If you had to classify the group Jerusafunk, you would do it in the funk genre. It’s in their name. But listen to the band and you’ll hear so much more – from klezmer to afrobeat to cumbia beats mixed in with funk music.
Classically trained Jessie Demaree, who sings and plays clarinet in the Phoenix-based band, is a polyglot, audiophile and someone with an extreme wanderlust. This wanderlust led to many trips, as before the Jerusalem she moved around the planet with an instrument in hand, taking a liking to regional music played wherever she laid her head; but it all started with klezmer and Eastern and Central European instrumental music, especially the music of Giora Feidman.
Jerusafunk will perform at Buckley Park on Saturday as part of iAM MUSIC Fest. Also present are J-Calvin, Bards in Between, Tyler Adams Trio, Zodiac Groove, Alicia Hoelzer and the Secret Circus Society.
“Feidman’s album ‘The Singing Clarinet’ totally changed my life,” Demaree said. “I was like ‘no, I’m doing this now, I’m not a classical clarinetist anymore. I’m going down the klezmer music path now. And the rest is history.”
Jerusafunk’s beginnings date back a dozen years in Flagstaff, Arizona, when Demaree formed the band with partner and bandmate Chris Del Favero, who plays guitar. It was humble beginnings that led to a well-laden, horn-heavy cocktail.
“It evolved from a trio that just hit the streets playing klezmer and funk music, to a now complete psychedelic global fusion experience with nine pieces, a full horn section,” Demaree said. “It’s definitely evolved over the years.”
In addition to Demaree and Del Favero, the band members are: Jeremy Lentz on drums, Bailey Zick on bass, Elliott Fox on tenor saxophone, Alan Acosta on saxophone and flute as well, Nicho Whitegold on trombone, Zack Parker on guitar and Mike De La Torre on percussion.
WHAT: iAM MUSIC Fest with Jerusafunk, J-Calvin, Bards in Between, Tyler Adams Trio, Zodiac Groove, Alicia Hoelzer, Secret Circus Society.
WHEN: 5 p.m. Saturday.
WHERE: Buckley Park, 1200 Main Ave.
TICKETS: $15 GA, available online at https://bit.ly/3Asj7uX.
MORE INFORMATION: Visit https://bit.ly/3JZUhGb.
There’s a level of novelty that happens when bands known for playing a particular style of music throw a curveball. That novelty doesn’t exist with this band when they slip Afrobeat beats into a classic American funk cut; all is well, and it is done with the utmost respect.
“We do it with sincerity and adoration and out of total respect when we start creating a new sound. It’s about unifying what we hear and synthesizing it. It’s something more creative than just like “hey, we’re Phoenix kids doing afrobeat.” It’s not that unimaginative, ever,” Demaree said. “It’s so fun for us to hear the rhythms of Brazilian samba and then see what it sounds like with a more complex bass line from the 70s Ethiopian funk era. It just goes deep.
The band members are all lifelong music students, just as they were when they first picked up an instrument, as many of the members who make up their stacked horn section began studying jazz when they were in elementary school. This educational nature is the perfect band for an iAM MUSIC event, where music education goes hand in hand with performance. Within the band, this pursuit of higher musical learning lends itself to the evolution of their sound; when there are no limits to what you can do and no ceilings to reach, the musical avenues you can explore and the sounds you want to create are endless.
“We all work on the job. I’ve been playing klezmer music for about 20 years, and it finally evolved once I met Chris, and he’s been an amazing guitar player and songwriter,” Demaree said. “It’s the mastery of everyone coming together and collaborating.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and station manager KDUR. Contact him at [email protected]