Klezmer Supergroup The Brothers Nazaroff Revive "Yiddish Pendant to the Anthology of American Folk Music"
Smithsonian Folkways presents The Brothers Nazaroff: The Happy Prince, a boisterous, high-energy tribute to cult Yiddish troubadour Nathan “Prince” Nazaroff, who recorded the mysterious Folkways 10-inch record Jewish Freilach Songs in 1954. International klezmer supergroup The Brothers Nazaroff, composed of Daniel Kahn, Psoy Korolenko, Michael Alpert, Jake Shulman-Ment, Bob Cohen, and Hampus Melin, breathe new life into the discordant, obscure, jubilant legacy of their Happy Prince.
In the mid-20th century, Yiddish music in America was generally relegated to lullabies, elegies, and folk songs that had been Americanized and presented in a watered-down, decorous style. Enter, then, the "Prince." There is little information about Nazaroff other than that he may have immigrated to the U.S. in 1914, was of Jewish Russian descent, and was a self-described “big time” performer. Other than one photograph, few details about him or his life are known. Nazaroff’s Jewish Freilach Songs, a rollicking, rebellious, joyful album (“Freilach” means happy, after all) not only embraces but flaunts its Yiddish roots at full volume. As writer Michael Wex (Born to Kvetch) observes in the liner notes of The Happy Prince, Nazaroff’s original album is “a vinyl Yiddish counterpart to those old cartoons where the toys in the shop come to life after hours and misbehave.”
It’s no wonder that, upon discovering Jewish Freilach Songs, the members of The Brothers Nazaroff, all esteemed klezmer musicians in their own right, were compelled to join forces. They were assured that these songs deserve a place in the current Yiddish cultural revival and in the ears of modern audiences. Speaking of Nazaroff’s original album, Wex comments, “If there had been Yiddish bar bands in America in the early 1950s, this is what they would have sounded like.” The Brothers Nazaroff are that very bar band for the 21st century.
“Vander Ich Mir Lustig (While I'm Happily Walking)” is a celebratory romp of financial ruin, flash floods, and marital dysfunction, while “Freilachs (Medley of Freilachs)” is a chant-driven folk dance with the “sonic energy of a punk rock hoedown” (Kahn). “Yiddel Mit Zein Fidel (Little Jew with His Fiddle),” taken from a recording Nazaroff made in 1928, highlights Jake Shulman-Ment’s masterful fiddle playing. Album artwork for The Happy Prince is by renowned illustrator Ben Katchor (The Cardboard Valise, Hand-Drying in America, The Jew of New York).
The Brothers Nazaroff are: Daniel Kahn aka “Danik Nazaroff” (accordion, also of Daniel Kahn & The Painted Bird), Psoy Korolenko “Pasha Nazaroff” (vocals, also of Psoy Korolenko and Opa!), NEA National Heritage Fellow Michael Alpert aka “Mishka Nazaroff” (guitar, also of Brave Old World), Bob Cohen “Zaelic Nazaroff” (mandolin, also of Naye Kapelye), Jake Shulman-Ment aka “Yankl Nazaroff” (fiddle, also of Daniel Kahn & The Painted Bird), and Hampus Melin “Hempl Nazaroff” (drums, also of You Shouldn't Know From It). The members of the group hail from all over the world and, have, through their love of the music, as Kahn says, “become a family of Nazaroffs. Like the Ramones, or the 3 Mustaphas 3.” The group is also the subject of an upcoming documentary feature film , directed by Csaba Bereczki (Hukkle, 2002; Ktown Cowboys, 2015), following The Brothers all over the new world and the old, from Quebec to New York to Romania to Paris to Berlin, due out in 2016.
Album Release Shows:October 25, 2015
Ukranian National Home
140 2nd Ave. New York, NY
7pmNovember 9, 2015SPACE1245 Chicago Ave. Evanston, ILTime TBDevanstonspace.firstname.lastname@example.org
The Brothers Nazaroff: The Happy Prince Track List:
- Vander Ich Mir Lustig (While I'm Happily Walking)
- Tumbala Laika
- Ihr Fregt Mich Vos Ich Troier (You Ask Me Why I'm Mournful)
- Arum Dem Feier (Around the Fire)
- Freilachs (Medley of Freilachs)
- Maidlach Vie Blumen (Girls Are Like Flowers)
- Der Koptzen (The Poor Man)
- Fishalach (Little Fish)
- Ich A Mazeldicker Yid (Oh! Am I a Mazeldicker Jew!)
- Maidlid (Maiden Song)
- Ich Flee (I Fly)
- Yiddel Mit Zein Fidel (Little Jew with His Fiddle)
- Krasnoarmeyskaya Pesn' (Red Army Song)
- Now Sing Along with the Prince (Hava Nagila)