It's been more than 15 years since multi-instrumentalist and renegade folkie John Kruth called Milwaukee home. Though he remains connected to Brew City, he hasn't gotten back much lately.
So, you'd be forgiven, perhaps, for not realizing his band TriBeCaStan is about to release its third full-length CD, "New Deli," in mid-January. The record is housed in a sleeve designed by Cal Schenkel who, Kruth says, made a lot of Frank Zappa's covers.
Though TriBeCaStan, which we also featured nearly two years ago, hasn't performed in Milwaukee yet, the globe-trotting band – co-founded by Jeff Greene – gets around and Kruth hopes to bring the ensemble here.
"I'd love to," he says from New York, where he now lives. "Hope it happens soon. As we're a big group it would be best to play at one of the large outdoor festivals like Summerfest or Bastille Days, hint, hint.
"I haven't been back much in recent years, sadly, as I (and) we have been playing in Croatia, Hungary, Riga and Russia over the last couple of years. TriBeCaStan even played Siberia last June. now that was a trip!"
"New Deli" is a musical amalgam of world cultures – like its elder siblings, 2009's "Strange Cousin" and 2010's "5 Star Cave" – that has likely been further informed by the band's exotic tour stops.
The songs draw on influences from Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and beyond and leave plenty of room for improvisation by the talented cast of guest musicians with a variety of backgrounds.
Among the numerous folks who've performed with TriBeCaStan (TriBeCa is New Yorkese for the Manhattan neighborhood situated in a Triangle Below Canal Street) are Matt Darriau of The Klezmatics, Dave Dreiwtiz of Ween, singer Jolie Holland, jazz trombonist and conch shell player Steve Turre (who you may have also seen in the "SNL" band in years past), Kenny Margolis of Cracker and many others.
So, how on Earth do Kruth and Greene keep this overloaded musical ship afloat?
"Are you kidding," he says, "it's insane. Jeff and I should probably go in for serious counseling. All I can say is I'm honored and flattered that musicians of this scope want to be involved and that they find the tunes to be good vehicles to express themselves through with such wonderful technicality and imagination."
Despite the many hands on deck, Kruth says that although he and Greene set out writing much of the material together for the band's debut, "Strange Cousin," over time the songwriting and arranging has mostly become his domain alone.
"With '5 Star Cave' I began writing more of the material and with this one I wrote and arranged most the music on the disc, but we also have a cool cover of 'Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood,' that has a Middle Eastern belly dancing groove to it. There are also tunes by Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry and Rahsaan Roland Kirk's 'Freaks for the Festival,' which featured Steve Turre on the session, who used to be in Rahsaan's band.
"Having a wonderful large ensemble to work with, with myriad instruments and colors to chose from, has inspired me to write with the soloists and their personalities in mind. I once read that Duke Ellington used to do that and now I'm sort of fulfilling that fantasy with the TriBeCaStani FolkLorkeStra."
Should you find yourself in the Big Apple at the end of January, stop in at TriBeCaStan's Jan. 27 gig at Joe's Pub and buy Kruth a drink for Milwaukee. In the meantime, you can find "New Deli" online here.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.