David Krakauer


David Krakauer

Only a select few artists have the ability to convey their message to the back row, to galvanize an audience with a visceral power that connects on a universal level. David Krakauer is such an artist. Widely considered one of the greatest clarinetists on the planet, he has been praised internationally as a key innovator in modern klezmer as well as a major voice in classical music.

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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


David Krakauer discusses A Far Cry’s album “Dreams & Prayers”


David Krakauer discusses his contribution to A Far Cry’s new album Dreams & Prayers with Thought Catalog.

“I see [Golijov's "The Dreams & Prayers of Isaac the Blind"] as a statement for humanistic values, and that’s very gratifying for me. Plus of course the Holocaust occurred on European soil. So given the events of the past along with the current political situation, I sense that Europeans have a specific context in which to relate to this music and ‘get it’ on a deeply multi-faceted level. That being said, the Golijov and this music in general is incredibly emotional and has tremendous power to both transport and profoundly move any audience. I believe that it stands on its own without needing to have any ‘cultural baggage’ attached to it.”

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UFO Releases



David Krakauer is considered to be one of the most singular clarinet virtuosos on the planet. But beyond that he brings a point of view to the table that is uniquely his own. Continuing on a path of constant self discovery, Krakauer introduces the music of his latest CD Checkpoint (Table Pounding Records).

Krakauer, a category-defying instrumentalist, uses his cultural heritage as a powerful inspiration for his music, informing and enabling his stylistically compelling projects. His is a singular vision, encompassing the diverse worlds of classical, klezmer, avant jazz, funk and electronica.

For the past 25 years Krakauer has been on a musical journey tracing his Eastern European roots. This voyage has found him revisiting his ancestral homeland, from where his Russian/Polish grandparents and great-grandparents immigrated at the end of the 19th century. Traveling east through Berlin before the Wall came down, the checkpoint experiences became momentous creative touchstones for Krakauer.

Like a travel guide on a literal and metaphorical search, on Checkpoint” he bears witness to the deep, joyous, human encounters he experienced. With his long-time band members of Ancestral Groove, he reveals the next step in his musical evolution sharing with us all stories about the human condition.

Ancestral Groove, with Sheryl Bailey on electric guitar, Jerome Harris on electric bass, Michael Sarin on drums/percussion, and Keepalive on electronics, creates a bridge between Krakauer’s singular take on jazz and world music, and guides us to another musical adventure. His three special guests on the CD Rob Curto, John Medeski and Marc Ribot add their own signatures to the mix.

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