Rabbi Joe Black and the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band Review - A Rousing Performance at the Old Town School of Folk Music

It was a dreary, overcast damp and chilly November day when my husband and I headed to the The Old Town School of Folk Music where Rabbi Joe Black was performing with the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band as they launched the Hanukkah season together. And what better way to move forward from Thanksgiving? This was the only Chicago-area performance of their show, “Eight Nights of Joy” - an exuberant synthesis of Rabbi Black's original songs and dynamic guitar mastery with the energy and creative genius of Chicago's own Klezmer Big Band.  This was energizing and entertaining for the audience that filled every seat. I, for one, arrived with my husband, chilled, tired and grumpy and left energized, exuberant and warm.  This was a high energy performance with music that moved the audience to keep time to the music by clapping, tapping  and sometimes singing along.  This was the perfect antidote to the short, dark, winter day.

Entering Old Town School of Folk Music


The program was primarily comprised of Hanukkah songs but didn’t stop there.  Sukkot and Passover fit in and songs about Moses, too. Rabbi Joe Black interspersed limericks from a book of limericks to match each chapter in the Torah.  We couldn’t resist purchasing that book and a couple of CD’s, too. Paticipants also included member trained inThe Junior Klezmer Orchestra, a youth band that Alex Koffman (the violinist) and Lori Lippits have been leading since 1994. This was a one time only delight but watch carefully for future opportunities.


The lobby at Old Town School of Folk Music



Robbi Joe Black

Joe Black


Rabbi Joe Black is known for his guitar virtuosity, soaring voice, and lyrics that are funny, inspirational, and thought-provoking. A pioneer of Jewish Contemporary music, Rabbi Black has performed for congregations and communities around the world, and his music is played and recorded by many artists. His recordings and books have received accolades from sources as diverse as The New York Times, Hadassah Magazine, Parent's Choice and The American Library Journal. Rabbi Black has recorded five critically-acclaimed albums of Jewish music including Eight Nights of Joy, recorded live in concert with the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band. An Evanston native, Rabbi Black serves as Senior Rabbi at Temple Emanuel in Denver, Colorado, a position he has held since 2011. Rabbi Black’s Blog


Anticipating the show

Maxwell Street Klezmer Band


Writer and historian Studs Terkel wrote, “The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band is a joyous celebration of music that was—and fortunately, still is.” Named for Chicago's colorful Sunday marketplace, Maxwell Street Klezmer Band embodies the spirit of Jewish immigrant America. The band has played at Carnegie Hall and toured Europe. Founded in 1983 by Lori Lippitz, Maxwell Street marked the band's 30th “Bandiversary” at The Old Town School of Folk Music in 2013. Musical Director and violinist Alex Koffman was recently the soloist with the Chicago Sinfonietta in a classical klezmer composition created for him. The band was featured in 2014 with The Lyric Opera of Chicago in the world's first klezmer opera, “The Property.” As singer and actor Theodore Bikel said, “These are fine musicians…they care about the music. And when they care—I care.”


Rabbi Joe Black says these are the finest musicians in the city.  I agree.


WFMT sponsored this performance and will feature the The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band in a Hannukah performance on December 29th.

The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band is supported by the Klezmer Music Foundation, Inc., an Illinois not-for-profit organization.    The Klezmer Music Foundation website

The Klezmer Band website


Rabbi Joe, "The Klezettes" and the Maxwell St. Klezmer Band


Full Band, Photo: Courtesy of Lori Lippitz

Reviews of “Eight Nights of Joy” (the show and the album):
“The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band teamed up with Rabbi Joe Black to create a great Chanukah show for Temple Sholom in Chicago. Now you can join in the fun. It's more than a children's album, although there are some great pieces for the kids, especially the new ones composed by Joe Black. He has a great ear for combining lyrics with the American folk and country sound, which work well. There are also some fantastic jazz arrangements with Maxwell Street.” -Jewish Music Web Center


“'Eight Nights of Joy' proves a most delightful blend of traditional and new, with styles ranging from klezmer and Yiddish song to jazz, bluegrass, country, rock 'n' roll, swing and even Soca….Not only is ‘Eight Nights of Joy' a superbly consistent album, but, more than compelling, it is also utterly charming, enchanting, and just plain enjoyable.”
-Richard Rainlore, Rainlore's World of Music, London


You need to both watch and listen to Alex Koffman


Alex Koffman Solo, Photo: Courtesy of Lori Lippitz

 Photos:  By B. Keer unless otherwise noted.

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