THE KLEZMORIM'S RADICAL MÉLANGE of jazz-era improv and street-level European oom-pah garnered serious Parisian radio airplay, but what made us minor popstars across France (& Belgium & Switzerland) was the fact that we performed live in hip French slang rendered by expatriate translator Françoise Morelieras. Showing respect for the local lingo took us far... except in Germany, where they commanded us never to speak German again.
European performance fees were modest — half the Stateside standard. But we could do any number of shows any day of the week, then travel 50 kilometers down the road to encounter vast new crowds of music aficionados. Playing tip-of-the-top jazz festivals and jazz clubs, attracting black-leather-clad rock-&-rollers, we conquered Berlin and became the Next Big Thing in Paris, London, Amsterdam. Surreal to experience in real life the preposterous dream I'd had back in 1975.
Bittersweet, too. After forty-odd tours and more than ten years with the band, David Julian Gray chose to leave the Ant Farm and lead a normal life. The rest of us, it strikes me now, could have been more supportive — but at the time we were more like, "Here's your hat." With scant weeks 'til the next tour, we snagged a new clarinetist pronto: Benjamin Goldberg of Kaila Flexer's Santa Cruz band Hotzeplotz. Ben's individualistic style blended traditional klezmer riffs with bebop in a mathematically precise matrix of pure-spun gonzo hipnitude; his restless artistry would help propel The Klezmorim — and the klezmer genre — in new directions.
Steve Saxon also vamoosed that year, applying his eclectic lip to other styles of music. Christopher Leaf became the band's new trumpeter, surviving the falling spotlight which nearly brained him in a smoky French nightclub.
And that was 1986. A brilliant, hellish, watershed year in which everything imaginable happened: we battled dependency and depression, found romance, jammed with the immortal Scatman Crothers, basked in Euro-fame, went days without sleep or food, even recorded an album — Jazz-Babies of the Ukraine. The Klezmorim, to paraphrase the Yiddish proverb, danced at multiple weddings with a single tukhes. The inside story continues in 1987... >>