You know summer is upon us when the festivals start up. This past weekend, vendors, musicians, and community members gathered under the sun for two straight days of enviro appreciation in honor of Earth Day. This weekend, Oak Park gets its first turn at the festival fun when the Santa Barbara Jewish Festival returns for its 26th year. The annual celebration to Jewish culture takes place on Sunday, April 28, and features a full day’s worth of music, dancing, food, and community, sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara. In honor of the fest, we thought it fitting to shine a light on one of the area’s most active — and eclectic — music makers on the lineup.
Kalinka is the brainchild of clarinetist Fred Nadis, bassist Ann Chevrefils, accordion player Jon Brady, and guitarist Phil Taylor. Formed over an impromptu performance at a Passover Seder in 2009, the band has picked up and lost a few members along the way but never strayed far from their potent blend of Jewish klezmer, gypsy jazz, French café, and Eastern European folk music.
“We’re trying to find a bridge between klezmer and New Orleans jazz,” Chevrefils explained via email last week. As for influences, Nadis agreed that they’re wide ranging, citing Sidney Bechet, Louis Armstrong, Django Reinhardt, and klezmer great Naftule Brandwein among the group’s collective touchstones.
On record and in person, Kalinka’s music tends toward the upbeat, and as the only Bulgar band in the area, they pride themselves on bringing something meaningful and different to the table. Taylor describes the group’s approach as “high energy” but is also quick to recognize the history entrenched with the songs they play. “Klezmer is a heavy music. It has a lot of pathos to it. I think there’s a lot of responsibility involved playing it.” Adds Nadis, “I want the group to have a gutsy sound, but a sweet side, too.”
As far as band practices go, Kalinka operates in the public eye; you’ve probably seen the quartet honing their chops at the Saturday Farmers Market or the Stow House fiddlers’ fest (where they picked up Taylor). They also frequent weddings and bar mitzvahs, but look forward to the annual Jewish Festival. After all, says Nadis, “Where is there a better place for a Santa Barbara klezmer band to play?”
Kalinka plays the Santa Barbara Jewish Festival in Oak Park on Sunday, April 28 at 2 p.m. Call (805) 957-1115 or visit jewishsantabarbara.org for event info. For more on Kalinka, visit the band on Facebook.