Concert Review: TriBeCaStan – radically multicultural and poly-stylistic to the marrow…

Date: Friday, Augusr 2, 2013
Venue: the Rubin Museum (NY)

tribecastan-rooftop-press-photo-4000x3000-300dpi-rgb-1024x768Review by Dawoud Kringle

TriBeCaStan is John Kruth (mandolin, mandocello, banjo, sitar, flutes, harmonica, vocals); Jeff Green (yayli, tamboor, tarhu, morsing, dutar, flutes, rubab, aqua drum, halo); Matt Darriau (kaval, clarinet, alto sax, gaida); Kenny Margolis (accordion, harmonium); Ray Peterson (double bass); Boris Kinberg (percussion, timbales, gong); Rohin Khemani (tabla, percussion); John Turner (trumpet) and Chris Morrow (trombone).

Their performance featured music that directly related to the Rubin Museums collection of artifacts. Two pieces, “Magestic Ganesh” and “Waltz of the Charnel Ground” were composed especially for this concert.

They continued with “Magestic Ganesh”, an Indian piece. The bandleader, John Kruth played chords on a guitar like instrument, and sang (it being an all acoustic performance, his voice wasn’t easy to hear, although the other instruments were clear and balanced). This song was very 60s-ish.
A bass line followed by an accordion vamp opened the next song. Kruth played sitar (amplification of the sitar would have been useful; it was hard to hear him). The song, despite the eastern instruments, was very zydeco; and concentrated on a fun groove more than anything.
This was followed by a “Waltz of the Charnel Ground.” A moody east European vibe filled the air; as if gypsies were stoically telling a story of their suffering, then shrugging it off as being unimportant.
The whole performance was augmented by projected images on the stage behind the musicians. Mostly Hindu gods and other idols; but there were also cartoons and other imagery.
The next piece began with the suggestion of an ultra modern jazz that became drenched again in east European modality. The tabla played Tibetan gongs and the flute played a hung and another metallophonic instrument. Kruth played mandolin.
Then, the flute player played some improbable wind instrument he said he found while reeking through the Himalayan and had to wake someone out of an opium stupor to purchase. Kruth dueted with him on harmonica. This song was another crazy romp through this multicultural cafe
On the next song they returned to India, via Romania. This song, the tabla and percussion did a marvelous duet that ended all too soon.

The next song, while Kruth searched for a lost instrument, the band, led by Green on what looked like an Indian been, played a Don Cherry song; an Arabic sounding piece, with shades of Henry Threadgill. Then Kruth returned with his own been, and with an accordion lead vamp, they played a complex duet with occasional odd accents.
The next piece was Chinese. Flutes, plucked Asian zithers tabla, hung, and conga painted a dreamscape of Asian minimalism, zen statements of simplicity and insinuated complexity.
The next song was an uptempo piece that evoked the hectic pace of urban Bangalore. The accordion and horn section gave it an incongruous jazz flavoring.
This was followed by a song dedicated to Kruth’s wife’s uncle, a Croatian zookeeper. This lively dance (conjuring images of Anthony Quinn in his Zorba the Greek role) glided and flew. It featured another percussion duet that, while short, was indicative of their feast skill and talent.
A jazz piece reminiscent of the 60-70s when jazz was mixing with R&B and soul followed. It went through many permutations, and ended on a joyful cacophony.
The last piece was an African piece from Gabon, from a religious ceremony involving the use of entheogenic sacraments. It was a serious and introspective song, that flowed and grooved as only African music can.
The whole concert was brilliantly presented without ever losing a strong sense of fun and playfulness.

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