bonnaroo music + arts festival - June 12-16, 2008



When one thinks of klezmer music, two things come to mind--Tennessee and a washtub bass. Billing themselves as “the finest in Southern Klezmer,” Tennessee Schmaltz is a band based in Knoxville, Tennessee. Founded in 1995, this five-member group blends traditional Eastern European Jewish dance music with Southern Appalachian folk, country, bluegrass, jazz and classical motifs. Over the last 13 years, they’ve performed on the WDVX Blue Plate Special radio show, at the Rossini Festival, in concerts and events in Knoxville, Atlanta, Toledo, Ann Arbor, Alabama and North Carolina. They’ve opened for Nickel Creek and even performed at a bluegrass festival.

Keyboardist Manny Herz was born in Berlin, Germany. He studied the piano from age four and when it came to making a living he decided to become an architect. Being a part of Tennessee Schmaltz has allowed him to revisit his youth, take up the keyboard a little more seriously and learn more about his Jewish heritage.

Vocalist Carolyn Silver-Alford is a native East Tennessean. She has worked as a vocalist in many different genres and is thrilled to finally find her way to the music of her heart and of her people. She is honored to be part of Tennessee Schmaltz. “Working with these incredible musicians is a dream come true. The band’s faith in me has been an incredible musical experience as well as a spiritual journey.”

Accordion player Dan Shapira picked up the squeezebox as a youngster in Israel. By age twelve, he had quite a following: his fan club included Mom and Dad, but his kid brother was less enthusiastic. He moved to the US from Israel in 1969 to attend graduate school at Yale. Dan arrived at JFK airport carrying a single suitcase and the accordion. Clarinetist, Lawrence Hoffman was classically trained but switched to klezmer because nobody would get up and dance to his music! He has now been performing klezmer music to happy, dancing audiences for more than a quarter of a century. Hoffman joined Tennessee Schmaltz in 2004. When he is not playing clarinet you can find him in the kitchen as chef/owner of his own catering company.

Washtub bassist and clarinetist Rob Heller is a photojournalism professor at the University of Tennessee. Although the washtub bass is not typically associated with klezmer music (it has closer ties with Appalachian old style string bands), it provides a percussive bottom to the band and “it’s a lot cheaper than an upright bass.” Trained as a clarinetist, Heller enjoys playing klezmer because it reminds him of his New York Jewish roots and he likes the combination of jazz, swing, folk and classical genres that are evident in this style of music.

Tennessee Schmaltz has released two CDs: Old Country Klezmer (2000) and Pachelbel’s Canon & Other Jewish Hits (2006). Their claim to be the world’s only klezmer band featuring washtub bass continues to be undisputed.