with Palestinian violinist Simon Shaheen, taught Jewish music in Canada, Crimea and the Catskills, and produced CDs for Gypsy legendEsma Redzepova, and Algerian pianistMaurice El Medioni.
He has been featured on HBO’s Sex and the City, at the North Sea Jazz Festival and the Lincoln Center Summer Festival, and was a co-founder of Les Miserables Brass Band and the Klezmer Conservatory Band.
One could say both: Poland is lucky to be loved by Nigel Kennedy and Nigel Kennedy is lucky to be loved by Poland. Polish audiences are particularly fond of the artist, and his fans are not limited to regular jazz listeners, a lot of them being also recipients of widely understood popular music and even World Music. Let us recall his joint album with Kroke “East Meets East” from 2003, which Poland simply fell for in seconds.
Kennedy possesses the Slavic spirit and understands Slavic musical aesthetics, further even – he understands, or is somehow able to aesthetically sense, the tangled combination of cultural inspirations at work in Eastern and Central Europe. The album “East Meets East” is remembered chiefly as a journey into the cultural tradition of Polish Jews, especially those from pre-war generations. This is not a record about the Israelites, nor is it a record of American Jews or Jews in general – it is the spirit of Polish Jewish culture before the war, brought back by means of being sung out.
But the Polish have yet another reason for their appreciation of Nigel Kennedy – his fabulous and passionate rendition of the csárdás. He yet again proves himself to be nothing short of comfortable in European musical tradition, rooted in folk and though originally Hungarian, popularized by the Gypsies and presently an integral part of national identity in many European countries.
Kennedy has tied his life to Poland and Cracow for good a while back. This world-famous artist lives in the very center of the “City of the Kings of Poland”, often performs at the Cracow Philharmonic, and in 2002 assumed the artistic direction of the Polish Chamber Orchestra. Kennedy can then be said to have become another strong point on the long list of incentives for those leaning towards the idea of choosing Poland as their next destination.
On July 12, 2017, we will host Nigel Kennedy at the Jagiellonian University’s Auditorium Maximum during the celebrations of the 22nd Summer Jazz Festival in Cracow. This concert will undoubtedly be an opportunity to admire the talent, charisma and virtuosity of the artist, all of which have been admired both in the field of contemporary interpretations of classical music and in the mainstream of jazz worldwide. Let us recall that the album released in 1989 containing a rendition of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” has sold over two million copies and is by far the best-selling classical music record in the world.
The magnificent success of classical music in Kennedy’s artistic life contrasts with his inspirations drawn from – among others – the works of Jimmy Hendrix and The Doors, the influence of which has often been referred to by the artist himself. Kennedy doesn’t seem to notice these contrasts as clearly as an average recipient of music – he is a firm believer in the notion common among musicians that music should not be categorized and such action does not serve any compelling purpose in world of music and its creators.
About his work and passion, he says: “I love getting up in the morning and playing. It’s almost like meditation. Through music I get to communicate with other musicians and the audience. This contact is the real reason for playing. … Bringing down the barriers, connecting with people on one common level, the level of music, is my reward. Music occurs within the framework of time, it’s here and now. What do we have here on the wall? A mirror? Wallpaper? Someone once made these and now we can look at them. Music is the only art that happens at a given time and then disappears. That’s the way it is during concerts. It’s fantastic. That is what I love about music.”
As has been announced by the organizers, the concert program will mostly include works dedicated to Kennedy’s most important mentors, namely Yehudi Menuhin, Stephane Grappelli and Isaac Stern, immortalized on the artist’s latest album “My World”. The Concert in the Auditorium Maximum will be enriched by the results of the musician’s last project, an interpretation of Krzysztof Komeda’s works, the spirit of which Nigel Kennedy has managed to capture brilliantly, reaffirming his strong emotional bond with Poland. The author of “Polish Spirit” comments on his attitude to what Polishness is in one of his interviews: “The Polish spirit is … this rare extraordinary ability to express emotions, your contagious sentimentality you infect the rest of the world with.”
The Summer Jazz Festival in Piwnica pod Baranami was first organized in 1996 alongside the celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the venue. Year after year, the Festival expanded both its repertoire and its scope by moving beyond the scene of Piwnica pod Baranami to concerts at the Philharmonic, the Cracow Opera, Radio Kraków, the Manggha Center, ICE Kraków, Kijów Centrum and every jazz club in Cracow, rounding up to almost 100 concerts every year.
Since the year 2000, Cracow has seen many sizable outdoor concerts and events, such as the New Orleans Sunday and the Jazz Night. In recent years, both the leading Polish jazz stars and many foreign stars (including Pat Metheny, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Bobby McFerrin, Jean Luc Ponty, Branford Marsalis, Joe Lovano, Maria Schneider, Richard Bona, Al Jarreau) have graced these events with their presence and artistry.
