Krakauer's Ancestral Groove, Checkpoint

David Krakauer is not only king of klezmer but one of the great clarinetists, period, a musician equally at home in jazz, rock, classical, and various fusions thereof. He joined the Klezmatics in 1988, started his own band Klezmer Madness! in the mid-'90s, joined with the rapper Socalled to create Abraham Inc. in the mid-'00s, and, all along, soloed with chamber and symphony orchestras worldwide, most prominently, and wondrously, with the Kronos Quartet on their recording of Osvaldo Golijov's The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind

His latest band, Krakauer's Ancestral Groove, a jazz quartet occasionally expanded into a septet, digs deep in the rock-jazz-klezmer-hip-hop sediment. Lots of jazz musicians try to rock out, lots of rock musicians try to go jazz, but Krakauer is among the very few who delve thoroughly into the idioms, the master of them all. He can bend notes like Beckham, then make them dance and juggle and laugh and cry and swing.

The band's new CD, Checkpoint (on the presumably self-started Table Pounding Records label, distributed by United for Opportunity), is kick-ass, maybe his best—certainly Krakauer's most dancing-in-your-head-and-on-the-floor-at-the-same-time exciting—album of this sort. His band is impeccable: Sheryl Bailey on electric guitar, Jerome Harris on electric bass, and Michael Sarin on drums and samplers, with guest spots from electric guitarist Marc Ribot (who can shred and twang like nobody), John Medeski on organ (ditto), and Rob Curto on a very soulful accordion.

Marc Urselli, a top-notch rock engineer, recorded and mixed the tracks with verve, heft, and a spaciousness that's probably artificial but sounds real nonetheless. This is virtuosic, spirited, borderline-spiritual, fun stuff.