David Krakauer / Live in Krakow
Live in Krakow
Label Bleu LBLC 6667, 2003
Unless it lies in the more blunt work of Russell Gross in Kruzenshtern & Parohod, I don't know of another clarinetist pushing as hard as David Krakauer. That doesn't always mean that he is my favorite clarinetist—sometimes, there is too much Krakauer and too little band, leading to something far less interesting than it should be.
The recent "Hot Ones" band has done as good a job of matching forceful excitement with strength of its own as any ensemble I've heard him play with. Certainly, in this recording made live in his eponymous city, there is a level of intensity even higher than usual. The opening number which does not include a Middle Eastern female vocalist and a crowd of hasidim displays the sampling wizardry of SoCalled, who is returning the favor of the excellent music Krakauer laid down for the HipHopKhasene album. A perfect mix of hot playing and sampling meeting the cold of recordings from elsewhere and elsewhen and creating something new and live and very different.
But then we revert to Krakauer the overpowering. His playing the "Gypsy Bulgar" is certainly fiery, inventive, and spectacular, but the band feels run over, even during a segment where he trades riffs with the accordion, Krakauer improvising and the accordion doing more chording. The thing is, on segments when someone else takes the lead, say, the accordion or guitar solos on Holshouser's "Dusky Bulgar" they sound great, tight, excited and powerful. Then Krakauer steps in and is another order of magnitude more fluid and excited. "Love song for Lemburg/Lvov" and "Alt (dot) Klezmer", however, are just more and more Krakauer. Wonderful, but even great clarinet palls when heard in isolation.
There is, of course, something perverse in criticizing a backup band this good, and even more perverse in kvetching about playing that is beyond good into genius. When I listen to Krakauer wail gently away on his "Offering Nign" I feel way over-critical. This is not Andy Statment playing over a pickup band. Yet, when I think of Margot Leverett, who he replaced in the Klezmatics (and was replaced in turn by Matt Dariau), or of Glenn Dickson in Shirim, I realize that when they play, I am blown away by how incredible their bands are. When Krakauer plays, I am mostly transported by Krakauer's genius.
That may be both the problem and the joy here. Krakauer is a genius. He certainly couldn't ask for a tighter backup band, or one that he has more fun interacting with. Whenever someone in the band takes a solo, or riffs with him, I become aware of how incredible all of this is. His interaction with Bailey's guitar on the closing "Sirba" is tight and good. To ensure that even the drum gets some props, there is a nice two minute drum solo towards the end of the concert. There's even a lovely bonus remix by Dolgin at the end of the album (before the "hidden" bonus track which is Krakauer, unaccompanied).
After listening to this album for nearly a year, that may be where I have to leave things: ultimately, this isn't an ensemble album. It's a David Krakauer album, live, and he the embodiment of that old Yehuda Amichai poem about a life force that can no longer be contained, gushing out beyond the sheaves that mark the edge of his kibbutz' fields. And at the same time, the band is everywhere supporting that playing, themselves inventive and an fire, riffing back and forth, always keeping Krakauer's playing grounded, while never getting in the way when things must take off.
There is no shortage of brilliant musicians who lack Krakauer's warmth or passion. For all that I find myself listening for ensembles over musicians, this is one of those cases where it has to be okay to sit and enjoy genius. So be it. And while we're enjoying Krakauer, it does't hurt to notice how damn good the rest of the band is, either :-).
Personnel this recording:
David Krakauer: clarinet, bass clarinet
Socalled: samples, beatbox
Will Holshouser: accordion
Nicki Parrott: bass, double bass
Sheryl Bailey: guitar
Michael Sarin: drums
- Turntable pounding (D. Krakauer/J. Dolgin/Trad.) 9:12
- Gypsy bulgar (trad., arr. Krakauer) 5:45
- Dusky Bulgar (W. Holshouser, arr. Holshouse, Krakauer) 5:10
- Offering Nign (D. Krakauer) 7:26
- Klezmer à la Bechet "Remix" (D. Krakauer; arr. J. Dolgin, D. Krakauer, N. Parrot) 7:03
- Naftule's Nussach (trad., arr. D. Krakauer) 7:50
- Love song for Lemberg/Lvov (D. Krakauer) 6:54
- Alt (dot) klezmer (D. Krakauer) 8:54
- Waiting for Julian (M. Sarin) 1:58
- Sirba (trad.) 2:49
- Bonus track: Sheryl pounds the table (J. Dolgin/S. Bailey) 2:04