The “pajama concerts” that pianist Joe Alterman posted online from his apartment were fine, up to a point, but the 32-year-old lives for a live audience.
That explained the smile on Alterman’s face as he, along with drummer Justin Chesarek and bassist Kevin Smith, performed in May during the Virginia Highland Porchfest. “You have no idea how much I missed that. It was emotional being back on stage,” Alterman said. Even if it was the front porch of a cousin’s home, with people sitting on the lawn, standing on the sidewalk, or catching an earful as they walked past on the street.
That also explains Alterman’s enthusiasm as Neranenah — the former Atlanta Jewish Music Festival — readies a lineup of in-person events. Alterman became executive director in 2019, succeeding AJMF founder Russell Gottschalk. The name Neranenah (from the Hebrew for “Come, let us sing together”) was announced in September.
First up is a set of four programs the weekend of July 30-Aug. 1 at the Chattahoochee Nature Center.
Rabbi Micah Lapidus, an accomplished musician and songwriter, as well as being the director of Jewish and Hebrew studies at The Davis Academy, will lead “The Wind-Down – A Community Musical Shabbat” July 30.
The New York-based trio Duchess will perform selections from the Jewish American songbook July 31. Duchess — comprised of Hilary Gardner, Amy Cervini, and Melissa Stylianou – was to have performed during AJMF 2020, but the spread of COVID-19 forced cancellation of the festival.
A showcase of teen musicians and bands is planned for the Aug. 1 afternoon.
Alterman’s previously stated desire to add comedy to the bill will be met on the evening of Aug. 1 with a show featuring comedian Eddie Brill and comedienne Judy Gold, each of whom will perform a set and then join to engage the audience in a question-and-answer session.
Tickets for the programs at the Chattahoochee Nature Center are available on the Neranenah website.
Beginning this fall, the Byers Theatre at the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center will be the venue for a series of four Neranenah events.
Famed mandolin player David Grisman, who blends bluegrass, folk, and jazz into what he calls “dawg music,” will perform Oct. 7 with his trio.
Alterman will host a holiday show Dec. 16 featuring his trio and other performers to be determined.
Singer and pianist Michael Feinstein will dip into the Jewish American songbook for a Jan. 13 show. Feinstein in 2007 founded The Great American Songbook Foundation to preserve and teach those compositions to a younger generation.
On April 23, Neranenah plans an evening with the ATL Collective, possibly a reprise of an AJMF event featuring music associated with the legendary Chess Brothers’ recording studio in Chicago.
For the past 15 months, Neranenah has lived online. In addition to Alterman’s “pajama concerts,” there were weekly performances by local musicians and two editions of a series called “Neranenah Scholars.” The first set of conversations, called “Jews, Music & the American Dream,” featured pianist-songwriter-author-educator Ben Sidran. The second, titled “The Wandering Jew,” was with harmonica master-composer-teacher-producer Howard Levy.
Neranenah, with an operating budget of $300,000, last year took on a managing director, Raychel Robbins, and is seeking a development director to focus on fundraising.
Busy as he is with Neranenah, Alterman makes time for two to three hours of practice daily, which is a good thing, as his personal performing schedule is filling up. After June shows at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, Alterman’s schedule includes appearances at Birdland in New York City, Winter’s Jazz Club in Chicago, The Jazz Corner in Hilton Head, South Carolina, and Alberta Bair Theater in Billings, Montana.
These shows will include songs from Alterman’s fifth album, to be released Aug. 13 on the Ropeadope label. “The Upside of Down,” the first album he has not self-produced, which was recorded during shows in November 2019 and February 2020 at Birdland, will feature four of Alterman’s own compositions (including one with pianist Les McCann) and eight covers. The liner notes were written by McCann, Ramsey Lewis, and Ahmad Jamal, three keyboard masters that Alterman counts as friends and mentors.
- Dave Schechter
- Joe Alterman
- Kevin Smith
- Justin Chesarek
- Virginia Highland Porchfest
- Russell Gottschalk
- Atlanta Jewish Music Festival
- Bill Charlap
- Chattahoochee Nature Center
- Rabbi Micah Lapidus
- Davis Academy
- Hilary Gardner
- Amy Cervini
- Melissa Stylianou
- Leonard Bernstein
- The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
- Amazon Prime
- Eddie Brill
- Judy Gold
- Byers Theatre at the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center
- Michael Feinstein
- Chess Brothers
- The Great American Songbook Foundation
- Ben Sidran
- Howard Levy
- Raychel Robbins
- Eddie's Attic
- Lee McCann
- Ramsey Lewis
- Ahmad Jamal