When Ty Citerman makes his Philadelphia debut on June 10, some audience members may recognize him from an entirely different musical context.
For any parent who has watched the Nick Jr./Noggin program, "Jack’s Big Music Show," Citerman will be immediately familiar as a member of the Dirty Sock Funtime Band.
And any recent New York City transplants at the show might have also encountered the guitarist leading family services at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in Lower Manhattan, performing as a member of the musical puppet performance troupe, Yellow Sneaker, or teaching them or their children how to play guitar.
The 39-year-old Citerman will apear with his band Bop Kabbalah at Congregation Shivtei Yeshuron Ezras Israel, also known as The Little Shul, in South Philadelphia on June 10.
For Citerman,who has two daughters, ages 6 and 1, the all-ages and educational aspects of his career are a natural outgrowth of his Judaism.
“Jewish music has been important to me all my life, especially when I became a parent; I began thinking about my family and myself in synagogue life,” says the St. Louis native and current Brooklyn resident. “I bring that to my work in synagogue and other Jewish organizations.”
The other reason Citerman has such a strong commitment to teaching — he has also taught master classes at Eastman School of Music, Dartmouth and Cal Arts — is because of the flexibility it gives him to pursue his night job. In addition to Bop Kabbalah, he is involved in three other groups, including the internationally acclaimed category-defying Gutbucket, which he co-founded with Ken Thomson.
Thomson and fellow Gutbucketer Adam Gold are in Bop Kabbalah as well, along with Ben Holmes, who will be pulling double duty at the concert. He will also be performing as a duo with Patrick Farrell. Philadelphia musician Dan Blacksberg will also be performing as a solo act that evening.
The range of Citerman’s influences are on full display throughout the eight tracks comprising Bop Kabbalah’s eponymous debut release, which was put out on May 27 as part of Tzadik Records’ Radical Jewish Culture series. Klezmer and niggunim blend with jazz and rock strains to create thoughtful, layered compositions that have a way of sneaking up on the listener in true earworm fashion.
When Citerman describes what drove him to create Bop Kabbalah — his first foray as a bandleader — despite everything else on his already crowded plate, he almost sounds as though he had no choice, that exploring his Jewish identity through music had become an imperative essential to his growth as an artist.
“There was a cantor I was working with who would really delve deep into the history of the music; she had a real perspective and it made me want to explore the music I was teaching, so I started reading and checking stuff out.”
His research, which took two years and encompassed scholarly works like Abraham Z. Idelsohn’s Jewish Music: Its Historical Development, also led to numerous conversations with the musician John Zorn, who ultimately suggested that Citerman should record for Zorn’s Tzadik label.
“As a Jew playing jazz,” he explains, taking the time to create and make Bop Kabbalah “seemed like a way to honestly look at what my voice is and to probe where am I coming from culturally in this music I make. I see myself as somewhere on the modern trajectory of Jewish composers who are looking forward but also with a sense of belonging to a community.”
If You Go:
Bop Kabbalah, with Dan Blacksberg solo and Patrick Farrell/Ben Holmes Duo
June 10 at 8 p.m. at Congregation Shivtei Yeshuron Ezras Israel
2015 S. Fourth St., Philadelphia