Drummer and Composer Aaron Alexander is a New York City based klezmer and jazz drummer, composer, bandleader and educator. His original klezmer/jazz/world music band "Midrash Mish Mosh" has been acclaimed by critics, musicians and fans, and has appeared in respected venues in New York City, (Makor, Knitting Factory, Satalla, Live on WNYC's New Sounds with John Schaefer, and others) as well as Krakow, Poland; Vienna, Austria; and Toronto, Ontario. Over the past two decades, Alexander's performances and recordings with Hasidic New Wave, BABKAS(with Brad Shepik & Briggan Krauss), The Klezmatics, Greg Wall, Alicia Svigals, Satoko Fujii Orchestra, Ray Musiker, Tronzo Trio, Jay Clayton, Margot Leverett, Timebone, Alex Kontorovich, Freeplay, German Goldenshteyn, Boban Markovic' Orkestar, and Frank London's Klezmer Brass All-Stars have brought his music to the ears of listeners all over the world.
Alexander has toured extensively in North and South America and Europe with many different groups. He has appeared on Prairie Home Companion with the Klezmatics, BET Live with Hasidic New Wave, performed music for theatre at Joseph Papp Public Theater, Seattle Rep Theater, Arena Stage in Wash. DC and LaMama Etc. Alexander has composed and performed music for Dance and conceived and produced Hasidic New Wave's acclaimed collaboration with Senegalese Sabar ensemble Yakar Rhythms. He has received composition grants from the Seattle Arts Commission and Meet The Composer Foundation. His collective band Timebone, in 1990 won an Earshot Jazz award for "Best Acoustic Jazz Group."
Aaron has appeared at many of the top Jazz and World Music Festivals and Venues, including Krakow Festival of Jewish Culture, JVC Jazz Festival, Bumbershoot, North Sea Jazz Festival, Vancouver Jazz Festival, Royal Festival Hall in London, Berlin Jazz Festival, Ring Ring Festival (Belgrade), Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, Ashkenaz Festival in Toronto, Pori Jazz Festival (Finland), New Morning in Paris, Lincoln Center, Pepsi Sziget Festival (Budapest), San Francisco Jazz Festival, Earshot Jazz Festival, Moods in Zurich, Porgy and Bess in Vienna, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, and festivals in Buenos Aires, Sao Paolo, Latvia, Bratislava, Rome, Paris, Milan, Lyon, Venice and Spokane,WA. Alexander is on the teaching faculty at Klez Kamp, Klez Kanada and Yiddish Summer Weimar. Alexander grew up in Seattle and moved to NYC in 1993.
Alexander has accompanied many of the biggest names in Jewish music on various events run by Workmen's Circle, Circle Lodge, Klez Kamp, Klez Kanada and other organizations. He has performed with such luminaries as Claire Barry (of the Barry Sisters), Pete Sokolow, Cantors Alberto Mizrahi and Benzion Miller, Theodore Bikel, Joanne Borts, Adrienne Cooper, Zalmen Mlotek, Tovah Feldshuh, Mina Bern, Avi Hoffman, Bob Abelson, Fyvush Finkel, Eleanor Reissa, Bruce Adler, and many others.
Alexander has worked in the Jazz and Creative Music with James Knapp's Composers and Improvisers Orchestra('84-5), Natsuki Tamura, Myth Science (w/Anthony Coleman)('95-6), Dave Tronzo Trio('96-7), Jay Clayton/Jim Knapp Collective ('89-93), Julian Priester, J. Anthony Granelli, Mose Allison, Kirk Nurock, Rob Henke, Peter Epstein, Michael Bisio, Wayne Horvitz, Steve Bernstein, Chris Speed, Jessica Williams, Janice Friedman, Charlie Byrd & many others.
Alexander released an all original jazz CD in 2003
(Aaron Alexander Sextet "Blues for Sparky") about which Cadence writer Charles Winokur wrote "Seattle based drummer/composer Aaron Alexander is doubly blessed: He's a fine drummer and an arranger not afraid to try different things..."
Midrash Mish Mosh was released in late -2004 on the Tzadik label, run by downtown icon John Zorn.
Alexander has appeared on over 40 CDs and his compositions have appeared on many of them, including CDs by Babkas (3 CDs on Songlines), Hasidic New Wave(4 CDs on Knitting Factory & Nottwo), Jay Clayton/Jim Knapp Collective(CDs on ITM Pacific and Sunnyside), the Kleztraphobix and his own CDs.
