The Rhythms of TriBeCaStan


From left: Jeff Greene plays a roya benju from India, while John Kruth plays a dutar from Uzbekistan

From left: Jeff Greene plays a dutar from Uzbekistan, while John Kruth plays a roya benju from India

Jeff Greene, the president of EverGreene Architectural Arts, a company that creates and restores murals, also loves music. Every Labor Day, he hosts a “jug band jamboree,” when people gather to play old-time instruments like washtub bass and kazoo. One year, John Kruth, a musician and writer, ran into a friend bound for the jamboree. The friend invited Kruth to bring his mandolin. Greene was thrilled: “I had bought a cassette of John’s back in the 80s,” he says. “We hit it off.”

As the Jamboree goes on, the musicians tend to pick up some of the many world-music instruments in Greene’s collection. As a result, says Greene, the music morphs “from American roots music to world roots music to intergalactic music.”

Kruth, meanwhile, had been wanting to form what he calls a “folklorkestra”—a large band where people play all sorts of non-Western instruments. “You know how movies from the 30s set in Cairo or Istanbul had orchestras, but they played different instruments?” he says.

The two men decided to start a band, which they named TriBeCaStan even though neither calls the neighborhood home. (Now in Soho, Greene lived on West Broadway as recently as six years ago, and in the 1970s he paid $600 a month for two floors on Washington. Kruth lives on Bleecker.) But the name fit the music—and philosophy—perfectly. “We mix an urban sound with the music of the world,” says Greene.

“We’re like a big blender,” says Kruth.

“But it’s not like a world’s fair—with one musician from Russia, one from somewhere else,” says Greene. “We’re not trying to play museum music. It’s totally new. It’s more like art gallery music.”

“A sonic marmalade,” says Kruth.

As you can tell, the music is a hard (but fun) to describe. You can listen to a number of songs from the band’s first CD, Strange Cousin, at EverGreene Music, and/or pick up the band’s second CD, 5 Star Cave, out April 13. And to celebrate 5 Star Cave‘s release, a nine-piece version of TriBeCaStan will play Joe’s Pub on May 8.


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