April 2, 2014
The Big Picture
Table Pounding TDR 002
Anti-Semitism or approval is behind the oft-repeated canard that “Jews run Hollywood“, but certainly no one can deny the influence producers, directors, writers and composers of Jewish background have had on the history of cinema. Clarinetist David Krakauer pays tribute to Hollywood’s Semitic tinge on The Big Picture performing a dozen song from films whose actors, director, composer or themes reflect Jewish topics. Considering that the movies range from Sophie’s Choice to The Producers it’s fortunate that Krakauer’s equally varied musical affiliations have encompassed John Zorn, the Klezmatics, Itzhak Perlman and symphony orchestras.
Krakauer’s usual strategy is to retain the jaunty theme to songs like “Tradition”
from Fiddler on the Roof, as slippery clarinet trills, Jenny Scheinman’s see-sawing violin strings and pedal reverb from Adam Rogers’ guitars contrast a parallel musical identity for the tune. These novel arrangments work whether the psychedelic guitar excess on “Honeycomb”
Honeycomb from Lenny is over-emphasized, or whether on “Si Tu Vois Ma Mére“ used in Midnight in Paris, Krakauer subverts the rote two-beat Dixieland from Jim Black’s drums with a roadhouse boogie bumps from bass and rhythnm guitar as well as disco-era sound loops. At the same time while skittering fiddle modulations, accordion slurs and strumming guitar lines may give a piece like “Love Theme from Sophie’s Choice” an interface that sounds more Palm Springs than Poland, Krakauer’s own tone, complete with heartfelt trills and spetrofluctuation never mocks the music’s underlying melancholy.
More to the point Krakauer’s reed skill is such that he makes you hear some songs in new ways. Playing bass clarinet on Funny Girl’s middle-of-road staple “People“ for instance, his intense vibrato joined with cascading piano chords and violin runs strengthens the melody’s poignancy without letting it fall into sentimentality.
Overall The Big Picture is an outstanding salute to movies, music and movie-music, whatever their origins.
— For Whole Note Vol. 19 #7