If you enjoyed my blog and other website postings, and wish to dig deeper into them, or are curious about the other topics explored here, I offer a number of unique lectures over Zoom
(or in person) all lavishly visually illustrated and accompanied by
rarely heard historic recordings
Please contact me for dates and rates
Starting in the age of silent movies and extending to today’s hit series “Menasha” and “Unorthodox,” Yiddish language in film started as the bold and daring attempt to document and entertain the Jewish masses and has since become a powerful visual and esthetic record on 20th/21st century Jewry.
Covering over a dozen films starting in the silent era and my part producing the score for the National Center for Jewish Film restoration of Molly Picon's 1923 East and West. The talk not only celebrates the great stars of the Yiddish stage and screen (Molly Picon, Maurice Schwartz, and Moscow’s Solomon Michoels, etc.) but also sheds light on the nearly lost legacy of pioneers like producer/director Joseph Seiden and director Edgar G. Ulmer (better known for his gritty, low budget film noirs) who helped will Yiddish films into existence despite tremendous odds during its brief “Golden Age”
In addition to films made by and for the immigrant Jewish community, the talk will also focus on how Yiddish was presented in mainstream Hollywood film featuring James Cagney, Joe E. Brown and the Three Stooges.
Jolson, Jessel and the Jews: A Century of The Jazz Singer
Yiddish Noir: The Yiddish culture DNA of Film Noir
The history of Black-Jewish cultural interaction primarily focuses on how Jews adopted and adapted Black vernacular music — ragtime, jazz, swing, R&B and blues, etc. —as performers, promoters, managers, club owners and record labels. However, what has never before been explored were the African-Americans who performed Yiddish and cantorial music in and for the Jewish community, in theaters on record, radio and in concert between the World Wars. The talk will honor the memory of now forgotten Black cantors – Mendele der Shvartzer Khazn, Reb Dovid Kalistrita, Abraham Ben Benjamin Franklin, Thomas LaRue Jones and Goldye di Shvartze Khaznte the first – and only — Black woman cantor. The talk will feature dozens of historic graphics and translations of period Yiddish newspaper previews, ads and reviews and the playing of the one known 1923 Yiddish and Hebrew recording of Thomas Jones LaRue.
Of all the words which have migrated from Yiddish to English, none have the colorful backstory of a fictional woman whose name has come to mean “gossip” but who first found fame in 1913 as a woman who stood up for herself and gave as good as she got.
The whirlwind tour of the massively popular “Yente Telebende” will reveal her brilliant prolific creator. B. Kovner and his one thousand Yente Telebende feuillitons in the pages of the Forward, the numerous stage shows which were among the biggest hits in the history of the Yiddish theater and nearly 100 commercial 78 rpm records issued over nearly half a century all of which bring the presence and power of Yente Telebende back to life. Result? Yente, was no yente.
When one thinks of “Jews and jazz’ names come to mind such as Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Stan Getz, Mezz Mezzrow, etc. American-born all.
But what of the earlier generation of European born Jewish musicians — klezmorim — who, upon arrival, were obliged to learn two new languages: English and jazz? How did they navigate through a new challenging soundscape in an effort to become viable parts of their new land?
By examining the nascent “jazz” offerings of pioneering performances of recording klezmorim like Lt. Joseph Frankel, Harry Kandel, Joseph Cherniavsky, Dave Tarras, Harry Raderman and Sammy Musiker, among others, we witness for the first time how that first generation took to jazz as both a social and musical gateway to speed up and encourage their – and their audience’s — acculturation in transition from old world to new.
The phrase "Kol Isha" ("Voice of a woman"), is the historical term which denotes that woman's singing voice as an inappropriate expression ("ervah") for men to whom she is not related. In this presentation, the term is repurposed and reimagined to honor the pioneering women— Madame Sophie Kurtzer, Freydele Oysher, Sheindele di Khaznte, Goldye Mae Sellers/Goldye di Shvartze Khante, Bas Sheva and Bryna Zuckerberg, among others — who, though denied an ordination of a synagogue pulpit, created through radio, vaudeville, concerts and commercial recordings, an ineffable consciousness in the modern Jewish world about women as a viable Sheliakh Tzibur/Messenger of the People, an omnipresent reality today.
The mass emigration of Eastern European Jews to the United States in the late 19th century occurred while the banjo was a dominant force in popular music. And, while Jews did not become involved in the older more established worlds of minstrel banjo or of the later classic fingerstyle banjo, the newly emerging worlds of ragtime and jazz -- and the brash new instrument the tenor -- offered an unfettered ground floor for this new collaboration.
Starting in 1925 and 1930s commercial recordings such as those by Alexander Olshanetsky's Orchestra, Joseph Cherniavksy's Hasidic-American Jazz Band, Abe Schwartz, Dave Tarras, Al Glazer, the Broder Kapelle and more, reveal how the banjo not only became a mainstream Jewish presence in the Yiddish theater but also how traditional old time klezmer bands adapted traditional rhythmic figures onto it.
The talk will also cover my reintroducing the banjo in the mid-1970s klezmer “revival” and its subsequent worldwide renaissance today featuring the music of Mark Rubin, Andy Rubin, Jerry Wicentowski, Nefesh Mountain, and Dobronotch, and myself.