Israeli drummer/composer Dan Pugach performs alongside his wife and singer/lyricist Nicole Zuraitis at Cliff Bell’s on May 12.

Some minor household discord was brought into harmony with a song received humorously — as intended — by cabaret audiences watching the Dan Pugach Nonet, a nine-piece jazz band with vocalist.

The song, “Our Blues,” was written with melody by Pugach, a drummer and composer from Israel, and lyrics by his wife, Nicole Zuraitis, a singer and lyricist raised in Connecticut.

It will be performed when they entertain Sunday evening, May 12, at Cliff Bell’s in Detroit.

“‘Our Blues’ is kind of a silly story,” Zuraitis says. “Dan and I had gotten into a little bit of a couple’s tiff that morning, and I said, ‘I’ll write you a blues song!’ The punch line is ‘you’re much more clever when you shut your mouth.’ “We find couples really relate to that song when we perform it live.”

The pair, working together for nine years, have been married for two years and live in Brooklyn.

“The band plays mostly original arrangements of pop, folk and jazz tunes as well as original compositions aimed at jazz,” says Pugach, 36, who occasionally duets with pianist Mendy Hershkowitz to present programs of Jewish music.

“We’ve all been working together for a long time, and we bring in different styles you usually don’t find in jazz. For Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene,’ for example, which is not at all jazz, we make it jazz and won a Grammy nomination for best arrangement.”

Selections from the Nonet recording “Plus One” are planned for the Detroit appearance. The “plus one” represents Zuraitis, who had been preparing for an opera career before being smitten by jazz.

“I grew up in the small city of Ra’anana and wanted a drum set,” Pugach says. “I didn’t want to take lessons and be professional, but my dad pushed me to take lessons.”

He then went to the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music. He also played as a drummer for the Israeli Air Force Band. A scholarship to Berklee College of Music in Boston prompted his move here in 2006.

After Berklee, he earned a master’s degree in jazz performance at City College of New York, where he got into basic arranging and composing.

“I didn’t study composing with the idea of getting into it professionally, but I found in 2010 I had become attracted to big bands and larger sounds and started experimenting with all that,” he says, adding he would bring a nine-piece band into their tiny apartment to try out compositions and arrangements.

“If I have a clear idea of what I want to write, I go to the drums. In my head, I sing along and then go to the computer and type it into notation software. If I don’t know what I want, I sit at the piano and play chords until I hear something I like.”

Away from music, Pugach confesses an obsession with espresso coffee — an obsession that has turned his apartment into a hang out, he says happily.


The Dan Pugach Nonet will perform at 7 p.m. Sunday, May 12, at Cliff Bell’s, 2030 Park Ave., Detroit. $10. (313) 961-2543.

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Suzanne Chessler’s writing-editing career has spanned many years, and her articles have been featured in secular and religious publications across the state and around the country. There was a period of time when she maintained three regular columns in three different publications – one appearing weekly to spotlight metro volunteers, another appearing weekly to profile stage enthusiasts in community theater and a third appearing bimonthly to showcase upcoming arts programs. Besides doing general reporting, she has had continuing assignments involving health, monetary subjects and crime. Her award-winning work builds on majors in English-speech and journalism earned at Wayne State University, where instructors also were writers-editors on Detroit’s daily newspapers.


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