Awaken Your Creative Senses in an Evening of Leading Edge World Fusion with Jazz Artists Eastern Blok: December 7th, Wednesday @ 8:00 p.m.
Innovation! Innovation! Innovation! Such is the musical mantra for popular world fusion jazz ensemble Eastern Blok. This group remains ever ready to outdo themselves by pushing the envelope just a little further with each subsequent performance, often through the employment of unconventional rhythmic patterns and offbeat phrasings. They further challenge themselves by experimenting with music that varies in mood from the intensely lyrical and profoundly emotional to the more animated and light hearted yet electrifying. Their inventive re-interpretations of old standards and innovative original compositions are a by-product of the artful blending of many diverse styles with jazz including classical, Macedonian, Bulgarian, and Serbian folk, Klezmer, rock and a smattering of Middle Eastern flavorings as well. The band members are all formally trained musicians and virtuosos in their own right. So as one might expect, their music is as distinguished in its complexity as it is technically advanced. Nevertheless however, Eastern Blok takes pride in creating music that appeals to all types of listeners and that also ultimately continues to stand the test of time. They will tell you that key to their success in this regard lies in the masterful blending of both classical and jazz genres in a musical setting that is ever evolving yet still highly pleasing to the vast majority of listeners’ ears.
Founded in 2004 by Goran Ivanovic, lead composer of the group, and Doug Rosenberg the band continues to tour nationally, performing at America’s top entertainment venues. The current membership includes Ivanovic on classical guitar, Rosenberg on woodwinds, Matthew Ulery on upright bass, and Michael Caskey on percussion. A major breakthrough in the group’s career came in 2005 when their self-titled debut release “Goran Ivanovic Group” (became Eastern Block in 2006) received a national award for Album of the Year by the publishers of Acoustic Guitar Magazine. More accolades followed that same year when the group’s single entitled “Blacksmith’s Dance” stood out from thousands of other competition entries in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest to make it all the way to the finalist’s round! They have also been featured on Chicago Public Radio and in 2007 were among the ensembles specially showcased at that city’s World Music Festival, one of the largest musical celebrations of its kind in the US. So, if you’re in the mood to get your creative juices flowing, an evening with world fusion artists Eastern Blok, should definitely be on your “to do” list!
Event Details:21+ (In some cases minors can attend with an adult and a dinner table reservation – please call and inquire)When: December 7th, Wednesday @ 8:00 p.m.
Eastern Blok: Press
Tasty Eastern Blok coffee
'World music' band coming to South St. Cafe
JENNIFER MAYER/Special to Arts Weekend
Posted: 11/30/2011 10:39:01 PM EST
Click photo to enlarge
The band Eastern Blok, led by guitarist Goran Ivanovic, will be in Bennington next...
Wednesday November 30, 2011
BENNINGTON -- Matthew Ulery, the upright bass player for the band Eastern Blok, insists that "world music" can, and should, be impossible to categorize, hard to stereotype and, ultimately, just plain fun.
Eastern Blok, a "world music" group hailing from Chicago, will be playing an intimate concert Thursday, Dec. 8, at 7 p.m., at the South Street Café as part of their East Coast tour supporting their newest album release, "Underwater." At their performance at the Café, they will be playing all original compositions, mostly from "Underwater."
The audience can expect an "evening of highly dynamic, often quite intimate music at times, while explosive and jaw dropping at others," Ulery said in a recent email interview. But, he added, "as serious as we may seem, we're a really fun band."
Those who've heard Eastern Blok guitar player Goran Ivanovic -- who played at the cafe two years ago with Andreas Kapsalis -- will recognize the kind of world music the concert will feature.
Joining Ivanovic and Ulery are Doug Rosenberg on woodwinds and Michael Caskey on percussion. The group began performing in 2004 under the name "Goran Ivanovic Group." Their song "Blacksmith's Dance" was selected out of thousands of submissions as one of three finalists in the 2005 John Lennon Songwriting Competition. In 2006, the group began performing under the name Eastern Blok.
