Yale Strom
Tales Our Fathers Sang
Global Village

Adrienne Cooper and Zalmen Mlotek
Ghetto Tango: Wartime Yiddish Theater
Traditional Crossroads (www.traditionalcrossroads.com)

While these two new releases are purely musical, an argument could be made for filing them under storytelling. Each tells funny, tragic, and touching tales of the Jewish experience on both sides of the Atlantic, before, during and after the Holocaust.

Tales Our Fathers Sang has a whopping twenty-eight tracks, based on short stories by such writers as Saul Bellow, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Sholom Aleichem. Though not a word is sung, the characters in the stories come alive through the combinations of instruments skillfully played and arranged by Strom and members of his bands Klazzj and Hot Pstromi. Strom uses standard forms such as fraylakhs, waltzes, and horas in his compositions. Some have a `twenties cheesiness reminiscent of R. Crumb and His Cheap Suit Serenaders, others have Latin and Arabic touches, still others have the mock melodrama of a good klezmer tune. Strom and company play with a crisp sense of rhythm yet maintain a loose-limbed flow that at times borders on cacophony. One of the most touching pieces is the tender "A Letter to Harvey Milk," with its simple clarinet and acoustic guitar arrangement. The noirish "Bloodshed" combines klezmer and blues. "Looking at Kafka" is a loopy, carnival-like waltz. This is a well-conceived and well played concept album.

Cooper and Mlotek take a more literal approach to storytelling. Ghetto Tango is a collection of cabaret songs that were performed in the ghettos of Poland and Lithuania during the Holocaust. Lyrics are in Yiddish and English, and the songs are delivered with gusto. Cooper has a strong, showy voice that gives a powerful authenticity to the performances. Mlotek's piano is the only accompaniment, but he uses it with orchestral force. Though many of the arrangements have a splashy Broadway musical sound, the two successfully convey all of the courage, bitterness, and sheer terror felt by those trapped in the ghettos. I defy anyone to listen to the final track, "The Bar Mitzve Speech," without weeping. The liner notes sum it up perfectly. This is "something rare, scarcely conceivable: art at the edge of the abyss." - Peggy Latkovich

Audio:"Mues" is Public Domain, recording copyright 2000 Tradtional Crossroads

At cdroots.com:
Yale Strom
Ghetto Tango
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