Jul. 15—PLATTSBURGH — Six-member musical collision Mazel Tov Cocktail Party adds a dash of luck and a dollop of party to the Molotov cocktail mixture.
A self-proclaimed "good vibes explosion."
EXPLOSIVE GOOD LUCK
"Mazel tov means good luck," Band Leader David Krakauer, a clarinetist, explained. "I thought, 'What would something explosive that conveyed the message of good luck be?'"
Producer and pianist Kathleen Tagg said the concept meant to flip the script.
"It's taking the idea of a Molotov cocktail, something that's destructive and explosive, and really harnessing that explosive energy instead for something that is positive."
Then, the puns kept coming when they blended the group name with a cocktail party.
"We kept playing with it and it kept expanding," Tagg said with a laugh.
And, Krakauer added, "the pun is so delicious and irresistible."
Krakauer has a list of bands, a 30-year-long career performing eastern European Jewish klezmer music and a Grammy nomination under his belt.
He described Mazel Tov Cocktail Party as the latest project he and Tagg have embarked on together.
The crew includes:
—David Krakauer of Manhattan on clarinet and vocals
—Kathleen Tagg of Manhattan on piano, keyboard, accordion and cello
—Sarah MK of Montreal on rap vox and vocals
—Yoshie Fruchter of Brooklyn on electric guitar and oud
—Jerome Harris of Brooklyn on electric bass and vocals
—Martin Shamoonpour, a Iranian refugee living in Binghamton, on daf (hand drumming) and jaw's harp
Moroccan-based producer and beat maker Bergsonist, based in New York City, as well as Jeremy Flower, or Keepalive, also contributed sampler/electronics to the group's tracks.
"Each of these musicians involved in the project is an absolute master of what they do," Tagg said. "It's really the highest, highest caliber."
CELEBRATE SHARED HUMANITY
Mazel Tov Cocktail Party melds traditional old forms, like the polka, square dance and horn pipes, with contemporary sounds, like rap.
Tagg said the project started when she and Krakauer visited the North Country last year for a performance with Saranac-based music chamber Hill and Hollow Music, founded and operated by Angela Brown. They found themselves talking with locals about traditional dances they were involved with and were inspired.
The crew even has a track titled, "North Country Square Dance."
"Really the focus of the project is seeing each other as human beings first and foremost, rather than what divides us," Tagg said. "It's a real party. You don't normally expect to hear rap and crazy beats on a lot of those forms. There are a lot of different backgrounds, different sounds coming together."
Krakauer said the group and message were timely.
"There is a lot of division, a lot of disagreement, a lot of bad feeling out there. We want to bring a message of positivity, but not just the message of, 'Everything is great,' rather the message of, 'The world needs help and we need to all be in here together and celebrate our shared humanity.'"
The pair used Mazel Tov Cocktail Party's take on the Krakowiak Polka to highlight the idea.
Krakauer drew the connection between his last name and the word "krakowiak," which both translate to "someone from Poland," and called the tune "one of the most famous, emblematic polkas in all of Poland."
When the crew decided to feature the traditional dance beat, Tagg said they also decided to make a statement.
"Last year, there was so much happening, divisive rhetoric in Poland; there were huge anti-Semitic riots, but additionally huge anti-LGBTQ and anti-women legislation that was being enacted," she said. "There was this incredible act of solidarity where a bunch of women parliamentarians showed up at the inauguration of the new president and they coordinated so that their dresses, they wore solid colors, formed a rainbow.
"They sat in the front so that every photo in the international press of the inauguration had a huge rainbow. It was this very simple and wordless statement, but it was so powerful. We decided to really use this polka as a solidarity shoutout. Sarah made a great rap referencing that situation. . . It's about showing up, recognizing the other and being there.
"That sums up what we're doing in general in this project."
The six-member group formed during the pandemic last year.
When it became clear a November 2020 concert, which was to be Mazel Tov Cocktail Party's debut live performance, was not likely due to COVID-19 concerns, the crew went virtual.
"Instead of trying to apologize for not being live and doing a livestream," Tagg said, "we actually made the project specifically for the internet."
The crew filmed their contributions one at a time in front of green screens from various sites along the east coast, like a synagogue community center in Brooklyn and out of their homes in Montreal, Binghamton and Manhattan.
"It was absolutely insane trying to turn your one bedroom apartment in Manhattan into an entire production studio with green screens and lights and tripods and cameras and microphones," Tagg said. "Absolutely wild; it was a really, really wild time."
The product was a seven track, 50-minutes-long project edited to make the musicians seem as though they filmed it together on a variety of sets.
"I had this sort of dream about this crazy party, a Mazel Tov Cocktail Party, being in some kind of crazy party house where you would go in a room and the square dance was in a barn, the polish polka was in a wedding hall, the wayfaring stranger was out in a field," Krakauer said. "We just had these ideas of these different environments."
Krakauer hoped that same energy would explode off the stage during the group's first-ever live concerts happening in the North Country this weekend.
Mazel Tov Cocktail Party is scheduled to perform this Saturday, July 17 at 7:30 p.m. on Plattsburgh City's Harborside stage situated just off the shores of Lake Champlain as part of the Curbside at Harborside concert series.
The party will continue Sunday, July 18 with a 4 p.m. concert on the Weatherwatch Farm in Saranac.
Both shows are in coordination with Hill and Hollow Music.
"This is going to be the first time that the band is ever playing live together," Tagg said, noting that, as of Tuesday, some band members had yet to meet one another. "There are still some people who are going to meet in the band tonight at dinner for the first time in person.
"So these next days are going to be all day, every day working together."
Email McKenzie Delisle:
Mazel Tov Cocktail Party will have two local performances this weekend, rain or shine.
The first is a drive-in concert on Saturday, July 17 at 7:30 p.m. on Plattsburgh City's Harborside stage by the Plattsburgh Marina as part of the Curbside at Harborside concert series.
The cost is $20 per carload or $10 per walk-in.
In the case of thunderstorms, the Naked Turtle will host the event.
The second show is a lawn concert with tent seating on Sunday, July 18 at 4 p.m. at the Weatherwatch Farm on Number 37 Road in Saranac.
Audience may bring their own chairs.
Tickets are $20 per person and include refreshments.
To request a reservation, contact Angela Brown at email@example.com or 518-293-7613.