The Red Hot Chachkas have been delighting audiences in the San Francisco Bay Area for over ten years with their mix of traditional klezmer tunes and original compositions. Their music is inspired by the 1970's revival of traditional East European klezmer by groups such as The Klezmorim and Kapelye, plus the fusion of klezmer with other musical genres by next-generation artists such as the Klezmatics, Brave Old World, and the New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars. Readers of the j. voted the Red Hot Chachkas best klezmer band in 2006, and best klezmer band and best dance band in 2007. The group was featured on a KQED-TV "Spark*" show in summer 2007.
While the 2002 recording "Family Album" grounded itself in traditional tunes and original compositions that aspired to continue that tradition, while venturing briefly into the improvisational realm, "Spice It Up!" shows what five more years of playing, listening, and composing can do for a band; the Chachkas stretch their wings every which way! Over half the 18 tracks are original compositions on a klezmer foundation, with hints of jazz, avant-garde, oldtime, and even garage rock ("Rocky Hora"), and generous dollops of improvisation throughout.
THE RED HOT CHACHKAS:
* Julie Egger: violin, viola, electric violin
* Barbara Speed: Bb clarinet, tenor & soprano saxophones, C & alto flutes
* Tony Phillips: mandolin, octave mandolin, electric mandolin
* Rob Reich: accordion, guitar
* Breck Diebel: bass
* Michael Arrow: drums, dumbek
1::Kostakowsky's Sher No. 4 (Traditional, arr. Red Hot Chachkas © 2007) 3:42
This traditional sher is from Nat Kostakowsky's International Hebrew Wedding Music, published in 1916 (now available as The Ultimate Klezmer, and recommended). Kandel's Orchestra recorded a version in 1918 as "Rusishe Sher." As with most sher melodies, sections can be mixed-and-matched to fit the square dance choreography.
2::Isaac in Kolomej (Traditional, arr. Rob Reich © 2007) 2:52
Rob transcribed this lively tune from a recording by a Polish-American band, Orkiestra Majkuta, circa 1930 (found on Arhoolie's American Masters series, vol. 7). For this CD, our concept was to merge klezmer with a variety of other musical genres, such as the Romanian-style interlude here.
3::Elena's Waltz (Breck Diebel © 2007) 2:12
Bassist Breck is relatively new to klezmer, and he composed this piece to combine klezmer elements with the traditional European waltz. We hope you'll agree that the result is lovely.
4::Chosidl Diddle (Barbara Speed © 2007) 3:34
.... the clarinet and the fiddle, and who jumped over the moon? Clarinetist Barb composed this chosidl, which is a walking tempo dance, spiced up Chachka-style with drummer Michael's reggae intro.
5::Stomp It Up (Barbara Speed © 2007) 2:38
Barbara wrote this soon after joining the Chachkas, to reflect her excitement about being in the group and soaking up the klezmer style. She tried to write a dance tune in the tradition, but she's played in a lot of other styles, and it shows. It starts out as a bulgarish, but gets bluegrassish, and then heads out to sea.
6::Suite Matthew (Julie Egger © 2007) 4:28
Julie wrote this song in memory of a wonderful friend, bassist Matthew Sperry. He played many types of music, including klezmer and avant-garde, and was a Red Hot Chachka for several years. He died in a tragic accident in 2003. We take this tune outside as a nod to Matthew.
7::Der Rabbi in der Arbes Gortn (Tony Phillips © 2007) 2:30
Tony's affection for Southern old-time music has inspired klezmerized versions from some classic Americana sources. This one derives from a song that Uncle Dave Macon recorded in 1927: I'm up on the hillside / Rakin' up leaves / The rabbi's in the pea patch / Eatin' up the peas.
