Eufrquestra plays Halloween party in Carbondale
CARBONDALE – On their 2006 album, Eufrquestra made it clear what kind of band they were. The album was titled “Explorations in Afrobeat,” and in case that wasn’t clear enough, the group wrote extensive liner notes about Nigeria; Yoruban culture; the Lucumi religion, which traveled with the slave trade from West Africa to Cuba; and Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, the Nigerian singer and saxophonist who created the Afrobeat style. The album notes ended with a section of suggested reading and listening, so that fans could continue their own explorations in Afrobeat.”Soup,” the latest album by Eufrquestra, released in 2009, opens with “Cause a Reaction,” a song that, with its distinctive beat, is easily identified as reggae. The album concludes with another shot of Jamaica: “Feel Together,” which rides along on an upbeat ska rhythm.Had Eufrquestra – as much of the world is often accused of doing – forgotten about Africa? Hardly; “Soup” has some tracks, like “Melody Truck” and “Backbone” that are as Afro-centric and Fela-oriented as anything on “Explorations in Afrobeat.” Eufrquestra simply isn’t interested in standing in one spot for very long.”There’s a quote from a book I read: ‘That which does not change does not exist,'” said Austin Zalatel, one of two saxophonists in Eufrquestra, which performs a Halloween-themed show on Saturday, Oct. 29, at PAC3 in Carbondale. “I’ve seen bands that cease striving to change, that keep trying to do the same thing, and the interesting part of it ends.”For the 31-year-old Zalatel, and for Eufrquestra, musical change is not undertaken merely for its own sake. Instead, the band’s evolving sound is a reflection of what the members are going through, shifts in personnel, and the world around them. The band’s newest member, Ben Soltau, is a lover of funk, so the funk element has become more pronounced. A handful of old-school reggae singers, including Dennis Brown and Peter Tosh, have become favorites of the band, leading to the increased emphasis on Jamaican sounds.”Musical interests are an interesting way to look at the development of a person,” Zalatel said from his home in Ft. Collins, where he watched snow pile up and branches fall from the recent storm. “You can see the things that have happened to a person by what they’re listening to.”Along with change, there is also an evident stability to Eufrquestra. The band remains heavy on horns, with Ryan Jeter joining Zalatel in a two-man sax section, and on rhythmic groove. Zalatel noted that even with shifts in focus, the band’s approach is to mix thoughtful music with a beat that gets crowds dancing.••••Zalatel started out with the kind of musical foundation that a lot of people would be happy to settle into. In the Des Moines home where he grew up, there were a wealth of sounds, from John Coltrane’s cutting-edge jazz to the Beatles to the country-swing of Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks. “I always liked that wide variety of music,” Zalatel said, adding that he credits a jazz appreciation class his father took in college as influential on the family’s love for music.There were also instruments on hand, a sax and a trombone. “They were just things that were around. I tried to squeak and squawk on them as much as I could,” Zalatel said. The squeaks and squawks led to the start of formal training in fifth grade, and a music major at the University of Northern Iowa, in Cedar Falls. College included a school-sponsored jazz ensemble, plus a band, General Education, which, Zalatel said, “had a similar mission to what Eufrquestra does now – music that’s thoughtful and intelligent, but also gets people dancing. It was a minimalist, funky ensemble.”Among Zalatel’s partners in these projects was Jeter. Jeter had played in a high school jam band named Euforia; after college, he gathered a handful of fellow Iowans, added a percussionist and something of an orchestral element, and in 2003 turned the project into the Iowa City-based Eufrquestra. The rhythm section, of percussionist Matt Grundstad and drummer Adam Grosso, who would go on to study music and folklore in Cuba.Zalatel chased other things. He traveled in Brazil, studying music styles, including the percussion-heavy batucada. He got trained in musical instrument repair, and felt New York City calling him. In 2004 he settled in creatively thriving Brooklyn – “How could you not?” he said – but took a job in Westchester County, which required a commute involving a subway, a train, a bus and a two-mile walk. He was generally too exhausted to get involved with much music-making, and after two years he retreated back to Iowa.In 2005, at the Beaverdale Fall Festival in Des Moines, Zalatel ran into his old friend Jeter, as Eufrquestra was getting ready to hit the stage. “Ryan said, ‘Get your horn,'” Zalatel recalled. “I grabbed my horn from home, which was five blocks away, and sat in with them. I didn’t know what I was getting into. But I was immediately hooked. It was an opportunity to play right away, which was nice.”The gig came with another major commute, from Des Moines to Iowa City, till Zalatel finally moved closer to the band’s home base. Three years ago, the entire group relocated to Fort Collins.While Zalatel has grown adverse to commuting, he doesn’t mind traveling. Eufrquestra averages around 120 shows a year, and has appeared at the Wakarusa, moe.down and Summer Camp festivals. In trips to the Roaring Fork Valley alone, they have racked up the miles, playing numerous gigs from Aspen to Carbondale.And in the sonic realm, Zalatel insists on movement. He has gone through his classic-rock stage, phases of avant-garde minimalism and melodic song-oriented material. A favorite of late is the trumpeter Cuong Vu, and “Incendio,” a 2008 album by the Mexican jazz band Los Dorados that features a guest appearance by Vu.For Saturday’s show, Eufrquestra goes through a different kind of transition. The night is billed as a Zombie Apocalypse Dance Party – “Because zombies are awesome,” Zalatel said – with the band in costumes and making scary sounds. It’s a bit different than past Halloween shows, which have had Eufrquestra covering Talking Heads’ “Stop Making Sense” album, or creating arrangements of songs from “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” and performing them in character.”Change is continual in our lives, always. It’s always a learning process,” Zalatel said. “If that ever changed, I’d be disinterested very quickly.”email@example.com
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