Golden Horn and Veretski Pass in collaboration with Joel Rubin presents the group’s 5th CD production, The Magid Chronicles, an instrumental collection based on pieces collected by Sofia Magid, the Jewish ethnographer who worked intensively to document Jewish music in Belarus and Ukraine during Stalin’s regime in the 1920s and 30s. Magid’s 600 recordings contain rare examples of women’s songs and instrumental pieces from these regions. Next to the instrumentals and songs collected by Magid, they include music collected by Magid’s Kiev counterpart, Moyshe Beregovski, among others, and music from Turkey, Greece and Rumania.
And as always, they combine the archival with the creative impulse to achieve something new, with new compositions, arrangements and improvisations by the members of the trio and Joel Rubin. Sometimes raucous, sometimes meditative, this new program is a true melding of past, present and future.
What separates Veretski Pass from other klezmer groups is their taste for surprise, consisting of odd phrases, striking harmonic twists, swirling ornaments and sudden unisons. From the first suite of The Magid Chronicles, which takes us through a work song, a prisoner's lament, a Turkish battle hymn, a love song, then a "chaos dances", listeners are launched into an old world with new surprises. At times, it has the density of a Dixieland jam session, and at other times is as gentle and sparse as a midnight lullaby.
There's a case to be made for the ingenuity of veterans. At the forefront of the klezmer revival, and with their extensive fieldwork and research, the members of Veretski Pass and Joel Rubin have played with each other in various constellations for over 30 years. The result is a kind of musical telepathy, whereby every melodic left turn is met seamlessly with an answer by someone else in the group.
Veretski Pass, has always delighted its audiences by unearthing the treasures of the klezmer periphery, but with this new CD they and colleague Joel Rubin have essentially blown up the genre. With the intimate and complex interplay of historical presentation and vigorous improvisation this is a CD destined to become an instant classic.
The new recording by Veretski Pass with clarinetist Joel Rubin is a game changer on the klezmer landscape. The CD is full of exuberant surprises of repertoire gleaned from their private field recordings, manuscripts, and historical recordings, which they’ve molded into 10 beautiful suites that flow beautifully from piece to piece.
This isn’t the usual klezmer record of horas, freylekhs and shers, but rather an in-depth exploration of Jewish-Polish music of obereks, mazurkas, kujawiaks and polkas that have been overlooked by the klezmer scene.
The record also has historical significance, as it is a true reunion of its members, who performed and recorded together as core protagonists of the klezmer revival in the 1980s and 90s, but have not played together for 20 years. Yet it’s as if no time had elapsed. The rapport is palpable and throughly enjoyable from start to finish.
Joel Rubin’s clarinet is not only gorgeous in tone, ornamentation and sheer endless creative variations, but also works so well together with Cookie Segelstein’s violin so as to give the impression that they planned every musical phrase. But the constant improvisation of Veretski Pass proves that they don’t arrange the music at all, but rather listen and react to each other.
Cookie’s violin playing straddles the worlds of rough and ready Polish backwoods fiddling and delicate, but robust classic klezmer playing, creating a swirl of styles that the other members play off of continually. Her rubato improvisations remain standards of the scene and she has delivered several in this recording.
Stuart Brotman’s Zakopany basy, a cello played as a bass, transcends the traditional function and makes forays into melodic interplay that seem to belie musical logic, while holding down the rhythm section and driving the ensemble forward.
Josh Horowitz’s well-known 19th century button accordion weaves between accompaniment and melody in his inimitable style, continually supporting the other lead instruments, so that the listener has the illusion of several strings at times. He also uses the larger piano accordion, as well as tsimbl.
The artwork of Phil Blank perfectly captures the capricious, humorous, melancholy and spiritual depth of the music with a cover and surprise poster insert that burst with colors and ideas.
There is a secret narrative to the whole recording and its visuals, which is referenced in all aspects of this production, hinted at in the fanciful titles - The classic Yiddish short story by I.L. Peretz, “A Gilgul fun a Nign” (The Metamorphosis of a Melody). If you listen carefully, piece by piece, and read the story, each suite and its parts illustrate the transformations of a melody that Peretz follows through his story (The translation summary of which is on the www.poyln.com website).
Veretski Pass has been a powerful force in the klezmer revival, both as traditionalists and as experimenters with the tradition.The significance of this recording will soon become apparent when the international klezmer scene snaps up this repertoire and integrates the music and cornucopia of styles into their own groups, as has happened with all their other recordings.
