Wayne Bledsoe: Dor L' Dor: Music for all generations

Dor L'Dor

Dor L'Dor

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It would be hard to not have a good time with Dor L' Dor, whether listening to the band's music or hanging out with them at lunch.

In concert, the band takes all the fun and beauty of klezmer music in some wild directions, blending traditional Jewish songs with modern rock, pop, spirituals and even John Phillip Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever."

"From the very beginning for us it's been about the playful aspect of klezmer. We take Jewish pieces and non-Jewish pieces and have fun with them. We combine the familiar with the non-familiar," says group leader and clarinetest Ken Brown. "We have a quest to find new ways to play 'Havah Nagila,' so now we've blended it with 'Heartbreak Hotel.'"

Last June, Dor L' Dor performed the piece at the Levitt Shell in Memphis, where Elvis Presley performed as an opener for Slim Whitman in 1954.

Another number combines the traditional song "Erev Ba" with "Love Me Tender."

Knoxvillians will be able to hear the songs when Dor L' Dor performs at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, at the Laurel Theater.

The genesis of Dor L' Dor goes back to 1999 when one of the Brown family nieces needed traditional music for a bat mitzvah. Ken and keyboardist wife Susan Brown and Ken's brother Steve Brown (then a well-known drummer with the Hector Qirko Band and other groups) took up the challenge. Ken and Susan's son Michael and his friend Brandon Armstrong (both trombone players) were enlisted. Trombones are not traditional klezmer instruments, but Susan has a particular talent for creative arrangements and the trombones sounded great in the mix. A little later, Ken and Susan's younger children Daniel (bass) and Rachel (vocals, percussion) also joined and the band recruited other local players.

The band chose the name Dor L' Dor, which means "generation to generation" in Hebrew.

Dor L' Dor's albums have sold all across the United States and, as the group is finding out, overseas.

"In Europe, someone is selling pirated versions," says Susan.

The act does more vocal songs these days, because Rachel, who was 5 when the group began and is now studying music at the University of Tennessee, has continued to blossom as singer.

"We've not only grown up as a band, but as a family," says Ken. "It just seems fitting that a band named Dor L' Dor we get to see all the band members coming of age."

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