Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thursday Night at Grand Army Plaza: Yale Strom & Hot Pstromi play the music of Dave Tarras at the Central Library's Dweck Center

We had a terrific time tonight in the Dweck Center of the Central Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza, listening to Yale Strom and his excellent band Hot Pstromi peform the gorgeous music of Dave Tarras (our great-great-uncle, married to our beloved Aunt Shifra) and discuss Yale's book, Dave Tarras - The King of Klezmer.

Joining Yale Strom on violin were some amazing and versatile musicians: Peter Stan, who flew in from Zimbabwe this morning, on accordion;

David Licht
, founding member of the Klezmatics, on drums/percussion;

Sprocket on bass;

and on reeds -- clarinet, saxophone, piccolo and about five other instruments, it seemed -- Norbert Stachel.

In between the fantastic numbers,

Yale talked about Dave Tarras' life and music. From what we've seen so far of Yale Strom's book about Dave Tarras, which we happily bought at evening's end, it's a great resource. We already have read about how Uncle Dave and Aunt Shifra took her little niece Ethel (our Grandma Ethel Shapiro Sarrett) when they fled Czarist Russia back in 1918, and how Dave's first job in America was working in his brother-in-law, our great-grandfather (who, based our experiences with him, was not such a nice guy). Tonight we found this 1931 or 1932 pic of our mom, Marilyn, as a baby with Grandma Ethel's first cousins, including Dave and Shifra's daughters Brauny (who married the brilliant musician Sam Musiker) and Rose.

Yale mentioned how in the Ternovka area near Uman in what's now Ukraine, the klezmer musicians like the Tarras family interacted with, influenced, and were influenced by the Roma, and the music of nearby Bessarabia, Moldavia (now Moldova) and Romania, as in this incredible "A Rumenisher Nign," performed by Uncle Dave in this recording:

Our old friend the clarinetist Bert Stratton of the Cleveland band Yiddishe Cup (who wrote this great Mother's Day op-ed column for the New York Times) has a ten-foot tall plywood cut-out/statue of Uncle Dave (created by the band's vocalist Irwin Weinberger) in his basement.

Here is a pic of Dave Tarras at our bar mitzvah reception at the Deauville, a beach club in Sheepshead Bay, on Saturday night, May 30, 1964. We were such ignorant kids then that we didn't realize how frustrating it must have been for this most brilliant of all klezmer musicians

to play stuff we listened to, like "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "She Loves You." But Uncle Dave and his band played everything, including the Beatles, really well. It was only when we got older that we realized his true excellence, as on our absolute favorite of his CDs, Tanz! With Dave Tarras and the Musiker Brothers, the brilliant, revolutionary 1955 blend of klezmer and swing.

Thanks to Yale Strom and his band,

tonight we were able to remember the life and music of Dave Tarras (and to meet his grandson Dr. Marc Tarras and his kids, our third cousins), and for that we're very grateful.

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