This year, Bumbershoot's most interesting musical offerings are non-mainstream groups like Ozomatli, the Waco Brothers, Yo La Tengo, and any number of great regional acts (Dub Narcotic Sound System, Marriott Jazz Quintet, Maktub, the Need, et al.) that you could easily hear at a local club without fighting a huge crowd of people lining up to buy elephant ears. Yet, despite an unusually high ratio of tedious headliners—Third Eye Blind, anyone? or maybe you'd prefer Cracker?—the Bumbershoot music schedule still has enough attractions to make choosing only five highlights extremely difficult. But we'll give it a try.
New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars—In the world of Yiddish music, a freylekh is a rousing dance tune, the kind played by Jewish bands through the ages. So, given his name, one might suspect guitarist/composer Jonathan Freilich comes from a long line of klezmorim—the Jewish musicians who traveled and entertained through Eastern Europe in previous centuries. But listening to Freilich and his band, the New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars, it seems just as likely the group descended from Mardi Gras Indian chiefs as from Hassidic rabbis. Though it plays music that's easily recognizable as klezmer, the Crescent City sextet is first and foremost a group of musicians drawn from their city's historic and still-thriving music community.
In addition to the All-Stars, Freilich and bandmates Robert Wagner (sax and clarinet) and Arthur Kastler (bass) have played with members of the Rebirth Brass Band as well as various free jazz and Cuban jazz outfits. Saxophonist Ben Ellman started in a brass band and continues to appear in skronk-rock and funk/hip-hop groups. Accordionist Glenn Hartman plays with roots rocker Anders Osborne, while violinist Rick Perles has performed with symphony orchestras. And the All-Stars' steady stream of drummers have been drawn from the New Orleans R&B tradition.
While blending Jewish folk music and New Orleans jazz might seem strange—or like some novelty—in fact it's a natural result of the group's musical explorations. Given the similar instrumentation and intermingling of the two forms (klezmer is commonly called "Jewish jazz"), it's actually surprising no one has stumbled on this particular mixture before.
The All-Stars came together in the early '90s as a more traditional brass band called Ben and the Boys, but soon began introducing klezmer tunes into its repertoire. Virtually none of the band members had any background playing klezmer (some weren't even Jewish), so they learned by immersion. Of course, being musicians in their twenties based in the Deep South, there was a severe lack of primary sources. After all, the heyday of American klezmer occurred in the 1920s and '30s, and even the recent klezmer revival led by groups like the Klezmatics has been based in the Northeast. In the absence of direct tutelage, the All-Stars were left to develop a musical language all their own—and approaching klezmer as challenging music rather than as nostalgia, the band's lack of traditional grounding suits them fine. Bumbrella Stage, Sun at 3:15.—Roni Sarig
? and the Mysterians—Smashmouth's current hit, "Can't Get Enough of You, Baby," is a cover of the Colourfield's '80s version of the original hit by ? and the Mysterians, best known for their no. 1 classic, "96 Tears," one of radio's most requested oldies.
When I was 15, it was still barely cool to go to school dances, but I was always up for watching Detroit's thriving band scene. Every Friday night at Notre Dame High, Father O'Brien welcomed 1,000 kids to count down the top 20 hits and see a slew of local acts like Bob Seger play a couple of songs (or rather lip-sync their latest). Upper Michigan's ? and the Mysterians performed at this shindig, dressed in black polka-dot shirts, black jeans, and boots—they slipped on and off stage as enigmatically as their name and dark sunglasses indicated, without so much as a smirk. Mesmerized by the Vox organ and infectious two chords of "96 Tears," we were captivated by this band of Latinos—supposedly Texans via the migrant bean-farms of Saginaw—led by Rudolpho Martinez, who legally changed his name to Question Mark, claiming his birthplace as Mars.
