No Genre Bias: Experimentalists Cosa Brava, Jack O' The Clock, and Grex Bend the Rules This Sunday
"There is an interesting kind of movement emerging in the Bay Area music scene right now, and it revolves around...telling stories, both with and without words," says composer and musician Fred Frith, leader of the band Cosa Brava. "There's something going on..."
What that "something" is may not be clearly definable, but music lovers may catch a glimpse at Cosa Brava's upcoming concert at the Great American Music Hall this Sunday (Aug. 14), where Cosa Brava will be joined by Jack O' the Clock and Grex.
At first glance, the three Bay Area bands seem to have nothing in common. Cosa Brava plays "rock-based world music," inspired by everything from Bollywood music to Eastern European folk melodies. "It's music from out and about, from the strange corners of this world," says Norman Teale, who does live sound manipulation for the band.
Jack O' The Clock describes itself as "majestic junk folk." Band leader Daimon Waitkus explains that "junk" derives from the band's use of junk objects and the "jangly" quality of its music. Teale calls the music "Americana in the truest sense -- a deep, respectful Americana."
Then there's Grex, a musical duo whose elaborate names -- Karl A.D. Evangelista and Margaret Rei Scampavia -- belie their stripped-down, dreamy jazz-pop improvisations.
But as different as these three groups are, they are also connected in more than one way.
For starters, Teale, Evangelista, and Waitkus all studied at Mills College, where Frith teaches composition and improvisation. All the bands also feature multi-instrumentalists. Scampavia plays the piano, flute, accordion, and tenor sax, among other instruments.
In Jack O' the Clock, each of the five band members play at least three instruments, and Waitkus plays everything from the hammer dulcimer to the banjo to the flute.
But beyond their shared musical education and penchant for picking up multiple instruments, all three bands have a love for experimentation and the desire to break down the boundaries of genre. None of them can be easily classified, and none of them want to be classified, either.
Evangelista says, "We're the first generation of people to have grown up equally with free and classic jazz and also with death metal, the Pixies, the Smashing Pumpkins ... so we don't have genre bias."
Much as they like to experiment, though, they also want their music to be easily accessible to all audiences. "I find that people tend to get it more often than I expect them to," says Waitkus.
Adds Frith, "I think what we're doing is totally accessible, and hopefully challenging as well. I don't see why those two things have to be seen as opposites. If you go to the show with an open mind an open ears, you'll have fun."