(New York Jewish Week) — In 1955, a group of musicians gathered in a Manhattan recording studio and committed to tape 16 tunes. When the LP, “Tanz,” was released the following year, it barely made a splash.
Over the years, however, the recording would gain a reputation as a landmark klezmer album, years before the klezmer revival of the 1970s and ’80s. Recorded by the klezmer virtuoso Dave Tarras and a handful of respected New York jazz players, including brothers Sam and Ray Musiker, the record was a groundbreaking mix of the traditional Eastern European Jewish dance music and a jazz and big band sound.
And now, nearly seven decades later, the entire album will be performed before a live audience for the first time ever. On Thursday, Brooklyn-based clarinetist Michael Winograd will lead a band of klezmer all-stars as they play the music from “Tanz” (Yiddish for “dance”) at the Marlene Meyerson JCC on the Upper West Side.
“One of the things that I love about his compositions on ‘Tanz,’ is that they feel like they are both inside and outside the klezmer box,” Winograd told the New York Jewish Week. “They are so clearly klezmer, but they’re also pushing the boundaries so much and I think that came from his work as a jazz musician.”
Winograd completed the herculean task of transcribing all the instrumental parts of the album several years ago. He said that he originally transcribed “Tanz” as a technical exercise and initially had no plans to record or perform the material. But trumpeter Frank London of The Klezmatics convinced him to reconsider, Winograd said.
“Frank told me, ‘You have the music, you might as well perform it. It would be amazing,’” Winograd recalled.
In December 2018, he performed some of the tracks with two different klezmer bands in Berlin and New York. The upcoming JCC performance, however, is the debut performance of the album in full. Winograd is working with Aaron Bendich from the Borscht Beat record label and hopes to release a film of the JCC concert, which is co-presented by the Ashkenaz Festival, the Center for Cultural Vibrancy, the Center for Traditional Music and Dance and the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History.
The driving force behind “Tanz” was the late Sam Musiker, a fourth-generation klezmer musician born in New York. He and his younger brother, Ray, also a member of the “Tanz” ensemble, performed klezmer extensively starting as young musicians. On the album cover, the Musiker brothers got second billing to Sam Musiker’s father-in-law, the clarinetist Dave Tarras, a Jewish immigrant from Ukraine and the undisputed king of klezmer at the time.
Also playing on the album were drummer Irving Gratz, Tarras’s regular drummer; pianist Moe Wechsler, a Juilliard-trained musician who played in the big bands of Benny Goodman and Louis Prima; accordion player Seymour Megenheimer, a pianist who later became known as Sy Mann and is credited with recording “Switched-On Santa,” the first Christmas album to feature a Moog synthesizer; Mack Shopnick, a swing-era jazz bassist who was later active in the American Federation of Musicians union; and trumpeter Melvin Soloman, who played on a couple of Sarah Vaughan albums.
The musicians gathered at the former church that became Columbia Records’ 30th Street Studio to make the record. The studio opened after World War II and, until it closed in 1981, it was graced by some of the greatest musical talent of the 20th century, including Vladimir Horowitz, Dizzy Gillespie and Bob Dylan. Rehearsal and recording took place over two days, according to Ray Musiker, who had to take off a couple of days from his regular gig: teaching music at James Madison High School in Brooklyn.
Ray Musiker is the only surviving member of the original band, and earlier this month Winograd interviewed the 96-year-old at his home on Long Island, where they discussed how the record flopped when it was released by Epic Records in 1956. “It didn’t make an impact — there were too many things going on in the world of pop music,” Musiker told Winograd. “Judaism was Americanizing, the whole thrust was to assimilate. Klezmer music started to dwindle. They’re not living in the shtetl and they don’t want to hear shtetl music. It died out like [the Yiddish theater on] Second Avenue died out.”
And yet, in recent years, “Tanz” has been reexamined and reappraised. According to Uri Schreter, a PhD student at Harvard who studies Jewish music during the postwar period, “Tanz” is one of the most important klezmer recordings of the latter half of the 20th century. With its brass-heavy big band arrangements, “Tanz” was klezmer’s “very significant and very deep step into the world of American popular music, specifically jazz and swing,” he told the New York Jewish Week.
“Tanz” was also unique in that it featured two lead clarinetists who were both virtuosos with distinctly different styles: Sam Musiker was the American-born klezmer jazzman who could swing — he played in the Gene Krupa Orchestra and served as a sideman to Roy Eldridge and Sarah Vaughan. Dave Tarras was the epitome of the Old World klezmer tradition, Schreter said. The two styles are in a kind of a competition, Schreter said, but are also in collaboration.
Winograd, 40, is capable of pulling off both styles, he added. “You can hear when he’s playing Sam Musiker and you can hear when he’s playing Dave Tarras,” Schreter said. “He’s always playing Michael Winograd, of course. And he doesn’t sound identical to them. He doesn’t want to.”
According to Hankus Netsky, founder of the Klezmer Conservatory Band of Boston and co-chair of the New England Conservatory of Music’s Contemporary Musical Arts program, Winograd is one of the most inspired klezmer musicians of his generation. “His current band is the best thing going at the moment,” said Netsky. “The level of Winograd’s cadre of musicians is kind of astronomical.”
The line-up for the JCC performance includes Marine Goldwasser on clarinet; Alec Spiegelman on saxophone and bass clarinet; Frank London on trumpet; Will Holshouser on accordion; Carmen Staaf on piano; Zoe Guigueno on bass; David Licht on drums, and Katie Scheele on English horn.
Virtuoso jazz and classical clarinetist Don Byron was in the Klezmer Conservatory Band from 1981 to 1987. He recalled when he first heard “Tanz”: in 1981, when his roommate, KCB bassist Jim Guttman, brought the LP from a used record store in Boston and asked him to have a listen.
“I listened to it once and I was, like, ‘We gotta play this,’” said Byron, who attended the Manhattan School of Music with Ray Musiker’s son, Lee. “Nobody [in the klezmer scene] knew anything about that record.”
The KCB played two selections from “Tanz” at every performance while Byron was in the band, though they removed the tunes from its repertoire when he left in 1987. Now, with Thursday’s performance, the full album will finally get its due. “Sam [Musiker] was one of my heroes,” Byron said. “To me, the tunes that he did [on ‘Tanz’] were some of the great achievements of modernism in the [klezmer] idiom.”
“Michael Winograd Plays ‘Tanz’: A Live Album Recreation” will take place at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan on Thursday, Feb. 16 at 7:00 p.m. Tickets, $10, and information here.
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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