Mazel Tov Orchestra / Yiddishe Tam

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Mazel Tov Orchestra
Yiddishe Tam
, 2003

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The Mazel Tov Orchestra is a wondefully tight assemblage slightly trapped by the beat. The drums are relentless in their one-two one-two (sometimes, as on "Tantz, Tantz Yiddelekh" it is the piano that does the thumpa thumpa). Even the melody lines never seem to forget to square the melody, as if each of the listeners were in dance class and unsure of the beat. On the vocal numbers such as "Di Grine Kuzine," even the singer seems to sing to fit the beat.

This sounds harsh, but it shouldn't obscure the fact that the music is otherwise well-played, and whenever the band moves into a jazzy or Latin mode, as on "Abi Gezundt" or "Miami Beach Rhumba" they smooth into a silky jazzy beat that works much better. The trombone is a pleasure, as is the clarinet. Overall, the band is well-rehearsed and extremely tight. The vocalist is an unusual pleasure, making me enjoy the Yiddish theatre numbers most of all. Indeed, on slower numbers such as "Papirosen," I was very moved. This may not be music as I most enjoy it (okay, I come from the balkan school of dance, with reliance on beat especially as interpreted by Josh Horowitz in the liner notes to the first Budowitz album), but it is well-done, and in its metronomic qualities, better-performed and not atypical of most dance band CDs sent to me in recent years.

The liner notes unaccountably connect "Miserlou" to Sephardic tradition. It is a wonderful dance tune extremely popular among American Jews, but it is also very recent and very American. The actual dance steps are Greek adapted to an Arabian Serenade by Roubanis in 1945. Don't let that stop you. This is an excellent and very danceable version—the extended dance song of the CD, and deservedly so. What would an American-Jewish simcha be without it? Here the band develops a dreamy, jazzy dance in the best tradition of the song. Moving to a different American-Jewish tradition, the band sets Isa Kremer's signature song, "Belz" to a Latin beat that fits very nicely. As noted in the popularity of the "Miami Beach Rhumba", Latin beats are as American Jewish as the hora! The version of that song done here is also excellent, and the penultimate number, "Abi Gezundt" has a wonderful jazzy feel that fits the song like vanilla ice cream on a slice of warm apple pie. Stan Bock's trombone solo is perfect, as is George Mitchell's jazzy piano break.

Personnel this recording:
Sammy Epstein: band leader, clarinet, alto sax
Dave Captein: acoustic bass
George Mitchell: piano
Reinhardt Melz: drums, percussion
Stan Bock: trombone
Carolyn Joyce: vocals


  1. Odessa Bulgarish (trad.) 2:48
  2. Tantz, Tantz Yiddelekh (trad.) 4:38
  3. Di Grine Kuzine (A. Schwartz, H. Prizant, A. Ellstein) 3:06
  4. Papirosen (H. Yablokoff) 4:23
  5. Miami Beach Rhumba (I. Fields, A. Gamse) 3:44
  6. Miserlou (trad.) 8:26
  7. Beym Rebn's Sude (trad.) 3:55
  8. Belz, Mein Shtetele Belz (A. Olshanetsky, J. Jacobs) 3:58
  9. Abi Gezundt (A. Ellstein, M. Picon) 5:46
  10. Seven Forth A.M. (trad.) 4:16

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