Babik (pronounced Bah-Beek) is a progressive Gypsy Jazz band inspired by the legendary guitarist Django Reinhardt. One of those rare musical ensembles that can truly reach across generational and stylistic lines to create a fan base that is as diverse as their musical influences. At their concerts it is not uncommon to see a white-haired 75 year-old grandmother dancing next to a purple-haired 20-something.
Babik has the ability to bridge passionate jaw-dropping virtuosity, with a rare toe-tapping danceability that keeps its audiences enthusiastically engaged. The group's ability to connect is evident in the way crowds clamber to clap, dance, and cheer along with nearly every performance.
Since forming in 2005, Babik has enjoyed both commercial and artistic success. All four members (Stuart Fuchs-Lead Guitar, Geoffrey Fitzhugh Perry-Violin, Joshua Assad-Rhythm Guitar, Kevin O'Brien-Upright Bass) are full time professional musicians, and the success of their partnership, both on and off stage, shows in their lighthearted improvisational performances.
Babik stays busy performing over 150 shows a year at concert halls and festivals, in addition to facilitating educational programs & improvisation workshops at high schools and colleges.
In March of 2008, Babik worked with arranger Brent Havens (creator of orchestral programs of Queen, Led Zeppelin, The Doors) to create the first ever orchestral program of the music of Django Reinhardt, which was performed with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra to an audience of thousands. Babik has even performed with the contemporary dance troupe Configuration Dance in a tightly choreographed theatrical show.
Their hometown of Buffalo, N.Y. has awarded them "Best Jazz Band" by two different magazines for three years in a row. Their first release, "Pronounced Bah-Beek", broke Western New York sales records at two area retailers, and the Buffalo News calls Babik "One of the Hottest Bands in Buffalo"-high praise from a town that launched The Goo-Goo Dolls, Ani DiFranco, Rick James, Spyro Gyra, and Soulive.
With their latest release, "American Gypsy", the band showcases ten original compositions and three standards that both honor the roots of Gypsy Jazz while exploring a wide range of styles such as Jazz-fusion, Klezmer, World and Latin Music. The result is an amazingly coherent, expansive, and ambitious vision of Gypsy Jazz that will excite jazz and music lovers alike.
Perhaps Buffalo Spree Magazine best expressed the spirit of the band in a recent feature story: "It's hard not to fall in love with a band whose every tune seems to state 'We love life and we want to celebrate it.'"
Best Jazz Band -Artvoice 2006, 2007, 2008
Best Jazz Act -Buffalo Spree Magazine 2006 & 2007
Best Album -Live At Sessions Buffalo Spree Magazine 2007
Stuart Fuchs -Lead Guitar
Geoffrey Fitzhugh Perry -Violin
Joshua Assad -Rhythm Guitar
Kevin O'Brien -Upright Bass
New Studio Album out this Summer!!!
2006 Debut CD- (Pronounced: Bah-beek) -Best Selling CD
2006- Live at Sessions -Award winning DVD
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Gypsy Kings: The music of Babik A jazz and folk hybrid band that is something completely different ...Gypsy Kings: The music of Babik
A jazz and folk hybrid band that is something completely different
By Jeff Miers - News Pop Music Critic
Updated: 04/08/07 11:22 AM
Mark Goldman, Buffalo historian, author and entrepreneur, stopped dead in his tracks. The last thing he expected to hear on a city street corner while wandering through the heavy traffic and heat of the annual Allentown Art Festival was the sound of "gypsy jazz” the lambent, wistful, but spirited tones of Paris in the 1930s.
But there it was. Unmistakable, vibrant, swinging, a non-sequitur in a local music scene that by 2004 Goldman had begun to see as fractured, scattered, and frankly, tired.
In Buffalo, you have a lot of cover bands playing in the suburbs around the city, and a lot of loud rock bands with varying degrees of talent playing in the city itself, says Goldman. "Here was something completely different. These guys sounded amazing, were clearly fantastic musicians, were playing acoustic instruments, and had an unmistakable flair for conveying the aura of an era."
