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The Mother-Load of Klezmer-Accordion History

March 14, 2011
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I gotta get invited to more parties with music-history geeks.  Last night I met a luthier, Travis Carey, who mentioned someone working on the history of klezmer accordion.  I looked around online and I’m pretty sure he was talking about Josh Horowitz from the historical-revival band Budowitz.

The Budowitz band page links to various articles including one on The Klezmer Accordion: Old and New Worlds (1899-2001) by Horowitz, who directs the traditional/historical Ensemble Budowitz.  [see note ***]  Horowitz has pulled together what’s basically the historical liner-notes of every klezmer accordion record you’d ever want.  If you like to read records as well as listen to them, this is it.  He tells how the squeezebox was integrated into klezmer, and then how it was somewhat unjustly overlooked in the modern revival movement.  He gets to tell the story of an overlooked music by way of an overlooked instrument.  Pretty darn cool.

[The photo: “Poldek Koslowski with Accordion, ca 1940.  Poldek’s younger brother, Dolko Kleinman Brandwein is seated to Poldek’s right.  Dolko was a klezmer violin virtuoso who was murdered by Ukrainian nationalists.”]

If you’re looking for more Klezmer-cademia online, I recommend the work of Henry Sapoznik, whose book Klezmer! Jewish Music from Old World to Our World, is pretty damn awesome.  It’s cool how these young Jewish kids who were playing Southern folk music in the 1970’s realized they’d bypassed their own roots, and went and rediscovered Jewish klezmer.  Sapoznik’s story is interesting because he admits being one of those prejudiced against accordions, but his band-mate Lauren Brody won him over.  Go Lauren.

Album cover, with old photo of nine-member klezmer band.

Sapoznik’s notes for the Smithsonian Folkways album Klezmer Music 1910-1942: Recordings from the YIVO Archives are another great intro written for a reissue of old 78 rpm recordings – one of the earlier compilations that fed the Klezmer Renaissance.

Image of a woman, dancing with a drunken skeleton-soldier and donkey-headed accordion player.  (No, really.)After talking about historical klezmer all evening, I went and joined hundreds of people for Geoff Berner‘s album release party for his new Victory Party record.  It was really nice, and his record has some serious punk-klezmer-police-immigration-brutality-blasphamy-and-beauty bite to it.  You should check it out. Listen to his Wealthy Poet while you read this post.  I say that now that we’re at the end and you’ve  already read it… maybe read it again while you listen?  When you get the whole album, tell me if the electronica-ish track Golem sounds like a yiddish Bela Lugosi’s Dead.

[ *** from Musical Performance, 2001, Vol 3, Parts 2-4, pp. 135-162.  That journal went out of print, maybe as a result of this two-issue special filled with rare accordion stuff.  Let me know if you find a copy.)  I’m not sure why Horowitz’s article on their site is compressed in zip format – when I opened it, the pdf file enclosed was the same size.  Basically you have to download and open it before you can view it, but it’s totally worth your while.]

I gotta go read some more now.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 14, 2011 11:05 am

    The photo: “Poldek Koslowski with Accordion, ca 1940.

    Hey pal, I’ve coincidentally got a movie out from the VPL with that photo as its cover artwork, entitled “the Last Klezmer”. Maybe sometime this week you and I should get together and give it a watch?

  2. March 14, 2011 12:30 pm

    I’m informed that Lute-maker Travis Carey has a new blog, so if you’ve got a lute-craving, satisfy it at: The Lute’s Progress

  3. January 1, 2013 7:55 pm

    I do not know what happened to what I hope was the last sentence of this article. If I lost several brilliant following pages I’d be sad.
    Maybe it was supposed to say:
    “… That journal went out of print, maybe as a result of this two-issue special filled with … nothing but accordions.”

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