I need to do more of these posts. There’s always stuff going on that I like to update anyone interested about. My appearance at the Eldridge St. Synagogue in August was a success in many ways. The most exciting thing for me was doing the event as a trio. There are many ways to be innovative. Stylistically, originality,-etc. I started to use the term “Instrumentally Innovative” for this group. We consist of trombone, clarinet, and accordion. How many groups out there doing any kind of music can claim that as their instrumentation? What ??No drums? No bass? No DJ?…….The answer to all these questions is Yes. We started recording some tracks this month. The goal is to have a release at some point in 2014. I’ve also started working on a book. It will be about Klezmer revolving around my family’s involvement in the art form over the last 100+ years. I’m teaming up with a great person and friend who actually knows how to take this craziness from me and make a book out of it. I hope everyone had a nice Thankgivikkah. I’m involved in two very special Hannukah programs next week. I was fortunate to be asked to be in the orchestra for the annual Hannukah concert at Symphony Space on Dec 2. The night will also serve as a tribute to Theodore Bikel who is turning 90 years old!!! The orchestra is under the direction of Zalman Mlotek. On Thursday Dec 5th, my trio will be part of the WQXR Hannukah event at the Greene Space. We are one of 3 groups to be involved in the program. I’ve prepared a short program of 4 tunes for us to perform. It starts at 7 PM and will be streaming live at WQXR.org as well as thegreenespace.org. See the link below. It will be made into a special to be aired next year.
I must say this may have been the most fulfilling week as far as my Klezmer experiences have gone. On Monday night I had the pleasure of appearing at the Geneology Convention in Boston. I shared the stage with Hankus Netsky, Amanda Miryem-Khaye Seigel, and Zoe Christensen. We covered the great music and stories of Morris Hollender, Sonia Victor, and we ended the program with the Levitt portion of the program. I met some interesting people after the show. Turns out one gentlemen and I were neighbors a few years ago in Manhattan but we’d never met until this event!!! The following morning a few of us went to the Yiddish Book Center in S. Amherst, Mass. This is where my Levitt family exhibit is on display for all to see. It was my first time there since the exhibit went up last year. I must say the designers did an amazing job with the presentation of the stories and pictures. There are audio samples of music as well as taped interviews with my dad from a few years before his passing. I take great pride in where I come from and this exhibit is a great example of why I feel that way. I got back home on Tuesday night and put my program together for my trio performance on Wednesday night. I had the great fortune of returning to the Eldridge St. Museum and Synagogue for a live performance. The two other members of the trio are Mike Cohen on clarinet and Christina Crowder on accordion. It was truly a magical evening. The venue is second to none and has amazing acoustics. We had a close to capacity crowd that was very receptive and open to hearing our vast array of music. The selections we chose to perform were from the repertoire of my grandfather who started compiling these tunes about 90 years ago. We covered Yiddish, Roumanian, Hungarian, Polish, Russian and more!!! The feedback was positive and we plan to get this group recorded in the near future. Stay tuned…..
What a nice program we had last night at the Center for Jewish History. There were 3 people that were the focus of the program They were Morris Hollender, Sonia Victor, and my late father, Marty Levitt. My good friend Hankus Netsky spoke in depth about all three of these artists.We had a live band as well. The members of the group were Hankus Netsky on piano, Michael Winograd on clarinet, Amanda Miryem-Khaye Seigel on vocals, and myself on trombone. This was the first time I had the opportunity to actually hear Morris Hollender sing Jewish melodies he had learned in Europe before WWII. For a guy in his 80’s, he really sounded great. (On a recording in his home a few years ago) Sonia Victor’s story is fascinating as well. She had a suitcase filled with pieces of paper containing her compositions. There were some real treasures in there and it’s all been preserved. We finished the program with the “Levitt Legacy” which I always begin with my great grandfather’s picture from 1898 in Kiev. One musician/composer I always do my best to recognize is Beresh Katz. Mr. Katz was a mulit-instrumentalist who wrote a lot of Klezmer Music. The one we played for this event is called the Beresh Katz Sher. My father was fortunate enough to have Beresh write some tunes especially for him back in the late 1950’s. Special thanks to all my friends that attended and the new friends I met after the program………….In other news……Freilach Time Live will be at the Riverdale Y Senior Center on Friday morning June 14. My live Yiddish/Klezmer radio show is back on the map. The shows are based on the former show of the same name that aired in South Florida over 30 years ago, The host of that show was none other than my dad. I’ve been transferring all the material and will add artist info so the program will be informative as well as entertaining. Some of my featured artists will be Molly Picon, Mickey Katz, Moshe Oysher, Jan Peerce-etc. Of course I’ll add in some family cuts as well. More to come….
I’ve decided to start a blog. It’s going to be a regular find on this website. The topic(s) will almost always be music and/or Klezmer related. I’ve been blessed as far as coming from a family with deep musical roots. There have been many stories and characters over the years. A lot of these fun times took place in Brooklyn. The Levinsky (original name) family bought a house on Williams Ave in the Brownsville section back in the early 1920’s. At that time, regular people could actually buy a house without having to give up their first born. The house was filled with music practicing as well as lessons. My grandfather Jack was serious about his students as well as his daily practice. He would wake up and pull his violin out from under his bed and start to play. Later on he would practice trombone and piano/accordion. In those days he would work in the pits of the Yiddish Theater on 2nd Avenue. There were also many Jewish nightclubs on the Lower East Side where musicians would work nightly until the wee hours of the morning. Let’s not forget about the silent movie circuit. Each theater would have a live band playing the soundtrack for the duration of the film. There would be several viewings per day providing a great deal of work for musicians at that time. One of my grandfather’s friends was a pianist by the name of Max Nacht. He was a well read gentleman who taught piano as well. Max wasn’t interested in making a lot of money. He would work the silent film circuit for a month or two in order to save a few dollars. He would then “take off” a month or two in order to do some reading and educate himself. Each day he bought a box of crackers and a container of milk. He noticed that the crackers and the milk were only half finished by the time he went to bed. He told my grandfather one day that he decided to get married. This was one way to ensure that the crackers as well as the milk would not go to waste!!!!!!! Who says there’s no such thing as true love!!!!!!!