There’s something distinctly retrograde about Michael Winograd, and it’s not just that he plays klezmer. It’s that he plays klezmer precisely how it was played 100 years ago. Unlike other popular musicians who’ve melded the music with more contemporary fare — the rapper SoCalled, the punk-slanted star Daniel Kahn — Winograd sticks to the genre’s roots. Now 26, he’s been playing the clarinet since he was 14 and first attended the renowned Catskill summit called KlezKamp.
He got first-hand training from the likes of Sid Beckerman there, and he’s now on the faculty himself, teaching alongside living legends like Frank London and David Krakauer.
But don’t think Winograd is some fusty crank about tradition. He has a strong rapport with new-style klezmer stars like SoCalled and Kahn, and performs with them regularly. He’ll be playing with them this summer at klezmer’s premier venue, the Festival of Jewish Culture in Krakow. And he recently came back from a tour with SoCalled that played for a night on Reunion Island, a former French colony off the coast of Madagascar. "We may have been the first people to play klezmer there," he says, "though I’m not sure."
Winograd is confident that klezmer will be around for a long while, and that the revival that took place more than a quarter-century ago has assured its permanence. "I don’t really think of it as a revival anymore," Winograd says. "We don’t see it as our responsibility to save it because it isn’t going anywhere."
Favorite Song at the moment: "Dirt in the Ground" by Tom Waits and "Mother stands for Comfort" by Kate Bush.
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