Caught at the Library
Bagels & Fraylox Klezmer Band, based in Williamsburg, Va., features two clarinets, tenor saxophone, accordion, electric and upright bass, drums and other percussion. On special special occasions, a female vocalist who paid her dues performing in New York's oldest Yiddish theater joins the lineup. Klezmer is a lively mixture of wedding and party music of 19th century Eastern Europe with strains of Yiddish theater and American dance band music of the early 1900s. But it borrows freely from gypsy tunes, Middle Eastern music and other sources as diverse as American folk music and rock 'n roll. All of those influences come out in Bagels & Fraylox concerts. A traditional wedding march from one hundred years ago in Russia or a schmaltzy tune from Yiddish theater - even Broadway's Fiddler on the Roof - may lead into a rock-flavored Middle Eastern rave-up that has audience members dancing in the aisles. About that name... Bagels & Fraylox is a play on bagels and lox, the bread-and-smoked-salmon delicacy that has a place of honor in Jewish-style cuisine. The name is also plays with the Yiddish word 'frailach,' which is a merry tune for a happy time, and even the happy time itself. About the musicians ... David Gussman, accordion, has specialized in playing Jewish music since boyhood. For years before the other band members had even listened seriously to much klezmer, Gussman played the music as a solo artist. He assembled a library of klezmer recordings and music and eventually won over some musician friends to the idea of forming a band. Gussman, who has a Ph. D. in marine biology, works by day as an environmentalist for the Virginia Department of Enviromental Quality. Howard Bierenbaum, clarinet and tenor saxophone, comes to klezmer from a varied musical background in classical music, rock and rhythm & blues. For much of the 1980s and early 1990s, he played keyboards and saxophone in the the Katatonics, a Williamsburg-based R&B band. Bierenbaum has a Ph.D in psychology and has a clinical psychology practice. Roger Schultz, clarinet and assorted percussion, is a former president of the Tulane University Marching Band. When he's not playing with Bagels & Fraylox or composing original klezmer tunes, and even when he is playing, Schultz is a urologist. Andy Petkofsky, bass, played guitar in rock, soul and psychedelic bands during his high school years while also playing clarinet in concert and marching bands. His membership in Bagels & Fraylox was preceded by many years entertaining his neighbors as host to several loud garage bands. Petkofsky is a newspaper reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Lance Pedigo, drums, is a classically trained percussionist who has played professionally with a variety of music ensembles. He grew up playing drums in the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes & Drums, played in rock bands during college, worked in every music ensemble at the Busch Gardens theme park during his college years and played in a variety of elite marching bands at Walt Disney World, the rededication of the Statue of Liberty and the inauguration of former President Ronald Reagan. He has played Dixieland in New Orleans and Japan, jazz on cruise ships and country and western music in Canada. He works by day (and many evenings) as drum major and supervisor of the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes & Drums. Jennifer Bern-Vogel, who sings with the group on special occasions, is the first full-time cantor in the 155-year history of Ohef Sholem Temple in Norfolk. Before coming to Hampton Roads in 1996, Cantor Bern-Vogel performed off-Broadway with the nation's oldest Yiddish theater - the Folksbine Theater - in it's 80th anniversary season. About bookings ... Call David Gussman at (757) 566-1035. What others are saying about the band... 'For those who grew up thinking music in minor keys 'sounds sad,' it's time to rethink that attitude. This is party music - not funeral dirges.' - Hampton Roads Monthly magazine. 'Check your religion at the door - you don't have to be Jewish to dig the Bagels & Fraylox Klezmer Band.' - The Virginia Gazette. 'DON'T MOSH, NOSH. Bagels & Fraylox, a klezmer band from Williamsburg, serves up an irreverent style of ethnic music.' - Daily Press of Newport News.