ANYONE FOR YIDDISH TANGO?
Put the two words “Yiddish” and “tango” together, and some might respond, “You’re joking?” But history bears out a strong connection between the two. These will be evident in the upcoming performance of Yiddish Tango Club at the Skirball Cultural Center on Thursday evening, August 21. Having investigated Vietnamese tango in my June column, this gives me yet another opportunity to dig for treasures in music history.
But first here’s the scoop on the show. Virtuoso klezmer clarinetist Gustavo Bulgach, who launched the Yiddish Tango Club project in 2012, will lead his ensemble in accompanying tangos with lyrics written in Yiddish as well as Argentine tango instrumentals from the early days of the genre and the innovative tangos of Astor Piazzolla. They also will be performing pieces from the klezmer repertoire, freilachs (happy, fast-paced numbers) and nigunim (improvised vocal numbers with roots in religious and particularly Hasidic texts and music).
NEXT FOLKWORKS CONCERT
Saturday, September 27th at 8pm
doors open at 7:30pm
newly renovated Talking Stick Café
1411 Lincoln Blvd., Venice, CA 90291
at Lincoln and California St. in corner behind Pollo Loco
Parking available behind or in Ross Dress For Less parking lot.
General Admission: $18
FolkWorks members (Friend and above) – reserved seating: $16
Nevenka Concert Tickets
FolkWorks PO Box 55051
Sherman Oaks, CA 91413
FINAL 2014 Concert
(Click on hyperlink for tickets)
Series at the Talking Stick Café
1411 Lincoln Blvd., Venice, CA 90291
SYNCOPATHS October 25th
SINGING BACKUP OR SWINGING BANJOS
When I was a kid, most of my friends wanted to be things like nurses and firemen when they grew up. My career goal was a bit different—I wanted to be a backup singer. You know… a Vandella, or a Pip, or maybe one of those anonymous women who appeared on TV helping Perry Como or Dean Martin to sound good. (OK, I also desperately wanted to be the third Everly Brother, but there was that nagging problem of gender).
It seemed like the perfect career choice. It involved singing (mandatory), you got to record, go on tour, meet cool people, and get paid. But you didn’t have to put up with the downside of fame, or worry about whether your next album would sell.
I never did achieve that career goal, although I came close a few times. But I have continued to admire the singers who make their living doing what I now know is a challenging and sometimes stressful job.
How Old? You’re Kidding, Right?
Part of the aging process is figuring out that you are old. You’ve done certain things thousands of times. Why aren’t you better at it? And how much longer do you have to improve?
Most of this stuff comes in little puffs. I recently realized I’d been playing a club in Newport Beach for 25 years, and had held the same last Friday of the month gig at the club for over ten years. That’s a long time. Also, I had to realize that I’d played with a couple of the guys in the band for over 20 years. No wonder they look so old.
I think more of a shock comes when you “inventory” yourself and your accomplishments. I’ve been writing songs for 40 years. Although I’ve written some good songs, shouldn’t there be more? Or better songs? I’ve played the guitar for 45 years, the mandolin for 22 years, and the bass for 20 years. One would assume that I’d be a cross between Segovia, Bill Monroe and Jack Bruce, but I am decidedly not. I’ve been writing about music for a much shorter time, only about 15 years, so most likely I will get better at that.
One can argue that since Mick Jagger and Keith Richard are 187 years old and still playing rock and roll it’s not a young man’s sport any longer. Folk and roots music has always been much more forgiving about age. Pete Seeger, Doc Watson and many others perform(ed) well into their 80s. But marketing does rear its ugly head. I can recall seeing a folk diva that used 40 year old photos in her promos and ads. Odd, since she was/is still a very attractive middle aged woman, but apparently a more marketable young woman.
Since it’s an aging world, we can expect more guys with hair extensions and spandex pants still romping at 65 or 70. Ringo just hit 72, looks good and can still smack the drums well. Debbie Reynolds still tours. Synchronized walkers next? Probably.
What about us oldsters that want to try something new? Luckily, 70 is the new 60 or something like that. The truth is that taking up a musical instrument or learning to write songs probably is easier when we’re younger, but most of us older folks have something young people don’t and that’s free time. Unless some major physical maladies are involved, there is no reason why an older person can’t learn an instrument or start writing songs. Stretch yourself a little.
My goal is to continue as if I’ll live to 125, but with more focus on learning more about the instruments I play, and turning my “give-a-shitter” (Bob Brozman’s term for how we govern ourselves) way down when I perform.
So go out and support live music. Don’t notice how old the performers may be. Tip the wait staff, smile at your brother and everybody get together and try to love one another.
Dennis Roger Reed is a singer-songwriter, musician and writer based in San Clemente, CA. He’s released two solo CDs, and appeared on two CDs with the newgrassy Andy Rau Band and two CDs with the roots rockers Blue Mama. His prose has appeared in a variety of publications such as the OC Weekly and MOJO magazine. Writing about his music has appeared in an eclectic group of publications such as Bass Player, Acoustic Musician, Dirty Linen, Blue Suede News and Sing Out! His oddest folk resume entry would be the period of several months in 2002 when he danced onstage as part of both Little Richard’s and Paul Simon’s revues. He was actually asked to do the former and condoned by the latter. He apparently knows no shame.