While bassist and DJ Zack Lober has called New York home for almost a decade, he’s a third-generation native of Montreal, Canada. Lober’s Zaida (Yiddish for “grandfather”), Hyman Herman, immigrated to Montreal as a child with his family and eventually built a career in Montreal as a drummer and bandleader, working with many musicians who would go on to become jazz legends.
As Lober grew up and became a professional musician himself, he became more and more interested in searching for his familiar musical origins through his Zaida’s stories. Out of these old stories comes The Ancestry Project, a multimedia work that takes listeners on a journey through Lober’s family history. Featuring recorded interviews, visual projections, turntables, and a crack band of Lober’s close associates, The Ancestry Project is an ambitious and deeply moving work that synthesizes Lober’s huge range of musical activities.
The Jazz Gallery is very excited to present this project on Thursday, May 15th, 2014. We caught up with Zack by phone to talk about his grandfather and how he made the different pieces of The Ancestry Project fit together.
The Jazz Gallery: Can you start by telling us a bit about your Zaida and his story?
Zack Lober: My Zaida was born in Poland and his family emigrated from Poland, post-World War I. My Zaida was two years old when they left. This was around the time when there were a lot of pogroms happening against the Jewish people. My family was very marginalized in the town where they were living. My great-grandfather had the wherewithal to get out of there before something worse happened, and it inevitably did. His family settled eventually in Montreal.
My great-grandfather was a klezmer violinist, and when he moved to Montreal he kept working as a performing musician. He also got involved with teaching and instrument repairs, sort of all things musical. From there, some of his children also grew up to be musicians. My grandfather started out on drums and he had a brother who played bass whose name was Benny. So my Zaida started playing gigs as a drummer and eventually formed his own band that he led for a couple of decades in Montreal. He mostly played commercial music, but he hired lots of great musicians at the time, like Paul Bley when he was 13 years old, and Maynard Ferguson, and Oscar Peterson.
I only learned about him much later on. Music sort of skipped a generation with my family; my mother and father don’t have a connection with music, and I got into it on my own. Once I already started working professionally, my grandfather would occasionally talk about how he’d done this and that, and I’d be like, “What do you mean you hired Paul Bley!?” He was always very modest and nonchalant about it, and he didn’t really talk about it until I started asking him questions, which eventually led to The Ancestry Project.