About the Album:
The eponymous debut for Nashaz fully realizes the band’s vision of a organic new integration of jazz and Arabic music, with tastes of Sudan, the Balkans, and Central Asia. Featuring 8 original compositions by the band’s leader, oud player Brian Prunka, the album will immediately engage fans of Arabic music, jazz, and masterful oud playing. Trumpeter Kenny Warren makes abundantly clear why he is a rising star in the NY creative jazz scene, his improvisations showing a rare range and depth, exploring a wide variety of tones while always mainting a beautifully full and warm sound. Prunka’s melodies are intricate yet memorable, don’t be surprised if you can’t stop yourself humming them later.
For us, the soul and sophistication of maqam music is a natural fit for the spontaneity and energy of jazz music. We play all original music featuring oud, percussion, trumpet, saxophone, and bass, finding common ground between Arabic rhythms, jazz improvisation, and melodies inspired by traditional middle-eastern music.
We are all musicians whose musical interests have taken them all over the world, pursuing the common humanity of all music.
Brian Prunka—Oud, compositions
Nathan Herrera—Alto Saxophone, Bass Clarinet, Alto Flute
George Mel—Drums & Percussion, Cajon, Frame Drum, Udu, Pandeiro
"One of the best new Arabic Jazz CD's I have heard in 10 years" —Ray Rashid, Rashid Music (America's largest distributor of Arabic music since 1934)
"A vibrant fusion of Arabic music and jazz, Nashaz is at times mysterious, at times racing, always fresh and adventurous. Highly recommended." —Midwest Book Review (midwestbookreview.com)
"Sounds unlike anything else. . . as listenable as it is engaging. Strong melodies that are both memorable and easy to hum along to . . . will leave the listener wanting more. Highly Recommended." —Dave Sumner, Bird Is the Worm blog (birdistheworm.com)
"Wild, engaging stuff that simply clicks . . . a must" —Midwest Record
"Nashaz has taken up the gauntlet and run with it. Lyrical and poetic . . . there is an authenticity of this music that can only come with an intimate experience of tradition and culture. An impressive accomplishment." Dawoud Kringle, DooBeeDooBeeDoo Online Magazine (doobeedoobeedoo.info)
"The music is fascinating . . . excellent throughout." Rick Anderson, CD Hotlist (cdhotlist.com)
"My new go-to disc . . . It's got under my skin!" —Alistair Johnston, Misikifan blog (Muzikifan.com)
About the Music:
People often ask, "how did you end up bringing oud music and jazz together?"
While there's no simple answer—all of the musicians involved have diverse backgrounds with and interest in many kinds of music—the seeds of the band were sown in 1995 when founder/oud player Brian Prunka was an upstart jazz musician in New Orleans. Catching a cab to a gig one night, the Egyptian driver noticed the guitar and started talking to him about music. As he dropped Brian off, he suggested, "you should learn to play the oud, it is the most beautiful instrument."
Although the comment prompted little more than puzzlement at the time, it turned out to be a prophecy of sorts: soon after, he came across an oud album while digging through a record store and bought it on a whim. When he put the music on, he was hooked. He learned as much of the music as he could on the guitar and then started trying to get his hands on an oud--which was not easy in New Orleans. After months of searching, he finally found someone who could ship him one. Within weeks of receiving it, he had obsessively taught himself dozens of tunes and started performing on oud with some of the more open-eared jazz musicians in the city.
He later traveled to study with renowned Arab musicians including Simon Shaheen and Bassam Saba and eventually wound up in Brooklyn, where he met the musicians whose mutual interests led to the formation of Nashaz. The name of the band is a tongue-in-cheek joke in Arabic, pre-empting the reactions of the purists— the word "nashaz" refers to musicianship that is aesthetically displeasing (usually playing out of tune).
About the Musicians:
Brian Prunka (oud, compositions):
Prior to moving to Brooklyn in 2003, Brian Prunka was living and performing in New Orleans, where he spent his musically formative years honing his musical skills immersed in the jazz community. While his background was in traditional and modern jazz, as well as the rock and blues music of his teenage years, Brian always found himself drawn to a wide range of music without regard to boundaries, national or otherwise.
