was one of the first of the revivalist bands to play klezmer, the traditional dance music of the Eastern European Jews. During the twelve years that the group was together,
brought a good-humored, theatrical approach to their fusion of traditional Eastern European Jewish music, jazz, improvisation, street music and worldbeat.
The concept that developed into Klezmorim
was conceived as a duo, "Lev & Dave," by saxophone player Lev Liberman
and violinist David Skuse
in 1974. At the time, the only other band playing klezmer was a group featuring Andy Statman
and Zev Feldman
in New York. Liberman had become interested in the music as a link between Russian and Romanian folk music, Depression-era cartoon soundtracks and the compositions of Gershwin
. With the addition of David Julian Gray
(clarinet, mandolin, lauto and violin), Greg Carageorge
(double bass) and Laurie Chastain
(violin), the duo was expanded into a full-sized band, The Sarajevo Folk Ensemble. After sharpening their sound at parties and weddings in San Francisco, the group changed their name to Klezmorim
, in January 1976, and performed their first concert at the Public Library in Berkeley, California on April 13, 1976.
Following the release of their debut album, East Side Wedding
, in 1977, Klezmorim
underwent several personnel changes. With the departure of Skuse and two string players, David Julian Gray
focused on the clarinet and former street performers Rick Elmore
(bass trombone, tuba, bass drum, cymbals) and Brian Wishnefsky
(trumpet) were added. Klezmorim
continued to develop the theatrical elements of their performances. In 1983 and 1984, the band collaborated with new vaudevillians the Flying Karamazov Brothers
for an extended run as a juggling/brass supergroup.
From 1986 until 1988, Klezmorim
toned down the theatrical aspects of their shows and concentrated more seriously on the music. Their concerts, which often lasted several hours, became legendary.