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Krakauer and Caine at Carnegie Hall

Elliott Simon By

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Virtuosos in both classical and jazz, clarinetist David Krakauer and pianist Uri Caine have fashioned parallel yet distinct musical personas. Invigorating klezmer with jazz, funk, hip-hop beats and sampling, Krakauer has energized the genre’s evolution while ensuring a continued tie to its roots. With unique arrangements, Caine has recast classical pieces by intertwining jazz, Jewish and modern themes to create new music. With its composer on piano, a recent Carnegie Hall concert featured Krakauer with his band Klezmer Madness! premiering the new Caine composition, “Ambiguous Identity”. Krakauer and KM! also performed material from their newest CD, Krakauer in Krakow.

Caine’s composition juxtaposed klezmer with Gustav Mahler’s music while relating the 19th Century cultural contexts of each; Eastern European Jewry and artistically dynamic fin-de-siécle Vienna. Caine and Krakauer with guitarist Sheryl Bailey, accordionist Will Holshouser, bassist Nicki Parrott and drummer Michael Sarin flawlessly articulated this demanding cross-genre score. Seamlessly transitioning among its multiple aspects, they present a holistic view of the composer’s intent.

Drawing on Mahler’s “Songs of a Wayfarer”, the piece extends Caine’s CD, Dark Flame , on which clarinetist Don Byron, trumpet player Ralph Alessi, drummer Jim Black, violinist Mark Feldman and bassist Michael Formanek join him in reinterpreting Mahler’s music. Jewish themes permeate “Two Blue Eyes” and “When My Sweetheart has her Wedding”, thanks to Byron’s clarinet and chanted Chasidic melodies that morph into jazz trios. “In Praise of Lofty Judgment” mixes DJ Olive’s beats with Sepp Bierbichler’s German vocal while “Shining Trumpets” spotlights trumpet and clarinet over a classical chamber backing as gun shots remind of its “off to war” lyric. “Song of the Prisoner” is true to the original’s design; a prisoner (Bierbichler in German) proclaims that thoughts are “free” while his unconfined sweetheart (vocalist Julie Patton in English) addresses him. Spacious clarinet and piano support Patton while the prisoner speaks over David Gilmore’s thrashing electric guitar riffs.

Chinese poetry and folk instrumentation elegantly portray the Song of the Earth cycle but the title cut persists as the most poignant selection. From Kindertotenlieder (Songs for Dead Children), Patton’s moving lyrical poetry (Kin Dear Tender Lieder) references Columbine and other tragedies to turn “Dark Flame” into a paean to all perished children.

Selections from Krakauer Live in Krakow connected klezmer’s nearly vanquished Eastern European heritage with its new evolutionary identity. KM!’s portrait of a fictionalized meeting between clarinet contemporaries Sydney Bechet and Naftule Brandwein, “Klezmer A La Bechet (Remix)” with beatmaster Socalled and drummer Sarin not only signal that samples and beats are now an integral part of the band’s distinctiveness, but also that the two can co-exist.

Bailey, throughout the set, added adventurous augmentation and color as she updated Joseph Moscovitz’s Rivington Street cimbalom on “Gypsy Bulgar” and rocked with Socalled on “Turntable Pounding”. Holshouser’s “Dusky Bulgar”, a portrait of KM!, moved through several changes ending up as an all out klezmer tune prompting an older lady’s exclamation, “Now that’s klezmer!”. Before himself “Offering” an awe-inspiring bass clarinet masterpiece, Krakauer reminded us that exactly 40 years ago, bass clarinetist Eric Dolphy released his masterpiece, Out to Lunch.

Nicki Parrott captivated on bass showing that she has quickly developed an instinctive communication with both Socalled and Sarin that makes KM!’s rhythm section the perfect platform for Krakauer’s soaring clarinet. Mesmerizing musicality, speed, and articulation infuse his clarinet with power, so much so, that when he puts it down it surely must continue to play. During the encore, Krakauer’s clarinet sounded chordal through the use of polyrhythms and quartertones (as on the CDs hidden track), completing an evening that wove disparate musical threads into a melodious brocade.

Visit David Krakauer and Uri Caine on the web.

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