Clarinetist David Krakauer has mastered a wide-range of styles, including classical chamber music, Eastern European Klezmer music, the avant-garde, rock and jazz. He is a natural storyteller who has dazzled colleagues and the public.
Krakauer is in demand worldwide as a guest soloist with the finest chamber music groups. Collaborations have included the Tokyo String Quartet, the Eroica Trio, the Kronos Quartet, the Lark Quartet, the Mendelssohn String Quartet, and the Empire Brass Quintet. Programs ranged from Brahms and Bartok to Schoenberg and Golijov.
As one of the leading musicians of the new wave of Klezmer music, David Krakauer tours the globe with his celebrated Klezmer Madness! Ensemble. While firmly rooted in traditional Klezmer folk tunes the band also pays homage to R&B jazz classical and funk.
His first release on the prestigious French jazz label Label Bleu A New Hot One garnered France’s prestigious Diapason d’Or Prize.
Tomasz Kukurba was born in Cracow, Poland in 1969. He started playing the violin in elementary school. At the age of ten he sang in the Cracow Philharmonic Choir and toured Germany and France, performing the works of Krisztof Penderecki.
During his time in high school, at the age of fourteen, he started to play the viola, which became his main instrument. Kukurba worked with the avant-garde jazz ensemble Mixtura. Like the other members of Polish band Kroke he studied classical music at the Music Academy of Cracow.
He was member of the Academy’s String Quartet and various other chamber orchestras, playing primarily the music of Penderecki, and joined, along with Tomasz Lato, the Sinfonietta Cracovia and an experimental jazz group.
The Yiddish word Kroke means “Cracow”. The group Kroke is strongly linked to Kazimierz, a Jewish settlement that had been an autonomous Jewish town up to the 19th century and then became the Jewish neighborhood of Cracow. Until 1939, Cracow and especially Kazimierz was one of the most important centers of Jewish cultural life in Europe.
The group was created in 1992 in Cracow on the initiative of three lifelong friends and graduates of the Cracow Academy of Music: Jerzy Bawoł (accordion), Tomasz Kukurba (bratsj) and Tomasz Lato (bass)
Having gone through the successive phases of education in classical music, and then fascination with jazz and progressive music, as Kroke they concentrate on playing and composing with the realm of authentic Jewish music. Each member of Kroke is equally strongly engaged in the creative process of the group.
Though the label “Klezmer” may indicate a certain direction, the music of Kroke is not necessarily linked to any of the styles nowadays connected with this concept. Using traditional material as the foundations on which to build ingenuous arrangements and improvisations, exploiting their previous experience, transmitting the profundity of man?s feelings and nature, Kroke creates new, unique compositions as well as a sound which is thus far unheard in Jewish music.
The release of a first cassette entitled Kroke in 1993 led to numerous invitations to festivals and concerts all over Europe. Beside their regular concerts in Cracow the group started to tour extensively. Among many other successful concerts there were highlights like the E.B.U. Contemporary Folk Festival (Roskilde/Denmark) in June 1996 and the WOMAD Festival (Reading/U.K.) in July 1997. At the same time the group intensified their work on the improvement of their technique and – through study of the sacred books – investigated the tradition and philosophy of the Jewish nation.
The mystical atmosphere of Kazimierz, the unshaken dignity of its six-hundred-year-old tradition, reflection on the sufferings of the past, on the present, on hope and trust in man, as well as common creative work found their outcome in the album titled Trio (Oriente RIENCD04), which was released 1996 in Berlin/Germany.
Kroke are: Tomasz Kukurba – violin; Jerzy Bawol – accordion; and Tomasz Lato – double bass
The original members of The Klezmatics, Alicia Svigals (violin), Dave Lindsay (bass) and Rob Chavez (clarinet) met after reading an ad in the Village Voice in 1985. Shortly after, Frank London (trumpet), of the Klezmer Conservatory Band, joined the group. Other musicians joined the band a few weeks later: Margot Leverett (clarinet), David Licht (drums) and Lorin Sklamberg (vocals, accordion)
In 1988, The Klezmatics were primarily playing clubs and parties in New York. Through the influence of Ben Mandelson of 3 Mustaphas 3, they were invited to play at the first annual Heimatklange Festival in Berlin, a proto-world music gathering held just as world music was emerging in the global consciousness. The Klezmatics played every night. At the end of the week, the festival’s organizers, who had recently formed a label called Piranha, offered them a record contract. An album, Shvaygn = Toyt (Piranha/Rounder, 1988), Yiddish for Silence = Death, was recorded live, at Radio Free Berlin (SFB). Just like that, the Klezmatics had a record company, and a future.
