Yale Strom's Klezmer Songbook - A review By Michael Sherman

A Rejuvenating Heritage Book Review

October 30, 2006

Yale Strom's The Absolutely Complete Klezmer Songbook is a unique work. It is much more than a "songbook" as the title does not do justice to what is actually between the covers. The book starts with a substantial history of klezmer that is informative as well as entertaining. The collection of 313 tunes that follow has both great breadth and depth.

While many of the tunes are familiar, I found most of them to be entirely new. I suspect that several of the tunes are new to just about anybody. They are arranged by types of tunes/dances. The sections cover wedding tunes, bulgars, horas, shers, hassidic nigunim as well as many other types of songs. Strom has come as close to the true meaning of "complete" as seems possible. Despite the large number of tunes, each one includes notations of klezmer ornamentation to give indications of how the song should be played. On the other hand, the transcriptions (melody and chords) are very clear, and will certainly be appreciated by professional musicians and the curious beginner alike. A glossary gives descriptions of the Yiddish terms used in the introductory history and in description of the tunes. Also, many tunes have an accompanying translation of Yiddish or Hebrew lyrics and some include historical/cultural background.

A companion CD features 36 tracks of tunes given in the songbook played by a sharp group led by Strom himself, Hot Pstromi. The tunes on the CD are referenced as so in the songbook, so reader/player can get a better feel of these (and genre related) tunes. Strom's hard work has paid of handsomely. This is a phenomenal piece of work that will certainly be cherished by all who wish to learn to play Klezmer music, as well as those who are already accomplished players.