1983 BEGAN AUSPICIOUSLY with The Klezmorim's Carnegie Hall debut: two triumphant sellout shows on 20 February. Lines snaked around the block; scalpers hovered like hungry crows. One ticket-bereft shmendrik started a fistfight at the box office. Apart from our quixotic reduction of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, the repertoire was solid, the band hot — and the stage acoustics pin-drop perfect.
Kings for a day, we waited for the offers to pour in. Since performing arts venues typically booked acts a year or two in advance, we'd see no Carnegie-fueled uptick in our schedule until '84. Meanwhile, existing bookings kept us busy touring New England, the Midwest, and the Southwest.
That Spring, between tours, we succeeded in evolving beyond the crippling internal factionalism which had sapped our energies for years. Adopting a new pragmatism, we learned how to function more like professional associates and less like a dysfunctional family. Ah, sweet relief.
With the departure of John Raskin, we found ourselves auditioning the cream of Bay Area drummers, qualifying them with the notorious percussion tape that still circulates among klezmer cognoscenti. My sax mentor Richard Hadlock sent us jazz drummer Tom Stamper — who passed the audition, got the gig, and bumped us to a higher level of ensemble precision with his steady hand and lilting beat. A party animal par excellence, Tom radiated charm and melted hearts everywhere we toured.
Meanwhile, home in Berkeley for a few summer months, I met and courted Joan, a teacher/dancer who made me feel all moonlit. Her goddesslike charm haunted me in absentia during band trips to Southern California and Boston that Fall; on Halloween, I asked her to marry me and she said yes.
1983 ended with a sleepless three-day marathon jam in which The Klezmorim and The Flying Karamazov Brothers collaboratively wrote, arranged, rehearsed, and staged a wild neo-vaudeville stage show. Our combined repertoire? Klezmer tunes plus challenging, metrically-complex pieces by Kamikaze Ground Crew composer Doug Wieselman. The Flying Ks proved to be respectable horn players and killer rhythm beaters. We performed as an eleven-man juggling/brass supergroup: a harmonious, inevitable collaboration that wowed critics and delighted audiences at Stanford University and San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts.
Sadly in the midst of this creative ferment, our long-time trumpeter Brian Wishnefsky was reeling under the pressure of tours, shows, rehearsals, media appearances... He'd been a loyal trouper for six years, but the music biz eats its children. Everybody has a saturation point; Brian had reached his. The inside story continues in 1984... >>