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artist Geoff Berner

Vancouver, BC, CANADA
Jericho Beach Music
genres
Klezmer
plays
20,790


biographical info

“I want to drag klezmer music kicking and screaming back into the bars.” That’s the goal of Vancouver singer-songwriter-accordion player Geoff Berner, with his new album, “Whiskey Rabbi”, originally released in Canada in 2005 on Black Hen Records, and in Europe on the Checkpoint Charlie Audio Productions label. The CD was recorded by Steve Dawson with Diona Davies (Po’ Girl) on violin and Wayne Adams (Zolty Cracker) on percussion. Over the past few years, Berner's music has incorporated more and more elements of klezmer. After numerous international tours, festival appearances in Canada and Europe, airplay on national radio in 5 countries, and opening slots on tour with artists such as Billy Bragg, Kaizers Orchestra, Corb Lund, Po' Girl and the Be Good Tanyas (who covered his song "Light Enough to Travel"), he's garnered critical acclaim and a cult following for his sharp songwriting and cabaret performance style, (see press kit and quote sheet). "Whiskey Rabbi" marks his transition to a consistent style--klezmer informed with the energy and passion of punk. “I want to make original klezmer music that’s drunk, dirty, political and passion- ate. As a Jew of eastern european descent, I feel I have a calling to make this music live, not just preserve it under glass like something in a museum.” The lyrics exemplify this approach. For instance, “Song Written in a Romanian Hospital” is a darkly humorous meditation on mortality, played at breakneck speed. Berner wrote it in bed at the Infectious Disease Unit in Brasov, Romania. In May/June 2004, his trio travelled to rural Romania to investigate the roots of klezmer with their guide and klezmer guru, Bob Cohen, leader of Budapest band Di Naye Kapelye. They returned with a deeper understanding of the music, quite a few stories to tell, and a solid apreciation for the fragility of good fortune. The luck theme appears again in “Lucky Goddamn Jew” with a rueful admission that suffering has not enobled the Jewish people above the rest of humanity. “Now I’ve got my own country/Where I am free to persecute/People with less luck than me.” “Traveller’s Curse” is a stark, sharp-tongued condemnation of those who mistreat displaced people. That theme is also a thread throughout the album. It’s especially evident in “The Violins”, a klezmer setting of a poem by Palestinian writer Mahmoud Darwich. It would be tempting to paint Berner as a kind of klezmer rebel, but he maintains that he is working firmly in the true tradition. “When we went to Romania, we found musicians who are masterful, but can also play so loud and passionately that pitch and meter don’t matter. And the words in the songs are full of drinking, politics and sex. That’s my kind of tradition.”
Victory Party
Mint Records
March, 2011
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Klezmer Mongrels
Jericho Beach Music
October, 2008
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Wedding Dance of the Widow Bride
Jericho Beach Music
December, 2006
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Whisky Rabbi
Sudden Death Records
January, 2005
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Light Enough to Travel
Sudden Death Records
October, 2000
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