by Leslie Feldman
When asked to name the venues Bruce Klauber has played in his 56 years in the music industry, it might be easier to name the locations he has NOT played. Known in the jazz world as a skilled percussionist, Klauber is also an author and columnist and has been singing professionally for decades.
Klauber, 64, a Philadelphia native, is the biographer of drum giants Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich, Broad Street Review columnist, Warner Brothers/Hudson Music “Jazz Legends” DVD Series Producer, public relations director for the non-profit Jazz Bridge and co-founder of this region’s popular All-Star Jazz Trio, a unit that often appears with legendary songstress Peggy King. Along with Klauber on drums, the trio includes pianist Andy Kahn and bassist Bruce Kaminsky.
Klauber grew up in Overbrook Park and played his first professional job when he was 8 years old at the Ben Franklin Hotel in Center City with Stu Harris and his Orchestra. “It was a Bar Mitzvah, and I was paid $45 for the gig. Truthfully, I don’t make that much more for a gig today.”
You might say that music is in Bruce’s DNA. His mother, born Frances Schwartz in 1913, played piano, sang and danced in vaudeville. His brother, Joel, 70, became a singer, drummer and musicologist mentored by Martin Williams. Klauber graduated from Temple University with a Bachelor’s in Radio/Television/Film in 1975. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Music from Combs College of Music in 1986 for his contributions to jazz scholarship and musical performance.
“I had the chance and had seriously considered living in Florida, Boston, New York City or Las Vegas,” said Klauber, who currently lives in Center City. “In fact, I spent the better part of 11 years living in Naples, FL, where I wrote a syndicated jazz column and performed five nights per week. But the bottom line is that I love Philadelphia, its people and the jazz scene here. In terms of Philadelphia versus New York City, Philadelphia to me is simply more manageable.”
Klauber is fortunate to have worked with some of the certifiable legends of jazz, including saxophonist Charlie Ventura, organist Milt Buckner, saxophonist Pepper Adams, trombonist Al Grey and singers Joanie Sommers, Buddy Greco and Peggy King. In fact, his All-Star Jazz Trio just backed Peggy King on her first new recording in 36 years, “Songs a la King,” on the prestigious Fresh Sound record label.
Klauber also performs a Frank Sinatra tribute show featuring James Dell ‘Orefice on piano at the Paris Wine Bar in the city’s Fairmount section. In addition, he plays on Thursday evenings at Zesty’s restaurant in Manayunk and Square on Square in center city.
“I’ve been listening to Sinatra since I was a kid, saw him in person dozens of times, and this is something I’ve wanted to do for years,” Klauber explained. “Tribute show or not, let me make it clear that no one, no one, can come close to duplicating what Frank Sinatra did. Many of the songs we do have some incredible stories attached to them, and that is part of the show as well.”
Along with performing, being involved with a non-profit like Jazz Bridge has been very meaningful for Klauber. The organization assists local jazz and blues musicians and vocalists in times of crisis by hosting charity concerts to raise money for them. Concerts have been held in Cheltenham, Center City, Collingswood, NJ, and the Main Line for 12 years. New locales in Willingboro, NJ, and Roxborough were added a year or so ago.
“Non-profits like Jazz Bridge and The Jazz Sanctuary are putting on nearly 200 concerts per year, which translates into around 800 singers and players performing annually,” added Klauber. “That’s a lot of cats. My point is that not all jazz is being presented via the traditional jazz club route.”
As a member and cheerleader for the local jazz community, Klauber believes the local jazz scene has not been this healthy in years. “Jazz clubs have been opening all over, including South on North Broad Street and the Paris Bistro and Jazz Cafe’ in Chestnut Hill. Then we have Chris’ Jazz Cafe’, a venue that just celebrated its 25th birthday. A sampling of other clubs that present jazz regularly in Center City are Time restaurant and The Prime Rib. There are also jam sessions all over the city and beyond, including those at Alma Mater in Mt. Airy, World Cafe’ Live, Manayunk Brewery and many more.”
As for Klauber, the last time he was this busy musically was in 1972. “Those players and singers who complain about lack of work are not looking for work in the right place and have not yet learned what is absolutely essential in the marketplace today, the art of self-promotion. It’s a new day out there. It is up to us to get noticed. No one else will do it for you.”
For more information, visit www.jazzbridge.org.