New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: john turner trumpet

A Rare Brooklyn Show by One of New York’s Funnest, Most Esoteric, Psychedelic Bands

As far as esoteric jambands go, Tribecastan have few if any rivals. The group’s ringleaders, multi-instrumentalists John Kruth and Jeff Greene have led a rotating cast of characters since this wild, psychedelic beast first made its appearance on the streets of lower Manhattan about a half-dozen years ago. To try to pigeonhole or categorize them would be useless. Like their closest comparison, Hazmat Modine, jazz is a frequent reference point, but where that group uses horns, this crew employs a vast arsenal of central Asian, Middle Eastern and African stringed and percussion instruments along with a rock rhythm section. And they’re funny – if Spike Jones and Juan Esquivel aren’t direct influences, they’re distant relatives. The group’s latest album, Goddess Polka Dottess – streaming at Bandcamp – is their most straightforward and psychedelic rock-oriented release. They’ve got a rare Brooklyn show coming up this Friday, Sept 9 at 8 PM at Shapeshifter Lab; cover is $12.

Tribecastan also distinguish themselves as one of New York’s most prolific bands. The latest album is a bit of a change from their previous output in that most of the songs are by Kruth. The opening number, Repo Rodeo follows a droll, cartoonish, cajun-flavored sprint fueled by Kruth’s mandolin, Greene’s vibraphone, the horns of baritone saxophonist Claire Daly, trumpeter John Turner, alto saxophonist Premik Russell Tubbs and trombonist Chris Morrow until keyboardist Kenny Margolis leads them down a Middle Eastern rabbit hole. From there the group keeps the Middle Eastern noir psychedelia going with Konjo – the first of two songs by Greene here – driven by Kruth’s watery electric mando and Eric Halvorson’s tumbling drums.

Bassist Ray Peterson’s snappy riff opens Bangalorious, a wry mashup of latin soul and Bollywood – a sitar, played by Kruth, finally makes a cameo. Vagabundo is an unlikely successful hybrid of creepy klezmer and dub ska – imagine a Belorussian James Bond theme. The even more macabre Charnel Waltz brings to mind Kruth’s other, more stripped-down group, Villa Delirium.

Majestic Ganesh, one of the band’s few vocal numbers, pokes playful, Beatlesque fun at the Indian pantheon. The band takes a turn into brassy psych-funk with Trouble in a Fur Coat and follow that with the silly calyspo flute tune Myrtle & Mable. Then they march through the somewhat subtler Zoli’s Strut, with its microtonal banks of Asian reed instruments.

The Mahakala Stomp, Greene’s second track here, is a catchy hi-de-ho swing number with boisterous solos all around. (you’ll have to supply the band intros yourself). The Surfing Swami makes a return to Beatlesque Indian psychedelia, followed by Kilopatra, the album’s best and most Middle Eastern track, awash in uneasy, icy mando, snakecharmer flute and biting banjo. The next track, Borislav, a slinky Balkan brass tune with a hilariously over-the-top break that’s too funny to give away here, is another real winner. Constantly shifting from one instrument to another, Tribecastan are very entertaining to watch onstage, with Kruth affecting a mad pied-piper-on-acid persona.

Tribecastan’s New Deli: A Welcome Addition to the Neighborhood

Tribecastan might be the ultimate kitchen-sink band. The sprawling New York group play deviously lighthearted original¬†psychedelic music in styles from all over the world, from every era, combined in one giant hempseed stirfry of crunchy goodness. Their classic album is their 2009 debut, Strange Cousin: it’s their darkest, with a much more Balkan/Middle Eastern feel than their subsequent work. But their new one, officially out this coming February 7 and aptly titled New Deli, is a lot of fun. They’re playing tonight at Joe’s Pub at 7: if eclectic, trippy acoustic music is your thing, you should check them out.

The core of the band, John Kruth plays fretted instruments and flutes alongside¬†his co-conspirator Jeff Greene on the rest of the fretted instruments in the band’s collective museum (five, just for his part) plus many percussion instruments as well. Their fellow travelers on this effort include Ween’s Dave Dreiwitz on bass, Scott Metzger on guitar, Steve Turre on trombone and shells, ex-Mink DeVille percussionist Boris Kinberg, John Turner on trumpet, Claire Daly on baritone sax, Cracker’s Kenny Margolis on keyboards plus cameos by the Master Musicians of Jajouka’s Bachir Attar, the Klezmatics’ Matt Darriau, Badal Roy and a horde of other special guests.

The opening track, Song for Kroncha, is typical: a Guyanese-style soca tune that takes a turn into bhangra. On a similar tip, Bed Bugs is a blithe Indian-flavored flute tune gone soca – these bed bugs are obviously well fed! Louie’s Luau also offers a taste of the tropics, a calypso-spiced New Orleans second line march done with fretted instruments plus brass and spiky mandolin (is that a mandolin? you never know with these guys) and jews harp. The band quotes from the Human League’s Keep Feeling Fascination underneath a flurrying mandolin (mandocello? rebab?) solo in Dive Bomber, a bracing Greek rembetiko dance with…are you ready…blues harp.

As with their previous album, Five Star Cave, the best songs here are the more serious ones. There’s A Crack in the Clouds, a wistful, catchy 6/8 anthem with flutes and cautious, brooding picking, and Jovanka, a Middle Eastern-flavored tango with a rich bed of fretted instruments and zither, Turner’s trumpet rising warily over the mysterious ambience, then giving way to Daly’s increasingly agitated baritone sax. The pensive bolero El Bumpa is another standout. The rest of the tracks include Daddy Barracuda, which resembles another wryly bluesy, psychedelic New York band, Hazmat Modine; the funky One Day His Axe Fell Into Honey, with its forest of flutes; the carefree, swinging The Brain Surgeon’s Wife Serves Lunch; and The Mystery of Licorice McKechnie, a weirdly amorphous jajouka tune.

There are also some covers here. Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s Freaks for the Festival is done as a funky, vividly carnivalesque organ-and-brass tune with those spiky fretted things and a woozy, bluesy Metzger electric guitar solo. Don Cherry’s Guinea gets a rustic, hypnotic treatment with flutes over a harmonium backdrop that hints at reggae. There’s also a couple of duds: Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, which even the great Eric Burdon couldn’t rescue from schlockdom, and a pair of cloying Ornette Coleman ditties. Go to Joe’s Pub and scream for originals.