While most would place Eastern Blok in the world music genre, the complexity of their music, which the Los Angeles Times describes as "relentlessly innovative work," is really a blend of classical, jazz, and the folkloric traditions of Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Serbia.
Ulery further articulates their sound by saying "Goran is Serbian. This was the original influence on Eastern Blok. We feel it is important not to set creative limitations for ourselves. Being a so-called ‘world music' band, it's our mission to not include just any culture's music at any given time to create that refried world music sound. We believe constantly refining our sound. Our backgrounds are in jazz and classical music. It's folk music that brings us together."
Eastern Blok has headlined the Chicago Guitar Festival. Ivanovic, the group's guitar virtuoso, will be playing at the Calcutta International Classical Guitar Festival in late December.
With such an impressive resume, one might wonder how they ended up booking a gig at a cafe in our small town of Bennington.
Matt Starkie-Kreuder, who owns the cafe along with his wife, Lauryn, said that Lauryn's mother heard Ivanovic perform with Kapsalis as guitar duo two years ago in Pennsylvania. She suggested they play a show at the cafe. Happening to have a day off in between performances, the pair headed north and played in Vermont.
Since then, the Café owners and Eastern Blok have maintained a relationship, and Ulery says Ivanovic is excited to be back with his entire band. "Being that we're on a record release tour on the East Coast, it seemed perfect to head over to Bennington. We travel around the country often and are always looking for intelligent, like-minded communities," Ulery said.
Eastern Blok will be bringing another treat along with them to Bennington. On Friday, Dec. 9, the group will be at Mount Anthony Union High School, as part of their tradition of educating others on their music. In the past, they have presented master classes at Princeton, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, and University of Michigan, among others.
"A large part of what we do as a touring and recording band is reaching out to schools that are interested in having a unique, professional ensemble present a potentially new view on jazz and world music," said Ulery. "When we go to a new town, we like to be able to include people of all ages when possible." South Street Café is located at Four Corners. Cover charge for Eastern Blok is $10. For information call 802-447-2433.
Simply Slavic event at the Lemon Grove
Kick Off to Simply Slavic, an event to celebrate the halfway-mark to the next Simply Slavic festival, will be Friday from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. at the Lemon Grove, 122 W. Federal St., downtown.
The event will raise funds for next year’s festival and will offer scaled-down versions of its most popular activities, said Ken Shirilla, coordinator. Activities will include a culture tent, baking contest, imported-beer tasting and live music and dancers in traditional costume.
Croatian-American singer Jamie Marich and Baltic fusion group Eastern Blok, with Goran Ivanovic, will perform.
Any guest who wears all or part of an ethnic costume will get a chance at a door prize.
The Simply Slavic festival was introduced in June to celebrate Youngstown’s Eastern and Central European community.
Funding from the city will not be available for next year’s festival, which will be June 16.
Shirilla said that Friday’s event will help make up for the loss of funding.
Balkan roots flavor Eastern Blok's jazz
Eastern Blok is perhaps unique among ensembles you're likely to hear playing in a jazz club. The group, which comes to the Firefly Club on Friday, pursues a heady synergy of Balkan folk, jazz, classical, Middle Eastern and klezmer styles.
Two key members of the band are Eastern European natives - guitarist-bandleader Goran Ivanovic, a native of Croatia, and singer Grazyna Auguscik, who was born and raised in Poland. Ivanovic was just at the Firefly last month in another incarnation - his experimental jazz-classical guitar duo with Andreas Kapsalis.
Eastern Blok is a musically ambitious unit, always finding new ways to combine and re-combine their many influences. Sometimes - as evidenced on the group's 2007 release, "Folk Tales" - an exotic Middle Eastern passage will segue into lively klezmer rhythms, or a pastoral folk-music section will give way to a burst of John McLaughlin-like fusion guitar fireworks.
Since joining the group a few years ago, Auguscik and her versatile vocal style have become a focal point.
"My music is different from the Balkan style that some of the others play, but we still have a lot in common," says Auguscik, who came to the United States about 20 years ago to study at the Berklee College of Music. "I come more from a jazz perspective, but I like that we can find a common musical language and get on the same wavelength.