8::Tanz Medley (Traditional, arr. Red Hot Chachkas © 2007) 6:34
We learned three favorite traditional melodies from Josh Horowitz's wonderful recordings with Budowitz. Beckerman's Hora is a slow, limping 3/4 dance, recorded in 1923 by clarinetist Shloimke Beckerman with the Abe Schwartz Orchestra as "Trinkt Briderlach Lechayim" (Drink Brothers, Cheers). Belf's Chosidl is a walking-tempo dance that typically was passed along aurally from musician to musician, most notably Belf's Orchestra, with different names in different times and places. Pedotser's Tants is a hopke or hopping dance from nineteenth century composer Aron Moyshe "Pedotser" Kholodenko, who lived in Ukraine.
9::Sha! (Traditional, arr. Red Hot Chachkas © 2007) 3:41
At weddings and other simchas, we're likely to play this freylach, a traditional dance tune with frenzied energy, as the chosen and kalle (bride and groom), or other honored persons, are lofted in chairs, and family and friends dance wildly around them.
10::Little Gouda (Julie Egger © 2007) 5:00
When Julie is the Big Cheese at KlezCalifornia, her daughter Hannah is the Little Gouda, and this tune is for her. Julie originally wrote it a few years ago when she got a composition grant, and now we've added some flair and a bit of a jam. It is hot!
11::Third Glass of Wine (Rob Reich © 2007) 2:45
Under the influence of tunes such as "A Glezele Vayn" (A Glass of Wine), and "Nokh a Glezele Vayn" (Another Glass of Wine), Rob pours a new round with the "Third Glass of Wine." (For completeness, Tony promises a follow-up ... "Fourth Glass.")
12::Der Cholem Fun Yid (Traditional, arr. Rob Reich © 2007) 2:43
On a transcontinental plane trip, Rob heard and transcribed this stately hora from a 1955 recording by the great clarinetist Dave Tarras. Julie starts the melody on violin, and then it's passed around. Note the cool and unusual resolving figure.
13::Cholent (Julie Egger © 2007) 5:29
Cholent is a stew made on Friday for Shabbos. In our recipe, viola and tenor saxophone blend in a freygish improv. When rest of the band asked, "What should we do?" Julie just said, "You'll figure it out." Oy, here we go! Latin and Middle-Eastern flavors develop, with jammy characteristics, and a smoky finish.
14::Sholom (Julie Egger © 2007) 3:23
After the last Intifada, Julie felt overwhelmed by the Middle East situation, and composed this piece to address her hopelessness. "Sholom" is the Yiddish spelling of the Hebrew shalom (peace). She hopes that the Powers That Be will hear it, and that it will bring peace. Featuring Tony on octave mandolin, Rob on guitar, and Barb on C flute.
15::Little Rabbi (Tony Phillips © 2007) 3:08
Another old-time tune refashioned by Tony, this one based on "Little Rabbit, Where's Your Mammy?," which Crockett's Kentucky Mountaineers recorded around 1928, and a Bugs Bunny cartoon featured in the thirties. There are many different versions, but ours is even more different, and makes a nice sher.
16::Son Kuslar (Traditional, arr. Tony Phillips © 2007 ) 3:31
This tune comes from a CD by a contemporary Turkish group, Yansimalar. Alto flute and octave mandolin substitute here for ney and gitar-tanbur. The tune has some very nice twists, but Turkish weblink to "Click here for English" didn't work, so we can't say much about it.
17::Shofar (Barbara Speed © 2007) 4:18
The shofar is a ram's horn used in Jewish ritual, sounded on solemn occasions. Barbara wanted to write a stately klezmer hora, with its slow, limping 3/4 rhythm. Once again other styles crept in; this time we seem to be in the company of some friendly Irish folk! Barbara is very moved by this rendition of her melody.
18::Rocky Hora (Tony Phillips © 2007) 9:25
An improvised genre-bender, doing the time warp to a yiddish hora vamp. Recorded at Chris K's castle on the hill in West Transylvania, with our usual klezmer instruments transplanted by the classic garage band sounds of tenor sax, Zeta electric violin, "krekhts-baby" Fender 5-string electric mandolin, and an organ solo squeezed from Rob's accordion.
Total time = 72 minutes