"Ever since I formed Klezmer Madness! in the mid 1990's I've been exploring the possibilities of adding funk, jazz, and lately hip-hop influences to klezmer," explains David Krakauer, an expert clarinet voice in jazz, klezmer and classical music. So, when Krakauer learned during a 2005 tour with pianist, accordionist, singer, rapper, composer and producer Josh "Socalled" Dolgin that a friend of a friend was performing with Fred Wesley, the clarinetist determined to meet the trombone player to discuss exploring potential common ground.
Trombonist Fred Wesley began his professional career in the legendary Ike and Tine Turner Revue, served for nearly a decade as trombonist, composer, arranger and musical director for the incendiary James Brown band, and from there played and arranged for monumental funksters Parliament Funkadelic and Bootsy's Rubber Band while also performing and recording on his own.
Krakauer arranged to meet Wesley in New York City ("at the Carnegie Deli, where we had matzoh ball soup," recalls Krakauer). They adjourned to a small rental rehearsal studio, began improvising over one of Socalled's beats, and quickly figured out that playing together would be a blast. There's no shortage of riotous fun on this resultant set, as both soloists keep their Jewish American and African American cultural melting pots bubbling hot. But Krakauer, Wesley, 'Socalled' and company fight for more than just their right to party.
"The News Keeps Babblin' On" wordplays on Babylon, with Krakauer howling about contemporary sociopolitical dystopia in between Ari Caprow's electric blue guitar riffs. The opening title track and "Lullaby for Charlottesville" resonate with meaning in the light of 2020's global activism, and the clarinetist's unaccompanied closing to his "Lullaby" burns like a genuine wail from his soul. Wesley and Krakauer simultaneously rip into solos to create a gloriously disorderly and unkempt, thematically perfect sound in "The Hippies Were Right."
"Blue Pepper" dresses up "Blue Pepper (Far East of the Blues)," from Duke Ellington Orchestra's 1967 Far East Suite (Bluebird RCA), in klezmer, rock guitar and funk, a sound steered into the musical joys of New Orleans by Wesley's trombone and the drummer's stuttering funk beats. The set-ending "Abe Inc.'s House Party," a song written about a party that sounds like a party, is the perfect marriage of form and content. The rhythm section couldn't nail this down any harder or funkier, building up a shimmering, shimmying framework for every soloist in turn to rock the house.
Given the importance of food in each culture, the fact that Together We Stand was consummated over a shared meal makes perfect sense and makes this truly tasty collaboration seem even more delicious.
Together We Stand; Lullaby for Charlottesville; The Hippies Were Right; Get Down Moses; Doina & Strannik;
Walls; The News Keeps Babblin' On; The Song I Never Got To Sing; Blue Pepper; Bb à la Socalled; Abe Inc's
David Krakauer: clarinet and vocals (on The Hippies were Right and The News Keeps Babblin’ On); Fred
Wesley: trombone and vocals (on Abe Inc’s House Party and The Song I Never Got to Sing); Socalled: keys,
sampler, vocals (on Walls and Strannik) and rap-vox (on Together We Stand, and Lullaby for
Charlottesville); Jerome Harris: bass; Michael Sarin: drums; Sheryl Bailey: guitar; Allen Watsky: guitar;
Brandon Wright: tenor sax (on Lullaby for Charlottesville, The News Keeps Babblin’ On and Abe Inc’s House
Party); Jay Rodriguez: tenor sax, baritone sax and flute; Eddie Allen: trumpet; Andrae Murchison: section
trombone; Taron Benson: rap-vox (on Abe Inc’s House Party); Fat Tony: rap-vox (on Walls); Sarah MK: rap-
vox (on Get Down Moses); Mohammed Raky: percussion; DJ Brace: turntables; Gwendolyn Wesley: vox; Joya
Wesley: vox; Antonio Starr: vox