Paul Shapiro's Ribs & Brisket Revue
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Paul Shapiro's Ribs & Brisket Revue
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I fix your favorite dishes,
Hopin' this good food fills ya!
Work my hands to the bone in the kitchen alone,
You better eat if it kills ya!
-Cab Calloway, "Everybody Eats When they Come to My House"

When it comes to cultural representation, food and music too easily become stand-ins, culinary and expressive stereotypes regarding the much more complex reality of similarity and difference between human collectives. Maybe that's why we prefer leaving negotiation of the no-man's-land between caricature and devil-may-care self irony to artists and comedians-even at the risk that the politically correct, miscellaneous lumpen cranks and fascists overt and covert misrecognize satire and invoke their perverted readings as social rationalization.

For those who ask, "Where are Slam Stewart and Slim Gaillard ("Dunkin' Bagel," "Matzoh Balls"), Cab Calloway ("Utt-Da-Zay"), Sophie Tucker ("Mama Goes Where Papa Goes"), and Mildred Bailey ("A Bee Gezindt") when we really need them?"-look no further than saxophonist-producer Paul Shapiro and company for the preceding and more. Essen ("to eat") rehabilitates 10 Yiddish pop delicacies (as it were) from Tin Pan Alley days, in an ensemble comprising hallelujah singers Cilla Owens and Babi Floyd, pianist Brian Mitchell, bassist Booker King (who also backs Lila Downs), and drummer Tony Lewis. Additional guests include trumpeters Frank London and Steven Bernstein, and clarinetist Doug Wieselman, all of whom also join the vocal chorus on the blowout title track, a rambunctious rundown of the menu entire at an unnamed Catskills resort hotel. Joyous excess, it seems, is the order of the day when the CD notes quote the likes of French gastronome Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826), whose mannered essays on taste made him the darling of the contemporary cultural studies set. Yet Essen is anything but self-inflated academic treatise. Hellzapoppin' R&B-Jewish jazz swing is more like it, revealing once again that in 1940s New York as today, black and Jewish popular musics have never been far removed. - Michael Stone

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