“As one might expect from such an adventurous group, they are influenced by jazz (especially the late ’60s experiments with freedom) but not just jazz: western swing, rock, funk, middle eastern music, classical music, country and western and more….Hypnotically absorbing and exciting too.”
—Eric Saidel, Cadence
In their third release, co-produced by Tim Berne, this Brooklyn collective performs a program of distinctive original compositions realized with sound-sculpting finesse and interactive responsiveness. They adapt contemporary new music forms and 20th century harmonic language to a group aesthetic which draws strength from their interest in the traditional music of other cultures (notably Balkan, Arabic/middle Eastern, klezmer, and African) and their experience playing many kinds of jazz, from free to bop to funk to jazz-rock. The tunes are often complex, but the process of refinement involves bringing out their emotional depth as well as wit, and rhythmically these players can really dig in: check out the live cut “Spokane” for a demonstration of why BABKAS has been called “unbelievably dynamic…one of the most electrifying and sophisticated jazz ensembles active today” (Mathias Baümel, Sächsische Zeitung).
BABKAS was formed in 1992 in Seattle, where all three had spent their student years, and since then has performed frequently in New York and Boston. They toured the western U.S. and Canada in 1993 and 1994 and Europe in 1996. Although BABKAS remains their focus for developing a group music, its members have other major commitments. Guitarist Brad Shepik leads his own trio with Tony Scherr (electric bass) and Kenny Wollesen (drums), and is a member of Dave Douglas’s Tiny Bell Trio (CDs: Songlines and hatArt), Paul Motian’s Electric Bebop Band (JMT), Matt Darriau’s Paradox Trio (Knitting Factory), the Youri Younakov Band (Traditional Crossroads), and the Owen Howard Quintet (Koch). He can also be heard on record with Andy Laster’s Hydra (Songlines) and Nils Wogram (Mons). He is co-leader of the jazz/eastern European folk collective Pachora (with Chris Speed, Jim Black, and Skuli Sverisson), and has performed with Tim Berne, Kenny Werner, Julian Priester, Jerry Granelli, and Jay Clayton.
Drummer Aaron Alexander is a member of Myth Science (Knitting Factory), JEIGH, Helkakelka, and Hasidic New Wave, and has recently toured Europe with the Klezmatics and Canada with Chelsea Bridge. He leads Aaron Alexander’s RaggedyTime Band, a jazz/klezmer/African fusion group which includes drummer Michael Sarin, saxophonists Krauss, Andrew D’Angelo, and Peter Epstein, trombonist Curtis Hasselbring, organist Anthony Coleman, accordianist Jamie Saft, and bassist J. Granelli. He has also performed with Mose Allison, Jerry Hahn, Julian Priester, Jay Clayton (ITM), Charlie Byrd, Anthony Coleman, Wayne Horvitz, John Schott, The Flying Karamazov Brothers, and the Mazeltones (Global Village).
Alto saxophonist Briggan Krauss leads his trio Good Kitty (with Chris Speed and Michael Sarin; CD on Knitting Factory). He is a member of Wayne Horvitz’ Pigpen (Tim Kerr, Avant, Cavity Search), Steve Bernstein’s Sex Mob (Knitting Factory), Andrea Parkins’ Cast Iron Fact (Knitting Factory), and Myth Science, and has performed with Bill Frisell, Bob Moses, Julian Priester, Jerry Granelli, the New York Composers Orchestra, Bobby Previte, Michael Shrieve, and Jay Clayton. In summer 1996 he led Phone Tag, an internet V-Stage (virtual stage) band which performed three times linking musicians in a European venue with others at the Knitting Factory.
“BABKAS delivers tightly argued performances that never fall into directionless athleticism. Each member pays great attention to his partners, which allows the trio to effortlessly recast themes in different tempos and time signatures….This is a group with a refreshing lack of postmodern irony. It draws on diverse sources without a trace of the cynical distancing that many bands affect. — Bob Blumenthal, Boston Globe
“This is a trio that goes for broke and takes some hard lefts, and manages to be both fun and ferocious in the process…Music both gnarly and ordered.” — Josef Woodward, Jazziz
“The inventions they’ve come up with on their prior CDs have been both perfected and surpassed…Don’t miss out on this one.” — Andy Bartlett, Earshot Jazz