Matuto to keep stream of world music flowing

World music seems far too scarce here these days, so last Sunday’s Music Haven bust-out by Congolese

World music seems far too scarce here these days, so last Sunday’s Music Haven bust-out by Congolese guitarist Diblo Dibala erupted as a welcome surprise, bringing fans from all ethnic and cultural quarters and age cohorts to Schenectady’s Central Park. They’d be wise to come back for Matuto this Sunday, with the Bernstein Bard Quartet opening this free 7 p.m. show.

Matuto (Brazilian slang for “bumpkin” or “hick”) is the creation of South Carolinian Clay Ross, who went to New York to play jazz, wound up in Brazil and decided to put it all together. And by “all” we mean bluegrass riffing, Brazilian beats, blues pathos and whatever else Ross rams into his trans-cultural blender.

Jazz Times calls it “weird and wonderful . . . unorthodox and delightful” but we can call it just another international night at Music Haven, another celebration of mixed musical metaphors from wherever, and going to unexpected places.

Matuto seems equipped to play anywhere: at Womex 2011, on a six-week Fulbright Grant-sponsored residency in Recife, Brazil; the Garanhuns Jazz Festival and the Rec Beat Festival, both also in Brazil; the American Folk Festival in Maine; the Montmagny World Accordion Festival in Canada and almost everywhere else as one of just 12 American Musical Ambassadors selected (from more than 300 acts) to tour the world through the U.S. State Department and American Voices.

Some bumpkins.

Matuto is composed of songwriter, singer and guitarist Ross; accordionist and keyboardist Rob Curto; percussionist Ze Mauricio; bassist Skip Ward; fiddler Mazz Swift, and possibly others.

The Bernstein Bard Quartet is also elastic, comprising brothers Mark Bernstein (guitar and bass) and Steve Bernstein (guitar and mandola), with Robert Bard (bass) and/or percussionist Brian Melick and violinist Michael Snow. They play as a trio, quartet and quintet, so just count ’em when they take the stage on Sunday at Music Haven, starting the show at 7 p.m.

But wait, there’s more

Want more world music? The Iron Horse (20 Center St., Northampton) has some this week.

Grupo Fantasma, the Debo Band and DJ Bongohead team up tonight in a world beat funkfest spanning Latin and east African styles.

Grupo Fantasma is from Austin, formed in 2000 by fusing the Blue Noise Band and the Blimp to create an 11-piece dynamo and fulfill Ray Benson’s (Asleep at the Wheel) claim that “All Texas bands are dance bands.” Their album “Sonidos Gold” (released in 2008, the fourth of their five albums) was Grammy-nominated, “El Existential” won for Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album, and their songs appeared on an episode of “Weeds.”

Like Matuto, Grupo Fantasma gets around: They’ve backed Prince, played the Austin City Limits Festival (and TV show), the Montreal Jazz Festival, the Calgary Folk Music Festival, Jazz Fest in New Orleans where they knocked me out in 2008, the South Padre Island International Music Festival and on tour with Spoon.

Grupo Fantasma is guitarists Beto Martinez and Adrian Quesada; drummer John Speice; percussionists Jose Galeano, Matthew Holmes and Kino Esparza; bassist Greg Gonzalez; trombonist Mark Gonzalez; baritone saxophonist Josh Levy; and trumpeter Gilbert Elorreaga.

Based in Boston, the Debo Band — 11 pieces strong, like Grupo Fantasma — plays Ethiopian dance music so well that the Boston Globe speculated that, “If George Clinton had come from Ethiopia instead of outer space, the result might have been what Debo Band gives you.”

Grupo Fantasma, the Debo Band and DJ Bongohead play the funk international tonight at the Iron Horse (20 Center St., Northampton). Show time is 7 p.m. Admission is $12.50 in advance, $15 at the door. Phone 413-586-8686 or visit

Chuck Prophet

Like the songs Alejandro Escovedo played at The Egg recently, and on his new “Big Station” album? Then you’ll want to know that Chuck Prophet co-wrote them and that he leads his own band the Mission Express into Club Helsinki (405 Columbia St., Hudson) on Friday.

Prophet released nine albums as the main songwriter, singer and guitarist with California rockers Green on Red in the 1980s — they played J.B. Scott’s in Albany — before starting a solo career and collaborating in all directions as a valued co-writer and session guitarist.

Writing and singing with a conviction and sound reminiscent of Ray Davies, Tom Petty and Alex Chilton, and playing like every guitar god you love, he’s released 12 solo albums.

“Temple Beautiful” is new this year, a love song to San Francisco. He named his current band after a bus line that runs through his neighborhood there: It includes singer-keyboardist Stephie Finch (Prophet’s wife), bassist Kevin White, drummer Paul Taylor and guitarist and steel player James DePrato.

Leland Sundries (Nick Loss-Eaton, Shane Kerwin, Alex Wemquest and Jon Hildenstein — skilled acoustic rockers from New York) open for Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express on Friday at 8 p.m. at Club Helsinki. Admission is $18 in advance, $20 at the door. Phone 828-4800 or visit

Categories: Entertainment

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