April 22: Jean Rohe & Ilusha Tsinadze

We had another great audience on hand for this very special evening.  The first half of the evening we were treated to Ilusha's Georgian-inspired music.  Although I'd listened several times to Ilusha's album, I have to say the live performance was surprisingly captivating, and more stylistically diverse than I'd anticipated.  I especially enjoyed when they all sang a cappella, with Jean and Ilusha harmonizing against a background of unison voices.  It all made me want to go back to listen again and again to his CD, and also wishing I'd seen their longer performance the night before at the Folklore Society.

The second set we were able to hear some of Jean's songs -- a few recorded, a few to be recorded on her upcoming album.  I know that a couple of Ilusha's band members do not regularly play with Jean, but one would never have suspected -- these guys are all pros.  Jean's songs were musically diverse as well, and complex -- one felt the need to further ponder the words and music in order to fully appreciate them.  And again we were all left wanting more.  The playfulness and joyfulness of all their music led to a standing ovation, well-deserved for both Jean and Ilusha, as well as their stellar band members Liam, Chris, Rob and Richie. 

I'm extremely excited to present these two young musicians, who I first heard at the 2011 Northeast Regional Folk Alliance conference that took place in the Hudson Valley last November.  On this occasion, they were playing Jean's music, and I was impressed with the multicultural influences of her work, as well as her sheer musicianship (having trained as a jazz vocalist).   On the long drive back from New York, I listened to lots of the CDs from the various artists I'd heard, and found myself most impressed and further entranced by Jean's music.  So I decided I had to find a way to get her to DC.  As it turns out, her music partner, Ilusha, had already scheduled a performance of his Georgian-influenced Deda Ena work at the Folklore Society of Greater Washington on April 21, so I was able to snag them for a Sunday evening performance.  We'll get to hear original music from both of these artists, accompanied by Rob Hecht (fiddle), Liam Robinson (accordion), Chris Tordini (Bass) and Richie Barshay (percussion.)

Jean Rohe sings and plays multilingual original music of the Americas, North and South. Whether solo or with her genre-bending trio, Jean brings the full breadth of her stylistic attractions to bear, exploring the intersections of American folk music, jazz, Brazilian and Afro-Peruvian traditions. A recent recipient of the prestigious MacDowell Fellowship, she recently spent a month in New Hampshire composing at the MacDowell Colony, and I'm looking forward to hearing some of her new creative work. These compositions will be part of her second album, due out in late 2012, that showcases her solo repertoire along with intricately crafted arrangements for her band.

Ilusha Tsinadze came to the U.S. with his family at the age of eight, and wouldn't return to Georgia until 2005, by which time he had already earned a bachelor's degree in jazz guitar. There, he rediscovered his musical heritage, lost to him for so many years. It became a bridge between cultures and lands, between his family in Georgia and himself.

Ilusha was inspired to share this music with an audience in the U.S. But rather than combing the diverse New York City music scene for Georgian traditional musicians he opted to call on some of his accomplished friends, creative musicians recognized for their talents in jazz, American roots music, and other music traditions from around the world. Deda Ena, or "Mother Tongue", named after the primer that all young Georgians use when they first learn to read and write, is the product of this inspiration. The project features Jean Rohe (guest vocals), Richie Barshay (drums), Chris Tordini (bass), Rob Hecht (violin and bass clarinet), Liam Robinson (accordion), who all bring their unique voices to the music. "I wanted to be true to the music but also true to myself," says Ilusha, referring to his own diverse musical history.

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