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Klezmer, funk, hip-hop mashup comes to Newman Center

From left, David Krakauer, Socalled and Fred Wesley are Abraham Inc.

At first glance, hip-hop and traditional Jewish klezmer music seem to have about as much in common as polka and heavy metal. But when longtime klezmer clarinetist David Krakauer met Josh Dolgin — aka Jewish DJ and multi-instrumentalist  Socalled — he knew he had the beginnings of something special.

“I was in my mid-40s at that point, and he was in his mid-20s, and I was seeing, ‘Oh, here’s this young guy who is bringing that whole hip-hop aesthetic to [klezmer],’” Krakauer says. “I recognized that Socalled was really a pioneer in this way, so I brought him on board as a featured artist with my band.”

Socalled recorded and toured with Krakauer’s band Klezmer Madness!, then the two musicians had the idea to add some funk to their klezmer/hip-hop stew. So they got in touch with Fred Wesley, the trombonist best known for his work with James Brown and George Clinton. There was a bit of awkwardness when the three first got together to jam, Krakauer says, but music soon eased the tension.

“Fred just said, ‘Well, give me a beat,’ and Socalled did this very simple beat, and Fred just started blowing on top of that,” he says. “I started interweaving with Fred and we got this nice groove going and we felt like, ‘Wow, yeah, there’s total chemistry and this is going to work. We have these two sort of roots musics coming together with this common denominator of hip-hop, and it worked really beautifully.’”

That early collaboration eventually turned into Abraham Inc., a 10-person ensemble that performs at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts on Nov. 12. In addition to Wesley, Krakauer, Socalled and rapper C-Rayz, the group features two guitarists, two additional horn players, a bass player and a drummer. Live, the group goes for an “African American/Jewish house party” vibe that Jazz Times concert reviewer Bill Milkowski described thusly:

“This endlessly surprising yet highly successful hybrid of klezmer, funk and hip-hop had the enthusiastic crowd — young and old, Jews and gentiles, whites and blacks — dancing ecstatically in the aisles like it was a Jewish wedding. Wesley brought the funk while virtuoso clarinetist David Krakauer delivered the passionate intensity and deep Jewish soul that ties him to the lineage of klezmer clarinet kings like Naftule Brandwein and Dave Tarras. Montreal-based multi-instrumentalist and visionary beat architect Josh Dolgin, aka Socalled, provided a bridge between the klezmer and hip-hop worlds with his audacious Hebraic rapping while the Bronx-bred emcee C-Rayz Walz brought street cred to this unlikeliest of collaborations with his remarkable freestyling facility and stark urban imagery.”

In interview after interview, Krakauer has stressed that Abraham Inc. is an artist-driven project put together not by promoters or by producers, but by innovative musicians interested in pushing their own musical envelopes.

“If you took a random funk, klezmer and hip-hop person and put them in a room, you wouldn’t get this result,” he says. “This is really about me, Fred Wesley and Socalled and our sensibilities. This is a specific project that works because we have really shared and we have listened to each other, and I find it a beautiful metaphor for what all of us in the group believe should be a good direction for the world: to share and to listen and to try to learn from each other instead of mistrust and hate each other.”

Abraham Inc. performs at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 12 in DU’s Newman Center, 2344 E. Iliff Ave. A free “Behind the Curtain” lecture begins at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $33–$49; visit for more information.





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