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Tag: brandon terzic

Matt Darriau Brings One of His Edgy, Slinky Projects to a Bed-Stuy Gig

One New York artist who was ubiquitous before the lockdown, and whose presence was conspicuously absent during the last fifteen months, is eclectically edgy multi-reedman Matt Darriau. The longtime Klezmatics clarinetist did some outdoor gigs earlier this year; he’s back to the indoor circuit this July 19 at 9 PM at Bar Lunatico, where he’s leading his Yo Lateef project with Santiago Liebson on piano, Peck Almond on trumpet, Arthur Kell on bass and Steve Johns on drums, While the band was conceived to reinvent the work of distinctive jazz bassist Yusef Lateef, lately the group more closely resemble Darriau’s sometimes slashingly Balkan-tinged Paradox Trio.

There’s some pretty lo-fi audio of their most recent Brooklyn gig up at youtube (you’ll have to fast-forward through about the first ten minutes of the band bullshitting before it’s showtime). At this gig, Liebson’s piano got switched out for Max Kutner’s guitar, his unsettled chromatics echoing Brad Shepik’s work in the Paradox Trio. You can watch the group having fun with long, slinky, brooding quasi-boleros, a circling, soukous-tinged flute tune and a triptych where Darriau finally gets to cut loose, switching between Bulgarian gaida bagpipe, tenor sax and clarinet.

He’s gotten plenty of press here over the years, most recently with the Klezmatics, backing cantors Chaim David Berson and Yanky Lemmer at Central Park Summerstage in 2017. The time before that was for a Brooklyn Raga Massive event the previous November, where he spiraled and wafted through a series of Indian carnatic themes with oudist Brandon Terzic.

There was also a December, 2015 Brooklyn small-club gig with a serpentine, Middle Eastern-flavored group he called Du’ud since they had two oud players (Terzic and Brian Prunka). Yet some of the shows Darriau played before then, and didn’t get any press for here, were just as darkly sublime.

There was his Who Is Manny Blanc project, who play the sometimes eerily surfy, sometimes crazily cartoonish music of Manny Blanc, whose 1961 album Jewish Jazz is impossible to find and iconic among diehard crate-diggers. There were also a couple of more Balkan-flavored gigs with his Gaida Electrique band, where he focuses more on the chromatically slashing bagpipe tunes. That takes us all the way back to 2015. All this is to say that if you haven’t been watching the guy ripping it up onstage since then, there’s no time like the present,

You could also call this a long-overdue mea culpa for not having covered all those shows, That’s what happens sometimes when you go out intending to focus on the music, run into friends at the bar, and it’s all over. What a beautiful thing it is that here in New York, after sixteen months of hell and deprivation, we finally have that choice again. Let’s never lose it.

A Slinky, Catchy New Album from Nubian Dance Band Alsarah & the Nubatones

Alsarah & the Nubatones call their music “East African retro pop.” That designation may be historically accurate, but it hardly does justice to the Sudanese-born singer and her band’s enchanting blend of slinky Middle Eastern sounds, starkly bluesy folk and propulsive dance grooves. They’ve got a new album, Manara – streaming at Bandcamp – and an album release show on Nov 30 at 7:30 PM at the Poisson Rouge. Advance tix are $12, but get ’em now – the band pretty much sold out Flushing Town Hall, a much bigger venue way out in Queens, earlier this year – and the 7 train wasn’t even running that evening.

The album’s opening track, Salaam Nubia, is basically a retro 70s disco groove with blues riffage from Brandon Terzic’s oud over clattering percussion and wickedly catchty vocal harmonies. Alsaarah’s tender but resolute vocals soar over a lush bed of strings and accordion on Alforag, a warmly propulsive love ballad. Its austere soul/blues phrasing make a stark reminder of the blues’ African origins.

Albahr follows a moody, minor-key, bluesy sway, eclectic percussionist Ramy El Aaser fueling its dancing peaks as Terzic ripples and simmers, up to a spacious oud solo. Jyan Tiban opens with Mawuena Kodjovi’s suspensefully bass and skeletal oud and builds to a trickily rhythmic, hypnotic call-and-response vamp. Terzic’s edgily dancing lines interspersed between the vocals.

