Press Room

Visionary Performers and Creators David Krakauer and Kathleen Tagg Spread Message of Musical and Cultural Transcendence in 2019-20

The eclectic range of projects that Grammy-nominated, genre-bending, classical, klezmer and world music clarinetist David Krakauer and innovative composer, arranger, pianist and producer Kathleen Tagg have lined up for the 2019-20 season are unified by a single mission: to foster human connection through music that transcends all stylistic and cultural boundaries. In March, they release Breath & Hammer on Table Pounding Records, the recording arm of their joint venture, Table Pounding Music. An electro-acoustic performance piece showcasing the duo’s innovative and idiosyncratic approaches to their respective instruments, the score features – inside a texture of loops and samples derived from the two instruments – both original compositions and their takes on music by some of their closest friends and associates. A second release on the label this season is from the band Abraham Inc., co-led by Krakauer, legendary funk and R&B trombonist Fred Wesley, and Canadian rapper Socalled; the band’s sophomore album, Together We Stand, comes out on Label Bleu/Table Pounding Records in October.

Originally founded by Krakauer in 2009, Table Pounding Records was expanded in 2015 when Tagg joined as co-artistic director and they created a production wing, Table Pounding Presents, to broaden the reach and scope of their activities. Under the auspices of Table Pounding Presents, European tours follow both album releases, and, in September, Tagg’s duo piano project, When Worlds Collide, with South African pianist Andre Petersen tours the East Coast of the U.S. in celebration of South African Heritage Month. Also in the upcoming season, Krakauer gives the European premiere of Mathew Rosenblum’s clarinet concerto Lament/Witches’ Sabbath at Poland’s Eufonie Festival with the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Rossen Gergov, and then reprises the piece in Boston with conductor Gil Rose and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP); he plays the Mozart Clarinet Concerto and a klezmer set in five cities in southwestern France with the Orchestre de Chambre Nouvelle-Aquitaine and French conductor Jean François Heisser; and he performs Osvaldo Golijov’s The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind and a klezmer set with the St. Michel Strings under the baton of Swedish conductor Katarina Andreasson in Finland.

Krakauer and Tagg’s Breath & Hammer represents a highly personal confluence of many streams: the strong foundations of both performers as classical concert musicians, Krakauer’s years as a klezmer innovator, composer, band leader and avant-garde experimentalist, and Tagg’s multi-faceted career creating and performing for the stage and theater, as well as her skills as a producer. As with all her previous albums, Tagg produced Breath & Hammer, which Krakauer describes as “a medieval tapestry the size of an apartment, made up of fingernail-sized samples.” In live performance, Breath & Hammer’s extended techniques, loops and samples are galvanized by a multi-camera, immersive video feed designed by Los Angeles-based video artist Jesse Gilbert, allowing the audience to see the pair’s unorthodox playing styles at close quarters and in real time. In addition to their own original material, the music by a global cast of composers – saxophonist John Zorn, Syrian clarinetist Kinan Azmeh, Cuban percussionist Roberto Rodriguez, accordionist Rob Curto, and accordionist and klezmer specialist Emil Kroitor – was contributed in the form of lead sheets, giving the duo full license to bring each piece into their distinctive sound world. Thus the entire undertaking reflects the larger context toward which all of their projects strive: the alchemical transformation of many genres and cultural expressions into one composite, respectful, non-appropriative, musical identity that speaks to an ever-growing cultural community.

Tagg, a South African native now based in New York, is a concert pianist who made her solo recital debut in Carnegie Hall in 2004, but as a young musician was also a cellist, orchestral musician, street musician and session player/arranger in a huge array of styles. Her projects have ranged from classical collaborations, including a NAXOS album of Jake Heggie songs with soprano Regina Zona, to avant-garde experimentalism, jazz, musical theater, alt cabaret, rock and pop. She has created her own unique language on the piano, expanding the instrument into a full electro-acoustic orchestra. In 2017, she and David Krakauer created Keepers of the Flame, an evening-length theatrical music event for the Borderlands Foundation’s annual Misterium Mostu festival. In the past decade, her work has focused more and more on identity, ideas of connection and sound exploration.

In the duo piano project Where Worlds Collide, Tagg collaborates with a fellow South African, classically trained jazz pianist Andre Petersen. The London Jazz Times has praised them for “​an open-minded mix of traditions, and the bravura technique they also share. The results are reflective and exuberant, by turns, and enormously enjoyable throughout.” The two met at the University of Cape Town in 1996, in the days following the election of Nelson Mandela as the first president of the newly democratic country, when people of different races and ethnicities could meet and exchange ideas as fellow citizens for the first time. That history has left its mark on their music, which combines their distinctly contemporary sensibilities with elements of classical music, South African jazz and indigenous music from sub-Saharan Africa. Their original compositions are complemented by their arrangements of works by iconic South African jazz composers like Abdullah Ibrahim, Bheki Mseleku, and Moses Molelekwa, all embedded in a novel soundscape that redefines the limits of the two-piano texture. Their September tour in Connecticut and New York celebrates South African Heritage Month, as well as the 25-year anniversary of the first democratic elections in South Africa.

