Fourth Album Due October 1st from Collective Described by The Village Voice as “Defined by New York Cool, Explorer Energy, and Outer Space Vibes”
As radically multicultural and poly-stylistic as any artists working today, TriBeCaStan is one of contemporary music’s most vibrantly eclectic ensembles, and one that defies standard genre categorizations. The New York-based group of ace instrumentalists from varied musical backgrounds uses diverse instruments from around the globe to create a richly exotic palette of sonic colors. Their fourth studio album, NEW SONGS FROM THE OLD COUNTRY, is out now on Manhattan-based Evergreene Music (October 1, 2013).
TriBeCaStan is a flexible collective based around a core group of players, including co-founding multi-instrumentalists John Kruth – who composes most of the songs – and Jeff Greene, baritone sax virtuoso Claire Daly, and multi-reedist and Klezmatics staple Matt Darriau. Greene contributes a wide array of ethnic instruments from his vast collection, while Kruth – who has collaborated with such diverse artists as Ornette Coleman, Patti Smith, the Violent Femmes and Allen Ginsberg – shines on a variety of stringed and wind instruments.
New Songs From The Old Country was recorded over a two-year period at Park West Studio in Brooklyn, self-produced by Kruth and Greene and engineered by Jim Clouse. It opens with the elegant Bwiti, named after one of the official faiths of Gabon; the religious practice includes performance of trance music played on a traditional, curved mouthbow, which engaged Greene’s interest and inspired the song. Bwiti includes a gongo mouthbow as well as an African raft zither from Greene’s collection, among many other instruments, but it is not at all a replica of the traditional music – it is purely original TriBeCaStan, a “jazz prayer” that takes ancient sounds from Africa to New York, and back again.
At times antic and exuding sly humor – like the retro/Cold War vibe of Communist Modern or the high-octane, jazzy-Balkan Dance of the Terrible Bear – and at others elegiac and stirring, like Night Train to the Ukraine or the ethereal, floating Gordana’s Dream (inspired by the minimalism of Steve Reich and Phillip Glass),
the album’s 16 tracks showcase the band’s tremendous skill on an astoundingly broad selection of instruments. The all-instrumental album evokes vivid musical flavors from across the planet; Persian Nightingale conjures visions of the Silk Road, while Kecapi Rain calls up the chiming resonance of Sundanese and West Javanese gamelan. Corned Beef and Sake blends Celtic Pogues-like influences with heavy horn boogie-woogie that echoes Mingus, while the animated Auto Rickshaw sets Portuguese guitar to funk Carnatic morsing beats. Expansive in depth and breadth, New Songs from the Old Country dazzles the imagination like a whirlwind magic carpet trip around the globe and through time.
The band’s music is like a sonic oasis, a crossroad where the sounds of the yayla tambor meet surf rock, where Erik Satie melds with tango beats, and where traditional melodies mingle with the subtleties of downtown New York loft jazz in harmony – or mayhem – alongside driving grooves, thoroughbred jazz horns, lush strings and buzzing reeds. It’s a truly pan-global brew, a musical terroir that could only be concocted in the unique cultural context of New York.
Greene remarks, “In New York, with all these influences, it can happen. This is the creative capital of the world; what goes on here in terms of artistic creativity, visual, musical…it’s a unique place. There’s this energy here, that’s in our music, which doesn’t necessarily exist anyplace else.”
The band never tries to recreate the folk or art music of its various cultural sources, but forges highly original music that draws upon myriad indigenous influences as well as strong elements of the players’ very disparate backgrounds in American genres – from folk, rock, and blues to the uniquely native phenomenon of jazz. Greene describes the band as “a collective of downtown jazz, rock, and folk artists whose voices blend well together.” Their music is full of subtle references to jazz greats, psychedelia, to film scores and 1960s TV music, and even to Stephen Foster-vintage Americana– all cleverly juxtaposed with authentic ethnomusicological underpinnings, like the soundtrack to some surreal travelogue.
John Kruth says, “Everyone’s got a different orientation, and that’s what I think makes this stew of TriBeCaStan its own uniquely flavorful experience. I could never learn to play Greek music or Indian music properly; I’m just a New York American bastard. This is the music of the melting pot.” Greene continues, “You can go hear music in New York that you’d otherwise have to travel the world to experience. The shashmaqam of the Uzbek Jews is in Queens. The gaita music of Colombia is in Woodside. The music is here, and you can hear it. I look for that music, and find it in little clubs in New York or little churches in Queens or Brooklyn.”
While TriBeCaStan’s debut album was recorded “lo-tech and lo-fi,” their following two releases were more song-structured and horn-dominated. For the new album, the band sought to return to a more folkloric-based, strings-intensive sound, drawing upon the many influences Kruth and Greene have absorbed, which have shaped their songwriting and composition. Greene says, “There’s something in the limitations of folk music, the immediacy and the accessibility of it. Simple instruments really appeal to me, as opposed to complicated instruments and virtuoso playing – which in a certain way is about putting it up on a pedestal. I like the idea that folk music is for the people, and by the people.”
To stream or purchase the new album in digital or CD format, visit www.evergreene.bandcamp.com.