ADRIENNE COOPER AND FRIENDS
YIDDISH BOOK CENTER
SUNDAY, JUNE 12, 2011
Review and Photos by Seth Rogovoy
(AMHERST, Mass.) – Vocalist Adrienne Cooper performed an eclectic cabaret of Yiddish and Yiddish-inspired songs on Sunday, drawing from the deep well of Old World and New World influences that keep the music alive and speak deeply to the heart of this vibrant culture.
Backed by a sterling quartet featuring pianist Marilyn Lerner, clarinetist Michael Winograd, and bassist Garth Stevenson, Cooper took the audience at the National Yiddish Book Center on a journey through Yiddish folk, theater, art, cabaret and klezmer tunes, and also touched down in the contemporary realm, with original songs written or co-written by Cooper and some of her colleagues from the Yiddish/klezmer revival of which she has been a central figure, including Frank London (she sang several selections from their musical-theater collaboration with Jenny Romaine, The Memoir of Gluckl of Hameln) and Joshua Waletzky.
Of course as in any Yiddish cabaret, there had to be a medley of songs about food, and concertgoers stomachs were heard to begin growling with all the references to herring, gefilte fish, borsht, and shmaltz – the kind you spread, not the musical kind, of which there was none at this show, given the level of virtuosity onstage.
Winograd, who produced Cooper’s recent recording, Enchanted: A New Generation of Yiddishsong, is one of the most exciting and innovative visionaries in the new generation of Yiddish
musicians who grew up learning their craft first-hand from the likes of Cooper and London, and it showed in his playing that was firmly grounded in Yiddish and klezmer tradition while at the same time was expressive of his own personality and with an accent of his time.
Lerner was simply amazing, but she comes already that way. Her career and accomplishments span classical, jazz, experimental, improvisational and Jewish music, and she is worthy of a solo program all her own. Cooper turned the stage over to Lerner for a number in which the pianist
replicated an Old World-style listening tune, something that may have been played on a tsimbl, the Yiddish hammered dulcimer, and Lerner even reached into the guts of the piano to pluck the strings toward the end to evoke that sound gorgeously.
While some in the audience may have been touched a bit by nostalgia, by no means did this performance rely on nostalgia to get across. This was vibrant, present-day music, articulated by one of the premiere Yiddish theatrical vocalists of our time, in a program that made
the case for Yiddish as a very contemporary and much-needed voice. It was certainly much appreciated.
Seth Rogovoy is the author of The Essential Klezmer: A Music Lover’s Guide to Jewish Roots and Soul Music, the all-time bestselling guide to klezmer.