Epstein Brothers / Klezmer Music II

Album cover: Nice small picture of the three surviving brothers: Max, Julie, Willie, and lot's of awful ALL CAPS type.

The Epstein Brothers
Klezmer Music
Vol. III - IV
EB Productions, 1997
double CD

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

In the last couple of years, the Epstein Brothers have not only returned to the studio to record their favorites, but they have also been releasing collections of live performances and older recordings. Last year, it was a cassette tape with just enough to tantalize (Klezmer Music II). This new double-CD set is a definitive picture of Jewish music during the years between the popular old recordings of Brandwein, Tarras, Moscowitz, and Kandel, and the klezmer revival. (Of course, when we say "Epstein Brothers, we not only refer to the four brothers, but to Pete Sokolow, who has played with them forever, and is an integral part of the band. Pete is usually referred to in this context as "the fifth Epstein.")

This wealth of music, then, was recorded during the years when the music was still just "Jewish music". This is the history of the music our parents and grandparents, assimilated into American culture, listened to, in all of its variety, shmaltz, and danceability. The songs range from liturgical to Israeli dances to medleys of the old songs. Familiar songs range from the usual wedding bulgars and freilachs to "Hava Nagila" and Miserlou". The arrangements are often lush and evoke an era now gone, but the brothers were not shy about co-opting the banjo, say, in "Bright Circle Dance". Needless to say, this, collection too, contains some of the Epstein Brothers favorites: "Yubba Bubba Boi," the "Second Ave. Singalong," and the "Olshanetsky Medley".

We've heard the essential recent recordings by the Epsteins. Joel Rubin recorded a couple of wonderful albums a few years ago, on Wergo. The current release, on the other hand, is the history of the Epstein Brothers. I don't mean to overstate things, but this is also a musical history of Jewish life and dreams of the last fifty years. One guesses that the studio pieces date mostly from the period from the 50s through the 70s, with the live material from the last few years. Unfortunately for those of us who want all of the details, this is a home production: the sounds are impeccable, but the liner notes are sparse, but telling (and very, very much in keeping with the brothers). The notes about each song on the back are marred by inconsistent notation, credits, and the occasional typo. Sooner or later, someone scholarly is going to have to go through these archives and figure this stuff out definitively. (On top of everything, it would be wonderful to know when these were each recorded and who played on the sessions. But first, just consistency.)

So be it. This is a set to be listened to, not to be studied. Your parents and grandparents will kvell to hear the familiar old songs again, and folks my age, well, it's strange to realize how much fun this old stuff, done in a manner appropriate to its time, is. Musicology in college should only be so much fun!

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 11/1/97

    Vol. III:
  1. Romanian Doina--Shepherd's Dirge, including "Vulach," Sheyebonen Bays Hamikdosh" (writ./arr. Epstein Bros.) 5:55
  2. Rabbi Wurtzburger's Simcha (celebration) March (co-writ./arr. Epstein Bros.) 3:27
  3. D'rochechechoh Hashem (with children's choir) (writ./orch. Epstein Bros.) 2:11
  4. Rikud / Wedding Freilach--Happy Dance (trad./arr. Epstein Bros.) 2:35
  5. Boruch H'shem(liturgical) (Epstein Bros.) 2:50
    vocal: Cantor Irvin Bell
  6. Rikud / Wedding Dance / Bright Circle Dance (trad./arr. Epstein Bros.) 2:42
  7. Olshanetsky Medly (arr. Epstein Bros.) 6:33
    "Ich Hub Dir Tzu Fil Lieb" (I love you much too much)
    "A Hupkele" (A little dance)
    "Shiro" (Liturgical melody)
  8. Second Avenue Singalong (performed live) (arr. Epstein Bros.) 5:58
  9. Judaic-Español March (writ./arr. Epstein Bros.) 2:13
  10. Venosan Artzom March--And they were given their land (writ./arr. Epstein Bros.) 2:28
    vocal: Cantor Irvin Bell
  11. Miserlou--Greek Dance (Sephardic) (trad./arr. Epstein Bros.) 4:40
  12. Futa Pupa--Besarabian Dance (Epstein Bros.) 3:09
  13. Old Time Russian Medley (trad./arr. Epstein Bros.) 3:50
  14. Druze Dance (interpreted & arr. Epstein Bros.) 2:52
  15. Druska Besarabian Peasant Dance (writ./arr. Epstein Bros.) 3:35
  16. Yubba Bubba Boi (A Yiddish Lied--A Jewish Song / A Kitsel in Hartz--A Tickle in the Heart) (performed live) (Epstein Bros.) 7:06
  17. Shalom (peace) March (writ./arr. Epstein Bros.) 3:16
    Vol. IV:
  1. Hungarian Medley (arr. Epstein Bros.) 6:45
  2. Hatai Hashem (writ./arr. Epstein Bros.) 3:35
  3. Yididyes Nigun--Julie's Song (Epstein Bros.) 2:42
  4. Mustafa (Turkish) (arr. Epstein Bros.) 3:00
  5. Yizchoks (Isadore's) Waltz (Epstein Bros.) 2:46
  6. Hebrew Medley (arr. Epstein Bros.) 3:17
  7. Vulach #1 (Romanian Dance) (arr. Epstein Bros.) 2:31
  8. Freilach Tantz--Happy Wedding Dance (arr. Epstein Bros.) 2:37
  9. Keshineva Shtickle--A little song about the town of Kishinev (arr. Epstein Bros.) 2:15
  10. Hava Nagila (Israeli Dance) (arr. Epstein Bros.) 2:03
  11. Bulgar Freilach Tantz (Bulgarian) (interp./arr. Epstein Bros.) 1:51
  12. Russian Sher (Square Dance), part 1 (interp./arr. Epstein Bros.) 4:20
  13. Barish Katz Bulgar (Happy Dance) (arr. Epstein Bros.) 2:44
  14. Vulach #2 (arr. Epstein Bros.) 2:29
  15. Freilach Tantz--Happy Dance (arr. Epstein Bros.) 2:16
  16. Russian Sher (Square Dance) part 2 (arr. Epstein Bros.) 3:00
  17. Artza Alinu (Israeli circle dance) (arr. Epstein Bros.) 1:52
  18. Kalarash (Romanian Drinking Song) Medley (interp./arr. Epstein Bros.) 4:37
  19. Birchas Kohanim (liturgical) (writ./arr. Epstein Bros.) 8:25
    vocal: Cantor Irvin Bell
  20. Rikud (entrance music for Bride and Groom) (arr. Epstein Bros.) 1:41

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