Trying to categorize the Rabbinical School Dropouts is no easy task. The 10-piece klezmer, funk and rock band finds its inspiration from such diverse sources as Frank Zappa, Raymond Scott, Martin Denny, Charles Mingus, Bernard Herrmann, Shostakovich, They Might Be Giants, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Nusrat Fatah Ali Khan.
“When I write music for the Dropouts, I’m not too concerned with what style it is, or if it fits into any given tradition. I just make sure that it sounds ‘Jewish,’” said band co-foudner Jon-Jon Friedmann, who writes a good portion of the Dropouts’ repertoire. “I often mix musical ideas rather haphazardly … the modern klezmer music I write is more self-conscious than it is conscious of musical standards and norms.”
“I am very concerned with creating a sound that is undeniably Rabbinical School Dropout,” he said, adding, “I consider my music clever and pretentious.”
The San Diego-based band, started by one-time rabbinical students Michael, Hank and Jon-Jon Friedmann — brothers — consists of bassoon, tablas, upright bass, theremin, bass clarinet, oboe, trombone, saxophone, electric guitar, drums, toy piano and others. Often described as “esoteric space klezmer,” the Rabbinical School Dropouts find equilibrium between passion and humor in their music and performances.
“It is no secret that the Rabbinical School Dropouts are passionate people, and this passion needs to be balanced by laughter,” Jon-Jon Friedmann said. “When we try to be completely serious, our music suffers. And whenever we have a successful performance, it’s because we’re happy and laughing. The sort of music we perform doesn’t work with a straight face,” he added.
For Purim, the Rabbinical School Dropouts perform two concerts, presented by KFAR Jewish Arts Center — in costume, of course.
Lakeside Congregation, 1221 County Line, Highland Park; March 6, 8:30 p.m.; HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo, Chicago; March 7, 8 p.m.; $15, $12 in advance either show. (773-550-1543 or www.kfarcenter.com)