Long recognized as a major voice in classical music, Krakauer has appeared as a soloist with major orchestras across the U.S. and Europe and a host of renowned string quartets including the Emerson, Kronos and Tokyo Quartets; played for eight years with the Naumburg Award-­winning Aspen Wind Quintet; and serves on the clarinet and chamber music faculties of the Manhattan School of Music, Mannes College of Music (New School), Bard Conservatory, and New York University. He is also one of those rare genre-crossing musicians who manage to achieve complete mastery over each of the genres in question. Thus his exploration of Eastern European klezmer music, which began almost as a hobby facilitating his desire to reconnect with his cultural heritage, soon led him to join the Klezmatics, the band that launched the second klezmer revival in the early 90s, and then to form his own band, Klezmer Madness!, which also had a transformative influence on the genre. He is now considered to be one of klezmer’s leading exponents, while also using it as a major source for his trademark cross-fertilization.

Krakauer’s association with Socalled – whom he describes as “a kindred spirit in the search for that magic place where these styles can find a commonality of ecstatic trance” – dates from his days with Klezmer Madness!, after the Canadian rapper alerted him to the possibilities of integrating hip-hop with klezmer and started performing with the band. In 2006, the two of them formed Abraham Inc. with trombonist Fred Wesley, known for his work with James Brown and George Clinton, among many others. Conceived as a meeting ground for Jewish and African-American traditions, Abraham Inc. is dedicated to eroding boundaries while at the same time honoring and even amplifying the traditions on which it builds. Socalled describes it as “bringing people together with music, celebrating differences and commonalities … cultural hybrid vigour in yo’ face.” True to form, the band’s first album, Tweet Tweet, peaked at No. 1 on both the Funk and the Jewish and Yiddish Music charts, and even reached No. 7 on Billboard’s Jazz chart. The upcoming album, Together We Stand, scheduled for release on October 15th, features an eight-piece band along with the three principals. The 13-stop European tour that follows includes an album launch in Paris, where they perform as part of the Festival Villes des Musiques du Monde. Jazz Times raves: “This endlessly surprising yet highly successful hybrid of klezmer, funk and hip-hop had the enthusiastic crowd – young and old, Jews and gentiles, whites and blacks – dancing ecstatically in the aisles like it was a Jewish wedding.”

A champion of new music, Krakauer has collaborated with some of today’s most celebrated composers, including Osvaldo Golijov and Paul Moravec, whose Tempest Fantasy, dedicated to and premiered by Krakauer and Trio Solisti, won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Music. Mathew Rosenblum composed his clarinet concerto Lament/Witches’ Sabbath – which combines microtones, a “field recording” of the composer’s grandmother singing in Yiddish, and snippets of the “Witches’ Sabbath” from Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique – for Krakauer, who premiered the work last season at Pittsburgh’s Beyond Festival and performed it at the ASEAN new music festival in Nanning, China this past spring. He also recorded it with Gil Rose and BMOP for the composer’s 2018 album of the same name on New Focus Recordings. In November the clarinetist plays the European premiere at Poland’s Eufonie Festival with the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra, and performs it in Boston with BMOP soon afterward. In its review of the recorded version, Stereophile called Krakauer’s playing “astounding,” before continuing: “The music itself is so powerful, and the singing and playing so atypically eloquent that they simply must be heard.”

High-resolution photos can be downloaded here.


David Krakauer and Kathleen Tagg 2019-20 Season Highlights

Sep 19 & 20
New London, CT
Kathleen Tagg and Andre Petersen: Where Worlds Collide
Residency at Connecticut College

Sep 22
New York, NY
Kathleen Tagg and Andre Petersen: Where Worlds Collide
Greenwich House
Renee Weiler Concert Hall

Oct 15
Abraham Inc.’s Together We Stand released in the U.S. on Label Bleu/Table Pounding Music

Oct 10-26
Abraham Inc. European tour
Oct 10: Amiens, France (Grand Théâtre, Maison de la Culture)
Oct 11: Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, France (Théâtre de Saint-Quentin)
Oct 12: Le Havre, France (Le Volcan, Scène nationale du Havre)
Oct 15: Paris, France (La Cigale; part of the Festival Villes des Musiques du Monde)
Oct 16: Clermont Ferrand, France (La Coopérative de Mai)
Oct 17: Besançon, France (La Rodia)
Oct 18: Coutances, France (Théâtre Municipal)
Oct 19: Lieusaint, France (Théâtre-Sénart)
Oct 20: Toulouse, France (Le Bikini; Festival Jazz sur son 31)
Oct. 22: Innsbruck, Austria (Treibhaus)
Oct. 23: Singen, Germany (GEMS Kulturzentrum)
Oct. 24: Munich, Germany (Jazzclub Unterfahrt)
Oct 26: Aix-en-Provence (Grand Théâtre de Provence)

Nov 17
Warsaw, Poland
Eufonie Festival
Mathew Rosenblum: Lament/Witches’ Sabbath (European premiere)
Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Rossen Gergov, conductor
David Krakauer, clarinet 

Nov 23
Boston, MA
Mathew Rosenblum: Lament/Witches’ Sabbath
Boston Modern Orchestra Project / Gil Rose
David Krakauer, clarinet

Jan 14-19
French Tour with Orchestre de Chambre Nouvelle-Aquitaine
Orchestre de Chambre Nouvelle-Aquitaine / Jean François Heisser
Mozart: Clarinet Concerto
Klezmer Selections
David Krakauer, clarinet
Jan 14: Poitiers
Jan 16: Rochefort
Jan 17: Niort
Jan 18: Bayonne
Jan 19: Gradignan

Jan 23
Mikkeli, Finland
St. Michel Strings, Katarina Andreasson, conductor
Osvaldo Golijov: The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind
David Krakauer, clarinet

March date TBD
Breath & Hammer released worldwide on Table Pounding Records
David Krakauer, clarinet; Kathleen Tagg, piano, piano orchestra, producer

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© 21C Media Group, August 2019





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