Hebrew School


H. Schoolers CARE

Fulbright wrote, “in the long run of history, having people who understand your thought is much greater security than another submarine.”

That’s why I think TBC, bassist in Hebrew School, has been chosen, along with “fiddler on the record” A.J. Rabins, Sarah Alden (fiddle, voice) and Sean Condron (guitar, banjo, voice) to represent our country as The Hoppin’ John Stringband.

They’re on a state deparment-via-Lincoln Center mission of international exchange through music, education, collaboration and performance. Along the way, they’re hitting up Nicaragua, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Yep, the whole thing is pretty awesome.

Check them out the day before yesterday in Nicaragua’s capital…

Maybe they’ll return to Managua?

And be sure to check in with Taylor, Alicia, and Sarah as they blog on the road.

So glad these guys are representing our president…

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Pictures and videos from last Thursday’s show

Giancarlo Vulcano, Julia Barry, Tim Monaghan, David Griffin, Taylor Bergren-Chrisman.

Hebrew School had a really amazing show last Thursday. Thanks to all of you who came out and saw us. Here are some audiovisuals.

Check out more photos, including some really nice ones of Joemca & the Poets, on Hebrew School’s flickr.

Some videos:

Tout ce qu’on pense

Sara Sara



Giancarlo Vulcano, Vetro

Composer and guitarist Giancarlo Vulcano performed his 2008 release, Vetro, yesterday at Le Poisson Rouge. He was joined by Joshua Camp, Taylor Bergren-Chrisman, Jesse Schiffrin, and Yvonne Troxler.

Vetro was presented in its entirety on Sunday. Some observations:

a) The insistence yet lack of intrusion that brings a renewed meaning and a new life to (post-) minimalist spectres

b) Ostenatos stately and arpeggiated, delicately muted in Ligeti-esque chord clusters, or excavated from Lightnin’ Hopkins

c) These repeated phrases exquisitely pierced through with the sound of a reed or a bowed string

d) Infusions of narrative into a textural soundspace, perhaps aurally analogous to the representational picture rugs of Qashqai nomads

e) The enjoyment of being able to see music like this in a club setting as opposed to the concert hall, without failing to predict the latter full in a heartbeat

Buy the record here.



“So like, how’s your project going?”

There it is, that pervasive question the past year and a half. Jack wants to know, as does bubbe, an R train rider, the Jews, Obama pollwatchers, Sixpoint Hop Obama drinkers, Six Points fellow fellows, and an assorted cadre of friends of friends, enemies of enemies, would-be impresarios and so forth.

Because the fellowship has presented me with such a great opportunity to push my art into such an exciting new direction, with new territory and parameters, the project’s been like a bond of pregnancy for me (as close as I’ll ever know, anyway). When someone is pregnant, I don’t ask them, “So, how do you think you’ll be able to carry this baby to term?” or, “So, is this baby going to be a successful orthodontist when it grows up?” Rather, I say, mazel tov, or even better yet, besha’ah tovah, meaning “in good time.” To be honest, I’d rather let the thing come to fruition before removing its foreskin.

Which isn’t to say that I haven’t appreciated your questions. Very much so, in their sincerity, I have. And it isn’t to say, perhaps unlike traditional Jewish pregnancy, that some celebrating isn’t in order, and hence I will give you some details from the ultrasound:

Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, and Hebrew School has evolved into what could be described as my Trout Fishing in America. This is to say that Hebrew School might itself be a questioning individual, a dusty place with shafts of sunlight coming in, a paradoxical outlook, a brisket recipe, a living ideal (real or imagined), a past abutted against the present. The songs play out these conflicting scenarios as if they were generated from a computer by chance, meaning that, depending on who you are, some songs may be heartwarming, others reprehensible.

Hebrew School goes into the recording studio in November. I’m happy to say that we’ll be recording in my own neighborhood of South Brooklyn, and that I’ll be joined by members of Golem, Lucinda Black Bear, and other surprise special guests. The record’s release will occur early this spring, with an accompanying show. Keep checking this site for more details as they develop!



