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The best kept secret in music



Rising out of the ashes of ThaMuseMeant, Apricot Jam and Hanuman, a new musical beast by the name of Taarka has been roaming the West this summer. With performances at the High Sierra Festival, Northwest String Summit at Horning’s Hideout, Oregon Country Fair and Seattle’s Bumbershoot Fest, they are making a big impression on the scene especially for such a newly formed act. The all-star line-up of instrumentalists includes Dave Tiller of ThaMuseMeant on mandolins, Jarrod Kaplan of Hanuman and Trillian Green on percussion, James Whiton of Apricot Jam on stand-up bass, and Enion Pelta, an amazing gypsy fiddler who was oblivious to the jamband scene before hooking up with Tiller in New York City for a stint with Brooklyn Brown Grass. Classically trained on the instrument from the age of three, Pelta stunned audiences at the High Sierra Festival this summer when she played a workshop with fiddle legend Darol Anger and showed skills comparable to those of the much older and more experienced master.

Early this year Tiller and Pelta headed to the Northwest to find the rest of their band for an eclectic gypsy jazz project that they envisioned. They could not have found more talented collaborators than Whiton and Kaplan. Kaplan is well known to those in the Northwest as the high-energy hand drummer from Trilian Green and Hanuman. If you ever wondered who that extra percussionist was sitting in with your favorite band at High Sierra or any given festival, chances are it was Jarrod. When guitar icon Fareed Haque needed a stand-in percussionist to play with his group in Portland recently, it was Kaplan who filled in and more than stood his own, playing unfamiliar and incredibly complex tunes. Whiton played with the folk-rock trio Apricot Jam, a popular fixture on the New Mexico jamband scene until they moved to Portland in ’96 and then disbanded in ’98. Whiton is known for his percussive style of playing, which is exciting to watch and gives the band a little extra thump that helps keep the booty shaking.

As Apricot Jam’s star was fading in New Mexico, ThaMuseMeant was rising as the new hot band on the scene in the mid-‘90s. Dave Tiller became recognized as one of the finest mandolin pickers anywhere, and got the chance to play alongside people like Sam Bush, Leftover Salmon, The Slip and Yonder Mountain String Band. ThaMuseMeant played thousands of shows, wrote hundreds of songs (mostly due to the Dylanesque prodigious writing of Nathan Moore), and put out two albums on High Sierra Records before disbanding in February of 2001. Interestingly, the three main bands that Tiller, Kaplan and Whiton are known for playing with all succumbed to the infamous seven year itch.

Taarka’s excellent new self-released album catches the band playing a live acoustic set in the studio with no overdubs. It catches the uplifting, high-energy spirit that helped ensnare hundreds of onlookers and dancers in the meadow outside the main stage area at High Sierra, where the band set up unofficial late-night concerts. Col. Bruce Hampton was one of the many new fans the band gained at the High Sierra Festival - I heard him say they were the best band he saw at the fest (excluding, I assumed, the Code Talkers).

Fans of Bela Fleck will enjoy the masterful playing and eclectic compositions on this first effort. The album really showcases Pelta’s violin work, which I think evokes an incredibly wide range of emotions for an album without any lyrics. Tiller’s mandolin playing has improved since his days in ThaMuseMeant when he did double duty on the fiddle for some songs. This is no surprise to anyone who has spent any time with him, as he is a man obsessed with playing the mandolin. Practice consumes most of his waking hours and he does not even stop playing when he talks to you or drives his vehicle. (Luckily he has chosen a relatively small instrument and none of his auto accidents have resulted in serious injury.) Some fans, myself included, will probably miss the unique sound of Tiller’s electric mandolin on this album as it was made with all acoustic instruments, but he can be cajoled into playing the electric during Taarka’s live performances. I hope his playing will be featured more prominently in the mix on their next studio effort.

Taarka recently embarked on their fall tour, which will take them up and down the West coast from Washington to Southern California and to the Southwest, where Tiller and Whiton have long been missed by fans. Check for Taarka tour dates, and get out there and support live music!

Greg Keidan
JamBase | Nation Wide
Go See Live Music!

[Published on 10/16/2002]

- Jambase


Matt Butler
The Everyone Orchestra brings its plan to improvise to the Oregon Country Fair main stage this weekend, fusing musicians already performing at the Festival--members of The Motet, Taarka, and Jambay with Mark Karan of The Other Ones on guitar and Robin Sylvester of Ratdog on bass. Hammer dulcimer virtuoso and Everyone Orchestra alum Jamie Janover will reprise his role as conductor, instructing the large cast of musicians with a baton and cue cards.

Music interpreted by the all-star talent within the Everyone Orchestra at the fair will be compressed into a set that includes all the elements of an Everyone Orchestra event--songs and jams with a mix of players, and conducted jams with all the musicians.

"As always, improvisational grooves will be the underlying foundation and different players will be highlighted doing what they do best," asserts Everyone Orchestra founder Matt Butler. As for what to expect from the performance, Butler says, "We're excited to mix it up again with another unique cast of stellar musicians. Improvising together, live in front of an audience, anything can happen."

The mystery of the unknown keeps the musicians present and on their toes, making for the one-of-a-kind magical musical moments Everyone Orchestra has become known for.

