“It’s a Scream How Levine Does the Rhumba” — the meaning of the catchy title will become clear this week when the Contemporary Jewish Museum hosts the national CD release celebration of a terrific two-CD set produced by the Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation.
Subtitled “The Latin-Jewish Musical Story, 1940s-1980s,” the recording’s well-documented tracks showcase Jewish artists exploring Latin music styles and Latino artists engaging with Jewish themes, topics and audiences.
A thrill for folks who danced to this kind of music at their bar mitzvahs, it’s a one-of-a-kind experience that mixes Mickey Katz’s “My Yiddishe Mambo,” Xavier Cugat’s “Miami Beach Rhumba” and Celia Cruz’s “Hava Nageela” with modern Latino beats.
“This project celebrates two cultures that, for one reason or another, have come together over the years in the musical arena and created something that’s pretty magical,” says Idelsohn Society co-founder David Katznelson.
Live music by members of Tormento Tropical will update the sound at Thursday’s party.
“They’re a very, very hip young Latino DJ crew who will do one-off, modern remixes of some of the amazing music that was born of the decadeslong collaboration between Latinos and Jews,” Katznelson says.
Katznelson says the CD’s 45 pages of liner notes address questions of why the two cultures came together to create music with an influence that extended far beyond the borscht belt and the Scarsdale and Boca Raton bar mitzvah circuit.
“There are so many possible theories that you end up with the typical Jewish answer, which is five answers with more questions thrown in,” he says. “But if I took just one of these theories and claimed it was the reason, I would get calls disputing it.”
Nonetheless, the last thing Katznelson would discourage is conversation. “Four of us in different cities began the Idelsohn Society with a conversation around the Jewish records that we collect, and how the recorded aspect of the Jewish story is somewhat forgotten and ignored. The first thing we ever wanted to do was this compilation.
“But during the 10 years it took us to put it together, we released other records as we became clear that we are a reissue label that brings the legacies of forgotten artists to new generations, and tells the story of the Jewish-American experience through the recorded sound of the 20th century.”
IF YOU GO
It’s a Scream How Levine Does the Rhumba
Where: Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission St., S.F.
When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday
Admission: $10 to $15