memorial CD 2: field recordings

In October 2008, friends and family collaberated on two CD compilations for Harris’ memorial. This one is a collection of raw recordings from parties, basements, studios, kitchens and gigs (with lots of notes).

01.sweet sue
Recorded at Mark Libkuman’s house. Summer, 2002
Patrick Farrell (accordion), Sxip Shirey (guitar), Harris Wulfson (violin)

02.all blues
Recorded at Jason Sypher’s house. 2002
Jason Sypher (bass), Harris Wulfson (violin), Nate Landau(violin), ?(guitar)

Harris and I met in 2001. I had just pulled my fiddle out of my closet after sixteen years of musical neglect and was teaching myself how to play old timey tunes by busking at green markets around New York. I was looking for people to learn from and when I met Harris I was immediately impressed by his virtuosity and down to earth demeanor. We spent hours playing music together. Me as a student. Harris as a teacher. We became fast friends. In 2002 we marched in the Mermaid Parade together and wrote a song with a number of other musicians which won us the best musical act medal. The night that solidified our friendship was a party at Jason Sypher’s apartment. It was one of those parties where everyone in attendance seemed to be a musician and, once started, the impromptu jams never quieted for more than five minutes until the wee hours of the morning. Up until this night I had known Harris could play bluegrass and old time, klezmer and other Eastern European forms but I had never heard him play jazz or swing. Sometime around 2am someone started talking about how Jason was a jazz bassist. Harris took the bait and launched into a few numbers which impressed everyone in the room. All of us Americana players, stuck in three keys and major scales, were taken aback by his ability to play in Bb and run licks like Stephane Grappelli. Most of us just sat back and listened. I think these were the only jams that night which silenced most of the musicians in the room. -Nate Landau

03.minor swing
Recorded at Jason Sypher’s house. 2002
Jason Sypher (bass), Harris Wulfson (violin), ?(guitar)

04.honeysuckle rose
Recorded at Jason Sypher’s house. 2002
Jason Sypher (bass), Harris Wulfson (violin), ?(guitar)

05.klezmer bulgar in a
Recorded at Mark Libkuman’s house. Summer, 2002
Patrick Farrell (accordion), Sxip Shirey (guitar), Harris Wulfson (violin)

06.odessa bulgarish\Recorded at Mark Libkuman’s house. Summer, 2002
Patrick Farrell (accordion), Sxip Shirey (guitar), Harris Wulfson (violin)

07.szol a kakás már
Recorded at Golden Festival, NYC. January, 2003.
Patrick Farrell (accordion), Harris wulfson (violin), The Bodó Band from Nagykálló, Hungary; Béila Marssó (violin), Katalin Támas (viola) János Erdei (bass)

08.jewish csárdas from szek
Recorded at Golden Festival, NYC. January, 2003.
Patrick Farrell (accordion), Harris wulfson (violin), The Bodó Band from Nagykálló, Hungary; Béila Marssó (violin), Katalin Támas (viola) János Erdei (bass)

I met Bodó Band around a campfire in Romania in the summer of 2002 and we immediately developed a lasting friendship. I was thrilled when they announced they were coming to the U.S. for a while at the end of ’02 into spring of ’03.

Harris, Sarah, and I had already been jamming together on klezmer, old-time and Hungarian tunes whenever I would come through NYC, around the dinner table at Mark’s house or whenever we could. So when I came up to NY again in January ’03 to play with Bodó Band at the Golden Fest, I told the two of them to bring their fiddles along to the show. After the proper Bodó Band set in the little room, we absonded to the dressing room for some more fun. I remember running into Harris and Sarah on the steps and telling them, “Go get your fiddles and bring ’em right now!” What ensued was another two hours of more Hungarian and old-time fiddle music, with Bela leading the way, and at times 4 other fiddlers latching on, with a growing crowd of enthusiastic dancers and audience members egging everyone along. That’s when these recordings were made.

These two songs are from the neighborhood where Bodó Band is from, and I knew Harris knew them as well, so I remember telling Bela we should play them, and Harris jumped right in. They were all of course impressed with his playing and kept going over tunes for him to learn as well, which he was picking up without a problem. It was memorable, and afterwards they would always ask about Harris and Sarah and how they were doing.

