Klezmer Madness! riffs on tradition

David Krakauer serves up his klezmer with a twist. Within a revitalized musical movement that has spawned a variety of styles — from jazz klezmer to classical klezmer to traditional and rock klezmer — Krakauer could be labeled “all of the above.”

A Juilliard-trained clarinetist, who regularly collaborates with such classical luminaries as soprano Dawn Upshaw, violinist Itzhak Perlman and the Kronos and Tokyo quartets, he fronts his own group, Klezmer Madness!, which brought it all home last month with a debut concert in New York’s Carnegie Hall.

A dizzying touring schedule that ranges from Austin, Texas, to Krakow, Poland, will bring Klezmer Madness! to the Bay Area for two concerts Saturday, March 20.

Krakauer. a 46-year-old New Yorker, has performed to packed houses in Krakow every other year since 1992 and, fittingly, recorded his most recent album there at the Indigo Club, a restored medieval cellar. “Live in Krakow” holds some prime examples of why Krakauer, a former member of the Klezmatics, and his band are in such demand. The music rocks, but some of it has deep sadness — a reminder that the notorious Auschwitz death camp is only an hour away.

On the opening track, the clarinet wails and soars through a niggun with a distinct Middle Eastern accent. Something that sounds like the call of a Muslim muezzin mingles with a heavy rock beat. “Gypsy Bulgar” is a sexy, jazzy take on Magyar themes. Krakauer’s own “Nigun Offering” begins as a plaintive lament dedicated to the city of his ancestors and conjuring up sad images of the nearby concentration camp. Then it picks up speed and brightness, calling to mind the revitalization of Krakow.

“Naftale’s Nussach” is traditional klezmer, initially set against a tango beat, before reverting to a rollicking dance worthy of the wedding of one of Tevye’s daughters. Several other selections really rock, but perhaps the most unusual is “Love Song for Lemberg/Lvov,” a lighthearted tune that ambles pleasantly along until interrupted by a cacophonous theme that grows increasingly more insistent.

Krakauer composed or arranged the majority of songs on this CD, the band’s fifth since its formation in the mid-1990s.

David Krakauer and Klezmer Madness! perform 2 p.m. Saturday, March 20, at Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., S.F., a San Francisco Performances Family Concert. $15 adults, $7 for 18 and under, (415) 398-6449. They perform at the Berkeley Jewish Music Festival 8 p.m. March 20 in Wheeler Hall, U.C. Berkeley. $25, $20 for Berkeley Richmond JCC members, students, seniors and groups of 10 or more, (925) 866-9599 or www.brjcc.org.

Live in Krakow” (harmonia mundi, Label Bleu, $16.98).