Krakauer, Eclectically
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Krakauer, Eclectically

The klez-and-beyond clarinetist, now 60, curates a wide-ranging week of performances at The Stone.

George Robinson covers film and music for The Jewish Week.

Although he turns 60 in October, David Krakauer only reluctantly acknowledges the passage of time.

“Sometimes I really feel like I’m 16,” the clarinetist says. “I feel great, I still have so much creativity in me and I’m excited about the future. My dad just turned 90 and he’s the most energetic person in the room.”

On the other hand, a milestone birthday represents a splendid opportunity to bring together a bunch of Krakauer’s regular collaborators for a week of music, so when John Zorn called to offer him a curatorial week at The Stone in Alphabet City, “I thought it would be fun, so I said, ‘Hey, why not?’”

As a result, Krakauer will be playing with a different ensemble each night between Oct. 4 and Oct. 9, with a range of music that reflects his mastery of many forms and moods, ranging from acoustic klezmer to free improvisation to a steamy jazz-funk-blues-inflected gumbo played by a thoroughly eccentric string quartet.

Indeed, the only one of his usual hats that Krakauer will eschew in October is his classical one.

“The last time I did the Stone residency was two or three years ago and I performed [Oscar] Golijov’s ‘The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind,’” Krakauer says. “This time I wanted to reinvent the string quartet.”

“I have a voracious appetite for doing different things,” Krakauer says.

The result is the opening night program featuring the Ancestral String Band, with frequent Krakauer collaborator Sara Caswell paired with Joe Deninzon on violin, Sheryl Bailey on electric guitar and Jerome Harris on acoustic and electric bass.

Krakauer explains, “You have two great jazz violinists, then you add an electric guitar playing the viola part and the bass playing the cello part, and you get sort of a wild variation on the string quartet. They’ll be doing some of my repertoire, some klezmer stuff and a transcription of Sidney Bechet piece, but also altered and messed-around with. When I play with a [classical] quartet, they just have to read the notes, but this is a group of amazing improvisers. I want to let them do their thing and experiment.”

Perhaps the most challenging program takes place on Saturday, Oct. 8, when Krakauer performs a duet with pianist/electronics performer Kathleen Tagg as Breath and Hammer.

“We take a group of ‘simple songs’ written by Kathleen, by me, John Zorn, Rob Curto, Roberto Rodriguez, and we start with the piano and clarinet, then we add in these orchestrations that Kathleen has created, but the parts are sampled and looped. It ends up like a monster clarinet and piano, an augmented sound.”

The performance also has a video component, with a camera inside the piano showing Tagg bowing and plucking the strings and manipulating them with scarves and metal jangles.

It’s a far cry from Sidney Bechet or Dave Tarras, but that is an important part of David Krakauer’s ambit and his charm.

Is there a downside to his idiosyncratic eclecticism?

“I think I have a voracious appetite for doing different things and interesting things,” he says modestly. “The only downside, my greatest asset and greatest albatross, is that people find me hard to categorize. What box do we put him in? I try to make something new, mixing various elements together. That’s very important to me, that kind of — writing a new tune, not just writing the notes but adding extended techniques even within the melody.”

In other words, after 60 years, there isn’t a box big enough or colorful enough to contain David Krakauer.

David Krakauer curates performances at The Stone (corner of Avenue C and Second Street), Oct. 4-9. Different ensembles each night. Thestonenyc.com.

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