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Finding New Musical Horizons in A Strange Day in June with The Folklorkestra


It began with John Kruth and an open grant from Chamber Music America (CMA) and the Howard Gilman Foundation. After winning the grant, the New York-based multi-instrumentalist joined together with a bevy of musicians with world music, jazz, and classical backgrounds to form the Folkorkestra.

 

That hard work resulted in their debut album A Strange Day in June — a collection of sonic portraits that combine a wide range of influences into a strangely coherent yet ever-shifting mix. It’s a United Nations of jazz styles, bringing together instruments and melodic approaches from around the globe to play together in the same fevered space. Described by The New York Times as offering "genre-bending jazz and world music" and hailed by The Washington Post as "an international jazz and folk festival unto itself," Folkorkestra's sound is a fusion of Balkan, Middle Eastern, Indian, Latin American, and African musical elements.

 

This ambitious approach to influence was developed over a year of intensive writing and rehearsal sessions. The new project retains many members of Kruth’s TriBeCaStan project, but listening to these tracks, one can hear the sheer newness of the sound as it ventures out into new territory.

 

The swelling accordion, snake-charming oboe, and sensual percussion provide a swagger to these tracks that keeps the body and mind deeply engaged. On top of these swanky musical environments dances lively improvisations, which make lithe leaps between thoughtful exploration and playful banter. “My Cousin the Spy” and “A Pair of Boleros (Ravel & Beck's)” showcase this strong suit of the band.

 

But then, across the album, the listener will occasionally find themselves in strange places that delve into more mysterious tones — consider middle portions of “Cooking with Lightning” or the sultry-yet-contemplate “Mariska” as examples. At other points, you are left in the desert at night to consider the mystical visions in the sky above (see “Orange Sky”).

 

Needless to say, A Strange Day in June is a wild ride, one that never takes its listener’s attention for granted. In these tracks, one can sense a constant evolution, with feelings and ideas revealing themselves to be something you didn’t quite expect.

 

This is no doubt due to the pedigree of the create forces involved. The Folkorkestra’s members are all accomplished musicians in their own right, having shared the stage with luminaries such as Ornette Coleman, Patti Smith, John McLaughlin, Santana, and Eddie Harris. Their likes include frontman Kruth, oboist Kathy Halvorson, multi-instrumentalist Premik Russell Tubbs, keyboard and accordion player Kenny Margolis, bassist Ray Peterson, and percussionist Rohin Khemani.

 

They come together on an album that exudes character, humanity, and storytelling (despite its lack of lyrics). It’s an unforgettable musical experience, one that continues Kruth’s ever-growing library of musical innovations.




The Folklorkestra (L-R) Rohin, John Kruth, Kathy Halvorson, Ray Peterson, Kenny Margolis, Premik Russell Tubbs| Image: Stan Schnier

 


A Strange Day in June was released on March 15th, 2024. Interested in discovering its sonic explorations for yourself? Check it out here.



Tracks:


1. The Girl I Never Knew


2. My Cousin the Spy


3. Cooking with Lightning


4. A Pair of Boleros (ala Ravel & Beck)


5. Punko


6. (Be Careful What You Say to) An Armed Lady


7. Mariska (with Ancestor Dancer)


8. Orange Sky


9. A Strange Day in June (with We Fight, We Bury the Dead, Then We Eat, Drink and Dance)


10. Madame Gonzo


11. A Butterfly at 80


12. Meet Me in the Meadow



 

 

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