Anyone who has listened to National Public Radio's "Yiddish Radio Project" on All Things Considered knows the story: While visiting the crowded office of an elderly radio show host, Klezmer scholar Henry Sapoznik literally stumbled over a treasure trove of old 78 records featuring long-lost radio broadcasts and rare Jewish music. This spring, two-and-a-half decades since the start of the Klezmer revival, Sony Legacy is finally issuing some of the greatest Klezmer music ever recorded for the first time on CD. Until now these landmark recordings were passed around on scratchy 78s and countless tapes. Produced by Sapoznik and Michael Brooks, these remastered performances sound like they were recorded yesterday.
The Klezmer King, a compilation of 25 tracks produced by Abe Schwartz, includes recordings from 1917 to 1927. Among them is a rendition of Der Shtiller Bulgar (The Quiet Bulgar), by the Jewish Orchestra, imbued with the wonderfully ragged energy that makes Klezmer such a kick to listen to. Schwartz may be best remembered for introducing three great clarinetists to listeners: Naftule Brandwein performs brilliantly on "Roumeinishe Doina" (and more). Dave Tarris plays the haunting "Dovid'l Bazetzt Die Kalleh" (Little David Seats the Bride). And Sam Beckerman plays the joyful "T'kias Shofer Blosen" (Blowing the Ram's Horn).
Avenue A to the Great White Way: Yiddish & American Popular Songs 1914-1950 is a two-CD, 50-song compilation illustrating what happened when Klezmer music came to America and encountered the theater, the movies, and the pop charts. Included are songs sung by Molly Pican, Al Jolson, and Irving Berlin. We hear how "Der Shtiller Bulgar" is slowed down to become "And the Angels Sing," a hit for Mildred Bailey. Also included: a delightfully silly "Palesteena" by Eddie Cantor, "Yiddisha Charleston" by Norman Glantz & His Orchestra, and the ever-popular "Roumania, Roumania" by Aaron Lebedeff.
Perhaps most sought after CD will be Tanz! (Dance!) With David Tarras & the Musiker Brothers. Recorded in 1955 and featuring the clarinet virtuosity of Tarras and his son-in-law Sam Musiker, the album perfectly fuses the wailing Klezmer sensibility with jazz improvisation. The 16 cuts (some previously unreleased) range from Bulgars to Tangos. Musiker's arrangements on this recording have, more than any other source, provided the jumping off point for the hundreds of Klezmer bands thriving today. Klezmer aficionados will recognize cuts like "Papirossen," and "Sam Shpielt," but you've never heard them performed so infectiously.
--- Ron Netsky