At the end of the night, around 4am, a bunch of us got on the local A train running from Inwood, and within a few minutes of getting on, Harris and Sarah had opened their cases once more. they proceeded to serenade the whole car with old-time tunes and singing all the way to Brooklyn. It was just one of many nights where, as long as there was an instrument around, Harris would keep the party going with his endless repertoire of tunes until we were all worn out or it was time to part ways.
-Patrick Farrell

09.eastern european tune #1
Recorded at Jason Sypher’s house. 2002

10.eastern european tune #2
Recorded at Jason Sypher’s house. 2002

11.”some greek thing”
Recorded at Mark Libkuman’s house. Summer 2002.

12.garfield’s blackberry blossom
Recorded at Ilan Moss’s house. February, 2002.
James Ruchala (banjo), nate Landau (fiddle), Dave Green (guitar), Harris Wulfson (fiddle)

13.goodbye girls, i’m going to boston
Recorded at Ilan Moss’s house. February, 2002.
James Ruchala (banjo), Dave Green (guitar), Sarah Alden (fiddle), Harris Wulfson (fiddle)

14.nobody eats at linebaugh’s anymore
Recorded at Jalopy for John Hartford Tribute Night. January 4th, 2008
Sarah Alden (fiddle, vox), Harris Wulfson (guitar, vox), Jo Dejarnette (bass)

One night, probably in 2001, I went over to Harris’s apartment on Bedford Ave. to play music. When I got there, Harris asked me if I liked John Hartford, to which I replied, “Well I guess I haven’t listened to enough to really say.” Then Harris said, with a very enthusiastic tone, “Well…” and brought out nearly all of John Hartford’s recordings and proceeded to DJ his hits for the rest of the evening. Just when I thought there was no more he said, “Ahh, yes I have a DVD of his last performance on Mountain Stage” and I quickly fell asleep, happily satiated with the sounds of John Hartford. I was now initiated into the dorkishly-obsessed-with-John-Hartford Society.

So when we heard that Jordan Shapiro was putting together a John Hartford tribute night, Harris and I jumped at the chance to unleash some of our dorkish love for John Hartford. And this song was one from that evening at Jalopy.
-Sarah Alden

15.up on the hill/boogie
Recorded at Jalopy for John Hartford Tribute Night. January 4th, 2008
Harris Wulfson (lead vocals), Jordan Shapiro (guitar, vocals), Jonah Bruno (banjo), Dennis Lichtman (mandolin), Rob Hecht (fiddle), James Kerr (dobro), Roger Grossman (bass, vocals)

The John Hartford tribute night was almost in its 4th hour by the time we got to “Up On the Hill.” Of course Harris was still sitting front row, center in the audience, having a great time. When I realized the vocalist for that song hadn’t made it to the gig, I called out for Harris to come up and sing it. He quickly jumped up on the stage without any instrument in hand. He sang the song with a huge grin on his face, having a blast, performing the music of one of his favorite songwriters. We were unable to stop the fun after the song ended and went right into the unplanned “Boogie” rap.
-Jordan Shapiro

16.sitting on top of the world
Recorder on August 9th, 1990.
Performer by Berklee Bluegrass Boys: Harris Wulfson (fiddle and mandolin), Dave Sollors (guitar), Alex Rabb ( bass), Porter McClister (banjo)

So, Harris and I, along with Alex Rabb, who played bass with the Harris n’ Dave Experience, went to Berklee college of Music’s summer jazz program in 1990. Harris was the only violin student, and as a special case (and of course, a special talent0 he took one-on-one master classes with Matt Glaser. Somehow, we hooked up with an older student (we were 15 or 16, so almost anyone was older) named Porter. I have his last name and a North Carolina address for him written down somewhere. Anyway, Porter had a banjo, a high lonesome voice, and an inclination to play bluegrass, and the four of us became the Berklee Bluegrass Boys. This was a time when most of the people at Berklee were long-haired metal guitar warriors who were into Yngwie Malmsteen and two-hand tapping, so we were sort of oddities. I think we played at a talent show at Berklee, but mostly, we went over to Harvard Square and played for folks there. We were pretty loud and we irked some of the mainstay buskers, including Mary Lou Lord, a Boston-area staple whose big claim to fame is that she says she had an affair with Kurt Cobain.
-David Sollors

