Andrew Gilbert has done it again! Check out the new article from East Bay Times / Mercury News here or read below!
Raiding the refrigerator at 1 a.m. after getting home late from a gig last December, Oakland violinist Shaina Evoniuk remembered to take a look at the newly released Grammy Award nominations. She probably should have waited until she finished eating.
“I almost choked when I saw we were nominated twice,” she says, the “we” in question including R&B vocalist Leon Bridges, who earned nominations for his album “Coming Home” and the song “Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand,” which ended up winning the Grammy for best traditional R&B performance.
Flowing with a steady thrum behind his vocals, Evoniuk’s string work gives the song its melancholy shimmer, but her contribution was more a workaday recording session than a glamorous encounter. “We recorded the string part up here in the studio,” she says. “I still have never met him, which is so common in this industry.”
What’s uncommon about Evoniuk, in addition to her fierce musicianship, is her ability to elevate a vast array of musical settings by expanding an artist’s sound with the canny integration of strings. A member of the stylistically polyglot Jazz Mafia since she played on trombonist/bassist Adam Theis’s epic 2009 symphonic hip-hop production “Brass, Bows & Bows,” she’s become an indispensable force on the Bay Area music scene.
A spate of shows around the region in the coming weeks gives a good sense of Evoniuk’s range, from R&B and jazz to reimagined pop and country twang. Her primary vehicle these days is the Cosa Nostra Strings, a quintet that accompanies North Bay soul singer Lilan Kane Thursday at the Blue Note Napa.
In addition to Evoniuk and Theis, whose musical relationship spilled off the stage into matrimony last year, the group features violist Keith Lawrence, cellist Lewis Patzner and Rupa and the April Fishes percussionist Aaron Kierbel. In the past couple of years, they’ve worked with acts such as Martin Luther, the Roots, Otis McDonald and Parliament-Funkadelic.
The collaboration with Kane has evolved naturally since Cosa Nostra accompanied her on the song “Ex-Factor” at “UnderCover Presents: A Tribute to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” in the winter of 2017. A few months later, Cosa Nostra created new arrangements of Kane’s songs and performed with her at a sold-out Yoshi’s show. Thursday’s Blue Note concerts celebrate the release of their latest collaboration, “Shadows,” an EP featuring Cosa Nostra arrangements of Kane’s original songs and Hiatus Kaiyote’s “By Fire.”
“Each of the Cosa Nostra musicians is so talented on their own, when they’re in the room together, they bring so much creative energy,” says Kane, who also performs March 24 with Cosa Nostra Strings at Manny’s, a café and performance space in the Mission District. “It’s so exciting to play with a different mix of instruments than the horns and rhythm section that I usually use, and their arrangements are so brilliant.”
The Cosa Nostra Strings headline their own shows at SFJazz’s Joe Henderson Lab on Sunday March 3, presenting “Blowin’ in the Wind: Music of the 1960s,” a diverse program reinterpreting the sounds that swept across the Bay Area during the latter years of that turbulent decade.
“People think about San Francisco and the Summer of Love, but there was so much music happening in the 1960s,” Evoniuk says. “There was free jazz and the folk music resurgence, Latin jazz and the British invasion. Each player in Cosa Nostra has our own unique background, and this program reflects that, with our arrangements of songs by Dylan, the Dead, Sam Cooke and an amazing original suite,‘The Deep State’ by Lewis Patzner.”
From reimagining vintage pop music, Cosa Nostra goes country opening for the T Sisters Saturday March 16 at the Swedish American Hall, where the sibling singer/songwriters celebrate the release of their new EP “We Are Bound.” The sisters had been collaborating with the Jazz Mafia horns “and I’d been so hoping they’d come for us strings as well,” Evoniuk says.
The eldest T, Erika Tietjen, brought Evoniuk her new song “Get Back” to see if she could create a string arrangement for the piece, which Cosa Nostra will perform with the T Sisters at the Swedish American Hall.
Looking down the road, the Jazz Mafia and Cosa Nostra Strings collaborate with 2019 Grammy Award-winning composer Mason Bates, who’s one of the DJs at DNA Lounge’s Mercury Soul night on April 26. “Each one of these performances is 100-percent different music,” Evoniuk says. “People could come to every show and not hear the same song twice.”
Contact Andrew Gilbert at email@example.com.