Epstein Brothers / Klezmer Music II

Album cover: Okay, okay. The cover =is= a homebrew one-color lettering monstrosity.

The Epstein Brothers
Klezmer Music II

EB Productions, EB2, 1996
cassette only

EB Productions
8107 NW 59 Court, Tamarac, FL 33321, USA
Tel: 954-722-4496

There is a patented smoothness to the Epstein Brothers sound that epitomizes Jewish soul at its best. This collection of their favorite melodies, studio and live performances, captures that sensibility perfectly. From the opening "Romanian Doina" with Max's incredible clarinet and the bombastic, wonderful closing chords and on to the "Moskowitz Sirba" this is the cassette to have if you want to experience the Epstein Brothers not only at their best, but to hear the selection of songs that they sell at their concerts. (Concerts? In their 80s? As I write this, Max has suffered a stroke and may or may not play, but Willie and Jules will be at the Ashkenaz Festival next month in Toronto.)

What I like best about the Epstein Brothers isn't just the playing worn smooth and perfectly intertwined with the years, but the way it exemplifies something very American. It is impossible for someone who has grown up Jewish in America not to hear this tape and immediately to begin to dream, to dance, and to dream. (Just hearing them wail on "Belz" makes me long to be on a dance floor with someone special.) I hear their "Olshanetsky Potpourri" and immediately find myself singing, in my fractured, half-remembered Yiddish, "I hab sich zu viel lieb...."

Yet, I am not sure that a European hearing the music would feel that same sense of familiarity, and this is very, very different from the simplistic, Chasidic melodies that characterize much Israeli klezmer. It's also odd to find myself writing this, given that the Epstein Brothers were the Satmar's favorite wedding band in the Sixties. Still, that may be part of it. This is the music that inspired the music to "Fiddler on the Roof."

The brothers assure me, via e-mail, that there is still more music to come. A new CD has been on the wings for over a year. That's okay. In the meantime, plug this one in and smile to "Silken Pajamas" and "Yubba Bubba Boi" once again. The Epstein Brothers are the American klezmer of the twentieth century, and they make you realize what a wonderful thing that is to be.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 7/19/97

Personnel this recording:
Not specified. At times, there are string arrangements, but the brothers play:
Max Epstein: B-flat clarinet
Julius Epstein: drums and percussion
William Epstein: trumpet and flugelhorn

  1. Romanian Doina 6:01
  2. Moskowitz Sirba 4:07
  3. Hungarian Medley 6:52
  4. Bessarabian Bulgar 2:17
  5. Belz 4:09
  6. Russian Medley 4:26
  7. Romanian Drinking Song (Kalarash) 4:02
  8. Silken Pajamas 1:39
  9. Olshanetsky Potpourri 6:18
  10. Yiddish Sing Along (Second Avenue) 6:01
  11. Russian Sher 3:03
  12. Yubba Bubba Boi (A Yiddish Lied) 7:15
  13. Melnich's Bulgar 2:40
  14. Hatai Hashem 3:33
  15. Epstein Nigen

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