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Wolf Krakowski: Yidishe Neshome (Jewish Soul)
at the University of
Connecticut (March 26, 2003)
 

I wish I could have brought my =tate= to the UConn campus at
Storrs last week to hear Wolf Krakowski and his band.  Daddy would have
loved it. He came to America from the Ukraine at 14 and became a glazier,
but his heart was always in the theatre. He met my Mama at the Yiddish
Theatre on Second Avenue, and as soon as I was old enough, he took me to as many performances as he could afford. That was a while ago. My sons also
love to make music, they are fluent in Spanish rather than Yiddish, and play
blues, jazz, and rock rather then klezmer or Yiddish show tunes. When Wolf
and The Lonesome Brothers made music at UConn, time telescoped and all of the generations were there.
 
If I were a musicologist, not just a besotted music lover, I could explain how Wolf Krakowski manages to take both traditional , ("Shabes, Shabes" and "Tsen Brider," "Ten Brothers")  and funky  ("Khvel Shoyn Mer Nisht Ganvenen," "I Wonąt Steal Anymore") folk songs, as well as complex poetry by Benzion Witler, ("Varshe," "Warsaw" and "Tate- Mame,"  "My Father and Mother") and Shmerke Kaczerginski, ("Friling," "Springtime" and "Gib Zhe Khaver ARoykher Ton," "Buddy, Have A Smoke With Me")
 
and to weave them seamlessly together with music ranging from blues, tango,
and country ­rock to reggae. All I know is that while the words grabbed my
heart, the music attached to my nerve endings and I wanted to dance, cry, or
fly, depending on which poem Wolf was singing in his rich but unpretentious
baritone as a saxophone or lead guitar wound itself around the vocals adding
the voice of yet another soul. When the three women back up singers echoed a phrase, a la Leonard Cohen, laughter and tears come simultaneously. Since
last week's concert I canąt stop singing   "Shabes, Shabes", with Wolf's
reggae beat, to my 15 month old granddaughter Shira Belle McGinity.
 
She loves it. She too enjoys an international =yidishe neshome= (Jewish
soul).
 
It was well worth the drive from Boston to Storrs to hear and see Wolf Krakowski and his group. The Lonesome Brothers: Jim Armenti
(guitars, saxophone)  Ray Mason (bass guitar) and Tom Shea (drums) played
with great animo and verve along with Daniel Lombardo (percussion), Seth
Austen (National steel guitar, mandolin, fiddle) and Beverly Woods
(accordion and tenor banjo).The three women back up singers, Fraidy Katz,
Jaye Simms, and Pamela Smith-Selavka added very individual personalities to their perfect harmonies. The musicians" interaction with one another and the
audience was subtle and fun to be part of. The songs they played were from
both Wolf Krakowski's Yiddish CDs: " Transmigrations: Gilgul" and "Goyrl: Destiny" (Tzadik Records).  I eagerly await the next concert and the next CD.

Mae Rockland Tupa is an artist and author living in Brookline MA. Among her
books are "The Jewish Yellow Pages", 1976 and "The New Work of Our Hands, Contemporary  Jewish Needlework and Quilts", 1994.