Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Subway Klezmer Saxophonist Update: He's Isaiah Richardson, Alumnus of US Marine Band, Juilliard, and Music & Art HS



Two weeks ago we ran a story and video about an unidentified man playing a medley of Jewish songs on saxophone and clarinet in the Times Square subway station. At the time we didn't have any more information about him, but now we know the rest of the story, which we'll share with you.

He's Isaiah Richardson Jr., an alumnus of the Juilliard School, the High School of Music and Art and the Performing Arts, and the United States Marine Corps Band. So what's he doing playing Jewish music in the subway?

Zach Pontz interviewed Richardson for the Jewish newspaper The Algemeiner, and got some insight into his background and musical interests. Here is his report:
When I finally caught up with Richardson, over coffee in Brooklyn, I learned that he isn’t your typical street performer. In fact, he’s not really a street performer at all. An accomplished musician with performances at Webster Hall, Carnegie Hall and the 92nd Street Y under his belt, he currently plays with the band Brown Rice Family, the Colombian Punk Rock band Maku SoundSystem, and is a working musician-for-hire. At the time of our meeting he was shooting a project for HBO.
A multi-instrumentalist who identifies himself as a clarinetist first and foremost (he also plays the saxophone, harmonica, trumpet and piano, among other instruments), he fell into playing in subways by accident, then by necessity.

“I remember the exact date: September 24, 2010. I did a recording earlier in the day and fell asleep on the train and all of my instruments got stolen. My tenor sax—gone. Flute-gone. Clarinet-gone. Harmonica—gone. At that point all I had was a trumpet. So I decided then, and if you’re a musician and that’s what you do and your things are gone—that’s a problem. And I didn’t have any money then, so I decided to play the trumpet on the street,” he relates.

Among the songs in his repertoire were several klezmer and traditional Jewish tunes he had picked up while studying the clarinet, first in a program at Juilliard when he was just 12, then later in high school, college and for the Marine Corps band.

“I just heard all these sounds and every clarinetist wanted to learn how to make those sounds,” he said of growing up around musicians who found their influence in the klezmer music first cultivated by Eastern European Jews, and then spread across the globe.

But his real education came in high school when he got hold of a certain album by a prominent klezmer musician. “I got an Andy Statman album, Hidden Light, and I can’t tell you how many times I listened to that album. Just over and over again, every day.” Other musicians that Richardson is fond of citing include Benny Goodman and Dave Tallas, whom Richardson speaks of in almost hushed tones. “Nobody can touch Dave Tarras. Nobody,” he says.
Last November the New York Times ran a video report on Richardson, who frequently plays on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
 

But he doesn't confine his playing to the museum. Subway stations are also a favorite spot, and we found another clip of him playing the Yiddish song Oyf'n Pripitchik in the West 4th Street station. Here's the video, posted on YouTube by Simon Marcus, followed by the New York Times video.
Enjoy!

(A SPECIAL NOTE FOR NEW EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS:  THE VIDEO MAY NOT BE VIEWABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE EMAIL THAT YOU GET EACH DAY ON SOME COMPUTERS AND TABLETS.  YOU MUST CLICK ON THE TITLE AT THE TOP OF THE EMAIL TO REACH THE JEWISH HUMOR CENTRAL WEBSITE, FROM WHICH YOU CLICK ON THE PLAY BUTTON IN THE VIDEO IMAGE TO START THE VIDEO.)






10 comments:

  1. This guy is GREAT!.........wishing him KOL TUV!.......Thanks,Al. M.A.

    ReplyDelete
  2. he's terrif! I love his attitude, and his playing.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Replies
    1. The New York Times article is a lie. A media induced article written by the writer for laughs. The truth is Ive always been interested in and played klezmer all the way back to Juilliard same as all professional clarinetists I know. The writer watched me play about 40 minutes of Jewish music then 3 minutes of anything else but still wrote the title and article the way he wanted. Sad. Many people wouldve loved to hear the real story.

      Delete
    2. Isaiah, everyone loves your playing. If you send me the real story and the links to some of your Klezmer video clips I'll be glad to post it for your fans and my readers.

      Delete
  4. Seeing is believing:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3y13sgS9yNE&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yi9544v39Oo&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akaC2WXYm-Q&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgS-WYBwknU&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isaiah, I don't have your email address so I can't write to you directly as I'd like to do. I hope you're reading these comments and understand how I and my readers enjoy your music. I included you in a competition for the best Chanukah music video and your subway performance came out second. I hope my readers will look at the videos that you included in your message above.

      Al

      Delete
    2. Second really? Interesting....

      Delete