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For us, the soul and sophistication of maqam music is a natural fit for the spontaneity and energy of jazz music. We play all original music featuring oud, percussion, trumpet, saxophone, and bass, finding common ground between Arabic rhythms, jazz improvisation, and melodies inspired by traditional middle-eastern music.
We are all musicians whose musical interests have taken them all over the world, pursuing the common humanity of all music.
Kenny Warren—Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Nathan Herrera—Alto Saxophone, bass clarinet, Alto Flute, Kaval
George Mel—Drums & Percussion, Cajon, Frame Drum, udu
Vin Scialla—Frame Drum, Percussion & Drums, darbuka, Riq
People often ask, “how did you end up bringing oud music and jazz together?”
While there's no simple answer—all of the musicians involved have diverse backgrounds with and interest in many kinds of music—the seeds of the band were sown in 1995 when founder/oud player Brian Prunka was an upstart jazz musician in New Orleans. Catching a cab to a gig one night, the Egyptian driver noticed the guitar and started talking to him about music. As he dropped Brian off, he suggested, “you should learn to play the oud, it is the most beautiful instrument.”
Although the comment prompted little more than puzzlement at the time, it turned out to be a prophecy of sorts: soon after, he came across an oud album while digging through a record store and bought it on a whim. When he put the music on, he was hooked. He learned as much of the music as he could on the guitar and then started trying to get his hands on an oud—which was not easy in New Orleans. After months of searching, he finally found someone who could ship him one. Within weeks of receiving it, he had obsessively taught himself dozens of tunes and started performing on oud with some of the more open-eared jazz musicians in the city.
He later traveled to study with renowned Arab musicians including Simon Shaheen and Bassam Saba and eventually wound up in Brooklyn, where he met the musicians whose mutual interests led to the formation of Nashaz. The name of the band is a tongue-in-cheek joke in Arabic, pre-empting the reactions of the purists— the word “nashaz” refers to musicianship that is aesthetically displeasing (usually playing out of tune).
About the Musicians:
Brian Prunka (oud, guitar):
Transplanted to Brooklyn from New Orleans, Brian brings together jazz adventurousness, New Orleans rhythm, and years of experience with Arabic music as an essential voice in the band. He has performed internationally with Simon Shaheen, Michael Bates, Ravish Momin, the New York Arabic Orchestra, The Vancouver International Orchestra, Zikrayat, The Near East River Ensemble, and others. In addition to national and international events, he has performed in New York at The Stone, Tonic, the Knitting Factory, the River to River Festival, Symphony Space, Alwan for the Arts, Trinity Church, and CBGBs, among others.
Kenny Warren (trumpet):
Kenny has gotten a lot of positive attention for his work with Slavic Soul Party, Tony Malaby's Novela, and the Sway Machinery, as well as his bands Nook and Hala Hala. In 2007 and 2008 he was invited by Dave Douglas to be part of the Festival of New Trumpet Music. He has spent time studying Balkan music in Serbia, giving his trumpet playing an unusually warm, flexible tone and phrasing. He cites Ron Miles as an influence, among others.
Nathan Herrera (alto saxophone, alto flute, bass clarinet):
Nathan is an aficionado of many musical traditions, having intensively studied Indian music and Macedonian music in addition to jazz and modern classical music. With Nashaz, he brings all of these elements together into a seamless personal style.
Apostolos Sideris (bass):
A native of Greece, Apostolos has become well-known in New York for his affinity for traditional and modern Arabic music, performing with Zikrayat, Tareq Abboushi, and others. Equally at home playing jazz or near eastern music, he brings his deep understanding and exquisite musicality to Nashaz in the form of powerful grooves, creative and sensitive accompaniment and impeccable execution.
George Mel (percussion):
Originally from Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia, George Mel is the stage name of George Melikishvili. Drawing on his decades of jazz drumming as well as the frame drum and percussion traditions of his homeland, George has forged a hybrid percussion approach which includes the best elements of all the traditions. Inspired by his mentor Jamey Haddad, he combines many percussion techniques and instruments with a jazz aesthetic, while retaining respect for the underlying traditions.
Vin Scialla (percussion):
A noted protegéof famed Lebanese percussionist Michel Merhej, Vin performs regularly with a wide range of jazz and world music artists, playing Indian and Arabic percussion as well as drum set. He records and regularly tours with rising Indian mandolin virtuoso Snehasish Mozumder and singer Dheepa Chari, among others.