Ecstatic Music Festival brings together 5 musicians in a unique collaboration

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It’s hard to believe that the 2014 edition of the Ecstatic Music Festival is nearly over. I suppose it’s because I haven’t been able to get to most of the shows in the festival, which kicked off Jan. 31 and ends this Saturday, March 29.

Two shows remain this year: Wednesday’s bill featuring So Percussion and Buke & Gase, and Saturday’s program with Man Forever and William Basinski. Both shows start at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are a reasonable $25, but if you attend both shows, you can get in for $20 apiece. Click here to buy tickets online, or visit the Merkin Concert Hall box office at 129 West 67th Street in Manhattan.

Ecstatic Music Festival is curated by Merkin, which hosts virtually all the shows, in collaboration with Brooklyn’s New Amsterdam Records. The festival has a reputation for  creating interesting programs by pairing on one bill multiple artists who work in different genres.

If the March 19 bill featuring collaborations among Timo Andres, Gabriel Kahane, Ted Hearne, Nathan Koci and Becca Stevens was typical of this year’s festival, it’s lost none of its sense of exploration and fun in this, its fourth, season.

Listen to New Amsterdam founder Judd Greenstein’s take on the program here:

Wednesday’s artists were more alike in style and influence than some of the festival’s programs. But their styles were distinct.

The first half featured all the artists in various combinations performing songs by Kahane, a versatile singer, instrumentalist and composer, who wrote “February House,” a tuneful and informative musical about a Brooklyn artists collaborative house in the first half of the last century, Hearne, a wildly diverse New Music composer who often sings his own work, and Stevens, a singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist. Koci, also a composer, played accordion in the ensemble, but didn’t have any of his works on the bill.

In some cases the works were existing compositions, reworked for the evening’s ensemble. But one or two were new.

The second half of the bill featured the world premiere of pianist Andres’ five-song cycle “Work Songs,” commissioned through a grant from Linda and Stewart Nelson. Andres, who had not composed songs prior to this work, said he wanted literally to explore working. The pieces ranged from the yearning mood of “Art” to the “I don’t give a damn” language of “Unemployment” and ended in the joyous ‘New Years Rulin’s,” based on Woody Guthrie’s list of resolutions, which includes a promise “dream good.”

Listen to the full concert here: On-Demand Audio: Timo Andres, Gabriel Kahane, Ted Hearne, Becca Stevens & Nathan Koci.

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One response to “Ecstatic Music Festival brings together 5 musicians in a unique collaboration

  1. I can’t wait to hear Gabriel Kahane’s new album, The Ambassador. Bradbury is such a great song. http://www.spin.com/articles/gabriel-kahane-bradbury-sony/

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