17.bluegrass fiddle clip
Recorded 2002 at Harris’ apartment on Bedford Ave.
Harris Wulfson (fiddle)

This is a clip from a fiddle lesson that Harris gave me in preparation for my first bluegrass gig. He was incredibly patient and sweet. He explained all the boring stuff, he made that really great happy face while he played amazing fiddle solos and was so encouraging to me in my awful attempts to play bluegrass fiddle. I really hoped that if I just sat and listened to him play all those amazing things on the fiddle that it would rub off on me. Harris was and still remains such an inspiration to me.
-Sarah Alden

18.forked deer
Performed by CalArts Bluegrass group. Recorded spring 2005.
Storm Neilson (guitar), Nick Rosen (bass), Wes Corbett (banjo), Harris Wulfson (fiddle)

19.1952 vincent black lightning
Performed by Sweet Jebus. Recorded at the Knitting Factory on January 21st, 2004.
Harris Wulfson (mandolin, vocals), Matt Donahue (drums), Juliana Trivers (violin), Ben Herzog (bass), peter Bibring (electric guitar), Ryan Dorin (keyboards), Michael Gomez (lap steel guitar), Mark Yokayama (acoustic guitar)

One time in 2003, I approached Harris about being in a honky-tonk band that I was trying to form. He agreed but only on the condition that he get to play drums (I failed in my attempts to get him to learn the pedal steel guitar). Harris didn’t really play the drums, but I had no doubts he could pull it off. I was impressed that even though he was such an accomplished string player, he wanted to challenge himself with something different. For the show at the Knitting Factory, the band was in transition, so Harris played some numbers as the drummer, then we did the ol’ switcheroo, and I went on drums and he came out front to play the mandolin and sing. Playing this song was Harris’ idea and he came up with the arrangement that included the polyrhythms and, in one part, no rhythm. It’s a testament to his mad skills that he can keep time and keep singing while all that racket is going on behind him. I think this was the only time we played this live though we may have reprised this when we played his birthday party in his parents’ living room in Great Neck.
-Matt Donahue

20.wake up (and greet the dawn)
Copyright 1992 Harris Wulfson and David Sollors
Harris Wulfson (mandolin, violin, electric and acoustic guitars, bass, tambourine, drum programming), David Sollors (lead vocals, background vocals) Deborah Feldman (Background vocals)

21.funky kipah
Harris n’ Dave

Harris n’ dave started as a friendship circa 1983. After a few years, Harris decided that I would learn how to play music so that we could play music together. He started me on an autoharp that had been gathering dust in the back of a closet at our high school (Harris was always very effective at optimally exploiting available resources), and then I moved on to the guitar. we began as a dreadfully earnest folk duo. We brought our instruments to school every day. We played outside the cafeteria and older kids threw things at us.

Eventually, like Dylan, we went electric. Unlike Dylan, we felt sort of guilty about it. We added drums and bass and it became the Harris n’ Dave experience. Later, we added a horn section (the Brassholes), backup singers (our girlfriends), keyboards, a DJ and a lady rapper (Tanya E.), and became the Harris n’ Dave All-Star Funkuation Band. That was when we graduated (or “funk-u-ated,” if you will) from high school. Our graduation present was to book two days in Sabella Studios of Roslyn, where Public Enemy had recorded something or other at some point. we recorded our two-song demo, “Hurricane Jane” and “Wake Up And Greet The dawn” there. Harris played all the instruments. When I got bored of watching him play all the instruments, I went into the break room and watched the 1992 Democratic Convention, so if you know when that was, you know the exact dates on which we recorded.

