Kurt Ribak – bassist, composer, bandleader
It took Bay Area musician Kurt Ribak a while to find his path – but he found it. After coming up immersed in classical music and spending much of his twenties playing in rock bands, he discovered his voice – playing bass, leading a jazz band, and writing music for that group based on his broad musical experiences.
“Growing up I played and listened to tangos, African pop, operas, salsa, reggae, cumbias and a lot of other things, including R&B and gospel,” says Kurt. “These influences all show up in my music.” Kurt’s varied music experiences influence his compositions, which are deeply inspired by Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, and Charles Mingus, but are also influenced by artists such as The Meters, The Skatalites, and Astor Piazzolla.
Despite the diverse influences there is a consistent thread of melody and danceable rhythms. Kurt notes, “It’s kind of sad how many people now think jazz is strictly a cerebral music. That intimidates people and they turn away from music that can give them joy, solace – it can engage both their minds and their bodies.”
Kurt first sang as a child with the San Francisco Boys’ Chorus. Kurt then took up ‘cello. He continued his cello playing, playing in the back of youth orchestras, knowing that as much as he loved music he wasn’t satisfied. “By the end of high school I got into electric bass and began playing in R&B cover bands and rock bands. I still played cello, which is a great instrument, but I was losing interest in the context in which I played it – classical music. I felt I was musical but I wasn’t really able to express myself fully.”
Kurt suffered a period of tendinitis, which forced him to stop playing for a time. He rebounded and won scholarships to Berklee College of Music. There he discovered he liked writing tunes. Kurt says, “It was something I had dabbled in but had never really pursued. While at Berklee I wrote jazz tunes for my harmony classes. I still perform some of those tunes.”
After graduation Kurt focused on upright bass. As time passed he realized he needed to have his own group so that he could consistently play his own tunes and have an outlet for new ones. Day work ranged from being a ditch digger and jackhammer operator to playing in a small circus and sharing the stage with a mix of performers ranging from preachers to strippers (although not at the same time).
The Kurt Ribak Trio has three albums out, all of which enjoy airplay on KCSM-FM, the largest jazz station on the West Coast. The Kurt Ribak Trio CDs have also proven popular in Japan. “At this point our CDs sell as well there as here – and we haven’t played there.”
The Kurt Ribak Trio’s CDs have garnered considerable interest in Japan, which has proven to a primary source of CD sales for them. The track "Pseudoafrocubanismo" from "Kurt Ribak Trio" was included in the Japanese LP and CD compilation "Jazz Bar 2007." The track "Prima" from the “more” CD appeared on "Jazz Bar 2008.” The Kurt Ribak Trio’s recordings also enjoy regular airplay on KCSM-FM.
Kurt Ribak Trio Discography:
Kurt Ribak Trio (“three fingers” cover), Rodia Records
more, Rodia Records
gone, Rodia Records
GREG SANKOVICH, piano, organ and keyboards was born in 1960 and was raised in the East Bay area of San Francisco. After showing attraction to piano as a child, he began his keyboard journey with classical training from age 6. His parents' interest in dance and popular music inspired Greg's feel for music that moves people, so his inclination from an early age was towards rhythmically-oriented music.
He went on to study with the finest jazz and latin pianists and educators in the San Francisco area including Al Zulaica, Mark Levine, and Art Lande. From 13 years old Greg was busy in the SF bay area with local jazz, club and dance bands, and was an active member of the UC Berkeley Jazz Ensembles, highlighted by concert tours in Japan and Europe.
After graduation, Greg moved to Tokyo where he lived for over ten years, performing with a long list of top Japanese artists. Greg has contributed his sound to an eclectic range of musical talent from jazz to R&B, hiphop to pop. He has performed and recorded music on over 25 record labels, and has produced music for TV, radio, and film. Currently, Greg performs regularly in the SF Bay Area with his 6+ year jazz-funk project Times 4 who are working on their third cd release, bassist Kurt Ribak's jazz groups, an R&B buddy band since his teens the Blue Sky Band, and many other musically diverse freelance projects.
MATT WILLIS, drums was born in Detroit in the late 50's and has made California and Hawaii his home since the late 1970's. Extremely versatile in all musical styles with a dynamic groove and easygoing nature, he performs throughout northern California with top musicians including world-renowned steel drum artist Jeff Narell, guitarist Ray Obeido, and jazz composer/ bassist Kurt Ribak among many others. Past credits include Hawaiian artists such as Henry Kaleialoha Allen, Loyal Garner and Melveen Leed plus American oldies acts the Shirelles, Drifters and Coasters. Matt is expert in Brazilian and Caribean rhythms as a result of years playing with Jeff Narrell and Batucaje. Matt currently resides with his wife and children in the Bay Area.