Wholesale Klezmer Band / Yidn Fun Amol
Jews of Long Ago

Album cover: Impeccable papercut and calligraphy with fussy tiny pictures of the band members. Wholesale Klezmer Band
Yidn Fun Amol
(Jews of Long Ago)
Oyfgekumener Productions, OYF005CD, 1997

Dist. by: Oyfgekumener Productions (OYF-PRO)
199 Coolidge Ave, Unit 107, Watertown, MA 02472-1521
tel: 617-923-2143, fax: 923-4640
E-mail Oyfgekumener Productions

Among the very first people I met when I moved to the Boston area were Yosl Kurland and Peggy Davis, two of the mainstays behind the Wholesale Klezmer Band. Peggy's calligraphy was stunning (I'm a typographer; this is the sort of thing that catches my eye). Later, I got a chance to see them perform with the rest of the band and had even more reasons to be pleased that we'd met. This new album is of a pair with "Prayers for a Broken World" released earlier this year. Where that album showcased a special program, this album showcases the band as it usually performs live, and for weddings and simkhas. As is to be expected, it is quite a treat.

What I especially enjoy live, and what comes off to good effect on this album, is the effort the band makes to reconnect their audiences with Jewish storytelling and a sense of Yiddish as a living language. As on previous albums, they include a couple of original songs in Yiddish, including the pointed "Redt Yiddish" (Speak Yiddish). In this song, Yosl notes that Yiddish was once used as a secret language--by our parents or grandparents, among others, secure in the knowledge that their kids had become real Americans--ignorant of the "mame loshn." But just as they once said to each other, "redt yiddish so the kids won't understand," those kids are now going to university to learn ... Yiddish. Yosl now sings, "redt yidish, everyone should understand."

The other side of the live feel is the medleys, including a huge 16 minute bash towards the end, that reflect how klezmer music is really played when you want people to dance. Instead of playing song song song, a good klezmer band at a simkha starts playing and adjusts to the audience and keeps going until the dancers need a rest. In this, klezmer (and I presume, similar music) is different from modern rock and country, where the drummer keeps moving along at about the same pace while the band improvises until it gets tired. I much prefer the way Wholesale Klezmer and other simkha bands play, instead. The medleys also give clarinet player Sherry Mayrent a chance to showcase her soulful playing, and give the rest of the band a chance to demonstrate their own abilities. Trombonist Brian Bender is also quite special, weaving in and out of Mayrent's lines on the Turkisher medley, for instance. On the other hand, Peggy Davis' flute gives a lovely and different feel on the Hora Gemish (Hora Medley). Hmmm, I guess I've already learned a new Yiddish word: "gemish" for "medley."

Wholesale Klezmer is one of the nicest, and most authentic-sounding klezmer and Yiddish revival bands performing. This album really catches why audiences flock to listen, and to dance, when they perform. Oh, and since Yosl knows that it's a big issue with me, I should also note the care with which the band managed to typeset lyrics in Yiddish, with both transliterations and translations in a way that makes them easy to read and to follow along. To do this, which requires three columns of text, and still have the letters large enough to actually read while following along is important. I wish very much that it were done this well more often. But that applies to the album, as well. "Mazl tov!" it's another wonderful afternoon spent with Wholesale Klezmer. If you're not in their neighborhood, and don't have the chance to hear them live, that's as good as it gets.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 1/1/98

Personnel this recording:
Brian Bender: trombone
Owen Davidson: accordions, vocal
Peggy Davis: flute, vocal
Richie Davis: percussion, vocal
Yosl (Joe) Kurland: lead vocal, violin
Lynn Lovell: bass viol
Sherry Mayrent: music director, clarinets, vocals


  1. Dem Klezmers Lebn (The Musician's Life) (Sherry Mayrent) 3:24
  2. Yidn fun Amol (Jews of Long Ago) (Sherry L. Mayrent) 4:31
  3. Hora Gemish (Hora Medley) (from Tarras) 8:51
  4. Adir Hu (Glorious to G-d) (trad., after Bobover khsidim) 3:54
  5. Terkisher Gemish (trad., from various recordings) 7:31
  6. Redt Yiddish (Speak Yiddish) (words & music: Yosl Kurland) 4:10
  7. Dem Rebns Tants (the Rabbis dance) (trad., from Belf, Shryer) 5:14
  8. Tants Gemish (dance medley) (trad., from L. Schwartz, Tarras, Tsiganoff, A. Schwartz, Tarras, Brandwein) 16:11
  9. Menukho v'Simkho (Rest and Gladness) (from Feld, L. Schwartz) 5:06

to top of page To top of page

the KlezmerShack Ari's home page
to About the Jewish-music mailing list
to The Klezmer Shack main page
to Ari Davidow's home page