IF EAST SIDE WEDDING IS MORE EXUBERANT THAN AUTHORITATIVE, it remains a milestone. As the first modern neo-klezmer band recording, this is the album that jolted the sleeping monster awake — inspiring a new generation of klezmer musicians, throwing down the gauntlet to ethnomusicologists, and coaxing the last remaining traditional players back into the limelight.
Why us, and why in 1977? Balls we had, and brains too, but mostly dumb luck. The Fates sent us Chris Strachwitz, the only record producer on Earth nuts enough to engage a wet-behind-the-ears band to record an album of music nobody had clamored to hear since 1930. (The fine musical duo of Andy Statman and Zev Feldman searched for the same El Dorado on the East Coast, but their opportunity to release a klezmer album didn't come until 1979.)
Truthfully, less than half of East Side Wedding qualifies as klezmer music. The Klezmorim's 1976 repertoire included Serbian, Rumanian, Russian, Hungarian, and Greek instrumental tunes as well as songs from the Yiddish Theatre, Yiddish folklore, and various Hasidic traditions. As we triangulated toward the instrumental vocabulary of kleznitude, Balkan/Slavic/Moldavian/Anatolian influences illuminated the fragmentary Yiddish sources available to us at the time.
Nonetheless, our instincts were good. Please understand that I've never been eager to fall on my sword for this record — as soon as it was done I wanted to go back and do it better, and nobody was happier than me when it finally went out of print. But East Side Wedding undeniably mapped out the klezmer-revival game plan for the next ten years, establishing the genre as A) Eastern European with an American twist; B) Yiddish; C) old-time/traditional; D) acoustic; E) ensemble-based; F) improvisational; G) proletarian; and H) hip.
Call us searchers, then, with oceans yet to cross — clutching a mere scrap of map but homing in on the big red X like a salmon swimming upstream...