Did the klezmer revival begin on the East Coast in the late 1970s? Nyet, tovaritch! It happened on the West Coast,
y e a r s earlier. Seth Rogovoy asks Lev Liberman for the inside story (thus becoming the first
klezmer chronicler to actually consult somebody who was there):
[Q:] In the liner notes to First Recordings 1976-78, you
write "My search for klezmer music began back in 1971 when I deduced that a
single unknown genre had linked Russian and Rumanian folk music to
Depression-era cartoon soundtracks, early jazz, and the compositions of
Gershwin, Weill, and Prokofiev." Could you elaborate on the process of
deduction that gave birth to this realization?
[A:] Just a damn good ear. I trust my ear — it's my
- Raised on Prokofiev and The Piatnitsky Chorus, I walked around with Russian
harmonies and sonorities in my head all the time. Lieutenant Kijé
is my favorite score.
- While at Pomona College in Southern California (1970-72), I performed and
recorded with a Yiddish band called The Mishpoche. Some of the players had been
refugees from Hitler, and after a few drinks they'd play these exotic,
absolutely corking fast instrumental numbers; I wanted to find more tunes like
- Dick Barnes, my favorite professor at Pomona, turned me on to Cab Calloway
— and, by extension, Duke Ellington's Jungle Band and Sidney Bechet
— via Betty Boop cartoons.
- Like every other would-be jazzer, I played "Summertime" frequently, even in
winter. Old Astaire/Rogers movies tuned my ear to lesser-known Gershwin
- In my Brecht phase, I listened to lots of Kurt Weill; went ape over the
stately, sinister sound of Mahagonny and the 1931 Lotte Lenya
Dreigroschen Opera soundtrack. It intrigued me that The Doors had mined
that vein with "Whiskey Bar."
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Copyright © 1996 - 2012 Lev Liberman. All rights reserved.