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Dave Tarras, a charismatic klezmer clarinetist who lived long enough to pass the music onto a new generation in the 1980s, died at 95 in Oceanside, New York on this date in 1989. Tarras left the Ukraine and emigrated to New York in 1921, where after a short stint in the fur industry he became a widely acclaimed and innovative klezmer in the Yiddish theater, playing also as accompanist to Molly Picon, Moyshe Oyser, and numerous other performers and cantors. “He was renowned for his versatility,” according to the National Endowment for the Arts, “his talent as a composer, his choice of traditional melodies, and the virtuosity of his tone and phrasing. Over the course of his career, Tarras created a new klezmer sound that fused popular American music with recognizable European roots.” Henry Sapoznik, Yale Strom, Andy Statman, Peter Sokolow, and several other key musicians of the klezmer revival in the 1980s and beyond got to study with Tarras, and Strom wrote his biography as “The King of Klezmer.” To hear and see Tarras in action, look below.
“Playing with Dave was like playing with Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman... he was the definitive player.” —Peter Sokolow