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Krakauer's Ancestral Groove: Checkpoint

Chris M. Slawecki By

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Clarinet master David Krakauer was born in raised in New York City. As he spread his considerable chops throughout NYC's classical, electronica and jazz scenes, he became known as a Klezmer specialist but just as often appeared as a soloist or member of various symphony orchestras, string quartets and chamber ensembles alongside a head-shaking variety of artists—Itzhak Perlman, Fred Wesley, John Zorn, the Kronos Quartet, Natalie Merchant, the The Klezmatics, and many others.

"It's been just over 25 years since I've embarked on a great musical journey in search of my Eastern European Jewish identity. Part of that voyage has been revisiting my 'ancestral homeland' where my Russian/Polish grandparents and great-grandparents had come from at the end of the 19th century," Krakauer reflects in Checkpoint's liner notes. "The musicians in Ancestral Groove have been on this ride with me for a long time now. This new incarnation of my band encapsulates many of the stops I've taken along the way during the past quarter of a century. Together with so many collaborators, I've been through the worlds of klezmer, avant jazz, funk, contemporary classical music and electronica...all in the name of a greater search for a sense of identity."

Krakauer's virtuosity on clarinet is obvious, but the best part of Checkpoint is the integrative, pan- global acoustic-electric vision—and form-fitted guest contributors—with which he and Ancestral Groove surround it. Guest guitarist Marc Ribot turns "Elijah Walks In" into volcanic jazz-rock, carving out then shredding funk chords into flurries of electric notes that wail alongside Krakauer's clarinet like two roaring fire engines racing to the same destination —incredibly electrifying, satisfying AND danceable jazz. "Tribe Number Thirteen" features organist John Medeski, whose keyboard gooses drummer Michael Sarin into a trip-hop groove; Krakauer's clarinet cuts into this groove as sharp as an alto sax, while Medeski's solos sounds like they flow from deep rivers of funk, first from the mysterious Middle East and then from soulful midtown Memphis.

Krakauer shuts down his Checkpoint with two live tracks. "Tandal," a Zorn piece that Krakauer first recorded for Masada Book 2: The Book of Angels Volume 18: Pruflas (Tzadik Records, 2012), erupts from rumbling funk into breakneck improvisatory jazz fueled by the leader's heat-seeking clarinet.

The ensemble reprises the studio track "Tribe Number Thirteen" with a live version recorded in New York City that crackles with all of NYC's energy, diversity and magic. It sounds like jazz while Krakauer's clarinet wails in the forefront, but the rhythm section and guitarist Sheryl Bailey rock it hard and funky through the spaces in between.

With Checkpoint, Krakauer's Ancestral Groove drive miles into AND miles ahead of traditional and contemporary jazz, Eastern European and Jewish music.

Track Listing: Kickin' It For You; Krakowsky Boulevard; Tribe Number Thirteen; Checkpoint Lounge; Elijah Walks In; Moldavian Voyage; Synagogue Wail; Border Town Pinball Machine; Tandal; Tribe Number Thirteen.

Personnel: David Krakauer: clarinet; Sheryl Bailey: electric guitar; Jerome Harris: electric bass; Michael Sarin: drums; Jeremy Flower (a.k.a. Keepalive): sampler; Rob Curto: accordion (8); John Medeski: organ (3); Marc Ribot: electric guitar (5).

Title: Checkpoint | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Table Pounding Records


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