Mick Moloney's musicianship, scholarship and showmanship have long enriched our understanding and enjoyment of Irish music in America. Most recently, he has turned his talents to the little-known story of Irish and Jewish collaboration in vaudeville and Tin Pan Alley from the 1880s to the 1920s. The result is a splendid CD, "If It Wasn't For the Irish and the Jews," which was launched in great style tonight at Symphony Space in Manhattan.
The CD itself is a fine recording, thanks to Moloney's own musicianship and the playing of Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, a band with a special talent for recovering the beauty of early jazz and show tunes. Tonight's launch was heightened by additional contributions from Dana Lyn, Jerry O'Sullivan, Billy McComiskey, Kerith Spencer-Shapiro, John Roberts, Susan McKeown, The Washington Square Harp and Shamrock Orchestra, and a splendid array of step dancers and more.
The result was an evening that honored Irish and Jewish musical traditions and their creative mixing in Tin Pan Alley. Thanks to Mick's research, the evening was filled with illuminating anecdotes about Jewish and Irish collaboration and competition in show business, Jewish songwriters penning sentimental Irish songs, and Irish performers passing as Jews.
I have admired Mick's work since I studied with him at New York University in 1980, where he forever enriched my understanding of Irish music in America. (He gracefully favored me tonight with an acknowledgment of my own work on vaudeville that helped him understand the setting of Irish-Jewish efforts.)
Mick's latest offering deepens our understanding of the greatest thing about American culture: its hybrid vigor. Nowhere is that clearer than in music, especially in the Irish-Jewish collaborations that he celebrated tonight. Buy the CD. And if he's on tour anytime soon, don't miss his show.