If you think La La Land brought jazz music back in the mainstream, Bruce Klauber would probably tell you it never left.
He got his first taste when his older brother was the vocalist for a jazz band at the YMHA in Overbrook Park in 1960. He noticed the drummer and thought that would be “a neat thing to do.”
“I thought it would help me get popular in school, and you know what? It did, it worked,” he laughed.
He had his first paid gig as a drummer for a Bar Mitzvah when he was just 8 years old.
As he got more into it, however, he noted there weren’t too many others his age with whom to play jazz music. So, he started a rock band when he was 14 called The Facts of Life (before the sitcom). They made a record that can — to his chagrin — still be found online.
“Somebody got a hold of it, and it’s posted all over YouTube. They asked me to comment on it, and I said it sounds as lousy today as the day we recorded it,” he laughed.
But, he said, his heart was always in jazz.
He’s followed in the footsteps of the great jazz drummers like Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa, becoming the biographer of the latter with The World of Gene Krupa: That Legendary Drummin’ Man and “co-producer and writer of the only officially sanctioned film on the life and music of Buddy Rich.”
Today, he still plays drums for the All-Star Jazz Trio with fellow members of the tribe pianist Andy Kahn and bassist Bruce Kaminsky. The three play regularly at places like Chris’ Jazz Cafe and have for the last 45 years.
He will help celebrate the life of Krupa and Rich — who would have turned 100 on Sept. 30, which helped catalyze the performance — in addition to other jazz musicians like Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey and Ella Fitzgerald with “A Big Band Salute to the Legends of Jazz Drumming” at 3 p.m. on Oct. 15 at World Cafe Live.
Klauber hopes the show will illuminate the lasting legacy of jazz, with the help of the All-Star Jazz Trio as well as the 16-piece Monday Blues Jazz Orchestra and vocalist Mary Ellen Desmond.
“We’re going to do some of the more contemporary things that were featured by Buddy Rich’s big band in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s,” he said, “and what I’m looking forward to is to show the whole line of how big band jazz has evolved from the ’30s to today and how all of it is still valid, how all of it still swings and how you can still dance to all of it.”
He found early on that a key value of jazz music was its ability to bring people together.
“These guys when they played, they had bands — and I’m talking as early as the ’30s — that included … every race and religion you could think of,” he said, “everybody playing together.
“I love the concept of bringing everyone together,” he added, “and I guess in this day and age, it would be nice to have more of that.”
For him, jazz and Jewish music also share a special connection — and not just that many famous jazz musicians, like Krupa and Rich, were Jewish.
“It has to do with a feeling, and maybe the best way I could express it is that jazz is a tradition,” he said, “and when we play jazz — or when I do — I’m thinking about the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, and by the same token, Judaism is a tradition.”
He noted that Kaminsky can sometimes break into klezmer music during a jazz performance, and the audience goes nuts.
“We might do our wildest jazz tune, but when [Kaminsky] takes a solo on the bass, all of a sudden he goes into this klezmer thing and goes into a freilich, and the people go crazy,” Klauber laughed. “There’s always that musical influence — the influence of Jewish music, of klezmer, of Middle Eastern — that flavors not only our music, but all music.”
Jazz music’s influence is one that transcends generations, and one that Klauber believes will continue to do so as long as there are people.
“To me, jazz is a feeling,” he said, “and it’s a way that by listening to it, you can experience feelings, and by playing it, you can express your feelings, and that will never die. That’s going to go on as long as there are human beings.”
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