"The guys in the group are all adventurous musicians, and I think I'm an adventurous singer as well - I'm always interested in trying new things."
She's not overstating her eclecticism. Auguscik has her own jazz trio, she has recorded three Brazilian-jazz albums with guitarist Paulinho Garcia and on her next project she'll be performing Chopin pieces accompanied by trombone and accordion. "But it won't have a classical sound," she says. "We will re-interpret the pieces in a different way."
Helping Ivanovic and Auguscik craft the pan-cultural fusion of Eastern Blok are Doug Rosenberg on woodwinds, Matt Ulery on bass and Michael Caskey on drums and percussion. Their music is driven by a restless forward momentum, accented by quirky phrasing and unusual rhythmic patterns, as the bass and drums push and pull the groove in different directions. Throughout, the group embraces the improvisational aesthetic of all great jazz.
Eastern Blok | Self Published (2007)
By Budd Kopman
After the whirlwind experience of Goran Ivanovic Group (Balkan Song Records, 2006), the group, which has remained stable, changed its named to Eastern Blok. Incredible as it might seem, Folk Tales is tighter and more complex than the first album, while retaining the earlier energy and abandon.
While virtuoso guitarist Goran Ivanoic remains the nominal leader of the group and main composer, Doug Rosenberg (reeds), Matt Ulery (bass) and Michael Caskey (drums and percussion) are further integrated into the group sound. This sound is a mix of Balkan folk music and some Klezmer, with the jazz aesthetic of improvisation wrapped in an impossibly high-energy drive that also brings in very heavy bass lines.
The pulse moves relentlessly forward, always given a kick by the odd meter, odd phrase length or out of phase repeated note groupings. The effect is mesmerizing, the bass and drums acting as one to viscerally push the listener this way and that.
Over this extremely physical, almost brutal yet dancing underpinning, Rosenberg plays either unison with Ivanovic or flies over it all, seemingly free yet always in touch. Ivanovic plays many roles, constantly changing between supporting the rhythm, adding harmonic complexity and soloing.
The music can also be beautiful. “Sorrow's Secret” lowers the energy a bit, with long lines played by guest cellist Michael Freilich. The track builds to a romantic climax as Caskey pushes ever forward, cresting and then ending with a classical guitar tremolo.
The arrangements on Folk Tales are perhaps the main advance in that the players' roles are continuously inverted and mixed, creating different textures and sounds. Eastern Blok is most definitely a band to catch live, because the energy pouring from the speakers would only intensify in a club.
Visit Eastern Blok on the web.
Track listing: Tango Pajdusko; Songs From The Black Sea; Balkan Healer; Sorrow's Secret; Kopanista; The Moon in the Labyrinth; Sapik; Wisdom of the Sands; Tricycle.
Personnel: Doug Rosenberg: tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute; Goran Ivanovic: guitars, bouzouki; Matt Ulery: acoustic bass, electric bass; harmonium; Michael Caskey: drums, percussion; Michael Freilich: cello (4).
Eastern Blok | Folk Tales (s/r) Written by Kevin Renick
Wednesday, 12 December 2007
This incredibly talented ensemble conceive a fiery blend of Middle Eastern exoticism and the folk traditions of the Balkans.
Instrumental music of any obvious complexity is tough to review—you don't want to lose half the readership by getting overly technical about what various instruments are doing, but you also don't want to make a quick getaway by just saying stuff like "this song is upbeat," "this song sounds kinda sad," etc. Eastern Blok certainly deserves better than that. This incredibly talented ensemble, who previously went by the name The Goran Ivanovic Group, conceive a fiery blend of Middle Eastern exoticism and the folk traditions of the Balkans on their exciting new album Folk Tales.
Although Eastern Blok can be accurately characterized as a band that welds classical and jazz together (Ivanovic himself is a classical guitar virtuoso), there's a wildly inventive mix of atmospheres on this record that transcends categories. The opening "Tango Pajdusko" serves up dazzling arpeggios and a vaguely ominous mood, like someone pushing forward through the darkness with intense concentration, trying to get clear of some unnamed threat. It's gripping as hell. So is "Songs from the Black Sea," which features Ivanovic's stellar bouzouki playing in its mix of instruments. "Sorrow's Secret" is an apt title for an evocative track that offers one of the album's most fluid, inspired arrangements. The clarity of the sound here is awe-inspiring and special kudos should be given to Downbeat Magazine Award winner Michael Caskey's remarkable percussion.