Golden Horn releases Two Worlds by Benjy Fox-Rosen January 25 2014
Golden Horn is very pleased to release a new album by rising Yiddish musician Benjy Fox-Rosen. Titled "Two Worlds/ Tsvey Veltn", this album is a stunning new song cycle based on the poetry of master Yiddish and Polish writer Mordechai Gebirtig.
Combining traditional and new music, Yiddish folk, theatre and cabaret music, Fox-Rosen interprets Gebirtig's poetry and searing depictions of Poland before and during World War II with striking insight and brilliance. Describing the ambition of the Two Worlds project, pioneering Yiddish singer and composer, Joshua Waletsky says: "Imagine that the preeminent songwriter Stephen Foster left behind dozens of texts with no melodies. Then imagine that some 70 years after his death - and 70 years after a great war that forever changed the world that Foster wrote about - a young musician set a dozen of these texts in a style that both honored Foster's music and also participated fully in the musical world of 70 years beyond Foster's. That thought experiment will give you a sense of the ambition of Two Worlds/Tsvey Veltn...."
Mordechai Gebirtig's (1877-1942) work captures the dynamic life of Polish Jewry before World War II. For Fox-Rosen, Gebirtig's poems offer a coveted window into a lost Jewish way of life, and convey "the fresh scent of baked breads mixed with the salty-sour aroma of pickles and herring, the commotion of children running through courtyards...At the same time, Gebirtig captures the isolation and powerlessness experienced by the lone individual caught within the undiscerning tumult of that world."
Fox-Rosen's ensemble includes a lineup of internationally accomplished, genre-transcending musicians, who have performed with such noted musicians as Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Frank London, Anthony Braxton, Alicia Svigals and others: Avi Fox-Rosen (guitar, banjo), Patrick Farrell (accordion), Tyshawn Sorey (drums), and Michael Winograd (clarinet).
To hear sound samples and to learn more about this release, please visit album web page.
Golden Horn releases Drawing in an Almond by Katerina Papadopoulou December 29 2013
The voice of Katerina Papadopoulou is well known to connoisseurs of Greek demotika (folk music). She and her wonderful cast of colleagues paint a beautiful and varied portrait of Greek songs that have an emotional depth that is sure to enrapture anyone who will give it their full attention. The styles that Katerina traverses is as impressive as it is delightful, taking the listener through an array of regions and musical textures with a satisfying diversity of emotions and sounds.
Katerina attained recognition long ago for her series of Traditional music TV broadcasts, Lalitades, her Rebetiko renditions, In Remembrance of Beautiful Times, as well as her CD of songs from Meli, tragoudakia mou poulo, released in 2002 and voted best CD of 2002 for Greek traditional music by the music magazine, Echo & artis.
The album starts off with a lovely version of I cracked a small almond, which begins a cappella and and then invites the listener to enjoy the whole ensemble. That ensemble is made up of a star cast of sensitive veterans of Greek and Armenian music, beginning with Ara Dinkjian, perhaps best known for his band, Night Ark, and the multi-platinum hit, Dinata, which was performed in the closing ceremonies of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
The CD takes us from Drama, in Eastern Macedonia, to Crete, to West Pontus and then finally via a sweetly rendered unaccompanied song to the Dodecanese islands in the Aegean, through which we can really perceive the pure quality of Katerina's voice and her delicate phrasing. The last song is a traditional wedding song from Nisyros with its slightly angular phrasing and parallel 5ths that have remain unchanged for centuries.
Katerina is also joined by the late Nikos Papazoglou (who passed away in 2011, not long after the CD was recorded). Listeners will remember him with his signature red bandana as one of the World Music scene's most recognizable figures who helped to popularize Greek music in Europe and beyond with his band, Loxi falaga and the countless Greek and international hits he penned.
The lyra playing of Sokratis Sinopoulos is such a pleasure to listen to with the creative and attentive interplay with Katerina and also with Ara. It is both supportive and exciting at the same time. The most recent project of notice for Sokratis is his groundbreaking jazz collaboration with Charles Lloyd.
The rest of the line-up is star-studded as well, and the resulting collaboration is one of supreme subtlety, nuance and diversity. Drawing In An Almond remains traditional to the end, completely acoustic, with a recorded clarity that allows the listener to enjoy all the timbres of the instruments and voice in their full unadorned beauty. It is a wonderful presentation of Katerina Papadopoulou's art as well as a meaningful and colorful collaboration of some of the shining lights of the World Music landscape.
