Feb 20, 2014
A few months back I had the pleasure of having a conversation with David Krakauer, the noted clarinetist and “Radical Jewish Music” pioneer and to post it as Podcast 377. During the course of our talk, he mentioned his then-future project The Big Picture, a multi-media presentation that would merge many of his most important cultural touchstones - music, the movies and Jewish culture.
I had the pleasure of catching one of these extravaganzas, and left with a delightful case of sensory overload. Krakauer leads a crack band, featuring guitarist Sheryl Bailey; violinist Sara Caswell, keyboard whiz Rob Schwimmer; bassist Mark Helias and percussionist John Hadfield though a set of film-sourced tunes that are deconstructed not only by their fiery play, but by the accompanying film clips designed by Light of Day. Whether they are tackling well-known pieces like “Wilkommen” from Cabaret or “People” from Funny Girl, or sections from scores written by Randy Newman (Avalon) and John Williams (Schindler’s List), the band – and Mr. Krakauer in particular – bring out new and wonderful aspects of the music in a most entertaining manner.
The CD release of The Big Picture captures the same set list as the performance (sans encore) and a slightly different band, but still manages to re-invent well known tunes and themes. While enjoyable, someone who has “seen it live” can be forgiven if the recording cannot reach the highs of the performance. For the rest of the world though, this is another terrific addition to Krakauer’s catalog, a further revisiting of American and Jewish culture at its most probing.