The era Goldman speaks of is long gone, but its impact still looms large. The band he'd randomly encountered that afternoon in 2004 performed beneath the moniker Babik, its chosen name the first of many clues to its distinct historical lineage. Doubtless, jazz aficionado Goldman got the reference” to the king of gypsy swing, the virtuoso guitarist Django Reinhardt, whose son was christened Babik” right off, but he already knew what Babik was about before he watched them perform one tune.
Clearly, this music was a celebration of the World War II-era groundbreaking gypsy folk/jazz hybrid of Reinhardt and his compatriot, violinist Stephane Grappelli. That a group of young musicians in Buffalo would be so schooled in Reinhardt's music was surprising, but instantly struck Goldman as something he could employ in his never-ending quest to "market Buffalo as a cool place where artists are doing unexpected things, where the culture is alive."
Babik dropped into Goldman's lap fully formed. "They sounded wonderful, and they had the look down, too. They looked cool; I knew they would appeal to people's desire to have a musical experience that made them feel hip, Bohemian, you know?" Goldman was right.
He immediately booked the band to play every Wednesday inside his Allen Street Hardware club, which was enjoying a buzz as one of the hipper places to hang in Allentown.
Babik concerts were well-attended and greeted with enthusiasm by listeners, many of whom were not likely to know Django Reinhardt from Dave Matthews. Many of these same listeners would come back over the next 85 consecutive Wednesdays, filling Goldman's intimate club, and eventually elevating Babik's debut disc to the No. 1 spot on local independent retailer New World Record's sales chart for five weeks straight during the holiday season, beating out releases by both Tom Waits and the Beatles.
Babik had forged a connection with its audience.
"For us, the attraction to this music is probably the same attraction it has for most of its fans...there is an infectious, happy vibe to it," says Joshua Assad, rhythm guitarist/vocalist with Babik. "This music makes people happy. Even the minor-key tunes we play have a sense of joyful celebration. Gypsy jazz has a great groove that you would be hard pressed to avoid tapping your foot to."
Reinhardt was a virtuoso nonpareil, of course, so Babik would have to do more than simply learn some of his tunes and give off a modern-day 'gypsy' vibe to be legit.
The harmonic structure of the music is complicated, the composed melodic lines nuanced, the improvisational aspects simply burning. Babik, whose very name suggested the band wished to be, in a sense, "Django's children," would have to be able to nail this stuff with conviction, and then make their own personal mark on it.
Some serious woodshedding would be in order.
"The group started with [lead guitarist] Stuart Fuchs and myself getting together in the fall of 2004, and attempting some tunes with an almost awestruck appreciation of the style," recalls Assad. "After many months of relearning our instruments from scratch -literally, with new guitars, new strings, new picks, new hand positions, new chord voicings, new rightand left-hand techniques -we felt ready enough to practice on the street. That's where Mark Goldman heard us, and he gave us a big break by booking us at Hardware."
"The first night of hearing Babik ... still resonates in my head," writes Buffalo State College music professor and author Chuck Mancuso in the liner notes to Babik's self-titled debut disc. "After an hour of the group's buoyant, rhythmic improvisations that had a full house of foot-tapping, finger-snapping enthusiasts wildly cheering, I felt that I had been transported back to the time of Django, when jazz was considered the people's music -what [Louis] Armstrong and Fats Waller called 'happy jazz.'"
It's been a long time since the general public has considered jazz its own. Jazz, like classical music, is now treated as a museum piece, an elite form about as far from the 'everyman' aspect of popular music as one can get.
Babik may not have set out to change all of this, but certainly part of the reason the group has been warmly welcomed around here has to do with the open, welcoming, and (even though there is clearly virtuosity involved) fun nature of the music it plays.
