Known simply as “Krakauer” to his fervent following, he is nothing less than an American original who has embarked on a tremendous journey transforming the music of his Eastern European Jewish heritage into something uniquely contemporary. That journey has lead Krakauer to an astounding diversity of projects and collaborations ranging from solo appearances with orchestras to major festival concerts with his own improvisation based bands.
He has shared the stage with a wide array of artists such as the Klezmatics, Fred Wesley, Itzhak Perlman, Socalled, Eiko and Koma, Leonard Slatkin and Iva Bitova while being sought after by such composers as Danny Elfman, Osvaldo Golijov, David Del Tredici, John Zorn, George Tsontakis, Mohammed Fairouz and Wlad Marhulets to interpret their works. In addition, he has performed with renowned string quartets including the Kronos, Tokyo and the Emerson and as soloist with orchestras such as the Orchestre de Lyon, the Orquestra Sinfonica de Madrid, the Phoenix Symphony, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Dresdener Philharmonie and the Detroit Symphony, among many others.
Writer Mark Stryker hinted at the visceral nature of Krakauer’s performance in his Detroit Free Press review: “Krakauer played with astounding virtuosity and charisma. A furiously improvised cadenza leapt between low and high registers in a way that suggested John Coltrane, building to an excited peak. After the concerto he also offered an encore, improvising by himself with an air of ritual, before playing a swift klezmer dance with the orchestra.”
Having been showered with accolades for his groundbreaking work in classical, klezmer and jazz, Krakauer now finds himself at an artistic crossroads and is ready to make a daring leap into a new phase in his career. His next project, The Big Picture, may be his most adventurous to date. With an all-star crew of fellow musical renegades, Krakauer is re-imagining familiar themes by such renowned film music composers as John Williams, Marvin Hamlisch, Randy Newman, Wojciech Kilar and Vangelis, as well as interpreting melodic gems by the likes of Sidney Bechet, Sergei Prokofiev, Mel Brooks, Ralph Burns, John Kander & Fred Ebb and Jerry Bock that have appeared in popular films. Having already contributed to films by directors Ang Lee and Sally Potter, Krakauer now takes on the challenge of bringing a modernist vision to tunes that resonate on a deeply emotional level with generations of moviegoers.
“For me, it’s like putting on a new suit of clothes,” says Krakauer of The Big Picture. “And this project is also a way for me to connect the dots of all the music I’ve been playing throughout my career. So I’m very excited about this new step we’re taking.”
What people are saying about Krakauer:
“My God and the God of my fathers. Why do Jews make this distinction? It is said that if one only worships the God of our fathers our faith will be lawful and traditional, but without passion and spirit. If we only worship God directly without tradition, our faith will be authentic, but without structure and easily diverted. Jewish mystics understood this in a profound way. Their intense encounter with God is deeply personal, but they climb Jacob’s ladder to God on the rungs of tradition. The danger, though, is when tradition binds the immediacy of the encounter so that we are pinned down by it. We trust our parents and their wisdom, but there comes a moment when we become aware of their humanness, their infallibility. Klezmer is tradition, but it is not halakha. It is born out of the human experience, the experience of sin and redemption, lust and fasting, of aching to see God and deliberately looking the other way. David Krakauer distills all this tension into his breath.
“Krakauer’s playing is transportive, it knocks on the door of mystical consciousness but then you want to clap your hands and stomp your feet and shout. Music doesn’t happen in the heavens; it’s mundane, phenomenal, earthy. No matter the transcendent intention, music is a deeply physical act. And Krakauer’s clarinet playing–fingers, breath and lips, the spittle and the calluses, the clacking of the keys–is grossly human. And as making music is physical, so is the listening. To listen to David Krakauer is to hear humility in the face of a great and lasting tradition while witnessing the essential rebellion that keeps culture moving, adapting, insisting. It’s about making clay tablets so to smash them, and then put the pieces in a box so the next generation can have them. Krakauer’s music reminds us to never sit still. God did not finish creating on the seventh day. He merely rested, waiting for us to continue the work. Krakauer is one of God’s greatest artificers.”
— Peter Bebergal, author of Too Much to Dream: A Psychedelic American Boyhood
“Discovering [klezmer] changed everything for me. It really did. Because I just fell madly in love with the music. My parents are both musicians— my father was a clarinetist, my mother was a really great bassoonist; she recorded with Stravinsky. Listening to David Krakauer had a tremendously powerful effect [on me]. It helped me discover Yiddish again, which was hugely important.”
— Tony Kushner, playwright & screenwriter (Angels in America, Lincoln) quoted in Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish by Abigail Pogrebin