The Free-Reed Review
Critiques of Compact Discs, Books and Music Scores

CD Review: Yidn Fun Amol (Jews of Long Ago)
Wholesale Klezmer Band:
Brian Bender: trombone
Owen Davidson: accordions, vocal
Peggy Davis: flute, vocal
Richie Davis: percussion
Yosi Kurland: lead vocal, violin
Lynn Lovell: bass viol
Sherry Mayrent: music director, clarinets, vocal


Dem Klezmers Lebn
Yidn Fun Amol
Hora Gemish
Adir Hu
Terkisher Gemish
Redt Yidish
Dem Rebns Tants
Tants Gemish
Menukho V'Simkho

total time: 59:08
released: 1997

label: Oyfgekumener Productions
751 Washington St.
Brookline, MA 02146
Telephone: (617) 738-5680

Review by: Robert Berta

The Wholesale Klezmer Band is a group of seven musicians formed in 1982 to perform traditional music in the Klezmer style for Jewish weddings and other simkhes; this on the concert stage, at schools and college educational programs. Their compact disc is an excellent introduction to the various musical styles of Klezmer music and features fine performances by all.

I received another CD to review at the same time, titled Hineni, which featured three members of this group: Sherry Mayrent, Lynn Lovell and Owen Davis. While I enjoyed that recording, I feel this one, featuring the complete group, is musically much more satisfying. Again, the great clarinet playing and talents of director Sherry Mayrent are obvious, but here there is a much more homogenous mix that allows for highlighting of various members of the group. This is definitely an example of a time when more is better! Accordion fans will find their favorite instrument subdued; in Klezmer music the accordion tends to be a part of the mix, not a solo voice.

The CD liner notes are quite complete in that they fully explain the group, the music and its historical perspective. The cover is of a simple yet tasteful design, featuring photos of each band member.

Sound-wise, both Yidn Fun Amol and Hineni are very well done. Their sound quality is excellent, well balanced and nicely recorded. The progression of tunes and their placement on this CD provide an even distribution of fast "toe tappers" and slow, moving numbers. I suspect that this group must be popular in the local wedding and concert scene; their playing really gets you in the mood to jump up and dance.

As in most Klezmer music, the clarinet tends to have a strong voice, and Sherry Mayrent comes through with excellent playing. She can really make that clarinet "talk!"

While I enjoyed all of the selections on this disc, I particularly enjoyed "Dem Klezmers Lebn," which means "The Musicians Life." I got a feeling of "been there, done that" from the liner notes concerning this piece. They relate the sound of this selection, sort of a plaintive wailing, to how the group feels at 2 AM after the bride, groom and all the guests have gone home and the musicians still have to schlep their instruments and equipment home. The title piece, "Yidn Fun Amol" is a delightful, spirited selection. The liner notes reveal a most interesting piece of musical trivia. Evidently there is quite a bit of similarity between Jewish and Greek music, and early in this century the ethnic recording industry would often release an instrumental tune both to the Greeks and the Jews.

Another interesting selection was "Tants Gemish" which was a short (16 minutes long) example of what it is like to hear the group play at a simkhe. In real life, this would often be an hour plus, non-stop medley of spirited dance numbers. I guess the question is who would collapse from exhaustion first, the musicians or the dancers!

So, if you are at all a fan of Klezmer, or want to learn about a fascinating ethnic style of music, this compact disc is a great choice.

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