The band follows the gently lilting, catchy minor-key Ya Watan and its wryly backward-masked oud with Nar, a study in dynamics with its airy psychedelic ambience bookending a scampering groove and biting oud solo. The album’s understatedly majestic, intricately orchestraed title track rides a slow pulse lit up by distant, muted trumpet contrasting with incisive, low oud and El Aaser’s misterioso tabla.

With Eroos Elnill, the group returns to catchy minor-key call-and-response, insistent syncopation and some vocal leaps from Alsarah that sound more like Bjork than anything African. Alsilah blends hints of vintage rocksteady and gospel harmony into its warmly hypnotic, undulating sway. The catchy, camelwalking bassline and interweave of voices in Fulani echo Malian desert rock, while the concluding cut, Safr Minni makes an aptly psychedelic, crescendoing coda. All of this is just as accessible as it is utterly exotic to western ears – and this band puts on a hell of a dance party live.

Beyond the love songs and the dance numbers, the Arabic lyrics often reflect on loss and longing for home. Nubian territory has had strategic value for millennia and as you would expect, has been overrun with regularity.  In the wake of mid-60s dambuilding, mass displacement followed, with thousand of migrants bringing their sounds to points further north. This music is a result of that.

Intensely Tuneful, Paradigm-Shifting Indian and Middle Eastern Mashups from the Brooklyn Raga Massive

The Brooklyn Raga Massive got their start about five years ago at a ratty little Fort Greene bar. Since then, they’ve grown by leaps and bounds, made their Lincoln Center debut a couple of weeks ago, and have built a growing following via a popular weekly Wednesday residency at around 8:30 PM amid the spices wafting through the air at the comfortable, welcoming Art Cafe and Bar at the corner of Underhill and Pacific St. Cover is $15; the venue is roughly equidistant from the 2 train at Bergen St., the C at Clinton-Washington and the B at 7th Ave.

The group’s raison d’etre is to take the vast, richly tuneful universe of classic Indian sounds to new and exhilarating places. With its constantly shifting cast of members, the collective comprises a similarly wide swath of some of New York’s most adventurous Indian classical, jazz and rock talent. Last night was oud night. If you’re wondering what the centuries-old, otherworldly resonant low-register North African lute has to do with Indian music, there isn’t any historical connection…although this group is making it happen now. Ever wonder what a slinky levantine theme would sound like over a completely different but similarly snaky tabla groove? That was one of the mind-expanding mashups that oudist Brandon Terzic and tabla player Ehren Hanson tackled last night, to roaring applause.

Terzic explained that he was feeling especially psychedelic since he was jetlagged – although he didn’t seem any less energetic or wickedly precise than usual. As you would expect from a performance of Middle Eastern music, he opened a couple of numbers with brooding, slowly crescendoing improvisations lowlit with uneasy chromatics and microtones. Hanson matched the oudist’s energy with his steady, rippling rhythms, for the most part keeping a straight-ahead pulse going, at least when the two weren’t working a wry, polyrhythmic tug-of-war.

In case anyone was wondering why Terzic would switch to a completely different, West African tuning midway through the show, he explained that he wanted to make his oud sound like a kora since that harplike instrument can be so maddeningly difficult to play. Then the two romped through a lively, upbeat tune that could have been a Malian folk song. They reprised that vibe, a little more low-key, later on with a spare, dusky Nubian theme.

Klezmatics multi-reed polymath Matt Darriau joined them midway through, first playing flutes on a bristling, chromatically-fueled number that eventually morphed into a circling, crescendoing jam on what appeared to centuries-old carnatic riffage. It was a vivid illustration of how much cross-pollination there’s been between what was once the Persian empire and the Hindustani subcontinent. Given a one-chord jam to play along to, Darriau took the rhythmic route, hitting on the offbeat, then supplying tersely devious polyrhythmic accents rather than cluttering the tune. The trio wound up the set on an ominously relevant note with a Terzic number dedicated to the people of Syria, awash in grimly resonant grey-sky sonics over a stately, cautious midtempo beat, Darriau slithering through some of the evening’s most plaintive, subtly microtonally-infused washes.

