Dan Kurfirst Brings His Tranquilly Kinetic, Meditative Grooves to a Perfect Outdoor Spot
Said it before, time to say it again: drummers always pull together the best bands because everybody wants to play with the good ones. Dan Kurfirst is the latest to take centerstage with his new album Arkinetics, streaming at Bandcamp. He’s immersed himself in both Middle Eastern and Indian music, so his beats are especially well informed by touch along with unlimited kinds of boom. He’s bringing this project to the ongoing series of city garden shows on Oct 2 at 4 PM in the space at 129 Stanton St. east of Essex: the lineup includes Rodney Chapman on sax, Alexis Marcelo on keys, John Merritt on bass and Roshni Samlal on tabla. The afternoon opens at 1:30 PM with the tersely propulsive duo of Aquiles Navarro on trumpet and Tchesser Holmes on drums, followed at 2:30 by, pianist Albert Marquès’ Freedom First project featuring the poetry of unjustly convicted death row inmate Keith LaMar, and then at 3:30 singer Lisa Sokolov.
On Kurfirst’s new album, Daniel Carter plays trumpet and winds, with Damon Banks on bass, otherwise the group is the same. A handful of the tunes have samples from mystic and author Alan Watts, reflecting Kurfirst’s longstanding meditation practice and interest in spirituality. The opening number, Peace In is set to a catchy, syncopated piano-and-synth backdrop by Fima Chupakhin, with a voiceover ending with Watts’ observation that “The godhead is never an object of its own knowledge.” What’s your take on that?
A gently churning drums-and-tabla piece sets up the delicately qawwali-tinged Meditation Groove, with balmy Rhodes by Marcelo and trumpet from Carter: Silent Way Miles with delicate Indian tinges. This sets the stage for much of the rest of the album.
The lingering, Bob Belden-esque nocturnal ambience continues, Carter beginning on flute and then switching back to muted trumpet in Birth Beats 1, set against Marcelo’s saturnine glimmer.
Banks’ catchy, loopy trebly chromatic riffage anchors Ghost Killers as Kurfirst and Samlal circle around an artfully orchestrated series of crescendos from Marcelo’s Rhodes while Carter raises the anxious ante with his sax. Dreamscape is aptly titled: with the hypnotic tabla, Kurfirst’s elegant brushwork and Carter’s balmy sax, it could be a Bill Withers backing track.
Kurfirst follows the trippy, shamanic drumscape Two Chants with Not Yet, Carter’s modal sax floating uneasily over Banks’ tightly clustering, catchy bass variations and Marcelo’s spare, atmospheric lines. The group bring the album full circle with a benedictory full-band version of the opening number.