HE GETS PAID EXTRA
Daniel Ducoff, Yiddishe Cup’s dance leader, is the all-in-one-machine: booking agent, valet and shrink.
Daniel has a social-work master’s degree and does free counseling. For instance, when the musicians go out — like to CVS for candy bars and clubs for drinking — Ducoff hangs back with me and says: “What’s a couple extra bucks for beer and Snickers for the boys to to keep them happy? Don’t fret. ”
Daniel handles all contract negotiations. It’s not right for the bandleader to yak on the phone about “wiggle room” for the Oshkosh Opera House contract. That’s Daniel’s job.
Ducoff handles the press too. Reporters ask, “Why is this klezmer band different than all other klezmer bands?” Daniel’s answer: “Yiddishe Cup plays naked.” The reporters — shlubs who sit in cubicles all day — buy it.
Daniel, who swam competitively in high school, calls ahead for dimensions on pools at hotels. Nobody likes to pull up to an “Olympic pool” that is four raindrops.
Daniel knows his way around snack shops. Sun-baked chips are popular with the band. Daniel says, “Sun baked chips are still chips, guys. You think the sun zapped the calories out?”
Daniel knows how to find exquisite — by Midwest standards — sourdough pretzels at all Pilot and Duke truck stops.
Ducoff is also the enforcer. For example, Yiddishe Cup’s drummer, Don Friedman, occasionally blasts hard-bop jazz, like Art Blakey, inside the van. This is borderline acceptable; it gives the band a certain panache when we pull into Bob Evans in Celina, Ohio, with “Moanin’” blaring. But, Don, turn the jazz off already! That’s Ducoff’s job to tell Don.
Daniel Ducoff is the all-in-one machine.
This post, “He Gets Paid Extra,” is 49-percent true. It’s klez fiction.
More klez fiction. Readers demand it. Certain readers, that is. Pete Rushefsky, a NYC klezmer musician, told me, “I don’t read any of your real estate stuff. I skip that and read the klezmer.” There are 398 klez fans in the world. They read this blog. Enjoy.
GREEN MAN GROUP
I auditioned for Green Man Group at the Cleveland home of klezmer violinist Steve Greenman.
I didn’t play clarinet for Greenman. I played my eyes. I looked maniacally Jewish, then playfully Jewish and, finally, soulfully Jewish. I thought “Einstein” the whole time.
I got a callback! Me and five other guys.
At the callback, Greenman sprayed us green and had us play fiddle patterns in E minor. This was awkward for me because E minor is a bad key for my axe — clarinet.
But I did OK.
We didn’t get sprayed green this time, nor perform. Greenman interviewed us separately.
GREENMAN: A deer jumps on stage while you’re performing. What do you do?
STRATTON: I play “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” in E minor, then shoot the deer.
GREENMAN: A customer in a wheelchair says, “Stop talking and start playing!”
STRATTON: I say, “I’ll start playing when you stand up.”
GREENMAN: Can you make hot hors d’oeuvres pop out of your instrument?
GREENMAN: What is the most creative thing you’ve ever done on stage?
STRATTON: I tore up a $100 bill on stage at the Omaha JCC while the audience screamed at me: “Stop, I’ll take that!” It was art.
GREENMAN: What if nobody showed up at your gig?
STRATTON: I play hard for zero people just like I play for 6,000, which is what I’m used to.
Jeff Warschauer got the job. Greenman and Warschauer are both short. Greenman didn’t want anybody taller than him on stage. That’s why I didn’t make it.
I have a piece, “For Cleveland Jews, Schvitz is Must,” in The Forward (online) this week. Check it out, or read an extended version here in a few weeks. The longer version should be better; it will contain profanity-laced, schvitzian dialogue.
A word from Yiddishe Cup’s bandleader: