Roots-rock band Izzy and the Catastrophics are aptly named.
The band's style revives jump blues, rockabilly, vintage R&B, mambo and a little jazz and swing and things may not always go as planned.
"The van got repossessed from the back of the club while we were on stage," says Izzy Zaidman over an unreliable cell phone signal while the band travels through West Virginia. He says the group went through four vans in five years, and the repossessed one was bought in an emergency situation when another van broke down on tour. Zaidman says the dealer was "a little shady." Details were never quite worked out and the dealer actually sold the vehicle to someone else while the group was performing a concert.
Zaidman says it might have been the group's worst moment on tour, but it's turned into a good story.
The road has been home to Zaidman for some time, but music has always been there.
"My dad is a guitar player of some significant repute in his day," says Zaidman, who is the son of Bob Zaidman, best known for his jazz and blues work. "I grew up all around that. I guess I had that in me and I was picking up on various styles of roots music."
He says his father taught him some guitar and there were plenty of guitars around to toy with. The biggest part of his education, though, came from simply being exposed to lots of music — both hearing his father play and hearing the music his father had in his music collection.
"I still get excited when I hear Chuck Berry music," he says.
It didn't take long to recognize that Izzy had only one path ahead of him.
"You know, your skills are progressing on one thing and your skills on other things are not progressing," says Zaidman. "There wasn't a 'Eureka!' moment for me. I just think there was a certain point in high school where I realized there wasn't any turning back."
In New York, Zaidman founded a gypsy jazz group and, later, landed a gig backing up Western "juke joint swing" hero Wayne "The Train" Hancock on guitar.
"I was honored to get that gig," says Zaidman. "Especially being a New Yorker. Musically, it was great. It felt great to nail a style, and Wayne is a modern master. Other parts were nightmarish. His driving was the worst part. I really thought the van was going to go off a cliff a couple of times!"
In 2009, Zaidman's tenure with Hancock ended when Zaidman and Hancock steel guitarist Tony Locke had a fight that put Locke in the hospital. Zaidman was fired and returned to New York, founded Izzy and the Catastrophics, and returned to the road.
"I've been going on tours since I was a teenager," he says. "I enjoy going to different places and meeting different people. I guess some people are just cut out for it. ... I'm a lifer. I'm in it for the long haul."
Aside from working with the Catastrophics, Zaidman is planning a project that honors gypsy jazz guitar great Django Reinhardt.
"Django had a profound effect on American music," he says. "All sorts of people, Bob Wills band swiped Django licks left and right — in a good way."
Zaidman says he loves being a professional musician, but he thinks sometimes people's ideas of what goes into it can be misguided.
"I think the most common misperception is that this is not work," says Zaidman. "Because you're doing something you love people think it isn't work. Part of what people imagine is true. It's fun and happy and we're having a party. It gets pretty joyous out here, but I've worked harder at what I do than anybody. I've spent more years studying my craft than a doctor or a lawyer. I still spend 20 hours a week practicing my instrument and learning new things. A doctor doesn't have to go back to school!"
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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