Aaron grew up in Seattle, played classical violin from the ages of 4 thru 12, attended Eckstein Middle School, Nova and Roosevelt High School where the jazz band was led by the renowned Waldo King. Waldo really turned Aaron on to jazz music as a way of life and forever changed his direction. The following year Alexander began private studies with Jerry Granelli through Cornish College of the Arts. When he finished high school he attended Cornish and studied with Granelli, Jay Clayton, Julian Priester, James Knapp, and Randy Halberstadt. He attended the Banff Centre's Jazz Intensive in 1988 where he studied with Dave Holland, Marvin Smith, Anthony Davis, Muhal Richard Abrams and Pat LaBarbera. He has studied drums privately with Jerry Granelli, Sam Ulano, Gerry Hemingway, Bob Moses, Joe Morello, Victor Lewis, Woody Pierce and Mike Clark.
His first big break came when, in his freshman year at Cornish, his college ensemble instructor, Jim Knapp, asked him to play in his Composers and Improvisors Orchestra on a group of concerts in 1984-85. This gave him an opportunity to share the bandstand with such jazz greats as Carla Bley, Julian Priester, Hadley Caliman, Marc Seales and many other wonderful musicians.
Alexander was active in the Seattle scene and co-founded the group Timebone in 1988 along with J. Anthony Granelli, Arnold Hammerschlag, and Briggan Krauss. Timebone made two recordings and was named "Best Acoustic Jazz Group, 1990" by the renowned Northwest Jazz Organization Earshot Jazz. Aaron and Brigganperformed as a duo as well, making one recording, and doing a concert which was supported by a grant from the Seattle Arts Commission.
In 1985-86 Aaron dropped out of Cornish and went on the road with a talented young 'show' band called 5th Avenue. They played 5 sets a night, 6 nights a weeks for much of those two years, giving the 19 year old Alexander a solid grounding in the world of a working musician. The band was founded by four great singers from Edmonds Community College plus a rhythm section. They played jazz standards, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross and Hi Lo's-style jazz vocal arrangements, show medleys (Motown, Beatles, 50s, 60s, Elvis, Hi-Tops, Billy Joel, etc.), and Top 40. After a couple years of touring the Northwest, Alexander returned to Seattle to continue his education and focus on creative music.
Aaron was a member of the group Jay Clayton/Jim Knapp Collective which was very active in Seattle in the early 1990's, recording a CD "Tito's Acid Trip" and performing regionally, as well as hosting a weekly series for two years "Live at the Bathhouse Theater". The Collective was the host group and would bring in guest artists every week to perform new pieces in collaboration. The artists were interdisciplinary and included musicians, dancers, actors and visual artists. Some of the artists he had an opportunity to collaborate and perform with in this context include Stuart Dempster, Skinner Releasing Dance Company, Roberta Maguire, Andy Shaw & Christian Swenson, Bert Wilson, Julian Priester. Members of the Collective, including Aaron, also were part of recording by Jay Clayton entitled "Circle Dancing," which was released on the Sunnyside label.
Aaron joined the klezmer & Jewish music group The Mazeltones in 1989 and recorded two CDs with the group, toured in California, New York, and Omaha, and performed countless concerts, simchas, and schools with them. This was his introduction to klezmer music which has become one of his great passions.
Alexander first performed in New York with Jay Clayton, at Visiones and Condon's in 1990, during a trip in which they also performed in Woodstock and Boston. Alexander moved to New York in 1993 where he was introduced to the New York scene by friends from Seattle, including Brad Shepik and Mike Sarin. He soon became active on the downtown scene and the group Babkas, of which he was a a member along with Shepik and Briggan Krauss, began to garner notice nationally and abroad. Babkas made three full length CDs on the Songlines label and toured Europe in 1995 and 1997 as well as a few times in the U.S.
Alexander played in a group called Klez-Jazz, with Burton Greene and Perry Robinson, at the West End Gate for about a year, one of his first regular gigs in New York. He also played various gigs around New York with such artists as Eli Yamin, JEIGH, Peter Epstein, Kai Bruckner, Chris Speed, Snowy Sheep of Rome, Sex Mob, Curtis Hasselbring, and some others.
Alexander was invited to join the Sun Ra tribute group Myth Science, led by Reuben Radding, and including Anthony Coleman, Briggan Krauss and Tim Otto, in 1995. He played every Saturday for a year with Myth Science at the Tap Bar in the Knitting Factory, and the band culminated the experience with a crazy Knitting Factory sponsored European tour in 1996.
