If you had to classify the band Jerusafunk, you’d do so under the genre of, well, funk. It is in their name. But give the band a listen and you’ll hear much more – anything from klezmer to Afrobeat to cumbia rhythms mixed on top of a base of funk music.
The classically trained Jessie Demaree, who sings and plays clarinet in the Phoenix-based band, is a polyglot, audiophile and someone with extreme wanderlust. That wanderlust led to extensive travels, as pre-Jerusafunk she moved about the planet with instrument in hand, picking up a love of the regional music being played wherever she laid her head; but it all started with klezmer and the instrumental music of Eastern and Central Europe, specifically the music of Giora Feidman.
Jerusafunk will perform Saturday in Buckley Park as part of iAM MUSIC Fest. Also performing 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 ‘nope, I’m doing this now, I’m not a classical clarinetist anymore. I’m now going down the path of klezmer music.’ And the rest is history.”
Jerusafunk’s beginnings go back a dozen years to Flagstaff, Arizona, when Demaree formed the band with her partner and bandmate Chris Del Favero, who plays guitar. It was humble beginnings that led to a fully loaded, horn-heavy cocktail.
“It evolved from a three piece that just busked on the street playing klezmer and funk music, to a now full-on psychedelic world fusion experience with nine pieces, a full horn section” Demaree said. “It 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 also saxophone and flute, Nicho Whitegold on trombone, Zack Parker on guitar and Mike De La Torre on percussion.
WHAT: iAM MUSIC Fest featuring 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 is produced when bands who are known to play a particular style of music throw a curveball. That novelty does not exist with this group when they slip Afrobeat rhythms into a cut of classic American funk; it all fits, and its done so with the utmost reverence.
“We do it with a sincerity and an adoration and out of full-on respect when we’re starting to create a new sound. It’s all about unifying what we’re hearing and synthesizing it into. It’s something more creative than just like ‘hey, we’re kids from Phoenix doing Afrobeat.’ It’s not that unimaginative, ever,” Demaree said. “It’s just so fun for us to hear the rhythms from Brazilian samba, and then see what it sounds like with a more intricate bass line out of the Ethiopian funk era of the ’70s. It just goes deep.”
Band members are all forever music students, just as they were when they first picked up an instrument, as many members that make up their stacked horn section began studying jazz when they were in grade school. That educational nature is the perfect band for an iAM MUSIC event, where teaching music goes right alongside performance. Within the band that pursuit of higher musical learning lends to their evolving sound; when there’s no limits on what you can do, and no ceiling to hit, the musical avenues you can explore and the sounds you aim to create remain endless.
“We’re all working on the craft. I’ve been playing klezmer music for about 20 years, and it eventually just evolved once I met Chris, and he’s been an amazing lead guitarist and composer,” Demaree said. “It’s everybody’s mastery coming together and collaborating.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at email@example.com.