Sherry Mayrent / Hineni

Album cover: Kathy Long pencil drawing of the ensemble

Sherry Mayrent / Hineni
Oyfgekumener Productions, OYF 003, 1995
CD available from

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Anyone who has ever listened to Sherry Mayrent play clarinet, or better yet, watched her perform with Wholesale Klezmer, recognizes prayer as a component of her music. This isn't just rousing, rollicking wedding music. Mayrent's doinas seem to tap into something much deeper. Paired with band co-member Yosl Kurland's storytelling, the band as a whole has become very special to me.

On this album, Sherry gathers a smaller ensemble: the accordion and bass (Owen Davidson and Lynn Lovell, respectively) from her main band, and explores those spiritual dimensions in her own material. She writes, "... our playing is modelled on traditional Ashkenazic prayer style. As in the synagogues of the old country, there is a strong melodic voice leading the group as the ba'al tefile leads the davening, with other voices echoing, anticipating, murmuring and commenting, rising and falling with each individual's involvement in the flow of sound." Yet, this is not new age klezmer. The opening "Hayntike yidn" (Jews of today) is every bit the dance tune, and to my ear, all the more enjoyable for the combination of Owen's accordion, Lynn's bass, and Sherry's clarinet. By stripping the sound down to the basics, the ensemble manages to combine an "early klez" sound (although the instrumentation is very much here and now, as is the precision and feeling; for more on early klezmer, see Josh Horowitz's notes on his work with Budowitz) with an urgency and thoughtfulness that are much more modern, much more cognizant of klezmer as a form of prayer than representative of klezmer as simkha music.

In the album's focus and instrumentation, it is similar to other recent "old-style" klezmer albums, such as Alicia Svigals "Fidl" or Jeff Warschauer's "Singing Waltz" as compared to the mish-mosh that comprises most modern "klezmer" repertoire. (I use quotes, because most current bands combine klezmer, Yiddish folk and theatre music, perhaps some Russian Jewish material newly arrived, a bit of jazz, and maybe some Israeli folk or pop, all done to the bar mitzvah beat which hasn't changed since my youth—often nice, but much broader than "klezmer".) In her balance between that older, more listenable feel, and the very grounded modern elements, this album is very much reminiscent of the Warschauer album. Her own "Vals" (waltz) is unusually quiet and reflective, less a waltz to be danced (although I find myself doing so) than to be listened to.

At some point I realized that this album is also Mayrent's storytelling; these aren't stories told with English and Yiddish words, as Yosl Kurland does in Wholesale Klezmer, but with the trill and flow of the clarinet. From the intricate "Freylekhs oyf eyn fus" (Freylekhs on one foot) to her signature, "hineni", which alludes in its opening chords directly to the Yom Kippur holiday prayer, this is an inspiring, and peaceful album.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 10/22/98

Personnel this recording:
Owen Davidson: accordion
Lynn Lovell: bass
Sherry Mayrent: clarinet


  1. Hayntike yidn—The Jews of Today 2:53
  2. Hineni—Here I am 8:30
  3. Freylekhs oyf eyn fus—Freylekhs on one foot 6:38
  4. Tsvey khosidlekh—Two khosidls 5:20
  5. Zeyde tantst—Grandpa dances 5:20
  6. Vals—Waltz 2:56
  7. Azoy geyt es—So it goes 5:10
  8. Ver veys?—Who knows? 3:50
  9. Finster un glitshik—Dark and mysterious 4:36
  10. Der bobes hent—Grandma's hands 4:33
  11. Tants gemish—Dance medley (6:41)
  12. Erev yom tov—The day/evening before a holiday 2:53

All songs written by Sherry Mayrent.

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