Local bands bring their Jewish A-game to heritage nights

Come for the Major League Baseball. Stay for the minor-key music.

This year’s Jewish Heritage Night events sponsored by the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s will continue the tradition of hiring local bands to provide a Jewish pre-game soundtrack.

Jerry’s Kosher Deli, a San Francisco–based jam band that plays the music of Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia, liturgical singer-songwriter Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, and reggae stars Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff, will entertain on Monday, July 27 at the Giants’ AT&T Park. The group will plug in from 5 to 7 p.m. in Seals Plaza.

Orchestra Euphonos at 2014 Oakland A’s Jewish Heritage Night

The Oakland-based Orchestra Euphonos will play klezmer and Eastern European folk-dance music at the A’s O.co Coliseum on Aug. 4. The 5:30-7 p.m. performance will take place in the East Side Club. The orchestra also will play a klezmer-style “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” (melody by Jewish songwriter Albert Von Tilzer) during the seventh-inning stretch, a performance that will be shown on the outfield video screen.

Neither team’s choice of bands is out of left field.

Leader Ben Bernstein calls Jerry’s Kosher Deli “kind of the house band of Chabad of San Francisco. We do a lot of events for Rabbi Yosef Langer of Chabad. I put this band together to play a Bill Graham menorah lighting” about six years ago in Union Square.

JKD’s July 27 lineup will feature Jewish blues singer and guitarist Saul Kaye, sideman Jordan Feinstein on keyboards, Byron Rynes of the Smokedaddies on lead guitar, Marty Ylitalo of New Monsoon on drums and Bernstein on bass guitar.

Bernstein is a record producer and sideman who has played with the Smokedaddies and the New York–based Jewish jam band Soul Farm.

JKD’s set list features liturgical songs written by Carlebach, including “Adon Olam,” “Avinu Malkeinu” and “Oseh Shalom,” plus “a nice little ‘Hava Nagila,’ ” Bernstein told J. “We try to keep it about half Jewish tunes. That’s good for people who aren’t Jewish to latch onto.”

He said the band plays Garcia’s songs because “I spent my young adulthood listening to the Grateful Dead.” The reggae repertoire grew out of the connection that Bernstein sees between Zionism and the Rastafari, who view Zion as the promised land for the Ethiopian people.

When JKD plays Desmond Dekker’s “The Israelites” and Jimmy Cliff’s “The Harder They Come,” the band “tweaks the lyrics a little bit,” Bernstein said. “To us, both songs have Jewish meaning. They speak of the one source of peace, love and compassion for all.”

The following week at O.co, Orchestra Euphonos will make its third consecutive Jewish Heritage Night appearance.

The band will play “the standard classics of the American klezmer songbook and a fair amount of Eastern European folk-dance kind of numbers. We take a lot of pride and joy playing that material,” said bandleader and trumpeter Peter Bonos. “We’re really providing music of our heritage, of our ancestors from Eastern Europe, Moldova, Bessarabia and Ukraine.”

In addition to Bonos, Orchestra Euphonos will feature Aharon Wheels Bolsta on drums and percussion; Annie Cilley on alto saxophone, violin and vocals; Travis Hendrix on clarinet and mandolin; and new accordionist Zina Pozen. Pozen was born in Moldova and raised in Ukraine. “It’s nice to have somebody from that region playing the music,” Bonos said.

Formed in 2013, Orchestra Euphonos plays at private events and local clubs, including the Starry Plough’s monthly Berkeley Balkan Bacchanal shows. “Euphonos” is derived from combining “Bonos” and “euphonium,” a small tuba he sometimes plays.

Bonos was an administrator and technical coordinator for the Jewish Music Festival for six years, and is rental coordinator at the JCC of the East Bay.

He also has a bit of baseball in his background. As a Little Leaguer in Santa Rosa, he played pitcher and catcher. “I would compare being a euphonium player to being a catcher, and being a trumpet player to being a pitcher,” said Bonos, who seems to have the bases covered.

Jewish Heritage Night
will take place at the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park at 7:15 p.m. Monday, July 27 and at the Oakland A’s O.co Coliseum at 7:05 p.m. Aug. 4. See team websites for details.