Ancient Instruments, Magically Enveloping New Tunes: Matt Darriau Blends Ouds and Reeds at Barbes

by delarue

If you go to Barbes on the right night, you can catch the debut of a new band that might be pretty amazing…or just a fun one-time-only sonic adventure. The Park Slope hotspot isn’t just a friendly watering hole and music venue, it’s a lab for a long list of elite musicians intent on working up new projects. Just this past year, groups who debuted there include wild remebetiko art-rock band Greek Judas, droll Soviet psychedelic pop band Svetlana and the Eastern Blokhedz and last night, entrancingly intricate Middle Eastern jazz group Du’ud. There have probably been others.

Du’ud – pronounced “dude” – take their name from the two ouds in the band, played by Brian Prunka and Brandon Terzic. Bandleader Matt Darriau spun from low and brooding on the small but magical kaval, wafted gracefully dancing phrases skyward on alto sax and spiraled animatedly and soulfully on what sounded like an alto flute, when he wasn’t circling hypnotically on what he called a “faux clarinet.”The grooves tended to be on the slow, slinky side, hypnotically dirgey on one opaquely enveloping Prunka number, although the percussionist – playing mosty daf frame drum and a single cymbal – picked up the pace on a couple of West African-influenced Terzic numbers. The interplay between the two oudists was more matter-of-factly congenial than it was heated, although that could change, and it probably will, once this unit gets more time together.

Prunka told a funny story about how he’d been called away from a gig, so he got Terzic to sub for him. Turns out there’s a video of that gig online that credits Prunka for Terzic’s performance. Both oudists are pushing the envelope in terms of where the ancient African low-register lute can go. At this show, Terzic moved further afield from somber, otherworldly Middle Eastern modes, often evoking an African kora harp, while Prunka hovered mostly in the lower registers, resonant and often plaintive while Darriau soared overhead. The night’s most memorable song was the slow Prunka piece that made it to video, featuring long, contemplative ascents from both ouds. Darriau’s material included a mystically kinetic number that alluded to, yet flew animatedly beyond the confines of the klezmer music that he’s best known for. The percussionist made it look easy as he negotiated between all sorts of tricky time signatures, playing with his eyes closed half the time. He was on to something: it was music to get lost in, and despite this being a sleepy Sunday right after Xmas, there was a big crowd in the house and everybody seemed to agree that they’d just seen something pretty amazing. Darriau plays a lot of Barbes gigs; his next one is Saturday night, January 2 at 8 PM where he plays Balkan bagpipe in his larger. two-guitar Gaida Electrique ensemble.

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