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The Evolution of the Klezmer Clarinet: Naftule Brandwein, Ilene Stahl, Michael Winograd, and more

By Nat Seelen

Published Sep 27, 2022


Naftule Brandwein in 1925. (3 min)

As we all know, the clarinet is the soul of any klezmer band – don’t tell the fiddlers! For modern musicians, almost all of our knowledge of the “traditional” klezmer clarinet sound is filtered through two artists who immigrated to New York in the early 20th century. Dave Tarras and Naftule Brandwein weren’t just leading performers in the scene, they also dominated the clarinet chair in the lively Yiddish music recording industry. Listen to Tarras and Brandwein perform nearly a century ago, then compare with a selection of today’s top klezmer clarinetists. How have today’s klezmer clarinetists drawn on their musical heritage to create new sounds and styles?  



1. Naftule Brandwein in 1925

2. Dave Tarras in 1939

3. Ilene Stahl in 2010

4. David Krakauer in 2016

5. Andy Statman live in 2017

6. Avrum Balti in 2018

7. Michael Winograd in 2019

Dave Tarras in 1939. (3 min)

“Kale besetzen (Wedding Scene)”

Al Glaser’s Bucovinaer Kapelle with clarinet solo by Dave Tarras.

Recorded January 21, 1939 in New York.

Side 7 of Decca album 103, “Jewish folk dances.”

Take number 1.


From Mayrent Collection of Yiddish Recordings, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Ilene Stahl in 2010. (3 min)

“Tartar Tanz”

¡Klezperanto! with Ilene Stahl on clarinet.

David Krakauer in 2016. (8 min)

David Krakauer‘s “Heyser Bulgar” with the WDR BIG BAND, under the direction of Chris Byars.

Produced at WDR Studio 4 / Cologne (September 2015).

Andy Statman live in 2017. (4 min)

The Andy Statman Trio at Eldridge Street Synagogue, NYC, November 2017.

Avrum Balti in 2018. (4 min)

“Russian sher”

Yaptzik Klezmer ft. Panagiotis

Recorded at Bardo Studio, Tel Aviv.

Michael Winograd in 2019.

Kosher Style (full album)

Purchase on Bandcamp.


Nat Seelen is a musician, educator, and nonprofit leader based in Boston, MA.



How would you describe the different clarinetists' sounds?  


What commonalities can you find across all of the clarinetists? What makes each one unique?  

Listen deeper 

What influences can you hear in each of the modern performers? Can you tell who started in classical, jazz, or rock? 

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