Resent Reviews of Bright Land!
"The Crooked Jades provide pin-droppingly exquisite soundbed for the haunting baritone vocals of Jeff Kazor and the Keening, lonesome accents of Lisa Berman."
UNCUT magazine UK
"The Spirit of Harry Smith's great anthology of American folk music infuses everything. But the 20 songs, the majority of which are traditional, are invested with an energy and vigour that makes the sensibility sound entirely contemporary." Songlines UK
"A mesmerizing mix of primal and “cutting edge” energy, The Crooked Jades’ latest CD, Bright Land, surpasses even their critically acclaimed past six albums– sounding as if it has come straight out of the soul of Appalachia."
THE CROOKED JADES
SOUNDTRACK FOR BRIGHT LAND
One evening, the Crooked Jades band was playing in a local San Francisco club when an audience member got up and danced. That’s not unusual for this talented young string band, except that the fan wasn’t back-stepping to a hoedown. She was New York-based choreographer Kate Weare and she swayed interpretatively to the lonesome ballad “Moonshiner.”
Thus began a collaboration that led to the group providing music for the Kate Weare Company’s modern dance project Bright Land. That’s important to keep in mind while listening to this remarkable recording. The music stands on its own, from classic mountain frolic tunes like “Ida Red” and “Shady Grove” to haunting African-influenced a cappella vocals like “Uncle Rabbit” and “World’s On Fire.” But, if you visualize it as part of a dance piece, it rises even higher and truly takes flight.
The Crooked Jades ensemble, with its polished but vital roots sound, is no stranger to modern media. They’ve contributed to the soundtracks of the PBS documentary Seven Sisters: A Kentucky Portrait and the Oscar-nominated dramatic movie Into The Wild. Their sound can be as cinematic as it is tradition-grown.
Right from the jaw harp and banjo introduction to “Sandy Boys,” it’s clear that this is an impressively melding of rural heritages with urban performance sensibilities. Band co-founders Jeff Kazor (guitar and harmonium) and Lisa Berman (banjo, slide guitar, harmonium, and jaw harp) are evocative lead singers. Their talented regular bandmates are Rose Sinclair (minstrel banjo, harmonium, and the lively ancient art of body percussion), Karen Celia Heil (fiddle and vocals), and Charlie Rose (standup bass). Joining them to best advantage are supporting musicians Erik Pearson (slide guitar and vocals), Elise Engelberg (violin), Jennie Benford (vocals), and Bruce Kaphan (mellotron).
The music is firmly rooted in tradition with the band especially sparkling on the uptempo instrumental medley “Old Blue Sow”/“Johnny Don’t Get Drunk.” But, you’ll likely need a sense of musical adventure (for example, the interlude before “Old Man Below,” “New Lost Mission Blues,” and “Bass Interlude” are especially edgy stuff). If you have it, you’ll be richly rewarded. Visualize the dancing in your mind’s eye while this lovely, lively and compelling music flows into your ears. The Crooked Jades’ soundtrack for the Kate Weare Company’s Bright Land is happy evidence that old-time music is not only a relevant contemporary art form, it will probably prove timeless.
The act of creating Bright Land with The Crooked Jades was a headlong dive into trust, a wild adventure onstage, and above all, my dance company’s most soul-stirring collaborative experience to date. This was the first time in my choreographic career that I found myself completely under the spell of music. The dances I made for Bright Land were a means to express my emotional response to the artistry of The Crooked Jades. Heartfelt and sincere, wrenching and visceral, wicked and tender in the same instant, The Crooked Jades work their magic within the lineage of old-time music in a way that feels completely contemporary and relevant. They’ve made me into a voyeur of American history through the vivid portal of their music. My hope is that Bright Land pays homage to the emotional undertakings of many generations - kinship, faith, suffering, love - that shape us each in our own lifetime, and repeat in cycles through the ages. -Kate Weare
THE CROOKED JADES SOUNDTRACK fOR BRIGHT LAND wITH KATE WEARE COMPANY
Jade Note Music CJ009
This San Francisco-based band boldly goes where no old-time string band has gone before. The
Crooked Jades new release “Bright Land” is a soundtrack of 20 songs and tunes for a 50-minute
work of contemporary dances set to old-time music composed and re-arranged by The Crooked
Jades. The project all started when acclaimed New York-based modern dance maven Kate Weare
came out to see the Jades on their “Shining Darkness” tour at Café du Nord in San Francisco. A
stranger to the band at the time, they all noticed her right away because she was inspired to get up
and dance, not to a fast-driving fiddle tune like most audiences, but to a mournful Roscoe Holcomb
ballad called Moonshiner. Later she told the band that she was moved by the skill, edge and depth of
their music and felt inspired as a choreographer. So that’s what sparked this unlikely collaboration.
And it really came to feel like the perfect union as the band was in turn inspired to reframe composi-
tions to join Crooked Jades’ hypnotic old-time music with Kate Weare’s boldly poetic modern dance.
With the Bright Land project (partially funded by The Warren Hellman Foundation), The Crooked
Jades continue their mission to move old-time music out of segregation and show its relevance in
modern times. With a traditional foundation they create their unique and soulful sound by interweav-
ing the roots of Americana with the diverse musical influences of Europe, Asia and Africa, playing
with a thrilling energy and innovation which has critics comparing them to everyone from The New
Lost City Ramblers to Nick Cave and Tom Waits. Their evocative, cinematic music has appeared in
soundtracks for Sean Penn’s Oscar-nominated film Into The Wild and the PBS documentary Seven
Sisters: A Kentucky Portrait.
The Crooked Jades, called “the finest string band in America” (Boston Herald), will be on tour for CD
release dates up and down the West Coast in September and October 2012 followed by national and in-
ternational dates. Leader and songwriter Jeff Kazor (guitar, lead vocals) will be joined by co-founder
Lisa Berman (slide, banjo, harmonium, lead vocals), Erik Pearson (banjo, harmonium, slide, vocals)
and Elise Engelberg (fiddle).