Naftule’s Dream

Live in Florence

Innova 572


1  Free Klez, I-IV (Michael McLaughlin/Strizi Music/BMI)  8:51

2  Aimless Path (David Harris/Contrabone Music/BMI)  5:29

3  A Prayer for No One (Michael McLaughlin/Strizi Music/BMI)  5:05

4  Industrial Bulgar (Michael McLaughlin/Strizi Music/BMI)  6:14

5  Dirge Sirba (Michael McLaughlin/Strizi Music/BMI)  5:18

6  The Sitting Man (Michael McLaughlin/Strizi Music/BMI)  6:01

7  The Wanderer (David Harris/Contrabone Music/BMI)  5:38

8  A Friend of Kafka (Naftule’s Dream Music/BMI)  4:44

9      Discord (David Harris/Contrabone Music/BMI)  4:31


Glenn Dickson | clarinets

David Harris | trombone

Michael McLaughlin | accordion

Pete Fitzpatrick | electric guitar

James Gray | tuba

Eric Rosenthal | drums



Clarinetist Naftule Brandwein was the notoriously transgressive, self-proclaimed “King of Jewish Music.”

He reigned over the weddings and bar mitzvahs of Eastern European greenhorns new to America, Prohibition-era speakeasies run by the gangsters of Murder, Inc., and resort hotels in the Catskills from the time of his New York arrival circa 1910 until his death in 1963. Brandwein might well have woken one night from a fevered sleep with the premonition of a dark, rangy, keening soundtrack like this, conjured by the Boston-based band Naftule’s Dream, live in Florence, Italy in April 2001 — a thoroughly modern music inspired by its namesake’s hard-driving, emotionally flamboyant and none-too-decorous spirit.

Naftule’s Dream was originally organized by clarinetist Glenn Dickson to perform his original compositions based on the strange stories of Yiddish fabulist Isaac Bashevis Singer (“Friend of Kafka” represents that repertoire). Over the course of seven years and four albums it has evolved into a unique, uncategorizable, challenging-yet-entertaining troupe, renowned in new music venues, busy (especially in Europe) touring the New Jewish Music festival circuit.

A larger-than-its parts sextet which also features the writing of accordionist Michael McLaughlin and trombonist David Harris, Naftule’s Dream is the alter ego of the relatively-traditional-yet-edgy Shirim, one of the leading ensembles of the klezmer revival that has emerged during the past generation to re-interpret — rather than just reverently revisit — ethnic strains of yore. In Naftule’s Dream, Dickson, McLaughlin, Harris, guitarist Pete Fitzpatrick, tuba player James Gray and drummer Eric Rosenthal dare to stretch klezmer’s roots ever further into the future, to a point where they tangle with all sound’s possibilities. However, instead of becoming irredeemably enmeshed, these roots retain their distinguishing features and never completely disappear.

Like Brandwein, who learned the basics of his style in his native Galicia (a Polish-Russian-Austrian province) but expressed the tumult of the New World’s Roaring ‘20s in classic recordings cut from 1922 to 1927, the composer-improvisers of Naftule’s Dream start with long-established forms and norms, melodies and modes, but once launched, tap everything they’ve ever heard, thought and felt. So there are direct or oblique references to the expressionism of jazz icons John Coltrane, John Carter, Anthony Braxton, Henry Threadgill and the Art Ensemble of Chicago; the aleatory procedures of such 20th century modernists as Witold Lutoslawski; the oom-pah pulse of brass bands, the wistful wheeze of squeezeboxes, the crunch of rock guitars. Naftule’s Dream depicts a world where all this is happening at once, with full awareness of its totality; a beautiful abstraction grounded in tunes as familiar as a family gathering; a circus of rhythm, celebration and blues, where moods and timbres shift with kaleidoscopic abruptness; a compound-complex sphere that harbors the eventuality of resolution.

Best of all, the band tells tales, almost as concretely as if it were using words. There is no need to put a plot to every turn of phrase on the tracks here, as there is no strict literary analog to the notes and tones they convey. This is most simply a hot band, playing at its peak before an audience full of people who understand (perhaps even better than those at home) what it means to have been making beautiful Jewish music decades ago, and who seem quite interested in what it means now. Naftule Brandwein — who played with his back to the crowd so no one could steal his fingerings, who went onstage with his pants around his ankles to shock complacent listeners, who blew his clarinet out the window of his car while speeding down winding, wooded roads at night — would crack a grin at such an effect, accomplished by such an ensemble. The music here might even be — is, without doubt! — Naftule’s Dream. 

Howard Mandelcord (David Harris/Contrabone Music/BMI)  4:31


Produced by Eric Rosenthal & Glenn Dickson

Recorded and mixed by John Servies, live to 2-track DAT in Florence, Italy on April 30, 2001

Mastered by David Harris 

Editing and final master by Michael Bierylo of Virtual Planet, Massachusetts

Band photos by Pietro Bandini

Florence photos by James Gray

Design by Sonya Cohen Cramer

Thanks to: Constanze Schliebs of Asia Network for our bookings in Europe /

Pietro Bandini for the great photos /

Our families their support of our endeavors / Fernando Fanutti and Giuseppe Vigna from Musicus Concentus for inviting us to perform / Arts International for their tour support

Web Site:

Bookings and information on Naftule’s Dream:

Eric Rosenthal (617)522-2900; [email protected]

 © 2002 Glenn Dickson. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws.

innova Director: Philip Blackburn

innova is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.