In the late 90s, fate introduced him to the oud, and he had an instant and profound connection with this storied instrument. A chance conversation led him to begin studying with the renowned virtuoso Simon Shaheen and ultimately to becoming involved in the Arabic music community as well.
He has sought over the years to find ways to bring together the essential characteristics of all the music he loves through both his improvisational style and his many diverse compositions. Equally proficient on both guitar and oud, Brian composes and performs jazz and middle-eastern influenced music with his own projects (such as the Near East River Ensemble) and with as a sideman with various esteemed musicians.
He has performed throughout the U.S. and internationally with Simon Shaheen, Michael Bates, Ravish Momin, the New York Arabic Orchestra, The Vancouver International Orchestra, Zikrayat, The Near East River Ensemble, and others. In addition to national and international events, he has performed in New York at The Stone, Tonic, the Knitting Factory, the River to River Festival, Celebrate Brooklyn, Symphony Space, Alwan for the Arts, Trinity Church, and CBGBs, among others.
Kenny Warren (trumpet):
As an improviser, Kenny Warren is rooted in jazz, but for the better part of a decade he has been following his ears all around the globe. Joining the New York City brass band Slavic Soul Party in 2008 led him to study Roma music from the Balkans, as well as Turkish and Arabic Maqam. As a jazz and free jazz musician Kenny has played in bands led by Rob Brown, Tony Malaby, Noah Garabedian, and good friend from his days at SUNY Purchase, Bobby Avey. He has played with The Walkmen, The Budos Band, The Sway Machinery, Devothcka and Spoon, recorded for television and films including “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, has released two records with the experimental rock and jazz collective NOOK, and leads his own roots Americana and singer-songwriter project whose debut record will be available in the fall. http://kennywarren.tumblr.com
Nathan Herrera (alto saxophone, alto flute, bass clarinet):
An accomplished multi-instrumentalist, Nathan is an aficionado of many musical traditions, having intensively studied Indian music and Macedonian music in addition to jazz and modern classical music. With Nashaz, he brings all of these elements together into a seamless personal style.
Apostolos Sideris (bass):
A native of Greece, Apostolos has become well-known in New York for his affinity for traditional and modern Arabic music, performing with Zikrayat, Tareq Abboushi, and others. Equally at home playing jazz or near eastern music, he brings his deep understanding and exquisite musicality to Nashaz in the form of powerful grooves, creative and sensitive accompaniment and impeccable execution.
George Mel (percussion):
Originally from Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia, George Mel is the stage name of George Melikishvili. Drawing on his decades of jazz drumming as well as frame drum studies with masters Jamey Haddad & Glen Velez, George has combined many percussion techniques and instruments with a jazz aesthetic, forging a unique hybrid percussion approach which includes the best elements of all the styles while retaining respect for the underlying traditions. Not only does George maintain a busy schedule as a sideman and collaborator with many world-renowned artists across styles and generations, performing in such venues as Carnegie Hall, the Blue Note and Smoke, he is also prolific composer and arranger, leading his own Quartet with regular engagements at “Jazz at Kitano,” among other prestigious New York venues. He has released two albums as a leader and composer to rave reviews. georgemel.com.
Vin Scialla (percussion):
A noted protegé of famed Lebanese percussionist Michel Merhej, Vin performs regularly with a wide range of jazz and world music artists, playing Arabic and Indian percussion as well as drum set. Scialla is best known for his innovative fusion of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Indian and American musical traditions. Inspired by his cultural heritage, combined with his performances and sessions with masters of Arabic and Indian Classical music in New York, he records and regularly tours with rising Indian mandolin virtuoso Snehasish Mozumder, Balkan Stomp, and Mission: on Mars w/ Neel Murgai, when he's not playing with Nashaz. He recently performed at Lincoln Center out-of-doors with Snehasish and Sound of Mandiolin (Random Chance/Liftoff Records).
