David Krakauer: The Big Picture Featuring Krakauer

The Big Picture is clarinetist David Krakauer’s companion piece to a multimedia presentation that ran for a month at New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage. Its dozen tracks are drawn from a variety of films ranging from Bob Fosse’s Cabaret and Lenny to Roman Polanski’s The Pianist to a trio of Woody Allen hits, Krakauer’s intention, he writes in the liner notes, to “explore the inseparable relationship between music and movies.”

Of course this has been done before-many, many times. But there’s a bigger picture, if you will. Each of these films in some way connects to Jewish life and culture, always a core element of Krakauer’s work. In most instances the link is obvious (Fiddler on the Roof‘s “Tradition,” a cover of “People,” made famous by Barbra Streisand) and sometimes it isn’t. But ultimately, The Big Picture would be a rewarding listen even if one had no idea what its creators were going for.

All of Krakauer’s cohorts on The Big Picture are in tune with the concept, none so much as Jenny Scheinman, whose masterful violin work serves throughout as close companion to Krakauer’s clarinets. Like him, Scheinman is an articulate, expressive musician whose lines ring with warmth and soul, even at the music’s most dissonant. “Willkomen,” the first number, opens as a slightly warped waltz, rocks determinedly in its mid-section, skips along then rocks again, Rob Burger’s piano supporting the lead instruments stealthily but sturdily. Burger, in fact, is the recording’s other secret weapon, his accordion on “Keep It Gay,” from Mel Brooks’ The Producers, giving the piece a surreal old-country carnival music vibe.

Other numbers, including “The Family” from Barry Levinson’s Avalon, are performed without flourish, arranged in a more straight-ahead fashion. Each approach works equally well; The Big Picture takes soundtrack music out of its comfort zone for a welcome reconsideration.