"Jazz doesn't reach your average Joe today, and most folks think you need a doctorate in harmony to appreciate it," says Assad. "Yes, I definitely think our successes can be attributed to the fact that this music is accessible and fun. The virtuosity springs forth from having a good time together onstage. We are also not tied down by tradition and aren't afraid to stretch the music and even in the midst of a solo quote Led Zeppelin, Mozart, Jimi Hendrix, whatever."
That Babik is able to draw at will from Django Reinhardt's canon -from the moving elegy which gave the band its name, 'Babik,' through jaw-dropping workouts like Heavy Artillery and Blue Drag and throw in elements of popular music, quoting bits of Zeppelin, or a snippet from the Spiderman Theme, has surely eased audiences who might not be otherwise familiar with World War II-era jazz. The musicians, in addition to Assad and Fuchs, including upright bassist Kevin O'Brien and violinist Geoffrey Fitzhugh Perry -boast a combined pedigree in everything from punk rock to jazz fusion, Zydeco to old-school rock n' roll. Assad feels that their varied musical pasts allow them to bring something fresh to Reinhardt's music.
"When we began performing, we expected the older ages to enjoy the echoes of the World War II era, but we were surprised by the college-age hipsters coming down and dancing their butts off tune after tune after tune. All ages seem to respond to the music - preschoolers to senior citizens, punk rockers to classic rockers. Many times, people have come up to us after shows and said something like, 'I always hated jazz, but your music rocks!'"
As Babik takes on a second residency, Friday evenings inside the Stillwater on Delaware Avenue, and a collaboration with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra looms in the future, Assad is quick to point out that Babik honed its craft inside Goldman's Hardware club. The band members still consider that Allentwon space their "spiritual home." Goldman continues to book a variety of musicians in his club, the only connecting criteria being that they are dedicated, quality musicians.
"I think [Goldman's] idea of filling the place with the best players in town, and seeing what music they make when they are left alone to make it is a great thing. That space has allowed us to craft our own unique sound and start compiling our own catalog of compositions. -The enthusiasm of the audience, along with the atmosphere of that space, has given us a new take on an old sound. Most American groups playing this style play very smooth and softly, but the attitude of our surroundings made us into a group that digs deeper and hits harder."
"Babik is on Fire!" ArtVoice Magazine
"Babik has a brilliant ability to connect with the audience."
"It's hard not to fall in love with [Babik]."
"Babik makes you feel good...amazing."
A typical Babik set includes a mix of Django Reinhardt songs, compositions by other gypsy artists, and original band compositions. The group also puts a gypsy spin on familiar jazz standards such as Honeysuckle Rose, Caravan, and All of Me, in addition to performing novelty songs like Spiderman and The Shiek of Araby.
Babik performs dozens of educational workshops each year for elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as universities. Each program is tailored to the age and abilities of the students being taught. Workshops are available for bands and orchestras as well as general student populations.
Intro to Improv
Through discussion, performance, and audience participation, Babik demystifies the mysteries of improvisation, and shows that everyone can do it. General students learn that improvising music is similar to improvising speech, and are guided to create their own musical conversations. Orchestra and band students are given the opportunity to improvise on their instrument alongside Babik, using simple arrangements provided by Babik.
Music majors and experienced performers are given the tools to vastly improve their improvisational abilities. The needs of the students are discussed with the music educators in advance and the workshop is then custom tailored to address those needs. Professional level orchestral arrangements are provided by Babik.
Django Reinhardt and the History of WWII
Babik tells the inspirational true life story of gypsy guitar genius Django Reinhardt, a man who lost two fingers in a caravan fire, yet persevered to become one of the most innovative guitarists in jazz history. Djangoâ€™s life is discussed against the backdrop of events in WWII Europe, specifically the Nazi invasion of France and the French resistance. Babik brings this history to life by performing key pieces that dramatically convey the mood before, during, and after the war.
Coming Soon: The Business of Music: Do What You Love Without Going Broke!
There are no upcoming dates at this time.