Key West is a kaleidoscope of talent

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Izzy Zaidman –

Izak Gabriel Zaidman (aka Izzy) was born in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. His father was a professional guitarist, teaching and performing roots blues and ragtime in the New York area. Izzy was twelve years old when his father bought him his first guitar. He attended Charles Evans Hughes High School for the Humanities where he had performed in the school’s play version of Hair. In 1989, Izzy attended the summer program at the Berklee School of Music, absorbing and learning along the way.

After graduating high school in 1990, Izzy was almost immediately performing and playing around the local area. As a teenager, he played mostly metal Van Halen, Ozzy Osbourne, and other 90s sounds but he continued playing some of his father’s roots music, especially Chuck Barry. Performing at the Brooklyn Underground party scene, he formed a band dressed in cowboy outfits with 2-6 dancing cowgirls with full choreography.

Izzy always felt he had to get out of New York City and, in 2007, after an intense ‘Native American ritual with plenty of reflection and peyote’, he decided to take on the challenge of leaving the New York City scene. He moved to Austin, Texas and immediately got a touring gig with Wayne Hancock, a Texas staple who played early style swing jump blues with a touch of rockabilly.


After two years of being in the group, Izzy decided to form his own band, Izzy and the Catastrophics, and start touring, for about two years living out of a bus without having a permanent address. During the tour, he got involved in a relationship and had a daughter in 2011 and decided he needed to be more stable. They moved to the Napa Sonoma area in California which was hit by wild fires and was forced to move to Los Angeles. Later, he moved to Switzerland and then to Detroit, Michigan – COVID hit two months later.

After almost a year-long lock down in Detroit, Izzy checked out the Key West music scene, playing with The Scallywagz. There was plenty of work so he packed up and moved to Key West.  His first gig was with Jerrod Isaman who had started the band Coconut Victrola, playing outdoors at the Higgs Beach Pavilion on Sundays in February of 2021.

Zaidman loves performing at Blue Heaven with Daniel Clark and Drake Leonard. It’s pleasant, people are listening, and there is always a large enough audience to enjoy the music. To Izzy, it feels like the real Key West. The Seafood Festival at Bayfront Park is another wonderful music gig. It’s during the daytime, the audience is mostly locals, it’s on a big stage with great sound, and feels more like some of the larger gigs when he toured.

He would love to see more gigs and venues that support larger ensembles. Izzy is use to performing in trios, quartets, and larger ensembles. The music and the sound from a quartet is much different than a solo performance. However, the amount of money that can be made by a band leader is not enough reward to make it worthwhile. Solo players make as much, if not more, than performing in a group. The trend is unfortunately moving in that direction.

To Izzy, Key West is like playing in one big band. Everyone performs with almost everyone. It’s a kaleidoscope of talent. He enjoys having a musical dialog with certain musicians more than others. He enjoys the musical conversations and exchange of expertise. When he gets a call to perform with one of them, it’s always special. His greatest professional joy is having those really good musical dialogs. There are calls that come from musicians that are fun, and it’s a paying gig so you tend to accept but he really looks forward to those special dialogs with those certain special musicians.

Izzy loves Key West and doesn’t see himself moving anytime soon but his ‘soon to be teenager’ daughter may require some travel in the future. One of the nicest things about Key West is he feels he can live by his own code of dignity. The life of a musician is often very thankless. When in New York or New Orleans, he felt he had to take every opportunity that was offered. In Key West, there is enough demand for his musical expertise that he enjoys the privilege of being able to turn down a venue that has not treated him fairly.


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