Stuff like this usually gets filed under "World Music," where it's doomed to be part of the esoteric set that only collegiate musicians and reviewers are privy to. That's especially true of longer musical excursions like "Kopanitsa" (an engrossing number that practically flies a "World Music" banner above your head as it plays) and "Sapik." The mesmerizing "Wisdom of the Sands" takes you to a place far, far away and drops you there for awhile, with a harmonium adding deep ambience to the string instruments otherwise painting the tonal colors. This track in particular could easily be utilized in the soundtrack of some film set in the farthest reaches of eastern Europe.
Without a doubt, Eastern Blok play with a sense of complete urgency throughout this record. Yet the unparalleled discipline of these players is balanced by a fine sense of aesthetics and the value of showcasing each instrument's sonic flavoring in the context of genuinely compelling compositions. You don't need to be a musician or a hepcat to appreciate the dynamic nature of Eastern Blok's work. You just need to sit back and let the powerhouse playing take you on a wild, mysterious ride.
THE RADAR MUSIC
by MATT LEE
photography by JOSEPH MOHAN
Talking inspiration from folk, jazz, classical and rock, Eastern Blok is back with a superb second album
“I studied classical music; I’m from Serbia and the Balkans and I only got into this folk stuff when I moved,” says guitar virtuoso Goran Ivanovic, 30, as he leans against the counter in his Lincoln Square apartment, waiting for a traditional Serbian dish of sataras to finish simmering. “So we actually all kind of got together at the same time and started studying different [Balkan] bands and composers.”
And that, in a nutshell, is the story of Eastern Blok, Chicago’s celebrated Balkan folk-jazz-classical quartet.
Comprised of musicians’ musicians Ivanovic, who studied classical guitar at the acclaimed Mozarteum University in Salzburg; saxophonist Doug Rosenberg, 28; bassist Matt Ulery, 25; and percussionist Michael Caskey, 30—degreed musicians all—this is one band intent above all else on following its own singular musical journey. That fascinating journey is documented most recently on their compelling sophomore release, Folk Tales, hitting shelves this month. A 50-minute romp through the soul of Eastern and Western musical cultures, Folk Tales dazzles with its wildly creative take on Balkan folk music reimagined with inflections of jazz, classical and hints off other folk traditions like gypsy and klezmer.
“The Balkans have always been a place where East and West converge,” says Ivanovic, a classic-guitar prodigy in Yugoslavia who immigrated to Chicago in 1997, to escape the war. “Turks occupied the region for four centuries; there are great traditions in terms of dances, music, groups of people adopting each others’ music on their native instruments.”
Ulery, who, like Rosenberg and Caskey, spends much of his time outside of Eastern Blok playing in jazz circles, agrees: “We’re really just carrying on that tradition, translating the music to a different part of the world,” he says.
“We just happen to be over here. We’re inspired by European and Eastern European music, but now we’re adding American music.”
A follow-up to 2005’s self-titled debut, when the band was called the
Goran Ivanovic Group, Folk Tales is the summation of the quartet’s
knowledge earned through hundreds of live shows since the first album, countless hours listening to records—some of which Ivanovic’s parents bring back from trips to the Balkans—and loads of improvisation. “There are songs on the record that we played 100 times before recording and
there are songs that we played almost no times and there are songs that were completely improvised in the studio,” says Rosenberg.
For Eastern Blok, the journey continues—on Folk Tales, and, in a more literal sense, on the road—with a long tour where they will play in concert halls, churches, universities and night clubs across the country.
And with improv-heavy shows that regularly see them expanding five
minute songs into half-an-hour jams, it’s safe to say that Eastern Blok’s concerts are even more interesting than their albums.
“A lot of bands have to play their stuff exactly as it’s written,” says Caskey, a Kalamazoo native
and five-time Detroit Music Award and Downbeat magazine Award winner. “With us, even the arrangements are up for grabs,” says Rosenberg.
