Wholesale Klezmer Band / Sing for Peace, Dance for Joy

Album cover: Lovely calligraphy and delightful drawing evoking Eastern Europe in Western Massachusetts Wholesale Klezmer Band
zingn far sholem, tantsn far freyd
Sing for Peace, Dance for Joy

Oyfgekumener Productions, OYF006CD, 2002

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

We all know the concept of "comfort food". I consider the Wholesale Klezmer Band, "comfort klezmer". When I just want a sense that all is right with the world, when I just want good klezmer to listen to dance, to think, to work, I look to one of their albums.

They don't release new albums often, so it is with great delight that I belatedly acknowledge this latest CD, "Zingn far Sholem, Tantsn far Freyd" (Sing for peace, Dance for joy). It is in every respect exactly what one hopes for from Wholesale Klezmer: Lovely, intensely-played klezmer featuring the clarinet of the soulful Sherry Mayrent, and good Yiddish songs sung by Yosl Kurland. I am especially pleased to write about this particular recording as we got a copy just prior to my marriage last summer, and it is part of the joyous soundtrack of that period.

Part of what makes Wholesale Klezmer Band special, besides the smoothness and skill that come from 20 years of making music together, is exemplified by the title of this CD. The songs, instrumental and vocal, all express a longing for peace and for the messiah, while never forgetting the need to dance for joy. More than most bands, Wholesale Klezmer seems to exemplify an activist approach to the chasidic concept of tikun olam, repair of the world by reuniting the shards of light of the original creation. At the same time, they also acknowledge in the liner notes Kafka's Paradox: "The Messiah will come only when he is no longer needed." This too, is the paradox of Wholesale Klezmer's music: it is wonderful to sit and listen, but at the same time one must dance.

Kafka's Paradox, in fact, provides the Yiddish vocals to one of the high points of the album, "Meshiekhs tsayt" (The Time of the Messiah), which opens with some amazing playing by Mayrent, eventually breaking into song inspired by (of the inspiration of) Kafka's words, by Yosl who says, "Jewish life is a paradox. We cannot divorce laughter from tears or tears from laughter." Along with "Sha Shtil," which I had previously always considered a satire on Hasidic life, this song reflects perhaps the distance between the excesses of some traditions, and the faith and desire for peace that creates and sustains tradition overall. But that is something that I read into these recordings. If this band is recording the song, it is because the song is a folk favorite, and something that brings pleasure. This version especially brings pleasure.

Another high point is the long medley, "Yikhes/In der fri". Although the album cites Belf as the source for the first tune, it came to me first, or most strongly, from the Epstein Brothers. Mayrent's "In der fri" is an excellent addition to the klezmer repertoire. It is important to note that on this piece, as on many others (including the appropriately-titled "Dance Medley), the band plays extended medleys, just as they might at a wedding or other simkha. This, of course, is how klezmer music should be played and heard. The attempt to divide each tune up as a single track never works as well for me as the celebratory medleys as are heard here.

There is something special about the Wholesale Klezmer Band. Maybe it is the sum of half a dozen talented and experienced musicians playing together for 20 years. Maybe it's just this band in particular. But when they release a new album, I do find myself singing for peace and dancing for joy. This album exemplifies just how good that experience can be. Thank you, Wholesale Klezmer.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 5/4/03

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


  1. Dos tisgayner (The Gypsy) (trad., after Tarras) 4:46
  2. Shpil zhe mir a lidele in yidish (Play Me a Song in Yiddish) (music: Henech Kon, words: verse 1&3 Yoysef Kotliar, verse 2 unknown) 5:48
  3. Boiberiker nigunim (Medley of Boiberiker Tunes) (after Boiberiker Kapelye) 9:52
  4. Sha! Shtil (Shhhh! Be Quiet!) (Leo Kopf) 2:34
  5. Meshiekhs tsayt (The Time of the Messiah) 7:23
    Az meshiekh vet kumen (When the Messiah Comes) (after Ruth Rubin)
    Der Meshiekh vet ersht kumen (The Messiah Will Finally Come, or, Kafka's Paradox)
  6. Kolomeyke (after Abe Schwartz and Harry Kandel) 3:05
  7. A glezele lekhayim (Let's Raise a Glass) () 2:45
  8. Yikhes/In der fri (Family History/In the Morning) (after Belf/Mayrent) 9:01
  9. Tants gemish (Dance Medley) (trad.) 10:20
  10. Yismekhu (They Shall Rejoice) (trad.) 4:36

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