Musically, the band hadn’t quite found their identity. They did, however, tap sources no other Klezmer act had thought to emulate: the small American Klezmer bands of the 1930s and 1940s. They were also beginning to formulate their guiding thematic approach to music and life-seamlessly melding cultural statement (that Yiddish must be spoken, or else disappear) with historical politics (the ardent socialist anthems of their forebears) and modern activism, particularly a joyous affirmation of human rights.
Piranha’s director, Christoph Borkowsky Akbar, encouraged the band to take their time recording their second album. Borkowsky wanted the Klezmatics to find their own path and organically blend their many influences. Klezmer was the lifeblood, but the band also mined the multi-ethnic and cultural influences of New York. Mixing together Jewish drinking songs, socialism and Jewish mysticism, as well as punk, jazz and classical attitudes seemed strangely natural, as did maintaining their reputation as an ecstatic party band. This extended recording period allowed the Klezmatics to forge their own unique musical identity.
By the time they’d finished their follow-up, in 1990, the band was ready to break away from anything resembling predictability. They stated their intentions in the album’s title, Rhythm & Jews (Piranha/Rounder, 1990). Jewish music had always been thought of purely as melody; the Klezmatics felt the true backbone was rhythm, challenging the supremacy of sobbing clarinets, violins and voices. This was also the first time “Jew” appeared on the cover of a Klezmer album. By using the word, the band was boldly asserting their own brand of cultural pride: Jew Positive, a non-exclusionary belief that to find common ground with other traditions, they first had to unabashedly embrace their own.
Rhythm + Jews thrived on energy. The band brought in non-klezmer musicians like the Nubian percussionist Mahmoud Fadl, taking their source material to wildly divergent destinations. They played Eastern European melodies over Arabic and African rhythms; introduced their trademark multi-part group vocal sound (a tribute to British folk-rock pioneers Steeleye Span); and incorporated classical music’s bass clarinet into their already multitudinous palate of sounds. They also began testing the waters of writing their own music with a whirling, homoerotic interpretation of the love poetry of King David. In a pattern that would perpetually repeat itself, the Klezmatics showed that, while they would always view the world through the lens of Eastern European Jewish identity, they would not be fetishistic about it.
The Klezmatics’ next album, Jews With Horns (Piranha/Rounder, 1995) included the breakneck, pun-fueled Man in a Hat (the band’s first song in English), a Hasidic-style wordless chant and a stark, minimalist treatment of 20th century Yiddish poetry. Musical guests included electric guitarist Marc Ribot (Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, The Lounge Lizards), Canadian political folkies Moxy Frevous and New York theatrical girl rock band Betty
In 1994 the Klezmatics pulled out of the archives a century-old socialist anthem called “In kamf” (In Struggle) for the soundtrack of the AIDS epidemic documentary Fast Trip Long Drop (Sundance Grand Jury Prize nominee), about a gay Jewish man’s struggle with the disease. They put in a modern arrangement, while strengthening the link to the composition’s roots with a chorus of native Yiddish-speaking seniors, who had sung the song in their own politically active youth.
In 1995, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tony Kushner (Angels in America) furthered the Klezmatics’ collaborations when he asked the band to write the score for his adaptation of S. Ansky’s The Dybbuk, the classic Yiddish folk drama of ghostly possession. Those compositions formed the bulk of the next album, Possessed (Piranha/Rounder, 1997). Kushner also wrote the Possessed CD liner notes. The band was joined on the CD by John Medeski of Medeski, Martin and Wood, among others.
The Klezmatics next had the honor of working with acclaimed violinist Itzhak Perlman, who requested that The Klezmatics join him and three other Klezmer bands to record an album called In The Fiddler’s House (Angel/EMI, 1995). This album and ensuing tour dramatically raised the awareness of Klezmer music in the United States. As the ultimate compliment, Perlman selected six original Klezmatics compositions for inclusion on the CDs and live concerts.
The Klezmatics then paired with popular Israeli singer Chava Alberstein. Alberstein brought the band fifteen Yiddish poems set to music. The band then created striking arrangements to frame the voices of Alberstein and Sklamberg.
The resulting album, The Well (Rounder, 1998), was produced by K.D. lang collaborator Ben Mink, who also played on the recording. It remains one of the band’s favorites, not just for the music, but for the opportunity to help an artist they admire achieve a personal triumph. The Well is one of the band’s (and Ms. Alberstein’s) most popular and beloved recordings and received rave international reviews.
