Review: Boxed set rescues Yiddish obscurities

AP News
Posted: Dec 14, 2009 4:06 PM

Various Artists, "Cantors, Klezmorim and Crooners 1905-1953: Classic Yiddish 78s from the Mayrent Collection" (JSP Records)

Moishe Oysher!

Is there another name as redolent of Jewish life of an age past? And yet, the man himself _ seventh-generation cantor, star of film and record and concert hall _ is nearly forgotten, his golden voice relegated to fragile 78s locked away in dusty basements and attics.

The new three-disc set, "Cantors, Klezmorim and Crooners 1905-1953: Classic Yiddish 78s from the Mayrent Collection," digs deep into the archive of early 20th century Yiddish music and rescues Oysher and the many other talented musicians from obscurity.

The 67 cuts are culled from the 5,000 discs collected by clarinetist and record producer Sherry Mayrent, lovingly transferred digitally and reproduced in a handsome boxed set with notes by the renowned klezmer maven Henry Sapoznik.

There are operatic prayers sung by cantors like Pierre Pinchik and Gershon Sirota, with accompaniment unimaginable in shul; there are klezmer legends like Dave Tarras and Abe Schwartz; there are singers well known (Sophie Tucker) and forgotten (the Bagelman Sisters, later somewhat better known as the Barry Sisters). There are comedy routines. And there are curiosities, like a snippet of writer Sholom Aleichem talking.

And there is Moishe Oysher. Listen to his rendition of "Chasidic in America" with his wife, Florence Weiss. For sheer exuberance, it is unmatched.

CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: In her later years, Molly Picon made appearances on "Gomer Pyle, USMC" and Burt Reynolds' "Cannonball Run" movies. But her long career began in vaudeville and the Yiddish musical theater, and "Katinka," from 1926, is a rousing reminder of just how fabulous she was.