Brian Prunka, oud
Kenny Warren, trumpet
Nathan Herrera, alto sax, bass clarinet, alto flute
Apostolos Sideris, bass
George Mel, frame drum, udu drum, cajon, pandeiro, misc. percussion
Vin Scialla, riq
Recorded at Grand Street Recording by Tomek Miernowski
Mixed at Grand Street Recording by Ken Rich and Brian Prunka
Mastered at G & J Audio
About the tracks:
1. Hijaz Nashaz: Inspired by classic Egyptian music from the 50s/60s, particularly the Raqs Sharqi (Bellydance) music of Mohamed Abdel Wahab and Farid El Atrache
oud (Prunka), trumpet (Warren), alto sax (Herrera), bass (Sideris), riq (Scialla), frame drum, ride cymbal, shaker (Mel)
Solos in order: Herrera (sax) Prunka (oud) and Warren (trumpet)
2. Khartoum: Inspired by the Afro-Arabic music of Sudan and Morocco, particularly the music of Abdel Gadir Salim and Slah Eddine Manaa
oud (Prunka), trumpet (Warren), alto sax (Herrera), bass (Sideris), frame drum, brushes, cajon, ride cymbal (Mel)
Solos in order: Sideris (bass) Prunka (oud) and Warren/Herrera (trumpet/sax together)
3. Andalus: Inspired by the music of Moorish Spain, a time of intertwined cultures, with a mix of European and Arab elements.
oud (Prunka), muted trumpet (Warren), alto flute/bass clarinet (Herrera), bass (Sideris), frame drum, cajon, ride cymbal (Mel)
Solos in order: Herrera (alto flute) Prunka (oud) and Warren (muted trumpet)
4. Qassabji's Nightmare: Inspired by the music of the great oudist and composer Mohamed el Qassabji, who often incorporated interesting chromatic melodies that sound possibly jazz-inspired.
“I imagined Qassibji having a dream where he time travels to now, hearing this piece of music and being slightly bewildered and horrified by what he inspired”—Brian
oud (Prunka), trumpet (Warren), alto sax (Herrera), bass (Sideris), riq (Scialla), cajon, ride cymbal ,snare drum (Mel)
Solos in order: Sideris (bass), Warren/Herrera (Tpt/Sax together), Prunka (oud)
5. City of Sand: The first oud-oriented composition by Prunka, it also features a slow 13-beat groove inspired by the classical Arabic Muwashshahat (old songs).
oud (Prunka), trumpet (Warren), alto sax/bass clarinet (Herrera), bass (Sideris), riq (Scialla), Udu drum, Ride Cymbal. (Mel)
Solos in order: Prunka (oud), Warren/Mel (Trumpet and udu drum together)
6. Jurjina: One of Prunka's earlier compositions (previously covered by Portland, OR pianist/composer Andrew Oliver's band "The Ocular Concern" in a unusual free-jazz context), this is an extended composition with several sections; it begins and ends using the 10/8 Jurjina rhythm popular in Iraqi music, with the middle section evocative of classic Egyptian music in a typical 4/4 bellydance rhythm (Beledi). It also moves through several maqamat, or Arabic modes.
oud (Prunka), trumpet (Warren), alto sax (Herrera), bass (Sideris), riq (Scialla), frame drum,ride cymbal (Mel)
Solos in order: Prunka (oud), Herrera (alto sax), Warren (trumpet)
7. Al-Ghayb: Meaning "the unseen" and referring to the supernatural world beyond the senses encompassing the Djinn and other figures from Arabic folklore, this is a medium tempo tune that primarily features hypnotic seven-beat groove not found in traditional Arabic music, devised by Prunka.
oud (Prunka), trumpet (Warren), bass clarinet (Herrera), bass (Sideris), riq (Scialla), frame drum, cajon, ride cymbal, pandeiro. (Mel)
Solos in order: Mel (Frame Drum/Pandeiro), Prunka (oud), Herrera (bass clarinet)
8. ‘Ajam: This bright uptempo 7/8 tune is in the Maqam ‘Ajam, which is similar to the Western major key. Meaning, more or less, non-Arab or foriegn, it was written by Prunka when a former bandmate said he wanted to have some more contrast in the repertoire. Just to keep things interesting, the tune modulates to the stereotypical Arabic maqam Hijaz for Herrera's saxophone solo.
oud (Prunka), trumpet (Warren), alto sax (Herrera), bass (Sideris), Cajon, Ride Cymbal, snare drum (Mel)
Solos in order: Prunka (oud), Herrera (sax), Prunka (oud)