(4/21/2006)
A  N.Y. Debut for Yiddishe Cup
by George Robinson

Oh, the shame of it!  Most of the Yiddishe Cup klezmer band members have never been to Brooklyn.  Think of that -- American Jews who have never been to Brooklyn.

Yiddishe Cup can be forgiven for this otherwise massive faux pas.  After all, the Cleveland band members juggle their musical commitments with day jobs that range from real estate to teaching in middle schools.  How else would you explain a band whose CDs received rave reviews in these pages but which is only making its New York debut now, nearly 20 years after its genesis?

In truth, Yiddishe Cup is a band that was made for a hip Jewish New York audience.  It's a wildly funny amalgam of Mickey Katz, Spike Jones, PDQ Bach and straight-ahead klezmer.  The band, which started out as a straight klezmer group that included two of the musicians who later founded Budowitz, evolved into primarily a comedy act about a decade ago.  Is it funny?

Just ask the Midwestern audience who have experienced their brand of mishegoss.

"In Cleveland we sometimes wind up playing for relatives of Mickey Katz," says band founder and reed player Bert Stratton.  "We are a 'territory band,' covering Ohio and the rest of the Midwest.  If we get too close to Chicago, Maxwell Street [Klezmer Band]'s hit men threaten us.  We are fortunate to own Detroit, which is very good business.  There are a lot of simchas [festive events] in Detroit."

A lot of the band's Midwestern gigs are played before non-Jews, Stratton explains, so the members are particularly happy to be coming to New York.

"We're excited to play for a knowledgeable audience," he says.  "When we play 'Essen,' the New Yorkers will actually understand the jokes and references.  It doesn't go over well in Ohio."

What's more, when the band plays the title tune from their most recent CD, "Meshugeneh Mambo," the Brooklyn audience may very well include some Latino Jews.

At any rate, Stratton and the gang are prepared for the Apple.

"We're going to go extra heavy on the neo-Borscht Belt klezmer comedy," he says.  "I mean, we've spent 18 years learning this stuff and playing it for Midwest goyim who go 'huh?'  About time New York and Yiddishe Cup made this shidduch [arranged marriage]."

Welcome to Brooklyn, guys.

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Yiddishe Cup makes it New York debut at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 23 at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts.

 

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