usic by the Klezmer
Fusion Band usual-
ly starts out on a fa-
miliar note, but after
that anything goes.
Imagine Molly Picon's famous
"Abi Gezunt" ("So Long As You're
Healthy") meets Dave Brubeck,
Benny Goodman or Smokey
'What we try to do is play klezmer, Cha-
sidic, liturgical and Israeli music authen-
tically but with a certain rhythmic flair,"
said Neil Alexander, founder of the Klezmer
Fusion Band. "We'll start out with a stan-
dard, like `Henei Ma Tov,' and before you
know it, we're in some sort of rumba beat."
-A native of Minneapolis, Alexander trav-
eled around the Midwest working as a chaz-
z an in various synagogues, while at the
same time maintaining a love for rock and
While doing his residency at a hospital
in Albuquerque, N.M., Alexander joined -up
with the New Shtetl Band, serving as the
group's lead singer. After he moved to Ann
Arbor in 1987, where today he's The Klezmer Fusion Band music." Among those he even-
a physician on the staff of the (Dr. Alexander is second tually signed on were profes-
University of Michigan Medical from right): Day jobs and a sional folk and jazz musicians.
"Our drummer has tiny
School and VA Medical Center, creative musical touch.
cymbals on his drumsticks,"
he joined two established bands
explained Alexander, who not only man-
before forming his own group.
New York, of course. Los Angeles, natu- ages the group and does its arrangements
rally. But who would have thought finding but sings and plays guitar and trumpet.
other klezmer aficionados right here in "Sometimes, we'll be playing Yemenite mu-
sic and you'll hear those cymbals, and it
Michigan would be so easy?
Alexander met and interviewed numer- sort of sounds like belly dancers off in the
ous musicians eager to be in the Klezmer distance."
On Sunday, metro Detroiters can par-
Fusion Band. The question was how to find
those who shared his vision of klezmer mu- take in the unique sounds of the Klezmer
sic mixed with a modern twist, resulting in Fusion Band when it brings its special mu-
a sound that "brings people back to Jewish sic to Oak Park for the 18th Annual Yid-
dish Concert in the Park. Their
theme: "Jewish Music: Usual
Unusual? The group performs
regularly at the Jewish Com-
munity Center of Washtenaw
County's annual Purim party.
There, partiers are treated to
some truly unforgettable
Klezmer Fusion Band Purim
tunes. To wit: a Santana song be-
comes "You've Got To Change
Your Evil Ways, Haman," and a
Motown classic once sung about
the "Boardwalk" is now "Under
"It's kind of corny, I know,"
Unlike so many "misunder-
stood musicians," who are in-
variably broke but eschew
anything (like full-time employ-
ment) that would take them
"away from their art," almost
everyone in the Klezmer Rision
Band has a day job. Alexander'
often works on songs in between
No CDs, yet, "but we hope to
get into the studio this fall," he
said. "Not bad for a band that's
only been in existence for 2 1/2 years." ❑
The Klezmer Fusion Band will perform
at 7 p.m. Sunday, July 28, at Shepherd
Park (best known among natives as the
"Oak Park Park') at Church and North-
field in Oak Park The group will perform
at the 18th Annual Yiddish Concert in
the Park, which is open to the public at
no charge. Bring lawn chairs. The event
is sponsored by the Worlszmen's Circle/Ar-
beter Ring, the Sholem Aleichem Insti-
tute, the Sarah K Gold Philanthropic
Fund of the United Jewish Foundation
and The Jewish News.
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