Harris n’ Dave survived as a friendship, but pretty much ended as a band after we went off to different colleges. We did reunite the summer after our freshman year to play some shows in Manhattan, and then when we were roommates the summer after our sophomore year, we dabbled in the somewhat regrettable white hip-hop experiments of which “Funky Kipah” is an example. As I recall, “Funky Kipah” uses an unlicensed sample from The Temptations’ “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me),” though most of it was played live by Harris including the bass line and the klezmer bit at the end. We recorded it in my Dad’s bedroom (we were living rent-free at my dad’s while he was away for the summer).We played it live at some shows in NYC that summer, 1994, and maybe possibly did one last show over winter break.
-David Sollors


Memorial CD 2: Field Recordings


eastern europe, 1995, with claude cahn

In the Summer of 1995, Harris studied in Poland and then traveled though Eastern Europe with friends.  I remember he called me from a payphone in Istanbul with a view of Hajia Sofia. I was living in Los Angeles at the time and at 5am and he prefaced the conversation with “Hey Michelle! Do you know that Tom Waites song “Phone call from Istanbul?”

Claude Cahn was one of the friends Harris met and traveled with that summer and he sent me the following music on audio cassette. The majority is not of Harris playing, but I wanted to put the entire recording here anyway. I also have some of the DATs he recorded that summer and his notebook from the trip that I will get on line as I come to them.

Here is the note from Claude:
We were together at the Kuprivshtica festival, which is where I met him — Christina Crowder had appropriated him from somewhere. She had taken the bus from Hungary, while I had flown, because through some weird fluke Balkan Air had a special to Sofia which was cheaper than the bus (why do I remember all this?). We then went as a big Americo-Bulgar train to Veliko Trnovo, where we did some drinking and some busking (more of the former) and some listening to the earliest Bulgarian hip-hop. One of the guys we were with, who I remember only as “Vladi-Badi” (his first name was Vladimir, was a producer of Bulgarian rap). The other guy we were with was a great guitar songster type called Harry Zachariev, who had been in Syria and elsewhere working as a musician. He is the person singing on the recordings with Harris. Harry I heard died a few years ago, I think as a result of recurring hard drugs issues. Harry’s girlfriend was with us too, but I don’t remember her name. Then I was with Harris in Istanbul and we went hunting (and found) disused synagogues in an old Jewish neighborhood.
Anyway, I’ll send you the stuff. It is not much, but there is at least one gem on it (Track 1. Harris playing along to a really bawdy Bulgarian song being sung by Harry Zacharaiev).

And now for some R-rated tracks:


Eastern Europe with Claude Cahn 1995


And Harris, himself, kept a notebook. Here is an excerpt:

Tuesday, August 8th
…Met Harry and Juli! Americans left. I hung with Harry, Juli, Nikki (who lives next door to my place) and Irene (Harry’s girlfriend) until 6am.

Wednesday, August 9th
Wet to record store with Harry, bought tape, CD. Had lunch with his friend, “S—-” (illegible). Went to his recording studio, “Studio-x.” Met Vladi. Saw his software. Heard rap music produced at Studio-x. Evening: Called parents at Sheraton. Pizza (good) for dinner. Met Harry and Juli at Palace of Culture (this time with my violin). Jammed until 3am.

Thursday, August 10th
Tried to be a tourist. Saw Nevsky Church, Mosque, Museum of History. Sitting on strut (?) reading guidebook, met Christina. She came with me to Studio. Met Go-Yo. Eventually we all went out. Up until 5am. She crashed at my place (she was quite drunk).

Friday, August 11th
I am now on a train to Koprivshtitsa . I am alone because the others had to stay to collect their things. I will meet Christina, Harry, Irene and Vladi there.

