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ClassicsOnline Home » UNITED STATES Yale Strom: Garden of Yidn
By Derek Reid
"The bloom of Yale Strom's CD is its considered subtlety as a history lesson...Strom draws our attention right from the start...Given the time, here is a place for everything. The bands are each identifiable and Elisabeth Schwartz's Yiddish is just right."
By Seth Rogovoy
The Essential Klezmer and Sing Out
"Yale Strom's considerable talents as an arranger, composer, folklorist, musician, producer and all-around musical visionary have never been put to better use than they have on Garden of Yidn (Naxos World). For 20 years, Strom has been dishing out the fruits of his field research in Eastern Europe and his own imagination in a variety of forms and to varying effect. He puts it all together on Garden of Yidn, which with its combination of original compositions and Yiddish and Sephardic folk melodies in jazzy arrangements has the feel of late-night Jewish cabaret. The revelation of the album, however, is vocalist Elizabeth Schwartz, who channels her wide-ranging background in musical theater, blues, rock and jazz into a vivid, contemporary Yiddish idiom that needs no translation."
With heartfelt sincerity and a deep reverence, New York Jewish musician/artist Yale Strom has created Garden Of Yidn ('Yidn' meaning Jews in Yiddish), a remarkable and researched journey into the roots of European Jewish songs.
More than just klezmer, this collection focuses on the near-forgotten as well as beloved melodies of Yiddish and Ladino vocal music. From its Middle-Eastern modalities, Gypsy (Rom) influences, and Romanian and Russian melodies, Strom presents a reflection of Yiddish history and traditions so real and true, the music isn't just revived. It comes alive!
Taking a collection of familiar East-European Jewish songs, including such favorites as 'Moscow Nights', Strom gives unusual arrangements to each composition to expand its musical form, as well as creates new, original pieces that hark back to this fascinating genre. Garden Of Yidn interprets the rich musical forms of Jewish traditional songs in exciting new ways.
Recorded in both San Diego and New York, Strom has made the CD a showcase for the expressive voice of Elizabeth Schwartz who is also his wife. Featuring the performances of musicians in two different bands led by Strom, the bi-coastal project includes Klazzj in California and the New York-based Hot Pstromi. Other guest artists include Damian Draghici who plays nai (panflute) on 'Doina Tirgu Frumos'. He is considered the preeminent panflutist in the world. Also, renowned jazz artist Bud Burridge plays the flugelhorn on 'Moscow Nights'.
Drawing his material from East-European Yiddish music, Garden of Yidn includes melodies researched from Polish popular songs, Czarist Russia, Turkish melodies in Ladino (Judeo-Espanol) lyrics and various other European countries including Romania and Latvia. There are also compositions based from Strom's symphony, Aliyot. The result is a fascinating and historic perspective of Jewish culture across the old world.
But then, the thorough and exhaustive work is not surprising, considering violinist Yale Strom's resume. A filmmaker, musician, writer, photographer, and composer, the New York-based Strom has done extensive research and work among the Jews and Gypsies (Rom) of Central and Eastern Europe since 1981. With his backpack, cameras, and violin, he trekked to remote parts of Europe and lived with his informants to get a first hand look at those survivors reconstructing their lives after World War II. So far, he has produced three documentary films, several photo-documentary books and leads two klezmer groups - Klazzj in San Diego and Hot Pstromi in New York - for which he has released a number of CDs. Garden Of Yidn is his first CD for the World Music division of the internationally recognized budget label, Naxos.
Singer Elizabeth Schwartz possesses a raw and powerful voice that has become a favorite among fans and fellow klezmer musicians for its unusually dusky timbre. Despite early training in musical theatre, Schwartz has always been more interested in American blues, rock and roll, and jazz vocalese. All of these influences can be heard in her interpretation and phrasing, while at the same time retaining the inherently traditional nature of the music. Strom might have been a mentor to her in the klezmer Yiddish genre, but, as Strom readily admits, "her astute interpretation and emotionalism comes from her soul."
With Garden Of Yidn, fiddler Yale Strom transports the listener back to a remarkable era of Jewish culture. It's a trip into the traditional and one that also pushes into the future. Come on into the garden.
Yale Strom (violin) was a pioneer among revivalists in conducting extensive field research in Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans among the Jewish and Rom communities. Initially, his work focused primarily on the use and performance of klezmer music among these two groups. Gradually, his focus increased to examining all aspects of their culture, from post-World War II to the present. His klezmer field research helped form the base for the repertoires of his two klezmer bands, Hot Pstromi in New York and Klazzj in San Diego.
This research has also resulted in photo-documentary books (including "The Last Jews of Eastern Europe" and "Uncertain Roads: Searching for the Gypsies"), three documentary films ("At the Crossroads", "The Last Klezmer", and "Carpati: 50 Miles, 50 Years"), a feature film ("On The Q.T.", starring James Earl Jones) and seven klezmer CD recordings.
Since Yale's first band began in 1981, he has been composing his own "New Jewish" music, which combines klezmer with Hasidic nigunim, Rom, jazz, classical, Balkan and Sephardic motifs. These compositions range from quartets to a symphony which premiered with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. He also composed all the "New Jewish" music for the National Public Radio series "Jewish Short Stories: From the Old World to the New", hosted by Leonard Nimoy.
Radio personality and social historian Seth Rogovoy says, "Strom doesn't merely recapitulate new versions of the same standard repertoire. He discovers previously unknown melodies... and develops arrangements that are often heavily flavored with co-territorial influences. Strom also adds his own world-beat-influenced touches to the arrangements", and cites Strom's compositions as "long, dynamic, inventive instrumentals."
FolkRoots Magazine says of Strom, "This young giant leaves a lasting impression on my mind... A modern urban klezmer? It would be demeaning to call him that but there is a traditional character expressed in this music and the continually outpouring of so much from time past."
Jewish Herald Voice listed Strom's CD "Hot Pstromi: With a Little Horseradish on the Side" as the number one recording of 1993, adding "In future years, they'll talk about this album as a milestone."
Elizabeth Schwartz (vocals) sings with the bands Hot Pstromi and Klazzj, and has performed across the country in such venues as New York's Knitting Factory, with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and with the San Diego Chamber Orchestra in a symphony composed by Yale Strom.
The chief classical music critic of the San Diego Union Tribune wrote, "The song settings were involving, especially as sung by Elizabeth Schwartz... Displaying attractively dusky tones and a keen sense of pitch, Schwartz presented the songs with beguiling simplicity."
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UNITED STATES Yale Strom: Garden of Yidn