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Yale Strom: Trailblazing with Tradition

Elliott Simon By

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Yale Strom & Hot Pstromi
Borsht With Bread Brothers
Arc Music
2007


Dveykes
Dveykes
Global Village
2006

Over the past several decades, violinist Yale Strom has released a flood of CDs, films and books that present a unique historical view of Eastern European Jewish music. Based largely on his many visits to Eastern Europe, Yale Strom paints pictures in his music, writings and films of a pre WWII shtetl music scene where Gypsy (Rom) and Jewish musicians slipped in and out of each other's traveling bands. This porous musical culture resulted in many of the tunes on Borsht with Bread Brothers, the latest offering from Strom's band Hot Pstromi. Somewhat independent from Strom's research, a Radical Jewish Music community was growing in downtown NYC that mixed avant-garde jazz with traditional Jewish music. On Dveykes, Strom meets a quartet of these musicians for music that is as the subtitle suggests: New Jewish Downtown Music With a Twist.

Hot Pstromi includes an interesting mix of jazz/world musicians like Klezmatics founding drummer David Licht, accordionist Peter Stan (Slavic Soul Party) and clarinetist/saxophonist Norbert Stachel (Tower of Power). Vocalist Elizabeth Schwartz displays a wonderful appreciation for the nuances inherent in this music. Her mastery of the ornamentations is superb on selections like the movingly ethereal Hungarian Jewish folk song "Szol a Kakas Mar (The Rooster Crows Already)" and an extended version of the Czarist protest song "Vemen Veln Mir Dimen, Brider (Whom Shall We Serve Brothers?)". She gives an inspired performance of "Ver es Keseyder Tseyln (Who Can Count in Order?)" that wonderfully portrays the genre's cantorial and badkhen (wedding jester rhymer) underpinnings. Strom's fiddle, Stachel's clarinet and Stan's accordion likewise beautifully expose the emotional depth behind the melodies of what for the most part are simple folk tunes. Strom showcases his extensive knowledge base in both song selection and the precisely written liner notes. Songs drawn from his travels in the Ukraine, Slovakia, Belarus, Germany, Russia, Poland, Romania and Moldova are skillfully described with lyrics presented in both Yiddish and English.

Strom with newly composed music in hand meets bassist Mark Dresser, clarinetist/saxophonist Marty Ehrlich, pianist Diane Moser and drummer Benny Koonyevsky for Dveykes. On several strikingly spiritual cuts the players solo, pair up or become a trio for intimate renderings of deeply devotional original material. Strom is particularly intense on the two prayerful title pieces and Ehrlich, blowing a Trane-like tenor, joins with Dresser for a pair of equally soulful portrayals of "Krakow". Ensemble presentations evince a communal character that fuses freedom with spirit and klezmer with jazz. Schwartz' earthy alto voice sonically blends with tenor and bass for the sultry "Stained Red" and rises in sarcastic political protest on "If God Moved to the Neighborhood". While Borsht with Bread Brothers is a wonderful compendium of heartfelt cultural music Dveykes is a synergistically soulful cutting edge meeting.


Tracks and Personnel

Borsht With Bread Brothers

Tracks: Svalava Kozatshok; Mermelshteyn's Nign; Szol A Kakos Mar; Stoliner Shers I & II; Meyen Nign; Vemen Veln Mir Dinen Brider; Oberek Palota; Ki Onu Amekho; Bughici's Khosedl; Kalarasher Bulgar; Ver Es ken Keseyder Tseyln; Ben Avrameni.

Personnel: Yale Strom: violin (1-4, 6-12), hand percussion (2), vocals (6), whistling (12); Norbert Stachel: clarinet (1, 3, 12), North Indian bamboo flute (1), tenor saxophone (4, 10), E-flat clarinet (4, 8, 9), piccolo (9), penny whistle (12); Peter Stan: accordion (1, 3, 4, 8-10, 12); Roger Sprocket: bass (1, 3, 4, 8, 10, 12); David Licht: percussion (1, 3, 8-10, 12); Fred Benedetti: guitar (2, 5, 6, 7, 11); Elizabeth Schwartz: vocals (3, 6, 9, 11); Tripp Sprague: hand percussion (2), flute (5, 11), tenor saxophone (7); Jeff Pekarek: bass (2, 5-7,11), vocals (6)..

Dveykes

Tracks: : Krakow 1; Nexus; Dveykes 2; Stained Red; Tibi's Hora; Krakow 2; The Ram's Daughters; If God Moved To The Neighborhood; Dveykes 1.

Personnel: Mark Dresser: bass; Marty Ehrlich: clarinet & tenor saxophone; Benny Koonyevsky: drums, dumbek, tambourine; Diane Moser: piano; Elizabeth Schwartz: vocals; Yale Strom: violin & viola.

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