On train to Istanbul
Much of what I did in Koprivshtitsa is recorded in the small notebook and documented on two DAT tapes (which I have yet to unearth – m). Here are some details:

Friday, August 11th
Arrived in Koprivshtitsa. Crowded! Walked around town. Went up to hotel to try to drop my packs. They wouldn’t let me and couldn’t help me find a room. Outside, I met Cecelia and friend. Discovered she knows Christina and that she was meeting Claude in town at 7:30. I went to town and met Claude (called out “Claude” to a geeky-looking American guy). Met up with Cecelia, went to her room in a village house. Dropped my stuff there. Went to a park in town with Claude, Cecelia and ( ) [sic – m]. There was a group of musicians sitting around a table and they suddenly began to play. I recorded some of this. People were dancing too. We went back to the stage in town and found Christina, Harry and Vladi. Christina was drunk. She told me that I sucked and that my playing was too “classical” and that I had to come to E. Europe to live and learn the music. We jammed (Harry, Claude, me) but Christina was really unable to play. [she doesn’t remember anything from that night but she got a lot of scratched and bruises from falling over]. Cecelia played some rockin’ Hungarian and Irish music on fiddle. Eventually went to a different pub with Cecelia. The same band was playing (minus gadulka). Recorded and photographed. Cecelia danced.

Saturday, August 12th
I climbed up the hill to the festival proper and… oh my god! It was packed. I almost couldn’t move. There were thousands of people and everywhere there was music. Along the path there were stands with people selling food, drinks, hats, trinkets, and of course, musical instruments. Old people were walking around in their regional costumes. Children were dancing and playing. It is pretty well-documented on tape and in the small notebook. We found Irene and Nikki from Sofia. Christina, Vladi and I got a much better room in a lovely village house. Heard Irish music on the way down hill with Christina. That night we had a long jam session with Christina, Harry, Claude, Cecelia. People even listened to us. Met Svetlio (now I know all the Studio-x-ers). Zurna players were playing in the street at 3am. I taped them.

Sunday, August 13th
More festival. Left my tape recorder on for a while and walked around. Met Harry and Irene. Harry helped me look for a gadulka. We didn’t find anything inexpensive. Finally went down the hill with Christina after buying slippers and rosewater for relatives. Sad because the festival was over.
I bought a zurna. Svethio asked a zurna player to show me his moves. He was a yuppie from near Macadonia. I got to play a nice one. The guy wanted $100 so I left and then Harry bought one at the “Bulgarian price” ($30) and sold it to me. The trick was good except that I didn’t get exactly the one I wanted. No matter. Harry looks out.
Harry, Irene, Christina, Claude and I got on a train to Veliko Tarnovo. Vladi and the Hungarians (whom he called fondly “Majarbi” [??? -m]) were to follow the next day. They wanted to see Koprivshtitsa.
On the train we jammed some more. Christina taught me some Irish tunes. I wrote out lyrics to “Sittin’ on top of the world” for Harry and he wrote lyrics to

(Makedonsko Devojcke) for me.

In Veliko Tarnovo, Harry found his friend, Nikki and Nikki put up in his house. Nikki’s house is a squat right neat the river in Veliko Tarnovo. It has a great view and enough floor space for us. Nikki is a big guy. The kind of guy that you’re glad is on your side. He’s a real sweetie with a psychotic little dog. Unfortunately he doesn’t speak English.
There we played some more…

Monday, August 14th
We went to a terrace cafe in Veliko Tarnovo with a great view. I took a picture of Harry and Irene there. We chilled for a long time. It seems to be the Bulgarian way.
We were going to busk but when we went back to Nikki’s place (without him), we couldn’t find where he hid the key (he had given instructions to Harry). So instead we went to the castle and climbed around the walls. It’s another great view from there. On the top is a very strange church with socialist realist religious art! I bought a photo on the way out. In the evening, we chilled some more in a different cafe. Then we played music at Nikki’s. I recorded some, I think (check the small notebook). I tried Christina’s gaïda and regretted not getting one in Kop.
Vladi had missed all his meetings with us but at midnight, Christina decided to go again to the meeting place (near the post office). She found him there with the Hungarians and she brought them to Nikki’s. We played music. It must have been strange for Nikki to suddenly have three more people show up at his doorstep but he put them up without a word. We slept like sardines: five side-by-side on the floor.

Tuesday, August 15th
Chilled in the same terrace cafe. We played on the street for a while while Vladi went with the Hungarians to see the town. Then we chilled some more. Then we changed cafes and chilled. Vladi met us there. I debated whether to go with Harry, Irene, and Vladi to the Black Sea coast. Vladi really wanted me to go but I think Irene was sick of us. I decided to go with Christina and Claude back to Sofia so I could get to Istanbul in time to see it for a few days. So we all said goodbye in the train station.