Las Rubias del Norte at Barbès

above: Emily Hurst, Allyssa Lamb, Taylor Bergren-Chrisman

There’s been a fairly long-running trend in the New York music scene of various admixtures of traditional and “world” musics. Often presented in venues where folks (most of whom happen to be, well, blond) might not otherwise see them, it’s useful to witness what can be done with traditional and modern forms in these contexts. But to be honest, a lot of times I find the phenomena to be reactionary or mockingly fetishistic of the cultures represented– a particularity of a social world bereft of meaning, thirstily knocking on doors, but not venturing too far. Obviously this an issue prevalent in “Jewish music” as well.

So, it was particularly nice this past Friday to go out and see a band that, without affectation or smugness, eschews all these real and imagined boundaries, playing the music they actually love with exuberance and soul, and giving tender care to the material they’re performing. Las Rubias del Norte are deeply and uncompromisingly rooted in the 20th-century music of the Americas, with particular emphasis on Tejano, Columbian, and Cuban music (though they really do span the continents). Yes, Castro may have stepped down, but his cigar still explodes.

Greg Stare, Timothy Quigley, Giancarlo Vulcano

And then there’s the musicianship of these folks as individuals and as a band. The female vocal harmonies are locked in; the rhythm section, with two percussionists and an upright bass player, feels like being inside an atomically accurate mechanical clockwork while on LSD. Meanwhile, Lamb effortlessly switches out on melodica and piano, Hurst on glockenspiel. It all gets you open with the incessant but solid dignity of Conan’s cuatro, and absurdly tasteful and magical harmonies and interweaving lines delivered by Vulcano on electric guitar.

in the shadows with his cuatro (at far right): Olivier Conan

“S/S/S (sorry so shakey)”

* * *

Las Rubias del web

Las Rubias del myspace

on NPR



Hebrew School at Banjo Jim’s

I’m happy to report on the success of Hebrew School’s first show this past Sunday at Banjo Jim’s. Since the show for me was somewhat experimental in nature– a way for me to chart the project’s musical direction in a live setting– I hadn’t publicized it widely outside of the blog. Nonetheless, a staunch group of dear friends came out to support me, including the amazing Jill Vogel, playwright Adam Mathias, director William Addis, Jorge Reichert, Innajara Simoes, and dear friend Kate Taylor.

Though tonight was largely a Six Points evening, it started out with a really fabulous singing and guitar-piano duo, the Pearl and the Beard.

above: Pearl, Beard

Clare Burson‘s new material is sweet and haunting.

My set, starting a little after 9:30, filled out the Super Bowl‘s calamitous fourth quarter for my hometown team, the New England Patriots. I literally watched the implosion occur as I played, on the TV screen above the bar. Nonetheless, the ruach (i.e., the Schwartz) was with me…

At a certain point I chose to ecstatically look at the ceiling instead. What would JJD?

…and thanks to the musicians I worked with, Taylor Bergren-Chrisman and Tim Monaghan, we did more than get the first downs. As a matter of fact, I believe we rocked.

Here’s a clip of the tail end of a work in progress entitled “He Looked at the Sun.” More videos to be posted on youtube soon!

The set included several more works in progress, including a song about hypocrisy in the Bible in the context of the current Israel/Palestinian struggle, an argument for atheism, and an incantation of love and reverence for God. Some songs use Jewish liturgical texts; some have original lyrics.

Dan Fishback phenomenized the defeatingly self-aware, post-structuralist woe of a twentysomething with the predictable vigor and candor.

Jeremiah Lockwood wove together a very different kind of blues, full of splendid tales of faith and murder, creatively and deftly accompanying himself– often in unison– with octave voicings on the guitar.

Thanks to those who came out, and keep an eye out for more Hebrew School in the not-too-distant future!