Terzic’s next gig as a bandleader is Nov 22 at 7 PM at Barbes, followed by Brooklyn Balkan brass favorites Slavic Soul Party. Beyond his collaboration with Brooklyn Raga Massive,  Darriau can also typically be found at Barbes, his main hang these days when he’s not on the road. His next gig there is Nov 17 at 10 PM with his amazing Who Is Manny Blanc project, resurrecting the twistedly irresistible work of the legendary/obscure Lower East Side psychedelic Jewish jazz/esoterica composer. The Massive’s next gig, next Wednesday, Nov 9 features innovative oudist Tom Chess and his quartet. If you wish you’d been alive to witness the birth of bebop in Harlem in the 1940s, you could watch a similar kind of innovation happen right here, right now.

Alsarah & the Nubatones Put on a Transcendent, Relevant Dance Party in Flushing

If the 7 train had been running between Queens and Manhattan Saturday night, “East African retro pop” stars Alsarah & the Nubatones would have sold out Flushing Town Hall. Even with the transit nightmare, they came awfully close. By the time the stragglers had found their way to Northern Boulevard, there were only a few balcony seats left. It was a dance party, but it was also a profoundly relevant performance, shifting between hypnotic African grooves and otherworldly, microtonally-tinged Middle Eastern-flavored tonalities.

The group opened with a lingering, suspenseful solo by oudist Brandon Terzic. A student of the late, great Haig Magnoukian, his mentor and teacher who preceded him in this band,  he delivered spiky, sometimes carefully modulated, sometimes deliriously untethered spirals of edgy Middle Eastern modal riffage. Overhead, Alsarah bullt to a powerful, wordless wail, louder than she would ever get through the rest of a spellbinding, dynamic performance. Singing mostly in Arabic, the Kartoum-born bandleader voiced the disillusion, and anguish, and resilience of the Nubian people, thousands of whom were dislocated in massive Egyptian dambuilding projects in the early 60s.

From there drummer Ramy El Aaser led the group into a slinky, catchy, uneasily shuffling number packed with split-second call-and-response between Alsarah, her strong, similarly nuanced harmony singer and the rest of the band. Five minutes into the show, and they had a clapalong going; it wouldn’t be long before people were dancing in the aisles. If there ever was a case for the universal appeal and relevance of music from Egypt, this was it.

The “Nubian national anthem,” as Alsarah put it, turned out to be a catchy, circling number. basically a two-chord jam of sorts. Terzic opened The Desert Road with a rustically flurrying solo echoing the blues; a powerful reminder of the blues’ African roots. For that matter, the same could be said for El Aaser’s hard-hitting but nimble clave groove, another African invention. And a bit later on, Alsarah speculated how an old folk tune about maidens being given to the Nile River god might have resulted in mermaid children. “We Nubians gave you civilization…and we gave you mermaids,” she laughed.

Bassist Mawuena Kodjovi methodically built a wrenchingly mournful solo during one of the night’s most haunting moments. Alsarah distinguished herself with a couple of originals which were the arguably the best songs of the night, comtemplating “How governments fail us,” as she put it. The first followed a restless pulse through a “Get up, get up!” revolutionary refrain. The most dynamically crescendoing number of the night was Land of Honey, a moody contemplation of finding a new life in exile that took on special relevance in this era of refugees pouring out of Syria. The crowd went crazy for an exuberantly witty dumbek solo from El Aasser; after almost two hours onstage, the group wound up their second set with a driving habibi pop number and encored with a similarly kinetic, hypnotic dance tune

Adventurous listeners lucky enough to make it to Flushing Town Hall for this show might be interested in May 14, 7 PM concert there by the rustic, otherworldly Ba Ban Chinese Music Society; tix are $16.

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

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.