Children of the Revolution are uniting the world through music in Queen Anne.
Not only does the Queen Anne-based group easily mingle instruments, musical styles and performers from around the globe, the members aim to bring together the diverse audiences they attract with their high-velocity, infectious sound.
"In everything we do, we play the blues from all over the world; the phrasing is different, but it's still the blues," says Eric Jaeger, who leads Children of the Revolution with Vassili.
And, oddly enough, Jaeger says with a smile, the blues seem to make everyone happy, regardless of where they're from. Which is the revolution that the group is about, Vassili says.
"We don't live in an age where quiet, peace, civility flourish; it's the Dark Ages," Vassili says. "People are dying over things like skin color. The only thing, by and large, that has been able to unify people is music and performance; music is a completely universal language."
The Children of the Revolution have played venues from clubs and festivals to the Paramount Theatre - an unheard-of feat for a group that hasn't hit the big time yet - and a celebration of the Buddha's spiritual birthday in Taiwan before an audience of 30,000. Audiences will have an opportunity to hear Children of the Revolution's world blues live in concert this weekend at Benaroya Hall, where the group will release its new CD, "Liberation."
Crossing borders Led by Vassili (lead vocals, flamenco guitar, steel string guitar, nay, Native American flute, pan pipes, palmas) and Jaeger (lead flamenco guitar, bouzouki, baglama, electric guitar, 12-string guitar, vocals, palmas), the group is composed of 12 performers who effortlessly mesh the musical languages of many different countries.
Children of the Revolution's music is absolutely blind to international borders: Lyrics may be in Spanish or English or another language. Greek and Bosnian, for example, walk hand in hand in "Bog Mi Daje" on the group's CD "Keep Holding On."
In some of the group's songs, the sounds of one culture can so seamlessly cross territorial boundaries that only gradually do you realize you're now in foreign terrain. At other times, the instruments, techniques and styles of different countries are layered, working in a comfortable détente.
Even the group itself resembles a mini-United Nations. Vassili, though born in New York City, was raised on the Greek island of Paros. Encarnación is, among other skills, a trained flamenco dancer from Barcelona. During the five years of the group's existence, group members have ranged in age from 17 to 60, skin color from black to white, sexual persuasion from gay to lesbian.
With all of these ingredients, the group's music could come off like a poorly executed fusion dish at a high-concept restaurant in Belltown. Yet these musical cooks have an uncanny ear for eclectic blending that never sounds a forced note.
And, while I haven't got a clue what the group is singing about in Greek or any language except English, it really doesn't matter. The mood and the emotional gist of the songs are inescapable. Vassili's warm voice in "Rumba Athena," sung in Greek on the group's 2001 CD "Keep Holding On," is full of a sensual longing that tells the only story I need to know.
From Greek tunes to opera The fluent cross-cultural sound of Children of the Revolution is owed at least in part to Vassili's upbringing. On Paros, he grew up on Greek music but was also exposed to music of every genre. Without television or radio, Vassili would listen for hours to his parents' huge collection of albums, ranging from opera to rock. By age 10, he was playing guitar.
Jaeger's background in rock 'n' roll and hip-hop had expanded by the time he met Vassili.
"I found a teacher from Spain, and that changed everything," Jaeger says. "I had always been open to different types of music, but they were always American."
Jaeger and Vassili met shortly after the pair moved to Seattle, and spent a seminal day playing music together.
"We wrote 13 songs that first day together and quit our jobs and never looked back," Vassili says. "We just believed in what we were doing."
Vassili and Jaeger write their songs with the particular skills of group members or guest musicians in mind.
"When we have Middle Eastern percussion on a track, we have people from that part of the world play it," Vassili says.
Children of the Revolution's tunes aren't mellow world music.
"People come to our show ex-pecting to see a quaint, folksy show, and what they get is closer to rock 'n' roll in energy and impact," Vassili said. "There isn't a moment something isn't going on."
Geoffrey Castle, dubbed "the mad violinist" by the group, is an athletic player, even leaping into the audience at times. Musician Amelia Moore bellydances, and Encarnación uses her flamenco training to advantage.
The concert's the thing Giving good show is as natural as singing to Vassili and Jaeger.
"We grew up in the era when people slept outside the Coliseum waiting in line for shows," Jaeger says.
Both artists believe it is critical for musicians to put on exceptional shows, something Children of the Revolution are known for.
"With file-sharing putting record companies out of business, we'll go back to live performance; you can never duplicate that," Vassili says.
Children of the Revolution will perform all of the tracks from the new CD during this weekend's concerts. The songs steer clear of the quagmire of uniformity that has entrapped many a world-music group. One of my favorites is "Angeles de Bolivia," a haunting tribute to Krista Hunt Ausland, an American missionary killed in a bus accident in Bolivia. Then there's the artistry of Yva Las Vegas, featured in several songs.
"When she opens her mouth to sing, she does it with every ounce of her soul and being; that honesty is the only way you can really communicate to people," Vassili says.
Vassili notes that a few things from the album can't be precisely reproduced in the concerts. In "Minor Swing," for example, guest artist Reggie Watts, with his fabulous chameleon voice, does scat like nobody's business, and at times you'd swear he actually is Louie Armstrong. A scheduling conflict, however, has Watts performing elsewhere this weekend.
"The CD is our concept album. We didn't shy away from elements we could not tour with - horn sections, choirs," Vassili says.
This is also the group's first state-of-the-art recording. Coming up with the money to pay for Tom Hall, known for recording well-known groups like Queen's Ryche, was a challenge, but worth it to Vassili and Jaeger. "When [a recording] is done right, it truly captures a performance and its sound," Jaeger says.
The decision to produce their own CD also gives them control over the end product, which they wouldn't have if a record label was in charge, Jaeger says.
"The album conveys the emotions I felt, having written all of it, and recorded most of it, during a time of war," Vassili says.
Children of the Revolution perform in the Nordstrom Recital Hall at Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., on Friday, June 27 at 7:30 p.m. and twice Saturday, June 28 at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Price is $25. For tickets and/or information, call World Music 2000 at 352-6308, go online to www.wmrevolution.com, or call Ticketmaster at 528-0888. Anyone purchasing two tickets by calling 352-6308 will receive the group's two-hour concert video or DVD, which is being featured on PBS in September, for free. The new CD "Liberation," as well as the group's four prior CDS, will be on sale at the concert.