Kosher Nostra: Jewish Gangsters Greatest Hits
Shantel presents Kosher Nostra, an unparalleled journey back in time to the music clubs, vaudeville theaters and gambling casinos in the U.S.A. The sound can be described as a wild mix of swing, jazz, twist, Charleston and the adorable charm of Yiddish songs and ballads. The idea of Jewish gangsters in America is not something that is deeply engrained in the popular imagination. Yet nobody who looks into the history of the American mafia can deny the extent to which such figures as Meyer Lansky, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, Dutch Schultz or Louis "Lepke" Buchalter shaped the machinations of the underworld, along with the classic Sicilian godfathers. The artist Oz Almog, who is also a curator at the Jewish Museum in Vienna, addressed the issue in a high-profile exhibition featuring his own paintings together with police photographs, crime-scene sketches, newspaper articles and the biographies of the gangsters themselves. Shantel, who actually wrote his undergraduate thesis at Frankfurt University on the topic of organized crime, has thoroughly researched the Kosher Nostra and its influence on American musical culture, going to great and sometimes quite adventurous lengths to put together this anthology charting the hidden history of organized crime in America. The myth of Kosher Nostra seems to be closely interwoven with the musical history of the USA in a rich and fascinating tapestry of diverse musical genres: in such hot-spots as New York, Chicago, Detroit and later Las Vegas, the music of Eastern European Jews fused with African-American jazz to create a new sound. The tracks on this anthology represent a parallel society made up of various ethnic scenes, all with their own media and an open-minded curiosity for new and exotic input from the WASP community on the one hand and the predominantly Catholic Irish and Italian communities on the other. This development of an aesthetic approach that crossed all ethnic boundaries spawned a music, film and musical industry in 1920s/1930s America that quickly spread, with an impact that was felt even in Europe. In the course of his research, Shantel unearthed some extremely rare gems: who knew, for instance, that Connie Francis had once recorded an entire album of Yiddish songs, or that Tom Jones had sung the praises of "his" Yiddish Mama? This unparalleled journey back in time to the music clubs, vaudeville theaters and gambling casinos of the 1920s to 1960s bears compelling witness to this enormously diverse and truly remarkable fusion of styles. The anthology is accompanied by an informative and detailed essay in a 60-page fully-illustrated booklet, giving an introduction to the theme of Kosher Nostra and introducing each of the artists featured. Other artists include: The Andrews Sisters, Chubby Checker, Solomon Schwartz Et Son Orchestra, The Bagelmann Sisters With Abe Ellstein Orchester, Leonid Utjossow, Al Jolson, Barry Sisters, Molly Picon, Aaron Lebedeff & Alexander Olshanetzky, Sophie Tucker, Yiddish Swing Orchestra, The Gilt Edged Four, Cleo Brown, Wilmoth Houdini and Roza Eskenazy.