Eastern Blok (formerly know as The Goran Ivonovic Group) brought their intriguing blend of jazz and Balkan folk music to the Night Eagle Cafe last night for two splendid sets of spirited music. The band includes Goran Ivonovic on guitar, Matt Ulery on upright bass, Michael Caskey on drums, and Doug rosenberg on sax,flute and clarinet. The musicianship on display was mightily impressive, as the players negotiated the tricky and frequently odd-metred rhythms with both skill and passion. The show was sadly underattended, but the 20 or so audience members made up for their small number with an enthusiastic response. This is a band that deserves a large following and based on their performance last night, I can only assume they'll find it. At any rate, don't miss them the next time they take the stage in our area. You won't regret it, and you'll probably be kicking yourself for missing them this time around.
In this edition of The Jamcast, GJD’s Ken Volpe spends some time with Artist to Watch Goran Ivanovic - a guitar virtuoso noted for his lightning-fingered finesse and his complex interpretations of even the simplest melodies.
Ken spoke with Goran about his early training as a Classical guitarist, life growing up in Yugoslavia, and about crossing over from Classical to improvisational music.
"Put Goran Ivanovic Group in your CD player, then sit down quickly and hang on to your seat. The energy that pours out of the speakers will literally bowl you over before you know what happened, or you might just want to get up and dance. But there is much more than sheer energy on this record. Yes, there is Ivanovic's technical prowess, as well as that of the rest of the band, but what is on display here is a real fusion of foreign folk musics with the improvisational esthetics of American jazz..."
Goran Ivanovic is a talented jazz guitarist. A solid bandleader who surrounds himself with American musicians, Ivanovic embraces his traditional Balkan folk music overtly. He plays hot. [Eastern Blok] offers up fire rather than ice, and the guitarist’s amalgamation of flamenco, Balkan, classical, blues, and jazz keeps his band pushing forward almost all of the time on his eponymous album…Ivanovic’s group interacts on a heady and passionate musical plane...the ensemble playing is often breakneck and consistently challenging. The Group’s repertoire is loaded with dynamics, and they move from soft contemplative interludes to wholly original, speed-driven Balkan jazz.
We appeared on Chicago Public Radio's "848" program and performed Nirvana's "Heart Shaped Box."
The Chicago music scene has become increasingly exotic over the years and the next two discs prove it. Eastern Blok’s sophisticated “Balkan fusion” sound on their disc “Folk Tales” (Easternblok.net) is sure to appeal to the growing following of acts such as Gogol Bordello and The World/Inferno Friendship Society.
Goran Ivanovic on 848 - Chicago Public Radio
"Eastern Blok's skill is beyond doubt. Their “Blacksmith's Song,” not on this collection, was chosen from a list of thousands to reach the final three of he 2005 John Lennon Songwriting Competition. The band's talent also shows in the dazzlingly accurate way that the twin leads play together – especially given the tricky time signatures they often use."
Goran Ivanovic Group
Reviewed by Chase Scott
"Blending sweet jazz with an audibly colorful Balkan-style, the Goran Ivanovic Group's [now Eastern Blok] self-titled debut release is nothing short of a delightful listen. With an impeccable combination of intensely dynamic guitar and lively-but-sensitive saxophone, the two sonic giants unexpectedly assume the spotlight from one another, and, on occasion, mutually encompass the ever-so-enormous focal point that’s required of the disc’s listener.
The Chicago-based quartet is rhythmically gripping on their self-titled album; the bass and percussion work nearly demands a reinvention of the often defaulted “head bob,” holding a magnifying glass up to the inadequacies of western popular music and it's inherited mannerisms.
Through the course of the CD, the listener's ears are brought to euphoric heights and plummeted into a concentrative somber state, providing an escape from reality, but also an introduction to something completely different—something completely fresh.
Balkan Fusion from
the Windy City:
“A mesmerizing world
- Indie Nation Magazine
Relentlessly innovative work.
Artist Of The Year.
Blazing virtuosity and sheer beauty.