IN SALMON YEAR 1978 — struggle upstream, then croak — we rebuilt our sound and repertoire sans musicology maven Skuse. To survive as player and arranger, I doubled as band manager, accountant, graphic designer, and publicist. David Gray emerged as a driving wheel, helping me arrange tunes and produce our newsletter (which we back-dated by fifty years, for ambience). As the band's growing popularity dogged our ability to manage the business end, wannabe band managers clustered 'round; but these yokels saw The Klezmorim as little more than a party band. Where, oh where was our Colonel Parker?
Meanwhile, gigs happened... clubs, festivals, colleges, even the occasional plane trip... as the band morphed like some many-tentacled intergalactic cheese. Players sat in, joined, quit, returned. Four of us might show up, or eleven. Every instrumental slot was up for grabs. Tuba battled string bass for dominance. Alto horn gave way to trombone. Accordion, piano, and tsimbalom shuffled the rhythm card. And the violins got clobbered by the reeds and drums. An unwieldy, larger-than-life golem of a band, building itself out of mud and straw!
Somehow Gray and I kept the beast together long enough to finish recording Streets of Gold. With the album in the can, Gizmo and the string players fled, leaving David Gray on clarinet, Lev Liberman on sax, Brian Wishnefsky on trumpet, John Raskin on percussion, and Kevin Linscott on trombone — a lineup that, with the later addition of tuba player Donald Thornton, would remain stable for the next five years.
Standout gigs of 1978 included a run of shows at jazz club Berkeley Square with tsimbalist Stu Brotman and violinist Sandra Layman... opening for the David Grisman Quintet at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco... serious flirting at the clothing-optional Sweet's Mill Folklife Camp... meeting monster fiddler Evo Bluestein and his musical family... jamming with Michael Alpert and the UCLA Ethno-heavy Chutzpah Orchestra in Los Angeles... and the first of a string of gigs over the years at Santa Monica folk-music showcase McCabe's.
That year I finally abandoned my efforts to subdue the wily taragot, an expensive and finger-warping Hungarian/Romanian single-reed instrument that bleats like the moon-begotten offspring of a saxello (a Mexican gecko related to the axolotl) and a duduk (an Armenian goat-llama bred for its soft wool and resonant bladder). The soprano saxophone, I discovered, sounds almost as good and is a hellacious lot easier to play. The inside story continues in 1979... >>