Dave Schlesinger is an amazing pianist, and it's always a blast to jam with him. (I play electric bass, and occasionally an upright bass when I can get my hands on one). Dave has the biggest repertoire of music at his fingertips of anyone I've ever encountered. There isn't a song he doesn't know, and can't play by ear...jazz, pop, showtunes, Vaudeville, "World" music....he does it all. He's the kind of guy you'd be insanely jealous of if he wasn't such a nice guy. Well, I'm still insanely jealous of him.
Last week Dave and I were jamming at College Coffeehouse, and he asked if I knew any Klezmer music. I told him I knew OF Klezmer; but that was about it. Dave disappeared into the parking lot and rematerialized with a bulging manila folder stuffed with ancient tattered sheet music. He thumbed through some of the sheets, placed one on the musc stand, and tickled out a tune. It was one of those haunting melodies you know you've heard, but didn't know where. I finally recognized it as the music from an ancient Max Fleischer cartoon....It might have been Betty Boop. When I semi-correctly identified the source of the music, Dave told me that Klezmer music was prominent in a lot of Max Fleischer cartoons.
The lyrics on most of Dave's sheet music, if there were any, were written in Hebrew or Yiddish. He said that most of the papers in his folder had come from Eastern Europe, and some may have even been through some concentration camps during the Holocaust. He told me that it was Klezmer that helped some of the Holocaust survivors to survive...at least psychologically. I asked Dave if I could have the honor of touching one of his music sheets. He said, "Please do."
Like all good things musical, Klezmer runs the gamut of human emotion, from the humorous and whimsy of a Max Fleischer cartoon to the haunting theme of Schindler's List. "La Hora" is just one very familiar Klezmer piece, but Dave informed me that actually the hora is an entire class of Klezmer numbers.
Dave commenced to play several Klezmer pieces from his folder as I accompanied him on bass. I picked up pretty easily on the odd yet oddly familiar syncopation of a lot of the numbers. After a half hour or so, Dave said, "You're probably the best Gentile klezmer bass player in all of Fairbanks!"
I realized that was about as meaningful as being the best bullfighter in all of Toledo....Ohio. Nevertheless, I appreciated the compliment. Dave said he was putting together a Klezmer band with some older musicians, and that I would definitely be on tap in the near future. So, it should be a fun little gig. The music is certainly challenging enough, and as I mentioned, it's always a blast to jam with Dave. It's a great opportunity to help keep alive a gradually disappearing art.
If it helped keep people alive during the Holocaust, it probably won't hurt me either. This is what music is all about.
Causes Eric Nichols Supports
Free Burma Rangers, Partners Ministries (Thailand), Literacy council of Alaska, Access Alaska.