A Taste of the Erik Satie Quartet

Back in May 2015, we filmed some video of the Erik Satie Quartet in action at Barbès. Here is the first clip, an excerpt from Francis Poulenc’s “Sept Chansons”:

The Erik Satie Quartet is Ron Hay (trombone, arrangements), Alex Hamlin (baritone sax), Max Seigel (bass trombone), and Ben Holmes (trumpet). On the second Saturday of almost every month, we play at Barbès in Brooklyn at 4 PM.

“New York Music Daily” on Tarras Band


The Tarras Band Bring Their Haunting, Exhilarating, Historically Rich Music Back to Barbes

by delarue

“Lemme tell ya about Naftule, he was the biggest drunk of all of them,” pianist Pete Sokolow told the crowd at his most recent Barbes show. He was referring to Naftule Brandwein. “He was a real wildman, sort of the Sidney Bechet of klezmer clarinet.”

Sokolow has plenty of stories like that, and he loves to share them. He’s the leader of the Tarras Band, the all-star ensemble who play the repertoire of his old bandmate, the brilliant clarinetist Dave Tarras, along with music associated with other cult heroes from the Jewish jazz demimonde of the 1950s and further back. Sokolow self-effacingly calls himself “Klezmer Fats,” not because he’s overweight, but because he bridges the gap between Fats Waller and centuries of dance music from throughout the Jewish diaspora. He and the band are back at Barbes tomorrow night, April 7 at 7 PM opening for Slavic Soul Party, who made a name for themselves bringing funk and hip-hop into Balkan brass music, but more recently have been reinventing the Duke Ellington catalog. The whole night is bound to be pretty amazing.

What’s hard to figure out is how the music the Tarras Band plays somehow hasn’t reached a broader audience. It’s deep, it’s otherworldly, it’s historically rich and it’s incredibly fun. At their show last month, Sokolow reaffirmed his reputation as a living archive of Jewish music history as he chatted up the crowd and sparred with his bandmates, verbally and musically. When Erik Satie was writing his Gnossiennes and Gymnopedies, was he stealing ancient Jewish themes….or was Sokolow subtly interpolating Satie into his mesmerizing cascades of eerie passing tones? Maybe both? It was hard to tell.

Notwistanding his reputation as a hardass, there are few musicians who are aware of Sokolow who wouldn’t jump at the chance to play with him. This show featured Michael Winograd on clarinet, who shares Tarras’ crystalline tone and silky legato: the way he plays, even at escape velocity, it’s a wave that just happens to move up and down in microseconds. Drummer Dave Licht was all about counterintuitive accents and wryly vaudeville-tinged fun, occasionally smacking an upside-down cymbal atop his kickdrum for good measure. Bassist Jim Guttman dug in deep and darkly and bowed most of his lines until the end, when the music hit a swing groove and stayed there. Trumpeter Ben Holmes harmonized intricately with Winograd when he wasn’t opening a song with a moody, hauntingly Middle Eastern-tinged improvisation.

Early in the set they did a World War I-era narrative about Jews fighting in the trenches, along with alternately sizzling and brooding originals by Winograd and Holmes. Sokolow illustrated the similarities between a Russian sher and a Virginia reel: the call-and-response and “reptile dance” at the end, where everybody forms a line. They delved into the bristling, edgy catalog of Pete Musikaner, an early proponent of klezmer jazz who was way ahead of his time, dead at 48 in 1963 – the same year as Brandwein, Winograd grimly reminded. From there they romped through a tango and a medley from Tarras’ cult classic 1955 Tanz album, a commercial flop now considered a landmark of genre-smashing esoterica. And as much as what this band plays is very distinctly Jewish, with lots of chromatics and minor keys and humor and irony, it’s music that would resonate with anyone who likes Gogol Bordello, or any of the current crop of circus rock bands. Be the first in your tribe to get to Barbes and find this band playing your soul.

Video: Tarras Band in Krakow

Video from Tarras Band’s recent visit to the 24th annual Festival of Jewish Culture in Krakow, Poland has been posted to Youtube.

Erik Satie Quartet on Saturday Sept 6th, 2:30 PM (Barbès)

The Erik Satie Quartet is a chamber wind group dedicated to the music of Erik Satie, Les Six, and related composers. Led by trombonist and arranger Ron Hay, the group is at once lithe and muscular, featuring an unusual and lyrical lineup of trumpet, trombone, bass trombone and baritone sax. Appearing monthly at Barbès, the group highlights the lesser known works of Satie as well as new arrangements of rarely performed works by Poulenc, Milhaud, Debussy, Durey, Sauguet, Auric, Britten, Stravinsky, Kœchlin, Hindemith and others.

As many of the works to be performed were originally choral settings of poems, the performance will include readings of the original French by Olivier Conan.

Ron Hay – trombone & arrangements
Max Seigel – bass trombone
Andrew Hadro – baritone saxophone
Ben Holmes – trumpet & flugelhorn

Works to be performed on September 6th:
Francis Poulenc – “Chansons” with poetry by Guillaume Apollinaire and Paul Éluard
Darius Milhaud – “Sonnets Composés au Secret” with poetry by Jean Cassou
Claude Debussy – “Trois Chansons” with poetry by Charles D’Orleans
Louis Durey – “Trois Chansons Populairs de Haute et de Basse Bretagne”
as well as works by Henri Sauguet, Georges Auric, Charles Kœchlin and, of course, Erik Satie.

Saturday 8/9 4 PM: Erik Satie Quartet at Barbès

The Erik Satie Quartet is a wind group whose focus of repertoire starts with Erik Satie, his times, and beyond. The four lithe and muscular voices present music that is unique and strange for the uninitiated, yet with warmth and humanity at its core. The group has a regular slot at Barbès, performing the second Saturday of every month at 4 PM, phonometrically calculated to be the perfect time of day for a Pernod. Repertoire is drawn from the works of Milhaud, Auric, Poulenc, Stravinsky, Britten, Durey, Sibelius, and of course the Velvet Gentleman himself.

The Erik Satie Quartet is Ron Hay (trombone), Max Seigel (bass trombone), Ben Holmes (trumpet), and Andrew Hadro (bari sax).

Tarras Band at the Krakow Jewish Music Festival

Tuesday morning, I’m headed to Poland to play at the Krakow Jewish Music Festival with Tarras Band. We’re bringing our distinctly 2nd Avenue style of Klemzer to the festival for the first time. It’s always great to play with legendary pianist & NYC institution Peter Sokolow as well as Michael Winograd (clarinet), David Licht (drums) and Jim Guttmann (bass). This time out we’re also joined by special guest Dan Blacksberg on trombone. Details about the festival can be found here


Raskolnikov @ St. Mazie Saturday June 28

Raskolnikov returns to St. Mazie! Explosive Balkan Rock & Roll featuring members of Slavic Soul Party!, Romashka, and more. Sets at 10 & 11:30.