Brooklyn's Barbez, sui generis luminaries of the New York music scene will be performing Wednesday, September 18th at Le Poisson Rouge in Manhattan, NY in celebration of Bella Ciao, their fifth full-length album. The album was recorded and mixed by the incomparable Martin Bisi (Swans, Sonic Youth, Herbie Hancock, Ramones, John Zorn) at B.C. Studios in Brooklyn, NY with band leader and guitarist Dan Kaufman producing. Special guests on the album include Dawn McCarthy (Faun Fables, Will Oldham) on vocals, legendary downtown experimental theatre director and poetess Fiona Templeton on voice, and former Electro-Harmonix pedal inventor Dan Coates on electronics. Bella Ciao was released by John Zorn's Tzadik label on August 27.
To open the show, Barbez will perform the New York premiere of two movements of acclaimed classical composer Yotam Haber's Roman Jewish inspired piece, "Death Will Come and She Shall Have Your Eyes." This stirring work, which will feature special guest avant-classical vocalist Dafna Naphtali, includes field recordings of Roman cantors recorded by Leo Levi (the Alan Lomax of Italy) in the 1940s and 50s and a guest appearance by the extraordinary new music singer Dafna Naphtali. Haber, whose music has been described "as deeply haunting" by New Yorker critic Alex Ross is a former recipient of the Rome Prize and his works have been performed by Alarm Will Sound, Either/Or, Flux Quartet and JACK Quartet among many others.
Haber's music is an especially fitting compliment to this record release show for it was in 2009, at a residency at the MacDowell Colony, that Haber first introduced Barbez bandleader Dan Kaufman to Roman Jewish music. While there the pair collaborated on Haber's score for a documentary about Rome's Jewish community and they have shared a deep friendship and love for this singular music ever since.
Bella Ciao is inspired by both ancient Roman Jewish melodies and the Italian Resistance during the Second World War. To help tell that timeless story of defiance, the album incorporates poems by the great Italian writer and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini and his renowned contemporary, the poet Alfonso Gatto. The title track, the partisan anthem "Bella Ciao," has been an international symbol of resistance for seventy years and is re-imagined here in a stunning interpretation for a new generation. As Gatto wrote many years after the war: "The Resistance ... is not an exceptional moment of being; it is the opposite-a period that endures in time and in history to form a common conscience."
As on previous efforts Barbez weaves a haunting mosaic of avant-rock, old-world cabaret, European folksong, and contemporary classical into a uniquely beautiful and personal soundscape. An unconventional line-up, a kind of rock-tinged chamber ensemble comprised of theremin, clarinet, violin, vibraphone, electric guitar, bass and drums, forges a rich, indescribable-yet beautiful-sonic tapestry that alternates between passages of quiet intensity and passionate fury.
Since its formation in Brooklyn in the late 1990s, Barbez has released five albums, each of them engineered and mixed by Martin Bisi. The group's last record, Force of Light, was an homage to the Romanian-Jewish Holocaust poet Paul Celan and was hailed by allmusic.com as "one of the most profound settings for poetry in music" of all time.
For the past decade, Barbez has performed across the United States and Europe including engagements at UCLA's Royce Hall in Los Angeles (sharing the bill with the MC5 and Sun Ra Arkestra), the Festival Territoria in Moscow, Russia, and the Museum of Jewish Art and History in Paris, France. Over its history, Barbez has collaborated with a diverse group of musicians including the cellist Julia Kent of Antony and the Johnsons, the avant-vocalist Shelley Hirsch, and the singer and guitarist Nils Frykdahl of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and Faun Fables.
Barbez maintains a long-running collaboration with the experimental theatre director, filmmaker, and playwright, John Jesurun, a MacArthur "genius" grant winner, and has composed and performed scores for several of Jesurun's theatrical works, which have been staged at the Berliner Festspiele, in Berlin, Germany and the Rubin Museum of Himalayan Art in New York. Jesurun, who directed the groundbreaking "Last Goodbye" video for Jeff Buckley, has directed two videos for the band. Barbez has also contributed music for several dance works, including One and The Making of Americans, both choreographed by the Bessie-award winner Juliette Mapp and presented, respectively, by Danspace Project and Dance Theatre Workshop in New York.
Barbez is made up of the following members: Dan Kaufman (Rebecca Moore) guitar, Pamelia Kurstin (David Byrne, Cibo Matto) theremin, Peter Hess (Balkan Beat Box, Asphalt Orchestra) clarinets, Danny Tunick (The Clean, Bang on a Can All-Stars) marimba, vibraphone, organ, piano Catherine McRae (filmmaker Sam Green, the Quavers) violin, Peter Lettre (Shearwater) bass, and John Bollinger (Sway Machinery) drums.