Complete list of players for The Everyone Orchestra performance at Oregon Country Fair:
Mark Karan (The Other Ones/Ratdog)--guitar
Robin Sylvester (Ratdog)--bass
Shelley Doty (Jambay)--guitar
Dave Watts (The Motet--drums
Jans Ingber (The Motet)--vocals, percussion
Jamie Janover (Hammered Dulcimer virtuoso)--conducting
Jarrod Kaplan (Hanuman/Taarka)--percussion
Enion Pelta (Taarka)--violin
David Tiller (ThaMuseMeant/Taarka)--mandolin
Marty Chilla (Sugarbeets)--guitar

The Everyone Core-tet:
Matt Butler (EO Founder)--drums, didgeridoo
Scott Law (Hanuman)--guitar, mandolin
Asher Fulero (Surrounded by Ninjas)--keys, electronics
Damian Erskine--bass

About the Everyone Orchestra:
Since its inception in 2001, The Everyone Orchestra has performed its shows nationally featuring such luminary musicians as The Derek Trucks Band, Col. Bruce Hampton, Steve Kimock, members of Phish, String Cheese Incident, and many others. Through the events and work of The Everyone Orchestra, funds have been raised for contributions to non-profit and environmental organizations around the nation including The Sierra Club, The Buckeye Forest Council, Cascadia Summer, and The Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Music :: Activism :: Improvisation

JamBase | Oregon
Go See Live Music!

[Published on 7/5/2004]

- Jambase

Taarka's 'Even Odd Bird' displays growth, energy
Though the album is good, their live performance will be better at WOW Hall and this weekend's Folk Festival
By Aaron Shakra
Pulse Editor

May 20, 2004

Notes pour from a bowed violin, plucked double bass, picked mandolin and slapped drums, unstitching all our definitions of what jazz should be. Before our ears even know what hit us, these notes are promptly sown together again in a patchwork of Indian rags, Irish jigs, bluegrass and a good dose of funk.
Taarka's musicians are poets, but the only spoken words come from the rhythm and melody of their instruments. The quartet in question -- David Tiller, Enion Pelta, Jarrod Kaplan and new bassist Jason Flores -- is unquestionably talented, with "Even Odd Bird," the band's oft-delayed second release, serving as ample proof.

Because Taarka is an instrumental band, it should be said that any interpretation of the music translated into words is highly subjective, even more so than songs with lyrics. For this reason, there are no standout hits on "Even Odd Bird," merely the tunes you can dance to, trance to, write to, draw to and paint to. Here is an album that resembles a large iridescent mood ring.

"Dance for Impeachment" begins with violinist Pelta playing a melody reminiscent of a cat sneaking across a floor before the entire group's sound explodes. This is perhaps the album's most narrative tune, evoking imagery of violence and political strife before returning to lithe motif.

Now that the group has compiled a large breadth of material, "Even Odd Bird," freely appropriates work from the musicians' past. Pelta's "March Waltz," from last year's duet collaboration with Tiller, is re-recorded and benefits from the extra punch that bass and percussion provide. Tiller's "Obleo's Travels" -- from the same recording -- gets the similar treatment. Kaplan's "Kudzu" was first recorded by his previous group, Trillian Green.

Other tunes represent the band's composition becoming more unified and less centered around Tiller and Pelta. "Semii Aztlan" -- credited to bassist Flores, owes its roots to the modes of East while Kaplan's "Augra's Machine," a reference to the 1982 film Dark Crystal -- is particularly energetic, with the band going from a slow melody that evokes images of verdant country fields before eventually quickening its pace. Finally, the instruments reach an all-out psychedelic climax.

Taarka's first release, 2002's "Live in the Studio" was a straightforward no-frills album, recorded before the band had even gained a mastery of the material. This differs markedly from the overall sound of "Even Odd Bird," which has a warm production quality that is ironically closer to a Taarka live performance.

Still, the band makes use of studio techniques effectively. Pelta's violin harmonizes with itself on "Impeachment" while other instrumentalists, such as an accordion and keyboard on "Fat Chance," are occasionally added to vamp out a tune.

- By Aaron Shakra


Even Odd Bird (2004)

For Booking: Mountain High Music, 303-415-1958
                    Rob Sarno, rob@mtnhighmusic.com
                    Aly Constine, aly@mtnhighmusic.com


Feeling a bit camera shy


Taarka, led by David Tiller and Enion Pelta, is the natural next step in the evolution of the band. The new incarnation features the same high-energy performance and innovative compositions, but expands the musical canvas by drawing on the talents of a select group of rhythm masters, creating new layer and textures\ and new freedom within the music.

David Tiller, mandolinist and Enion Pelta, violinist began playing and writing together in the spring of 2001. They met through a Williamsburg, Brooklyn-based band called Brooklyn Browngrass. They moved to Oregon to continue to develop their unique sound. Presently, the rhythm sections for TAARKA consist of Damien Erskine (Everyone Orchestra Core-Tet) on six-string electric bass or Jason Flores on upright acoustic bass, and Dale Largent (Coyo) on percussion and drums.

In their first 6 months out west, they were very well received at festivals up and down the coast such as High Sierra Music Festival, Northwest Folklife, Bumbershoot, Oregon Country Fair, a String Cheese Incident Festival, and a number of other festivals in the Northwest. In their subsequent two years of touring from Seattle to the Southwest, they have revisited these festivals, playing better stages and drawing larger crowds. In their 2-year history performing as a duo and with their full band, TAARKA they have produced 3 cds of original material, of which well over 4000 units have been sold. Most sales were at live performances, or from website sales, and presently they are in playlist rotation of many independent and college radio stations up and down the West Coast.

Taarka has shared stages and performed on stage with notable artists including: Leftover Salmon, Yonder Mountain String Band, Steve Kimock, Garaj Mahal, Tony Furtado, Darol Anger, The Slip, The Motet, Danny Barnes, Dan Bern, Kaki King and many more. At their first High Sierra Music Festival, no one less than Col. Bruce Hampton of the Code Talkers and Aquarium Rescue Unit called TAARKA his "favorite band of the festival, " and then accurately guessed all of their birth dates.