Originally called "69 Tears," with a certain "Louie Louie"type naughty garage-act allure, the song title was changed to avoid losing radio airplay. Discovered on the play list of the legendary Canadian station CKLW by Neil Bogart (who later discovered KISS and Casablanca Records), the first ? and the Mysterians LP was released on the Cameo label in the late '60s. Ironically, the band's million-selling single is unavailable except on European imports, since infamous music impresario Allen Klein holds the rights (and isn't giving them up). This oldies staple has been redone by everyone from Thelma Houston and Eddie and the Hot Rods to the Stranglers and Garland Jeffreys, with the most recent rendition by Brit soul rockers Primal Scream.
Although they supposedly never broke up officially, the elusive Mysterians have reunited previously, so perhaps the current dates are spurred on by the smash of their former flop or their new recordings of prior material due out this fall. Expect more than revivals of exhumed rockers; the Mysterians have a precious place within the hearts of pop fans who remember this artist formerly known as Rudy. JNCO Rock Arena, Sun at 3.—Roberta Cruger
Squirrel Nut Zippers with Bio Ritmo, Morphine—Say what you will about all the new groups so infatuated with decades-old music they forsake any relevance to the here and now—but please, don't call the Squirrel Nut Zippers a swing band (much less leaders of a swing revival). There is at least two decades and three stylistic shifts separating the '40s "jump blues" of all those royal cherry voodoo daddies and the Zippers' preferred "hot" jazz styles of the 1920s (the MTV fave "Hell" was neither, but rather a '30s-style calypso).
In case you need more proof the Zippers are—if not original—at least removed from zoot-suited trends, listen to the band's brand-new third album, Perennial Favorites. It comes complete with a weepy old-time country ballad ("Low Down Man"), a sleepy tango ("My Drag"), a New Orleans marching band romp ("That Fascinating Thing"), a creepy klezmer-laced vaudeville show tune ("Ghost of Stephen Foster"), a mechanically manic Raymond Scottinspired cartoon soundtrack ("The Kraken"), and for good measure, another calypso ("Trou Macacq," about the band's life on "the monkey track").
Recorded quickly at home and featuring a mix of old material with newer songs, Perennial Favorites is a surprisingly slight, thrown-together—some might say inappropriate—follow-up to a million-selling record. That it was recorded a year and a half ago, just before the band exploded nationally, only adds to the album's strange sense of displacement. But in the long run, Perennial Favorites just might end up the group's most important record; a small, dark masterpiece stuck in the shadow of its better-selling predecessor. The record's best moments capture the Zippers' music exactly as it should be: Like the creak of a dusty old chest, opening to reveal a pirate map of forgotten American treasure. Fresh out of the box, and already a lost classic. Mainstage in the Bumbershoot Stadium, Sun at 6:45.—Roni Sarig
Global Communication—Most artists are lucky to produce one stellar work during their careers. Tom Middleton and Mark Pritchard of Global Communication are either mad geniuses or very lucky: In a few short years, they've given the world truckloads of brilliant music, running the gamut from ambient to techno to deep house to electro breaks. And you get the feeling they've only just begun.
It's a shame, then, that the rock-oriented producers of Bumbershoot chose to lump two of the most influential and experimental electronic artists of the past 10 years under the anonymous Bumbertrip heading on promotional material. (Can you imagine not naming seminal rock heroes Yo La Tengo? Of course not.)
Global Communication first inspired awe for its ambient remixes of Chapterhouse Five's Blood Simple, titled Blood Music: Pentamerous Metamorphosis, and its original work, 76:14. Both albums are intensely beautiful—the complexity of the compositions rivals that of a classical piece. Unlike many electronic artists, Middleton and Pritchard know no boundaries, and subsequently leap from one style and genre to another, both in their production work and in their DJ-ing. To many young fans, the duo is known not as Global Communication but as the Jedi Knights (creators of the EP New School Science, a campy throwback to old-school electro) one of the 10 aliases they've adopted over the years (see also: Chameleon, Link, Reload). The duo's other projects, like Middleton's hard-edged the Mod Wheel, explore techno's funky side (on mostly hard-to-get 12-inch vinyl singles like "Spiritcatcher"). The two producers are smart enough to realize that most hard techno is about as much fun as the drill in the dentist's office, and respond by accommodating the dance floor as well the head.
