PINBALLING FROM TRIUMPH TO CRISIS as major tours loomed, The Klezmorim sought a trumpeter with jazz improv chops, cool moves, a great ear, and the ability to live on 500 bucks a month. Fate sent us Stephen Saxon, a quick study and energetic player/arranger who, with teen heart-throb Tom Stamper, nicely balanced DJ Gray and the veteran rhythm axis of Linscott, Thornton, and Liberman.
After the year's first road trip, we popped into Russian Hill Recording in San Francisco to lay down tracks with producer Bernie Krause. Having opened the public's ears to Russian military and immigrant street-band klezmer in Metropolis, we chose next to explore New World klezmer and African-American jazz cross-influences in a speakeasy nightclub/Depression-era cartoon vein.
We considered calling this 1984 disc Newspeak, as in rescuing a historic musical vocabulary from Memory Tube oblivion. But naah, Dostoevsky prevailed over Orwell the way a crisp vodka trumps greasy Victory Gin: our album saw day as Notes From Underground.
1984 was a blur of jet terminals and highway pit stops as we labored like serfs to make our band a household meme and pollinate North America with klezmer spores. Weekends on tour were a frantic mishmash of broadcasts, interviews, workshops, sound checks, and shows. Concert venues typically went dark in midweek, however, and we'd twiddle our appendages in Corn Belt budget motels, wishing we were home or dead.
Good stuff happened too. We performed at Avery Fisher Hall in New York, and slurped hot sweet café cubano in Miami. Downbeat gave our new album four stars. Klezmer mavens Hankus Netsky, Frank London, and David Harris hung out at our Boston Harbor Cabaret Jazzboat gig. And we did a strong show on home turf at UC Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall, vindicating our longtime local fans' faith that this raggedy-ass party band could wake up the world. The inside story continues in 1985... >>