In 1996 Alexander was invited by The Klezmatics to replace founding drummer David Licht for a three week tour in Europe when Licht was to have his first child, Jacob. This began a long association where Alexander performed with the Klezmatics on scores of dates in Europe, South America and the U.S. He has performed with the Klezmatics at the Joseph Papp Public Theatre, Town Hall, Royal Festival Hall (London), live television and radio shows, including Prairie Home Companion, and live recordings in Germany and Italy. He appears as a guest on their CD 'Shteyt Oyf - Rise Up'.
Also in 1996 Greg Wall and Frank London asked Alexander to join the group Hasidic New Wave, along with guitarist David Fiuczynski and bassist Kenny Davis. Davis moved to L.A. to join the Tonight Show band and was replaced by Fima Ephron in 1997. The group has made 5 full length CDs together and their last, "From the Belly of Abraham" - a collaboration with Senegalese sabar drum group Yakar Rhythms - was conceived and co-produced by Alexander. Hasidic New Wave has toured extensively in the US and Europe.
In October, 1996 Aaron was invited to join Dave Tronzo and Stomu Takeishi for a three week tour in Europe and several dates in New York.
In 1997 Aaron was invited by Greg Wall, Jordan Hirsch, Zevy Zions and Brian Glassman to join the group Klezmerfest! which was active playing klezmer music in schools in the New York/New Jersey area. Klezmerfest since then has become a concert group as well and has a great CD entitled "Party Music."
Frank London asked Aaron to join his Klezmer Brass All-Stars in 2001 and Aaron has toured and recorded with them in North America, Europe, and Brazil. A collaboration with the Serbian Roma group Boban Markovic Orkestar has been a highlight of this experience. Alexander has appeard on the CDs Brotherhood of Brass and 'Carnival Conspiracy', both on Piranha Records.
Greg Wall and Aaron Alexander perform as a duo, and they have performed at the Knitting Factory, Makor and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Greg, Aaron, and keyboard phenom Shai Bachar recorded a CD for Tzadik entitled "Later Prophets" which was released in March, 2004.
Alexander has performed in the North America and Europe with Greg Wall's Later Prophets, Hasidic New Wave, Frank London's Klezmer Brass All-Stars, The Klezmatics, Babkas (with Brad Shepik & Briggan Krauss), Dave Tronzo Trio, Jay Clayton, Freeplay, Rob Frayne & Chelsea Bridge, and Myth Science, and has also recorded or performed with Natsuki Tamura, Satoko Fuji Orchestra, Jim Knapp's Composers & Improvisers Orchestra, Julian Priester, Mose Allison, Charlie Byrd, Wayne Horvitz, Michael Bisio, David Krakauer's Klezmer Madness, The Flying Karamazov Brothers, Klezmerfest, Andy Shaw, The Mazeltones, and many more.
Alexander has led his own groups in the last several years, and played some nice gigs at New York clubs and festivals. Aaron Alexander's RaggedyTime Band was a large group, including some of the fine musicians of his generation, and special guests. The RaggedyTime Band at one time or another included Andrew D'Angelo, Briggan Krauss, Peter Epstein, Arnold Hammerschlag, Curtis Hasselbring, J. Anthony Granelli, Michael Sarin, David Tronzo, Anthony Coleman, John Schott, Jamie Saft, Andrea Parkins, Ted Reichman. Unfortunately they never made a CD.
Later there was a quartet which he called Aaron Alexander & Musicians, which played at the Texaco Jazz Festival, the Knitting Factory, and the Bell Atlantic Jazz Festival - all really through the Knit. The band included Cuong Vu, Jamie Saft and Stomu Takeishi. A few recordings were made, including a decent live recording from the Old Office, but it was never commercially released. Send Aaron an email if you're interested in hearing it.
Aaron recorded CD of his original jazz music entitled "Blues for Sparky". The Aaron Alexander Sextet plays a collecton of Alexander's jazz tunes, more straight ahead than other projects, focused on group arrangements, presenting the melody and harmony clearly, with short but great solos. This classic sounding jazz sextet includes some members of Greg Wall's Simcha All-Stars, who also play a lot in the New York/New Jersey area at weddings and other functions, and have developed a great rapport over several years together.
The most recent recording is "Midrash Mish Mosh" which was released in late 2004 on the Tzadik label.
Mr. Alexander, in addition to performing creative music in the concert and club setting, performs at weddings and events in the N.Y. area and beyond, performs regularly with an acclaimed Klez-for-Kids show developed by Greg Wall, and maintains an active teaching schedule.