April 28: Bethany & Rufus

“Stunning.” (Goldmine Magazine) “Remarkable.” (Jazz Times) “The real deal.” (allmusic.com). “Extraordinary… Brilliant” (All About Jazz) .....

BETHANY & RUFUS are all these things… Called “a splash of sunlight between the grey cracks of mediated culture” by the UK Guardian, the cello and voice duo have kept their production spare and focused on the depth of soul in the roots music they inhabit like few others. In their hands, old aching mountain songs, gospel cries of redemption and reckoning, and the deep groove chugging of a freight train holler come alive again with an urgency and energy that have electrified audiences all over the world.

Bethany and Rufus first met in 1999 at a friend’s late night gig at the Knitting Factory in New York City. The two of them began experimenting with old folk songs as a lark, but quickly realized that the unadorned cello and voice combined with the rooted power of these old chants was a starkly beautiful sound that reached across musical genres and generations. 

On their critically acclaimed debut CD, 
900 Miles (Hyena Records 2007) BETHANY & RUFUS pushed the boundaries of American folk music far into unexpected territory. With a minimum number of voices -- guitar, cello, vocal and some percussion -- the duo created colors and textures that “suggested a world of musics coalescing.” (All About Jazz)

In recent years, they've collaborated with Haitian percussionist Bonga Jean-Baptiste and Nigerian flautist Yacouba Moumouni resulted in the European release of 
Bethany and Rufus Roots Quartet, Liv À Fip.  As one reviewer commented on that album: "These are the sounds of life piercing a dry and crusted earth, its roots twisting and crawling, crackling and snapping. This music transcends the genres in which it finds its origins. It's not roots music, or blues, or funk, or jazz. While it contains elements of all of those styles, it is also unmistakably new and impossible to characterize in the traditional musical panacea. This pure, vibrating, swelling sound is open and honest. The Quartet is sincere and their music, all recorded live, makes you feel what they feel. This is an original and refreshing album."

“I guess the folk music tradition from which my dad comes is alive and well amongst people of his generation”, says Bethany Yarrow, daughter of folk legend Peter Yarrow (Peter, Paul & Mary), “but there aren’t too many younger people who hear these old folk songs as relevant to today’s music. It has been an incredible experience to re-interpret this music, to stand on stage and feel like I’m riding a wave with 200 years of history behind it and really hold that place in the present.  We live in crazy times but this music grounds me – there is no denying its ‘reality’ and it’s an amazing well from which to draw.”  

Although Bethany absorbed much of this music by osmosis in her early years, it is her born-to-perform, mesmerizing stage presence coupled with her deep knowledge of this material that validates her and Rufus’ approach as they turn roots songs inside out, finding a vibrant inner pulse that resonates with an “in the blood” authenticity that used to characterize the music of decades past, but is all too rare in today’s music scene. This fresh approach to folk music brought rave reviews to Rock Island, the CD that Bethany released in 2003 under her own name.  Rock Island featured the traditional slave lullabies and prison songs that lie at the core of the American musical vernacular, yet re-imagined, she says, as "a kind of electronic pop that I called deep folk music."  Blending an edgy contemporary style with banjos, dulcimers, harmonicas, slide guitars, gospel choirs, and the sampled voices of great blues singers, Bethany charted a unique musical terrain that she and Rufus continue to explore in ways far outside of any conventional music box.

Rufus Cappadocia is both a musical maverick to the bone and one of the leading voices of cutting edge cello today. His jaw dropping technique and musicianship inspire awe in even the most discerning critics, who have characterized his playing as “powerful…exploring territory that is positively otherworldly.”  He has toured throughout the Americas and Europe with both fringe and famous groups that are legion amongst those who search for peerless musicianship, and is celebrated for his unique collaborations with artists from across the globe -- from the Balkans to the Caribbean, from West Africa to North America. Rufus has toured as a founding member of numerous groups such as Urban Tap and The Paradox Trio; has co-produced a CD with Barney Mcall (piano Gary Bartz) and Badal Roy (tabla Miles Davis); and has just finished recording and co-producing a new project, Vodou Drums of Haiti, with “Bonga” Jean-Baptiste as well as a CD of unaccompanied solo cello, called “Songs for Cello.”

New York Newsday hailed a Town Hall performance by Rufus (at the Black Rock Coalition’s Tribute to Hendrix Concert) as “the evening’s most mesmerizing moment,” and Rufus has made a career of going where few cellists have gone before, appearing on CD’s with Ross Daly, Kif with David Fiuczynski, DJ Cheb i Sabbah, Esma, The Paradox Trio, Odetta, Michael Blake, and Tamalalou, among others. Rufus has also performed with Kasse Mady, Aretha Franklin, The Black Rock Coalition, Theodossi Spassoff, Seamus Egan, Eileen Eivers, Cheick Tidiane Seck, Vernon Reid, and many more. 


Reviews of 900 Miles
“This is American music that reaches out to invite and include so much more. Most of the songs have a sad undercurrent and yet at the hands of these two artists they emerge as shining songs for a new time.” - ALL ABOUT JAZZ

“I’ve been in the music business for 37 years now and I’ve had my artists perform at amazing shows including Live Aid and Carnegie Hall. I have to rank Bethany & Rufus show for us in my “Top 20” of all time. Mezmerising and inventive...our audience was slack-jawed.”
Filled with dust and desire.... their CD gets better and better with each listen!” - AMAZON.COM
“Yarrow has a keen, dusky-voiced musicianship that blurs folk, rock and pop... it is, though, Cappadocia’s brilliance that gives this [music] its remarkable sheen. His palette...is incredibly rich and amazingly clever.” - JAZZ TIMES
“There’s no denying that in a world where a lot of fluffy pop passes as folk, Bethany and Rufus - in taking a more original road - have come up with the real deal.” - ALLMUSIC.COM
“Bethany delivers low, smoky tones that call to mind Nina Simone or Cassandra Wilson. With stunning imagination, Bethany and Rufus move…. in arresting new directions. Bravo!” - GOLDMINE MAGAZINE

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