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Klezmer is the exuberant music from the Jewish villages of Eastern Europe. Drawing on diverse roots, from ancient Hebrew melodies to fiery Hungarian dances, klezmer musicians of yesteryear traveled from village to village playing for weddings and holiday festivities.
Building on the klezmer tradition, the Klezmonauts add influences from their own backgrounds in jazz, bluegrass, Indian, African, and classical music. Add a healthy dose of spirited improvisation, and the resulting sound is intricate and exhilarating, a joy to listen or dance to.
Their new CD, Klezmonauts Destroy Tsunami, is a live recording of a concert at Tsunami Books in Eugene, Oregon in April 2013. The album includes original music, traditional klezmer tunes, and plenty of the group's trademark improvisation. This might be the only klezmer album anywhere with cajon, sarod, and sitar.
Since their inception in 1996, the Klezmonauts have entertained at countless festivals, weddings, bar mitzvahs, concerts, and community events throughout the Northwest.
The Klezmonauts are:
Chip Cohen, fiddle
Chip is a veteran old school fiddler who has performed and recorded extensively since the 1970s. He has traveled the United States playing with such artists as the Holy Modal Rounders, the Johnson Mountain Boys, Mariachis de las Americas, and Michelle Shocked. Chip has been known to fiddle on the roof.
Jeremy Wegner, mandolin
Jeremy has been active in the Eugene music scene since the 1980s, playing mandolin with the Laura Kemp trio, Celtic band Ghillie Dhu and the Don’ts, and folk-rock favorites the Sugar Beets. He also plays sitar and sarod with his Indian music group Bindaas. The Eugene Weekly called Jeremy a “string wizard”.
Ken Sokolov, drums, percussion
Ken brings years of experience to the band with his skills in African, Balkan, East Indian, and Latin American rhythms. He has performed with internationally acclaimed artists Ras Cloud, Mapate Diop, and Thomas Mapfumo. Over the past 30 years, Ken has played with numerous Northwest bands, including Woodland, Kef, Chibuku, Treguenda, and guitarist Paul Prince.
Michael Rubinstein, bass
Michael is a global traveler and a respected bassist and composer in the world of jazz and blues. He has worked with, among others, the International Rockhounds, Bird’s Eye View, and the Deb Cleveland Band.
Mike Curtis, clarinet, saxophones
Mike began playing klezmer music in 1982 with Portland’s Hester Street Klezmer Band. Since then his horn playing has taken him across Europe and Asia. He has recorded with Oomph International Klezmer and the Mike Curtis Klezmer Quartet, and has published several volumes of original and traditional klezmer music. Mike also plays with the Left Coast Saxophone Quartet and the Eugene Symphony.
“The Klezmonauts are so much fun! A dynamic blend of the traditional and the cutting edge makes a Klezmonauts performance a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Their music is always upbeat and gets the audience dancing in no time. The Klezmonauts are always a pleasure to work with and a pleasure to watch. I highly recommend them to anyone looking for a great high-energy band that’s a little out of the ordinary.” -Kim Still, Eugene Saturday Market manager