[I have not yet located this small notebook he mentions. I will keep looking -m]

Comment from CLAUDE on May 17, 2009
This is such a trip – the journal fragments have jogged my memory about many things from that time. Hope Christina doesn’t sue for libel, but the details are pretty accurate for this period — steady amounts of alcohol with great longevity and endurance, followed by creative experiments with the forces of gravity. If I recall correctly, around this time, she and the visiting Sharla Benedict yanked each other down two flights of metro stairs in Budapest.

I had completely forgotten that Juhasz Cecilia was along for this journey. She was also in the company of a tall, thin friend of hers whose name escapes me entirely. Cecilia was an incredible fiddle player who once accused me of playing guitar “like a German”, probably the most withering criticism anyone has ever made of my guitar-playing. She was an incredibly gifted fiddle player, who had been thrown out of the Budapest conservatory because she had stage fright. Her nose was slightly pinnocchioid, and she had a really confident ability to hammer with her pinkie, which she did like a viper striking, and it always seems like the tip of her nose quivered along to the pinkie striking when she played up the neck. Cecilia turned me on among other things to the US fiddler Liz Carroll. She had a battered bootlegged cassette copy of Liz Carroll’s first record – probably her best – of which Cecilia had learned most if not all of the tunes, many of which are very lovely. This is how I learned to play slip jigs. I later heard she went to Italy to join a circus, if you can believe that (the fates, the destinies…).

The notebook page is I think Harris under the influence of Christina. Christina had in repertoire a number of yay-dee-diddly Irish ballads, some of which she evidently inflicted on Harris. This looks like his effort at writing under the influence of that.

I wish I could remember more. I recall watching at Kuprivshtica with Harris a group of Hungarians who played Bulgarian music on one of the field stages. They were I think the only non-Bulgarian band playing. There was an old man who was very moved by the sound of non-Bulgarians playing Bulgarian music. We asked him if they were any good and he said, “No, they are terrible, but they are playing our music! Nobody can play our music well!”

I also remember sitting with Harris in a cajzhilnica fairly far from the centre of Istanbul, on the European side of the Bosphorus, in a neighborhood his guidebook said had once been Jewish, and that we found an old gate with Hebrew lettering which we concluded must have been a synagogue. We did not have a language in common with the old man in the tea shop, but he seemed to affirm that we had found what we were looking for, and he declined to take any money for the tea. It was one of those beautiful afternoons.

world on a string band

Harris Wulfson with the World on a String Band at the Ukrainian National Home restaurant, December 6, 2007, New York City. I love this photo and these amazingly talented people!

left to right: Sarah Alden, Patrick Farrell, Benjy Fox-Rosen, Ljova, Harris Wulfson, Photographed by Anna Rozenblat.

This was one of the last bands Harris played with. The last time I saw him, he told me he couldn’t wait for Sarah to get back from tour so they could all get together and play! I took the audio clips from Flickr and added the fades to make the clips less choppy. If anyone has any recordings, let me know. They may not exist.

I’ve included the links to the Flickr movie clips below as well as the mp3 clip I made of their audio.

01.flikr clip 1
Freddy’s Backroom, 2007. Here is the moment during the jam where they played “world on a string” ! Harris played the ukulele for this one.

02.flikr clip 2
Freddy’s Backroom, 2007. World on a String played and then there was this fantastic jam. Pure joy. A magical night. The movie is really dark but we can see (and hear!) Harris behind Patrick.

03.flikr clip 3
At Banjo Jim’s, June 08, 2007.

04.flikr clip 4
At Banjo Jim’s, June 08, 2007.



projects with rowland stebbins

Harris played with Freyja Balmer Gallagher on Rowland Stebbins’ EP titled Hook, Line & Sinker, 2002. Rowland graciously allowed me to post all the tracks from the album as well as track 7 from Rowland’s album, All Over, which Harris played with Rowland at Merlefest in 2003.


With Rowland Stebbins