Their next album, Rise Up! Shteyt Oyf! (Rounder, 2002), was their first non-collaborative album in years. The album also featured a new permanent member, violinist Lisa Gutkin.
The tone of the record harkened back to Jews With Horns, with politics, religion, ecstasy and partying each vying for space, often within the same song. Some of the songs on Rise Up! had originally been commissioned for the band’?s collaboration with the innovative American dance company Pilobolus Dance Theatre.
The band’s intention at this point was to push forward with their own music, but another chance meeting would redefine their immediate future. A few years prior, after playing a concert with Perlman, they were introduced to Nora Guthrie-known to most of the world as Woody’s daughter and Arlo’s sister. The band, however, recognized her as the granddaughter of Aliza Greenblatt, an influential Yiddish poet who had lived in Coney Island and the mother of Guthrie’s Jewish wife. At the time, Guthrie didn’t recognize the importance of her grandmother to appreciators of the Yiddish language and culture. She did, however, know that her father had written a collection of Jewish songs, which she invited the band to record in much the same manner as the Billy Bragg and Wilco collections (Mermaid Avenue I & II).
Beginning in 2003, the band performed the music in a series of concerts, including a Thanksgiving celebration at Carnegie Hall, under the title “Holy Ground”. They also self-produced eight of Woody’s Hanuka songs, which resulted in an album called Woody Guthrie’s Happy Joyous Hanuka. An album of Guthrie-penned Jewish Brooklyn Americana is planned for the near future.
In 2004, Piranha invited the Klezmatics back to the Heimatklange festival, a double invite rarely extended to performers. The show’s theme that year was New York, a theme fittingly embodied by the band. At Heimatklange, the band performed with jazz vocalist/organist Kathryn Farmer, as well as Joshua Nelson, an African American Jew practitioner of Kosher Gospel who was brought up on gospel icon and collaborative superstar Mahalia Jackson. They performed a series of shows, one night of which resulted in their first live audience album, Brother Moses Smote the Water (Harmonia Mundi, 2004), featuring contributions by Nelson and Farmer.
The Klezmatic’s Brother Moses connected to every side of Klezmatics philosophy. It was a Jewish offering, half of the songs concerned Passover. It also included two audience favorites: the socialist anthem “Ale brider” (“All United”) and ‘Shnirele, perele’, a Hasidic ode to the eternal Jewish yearning for the coming of the messianic era.
The 2006 line-up included Lorin Sklamberg – vocalist / accordionist; Frank London – trumpet; Matt Darriau – multi-instrumentalist; Lisa Gutkin – fiddle; Paul Morrisett – bass / tsimbl; and David Licht – drums.
In 2016, the band released Apikorsim/Heretics (World Village). Co-founder Frank London said the idea was “to make a great recording of Yiddish and klezmer music, as only the Klezmatics can.” Sklamberg added, “It continues in the tradition that we last visited with Rise Up! Shteyt Oyf! in 2003. It’s a great collection of songs and instrumentals that could only have come from us. It is also unique in our history in that everything you hear on the recording is played or sung by members of the band. It’s our ‘roots record’, a return to the anarchic nature of some of our earlier music.”
The lineup in 2016 included Richie Barshay on percussion and vocals; Matt Darriau on alto sax, clarinet, vocals; Lisa Gutkin on violin and vocals; Frank London on trumpet, horn, vocals; Paul Morrissett on bass, tsimbl, vocals; and Lorin Sklamberg on lead vocals, accordion, guitar, piano.
The Klezmatics, the grand masters and innovators of klezmer music continue to charm with their new album, Apikorsim/Heretics. On this recording, the six musicians dig into traditional klezmer roots, although, as usual, they add contemporary elements that make their sound current.
On Apikorsim/Heretics you’ll find lively Eastern European Yiddish dance music along with powerful brass, and jazz improvisation.
As to the title of the album, group founder Lorin Sklamberg says: “It’s seriously irreverent. It says, if you’re going to do something that some people might find unkosher, enjoy it as much as possible. It’s definitely our kind of song.”
Frank London adds “We called the new album Apikorsim/Heretics for many reasons: political, philosophical and philological. Apikorsim-heretics, rebels, questioners-are people who do not conform to established attitudes and challenge orthodox opinions. And the Klezmatics are decidedly unorthodox.”
The current lineup includes Richie Barshay on percussion, vocals; Matt Darriau on alto sax, tsimbl, clarinet, vocals; Lisa Gutkin on violin, viola, octave violin, vocals; Frank London on trumpet, organ, alto horn, flugelhorn, harmonium, vocals; Paul Morrissett on bass, tsimbl, baritone horn, guitar, vocals; and Lorin Sklamberg on lead and background vocals, accordion, guitar, piano.