Middleton and Pritchard have visited Seattle before as DJs, and though it's not clear whether they'll be twiddling knobs or spinning wax at Bumbershoot, one thing's certain—you won't be hearing the same unrelenting beat all night long. Once more, with feeling, please. BumberClub, Sun at 9:15.—Tricia Romano
David Murray Fo Deuk Revue—A brilliant chaos is in store when jazz-sax iconoclast David Murray brings his own rhythm section together with Senegalese pop musicians, a boatload of percussionists, poets, and rappers in multiple tongues, for a celebration of overlapping traditions in black music. Fo Deuk, in a West African dialect, means, "Where do you come from?" and represents Murray's latest effort to "fuse ancient music to the music of the future," as he puts it.
The band was born two years ago, on a tour of Dakar, when Murray took the stage with some of the best-known local musicians, then spent two days with them in a one-light-bulb studio with holes in the walls and mosquitoes in the booth. The resulting disc, released earlier this year, is disordered and uneven, but with drive and spirit to burn. There isn't a lot of "fusing" going on; just everyone playing their asses off in their own way. Murray lets the drums take the lead and layers them with Afro-pop melodies from some great vocalists (including Baba Maal's brother Hamet), French and English rapping, shouted poetry, and Murray's own spark-shower solos.
A founding member of the World Saxophone Quartet, Murray has taken the wet, breathy style of Coleman Hawkins and married it with the peals of 1960s saxophonists like Pharaoh Sanders and his own trademark upper-register squeak-talk. He brings serious energy and relaxed humor to every project, and Fo Deuk sounds especially joyful. There's no telling who exactly he'll have with him for the tour, but it almost doesn't matter. With a "positive" message wrapped in a fabulous dance groove, Murray and Fo Deuk are guaranteed to satisfy the Bumbercrowd. Rhythm Stage, Mon at 1:15—Mark D. Fefer
Bumbershoot gets truly inclusive this year, not only acknowledging the existence of classical music but even giving it its own venue, the Classical Stage (a.k.a. the Leo K. Theater in the Bagley Wright complex). It's planned a fine mix of old and new, with local favorites and curiosity-provoking unknown quantities. The Early Music Guild is sponsoring a mini-marathon on Saturday from 12:30 to 2:30, with Sally Mitchell and Bill McJohn (voice, recorder, harp, and fiddle), Charles Coldwell on recorder, lutenist Mary Lord, and the irreverent Benevolent Order for the Music of the Baroque (BOMB). The flute-piano duo of Jeffrey Cohan and George Shangrow will present works by Seattle composers Robert Kechley and Huntley Beyer (Mon at 3:30). Seattle Pro Musica, one of the area's finest choirs, sings excerpts from Rachmaninoff's Vespers (Mon at 2).
No orchestras will make an appearance this time around; maybe next year. Fortunately, other Seattle groups will cover all the instrumental bases: the Cascadia Brass (Mon at 5:30), the Brillig String Quartet (Sat at 3), and the wind-and-piano trio Ensemble Vindobona (Sat at 6:30).
The out-of-towners sound most intriguing. There's DeJoie 3 (Sun at 3:30), a flute-clarinet-violin trio that lists Coltrane and Mozart among its influences. Also visiting are two cello-bass pairs, the Bottom Line Duo (Sun at 2), whose repertory ranges from baroque to pop, and new-music cellist/vocalist Madigan Shive with Sheri Ozeki (Sun at 7). Now, if the Classical Stage gets a good turnout, the festival will bring it back and the offerings will likely be even more exciting next year—with, perhaps, some really huge names?—so get yer butts in there. —Gavin Borchert