Golden Horn releases Storm Game by Michael Winograd December 22 2012
In 2008, the clarinetist recorded Bessarabian Hop, an album that was very much in the traditional Klezmer style even though most of the songs were original compositions. Storm Game is a major step forward for it features Michael Winograd extending the Klezmer tradition, infusing the music with his own infectious personality, and creating fresh music for the 21st century.
Golden Horn releases Turkophony by Buzuki Orhan Osman September 30 2011Turkophony is the latest and most unusual work of the German-born, Turkish-Greek bouzouki player, Orhan Osman. If you subscribe to the hypothesis that personal history is what informs musical style more than training, you could use Orhan as the poster child.
Loosely categorized as “ethno-jazz”, Turkophony moves effortlessly between Anatolian, Greek, Bulgarian, modal jazz, funk and jazz-rock. This music is as smooth as it is exciting and groundbreaking. But the breakthrough is not only in the amalgam of styles, it is also in the center-staging of Orhan’s instrument, the bouzouki that makes this work astounding.
The bouzouki is historically perhaps the oldest fretted instrument of the lute family, and in its present form was considered a modification of the long-necked Turkish Saz, hence the term Bozuk (Turkish for broken, or modified). Although the instrument itself, in its earlier form, dates back to ancient Greece, one must search far and wide for its use in the jazz world. Orhan is pushing the envelope here, and in doing so has earned the name that has made him synonymous with the instrument itself - “Bouzouki Orhan.”
Orhan Osman was born in Germany in 1976, and is from Greece with Turkish roots. His first instrument was a self-made piece of wood with 4 nails and 2 pieces of clothes lines. When he was 13, he embraced the bouzouki as his main instrument and quickly became known as a wedding and tavern musician, playing all-night sessions in Western Thrace, before moving to Athens, where he played on the main Rebetiko stages.
Noted for his personal warmth and broad experience in so many musical styles, through the past years Orhan has been invited to host a number of national Turkish television shows, appearing with a long list of musical celebrities in a variety of programs that have served not only to excite audiences, but to expand Orhan’s own view of music and how to integrate these into his own personal genre.
In Turkophony, unusual textures abound; listen to the “Weather-Report” like bass lines played percussively on bass clarinet and the polyrhythmic wizardry of drummer Dave Weckl (whose work with the Chick Corea Electric Band was seminal), combined with the pyrotechnics of keyboardist Eric Levy, who slides in and out of makam-like synthesizer settings and hot 1970’s Rhodes piano pentatonic sheets of sound. After all that, turn your attention to the luscious bamboo flute raga of Serkan Bagkesen soaring above the band. If this all sounds improbable, think of the hard-driving grooves of James Brown, then add a blend of Coltrane, Balkan, Georgian, middle eastern and far eastern makams and ragas, and you have Turkophony.
The result is breathtaking. According to the Turkish press, “Orhan is filled not only with a passion for music, but for journey as well. He summons his audience to discover the world... [and] shoots you right in your heart with thousands of emotions.”
Golden Horn releases The Klezmer Shul Live by Veretski Pass September 02 2011
The Klezmer Shul, the latest work of Veretski Pass, is a four movement suite that attempts to bridge the gap between the sacred and the secular, not through the use of words, but with purely instrumental music.
In the 1000 year history of Ashkenazic culture, research has shown that there were Jewish trade guilds, which often established their own small synagogues, or shuls. There were shuls for tailors, shoemakers, stone cutters - and klezmorim (musicians). Inspired by these historic accounts, Stu Brotman obtained a grant from the Creative Work Fund in San Francisco for Veretski Pass to compose a klezmer-based, musical impression of a Jewish service.
Were these shuls, also known as kloyzn or shtiblekh, places for traditional services, or were they also meeting halls, gathering places for all-night jam sessions with visiting musicians and musical neighbors? In The Klezmer Shul, Cookie, Josh, and Stu reimagine them as centers of multi-cultural music making, where musicians could inspire each other, improvising, recombining, mixing the melodies of the service with local Folk, Classical and popular music.
"For musical inspiration, our sources ranged from the traditional melodies of the synagogue to the folk music of the many peoples among whom Jews lived and worked: Rom (Gypsy), Ukrainian, Hungarian, Romanian, Moldavian, Czech, Polish melodies. Employing techniques of modern Classical composition, modern Jazz, and even Gospel music styles, we felt it important to leave the structure of the arrangements open in order to allow room for improvisation, which generates the core of our work. In this way each performance is spontaneous and unique."
The Klezmer Shul is intended as a spiritual experience, as well as pure concert music. Veretski Pass offers it as a gesture of reconciliation in a world divided by doctrine, and dedicates it to the memory of musicians lost to war.