Guitarist/Composer, Jonathan Freilich has been an active part of the New Orleans music scene since his arrival there in 1989.
Almost immediately, he found himself as sideman for notable locals such as Kermit Ruffins, Michael Ward and The Reward, and Sun Ra trumpeter, Michael Ray. In 1992 he co-founded the New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars(NOKAS), a pioneering klezmer ensemble that infused that music with the vibrancy and energy of the funk, jazz and brass music of New Orleans. To date he has had opportunity to play with most of New Orleans' greatest musicians from across all genres.
NOKAS was playing some of his compositions, but by 1993 he found himself seeking outlets for his compositions in other styles and forms. After playing with a plethora of combos and experimenting with many great local musicians he formed Naked On The Floor and eventually The Naked Orchestra. Naked on the Floor (quintet) and the Naked Orchestra (18-24 piece creative orchestra) play Freilich's original compositions exclusively and still play regularly in New Orleans.
He has appeared at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 24 times as well as headlining the Berlin Jazz Festival with NOKAS. He has appeared at numerous other festivals inside and outside the country including Bonnaroo, the Ann Arbor Jazz Festival, The American Folklife festival at the Washington Monument, collaborations with poet, Andrei Codrescu at the Holocaust museum in NYC and many others. Other notable work includes appearances with Sam Rivers, Burton Greene, Marshall Allen, The Wild Magnolias and backing songwriters such as Robbie Robertson. He has done arrangements for a wide range of recordings from, Peter Stampfel to Hal Willner’s presentation of U@ doing music of T-Rex.
He is featured on over 21 recordings ranging from Klezmer to Afro-Cuban and avant-garde orchestra music. Recently he put out two CD’s of a large orchestra playing his original compositions, a small group, and played on Marianne Faithfull’s latest release. Many of these recordings are either Big Easy or Offbeat entertainment award winners across a number of categories. He also has music featured in films and TV shows (Andy Richter conquers the Universe, The Dukes of Hazzard(Warner Home Video) as well as commercials for companies such as Southwest Airlines and Mercedes.
In 2016 he produced and arranged an album, NOLA? for legendary Basque artist, Fermin Muguruza. Rearrangements of Muguruza’s classic work utilizing the great players and sounds of New Orleans. That led to a very successful European run for the Basque New Orleans Orchestra.
His work includes 4 completed and performed operatic works: a comic-satirical opera, Bang the Law, about a couple of New Orleans lawyers and their movements through New Orleans class detritus after Hurricane Katrina, a two movement orchestral fantasy about Elias Cannetti at carnival, formation of a new quintet to play new original compositions, an octet reduction of Peter and the Wolf for a New Orleans Contemporary Art Center/Guggenheim foundation presentation; a second opera, ee me & cummings thee which premiered in New Orleans in Nov. 2011. 2019 saw the completion of two operas. One a hyper-collaborative project with writer, Bernard Pearce, The Coronation, on the selecting of queen bees. In June 2019 he wrote an operetta on the Dirty Letters of James Joyce to Nora Barnacle, titled Darling, Please do not be offended at what I wrote.
He is the subject of the one hour radio documentary Jonathan Freilich’s Freedom Double-O Naked Klezmer Jazz Latin Boogaloo: The Radio Documentary by award winning documentarian, David Kunian and was the 2008 Louisiana Governors’ Music Fellowship Award recipient. This year he figured as a Rising Star guitarist in Downbeat’s Critics Poll.
Freilich was born Oct.13, 1968 in Philadelphia, Pa. He spent most of his early years, up until a late teenager in London, England before moving to Los Angeles in 1985. Thereafter, he moved to Santa Cruz, Ca in 1987 before the 1989 move to New Orleans. Currently, he is residing in Los Angeles after completing further studies in composition at California Institute of the Arts.
Aside from music, Freilich is also a certified Iyengar yoga instructor and, was a co-owner of a studio in New Orleans for many years.