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