What follows is a piece written for Lee Barclay and Chris Porche West's great collection of short pieces by New Orleans residents from all across the city and its complex social layers. It was written after the 2005 hurricane that wiped out so much but then there was the city wide pondering over What Can't be Lost. The roster of contributors is epic and being invited to participate was an honor. It's still available here...
Though the book is a few months old now and the subject even older I'm still including it under "What's New?"...because it hasn't been seen outside the book yet.
Jewish-New Orleans Art?
Over the last 16 years, playing with the New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars, I have had a close view of what a hybridized New Orleans- Jewish art form might be and, more interestingly, what forces in any locale might contribute to the alteration of certain sounds in music.
The common definition of Klezmer music is usually given by the translation of the word coupled with the origins of the sound. The word Klezmer is from two words, kley and zemer, meaning vessel of song. Some go on to say that this describes the musician who is the vessel who channels the melodies that in a sense are already out there in a metaphysical space given by God. From a cultural or ethno-musicological standpoint, Klezmer denotes Eastern European Jews playing the secular music of those regions but with an instrumental inflection from the liturgical-singing style of the Chazzans or synagogue cantorial soloists of those regions.
It is interesting how people begin to identify with phenomena such as sounds and places and relate to those things as being their own. Since this band started playing the bars of New Orleans in the early nineties, the energy of that world began to seep in. People wanted to dance, and they wanted rhythmic, ecstatic music that lasted for hours into the night. That was their idea of New Orleans music at that time. People who saw that element said that we were New Orleans players; that we played New Orleans Jewish Funk. On the other hand, many said that we were