New York reedist Matt Darriau approaches music as a historian, digging through decades, if not centuries, of tradition and trying to make sense of it through his own interpretations. He’s often been reduced to his affiliation with New York’s radical Jewish culture movement–and he has played with primo klezmer revivalists the Klezmatics–but that’s just part of his interest in the music of the Balkans and eastern Europe. (He’s also a key member of the great Ballin’ the Jack, which manages to simultaneously modernize and remain true to the spirit of early swing.) Last year he told a writer for the Cleveland Scene, “There’s such a huge body of recorded work. How much plastic has been wasted on [mediocre] original music? There’s so much amazing music out there, I think that it’s valid to go back and reference it.” His primary working group, the Paradox Trio–which is actually a quartet–operates on the same premise. The bulk of the tunes on its most recent album, Source (Knitting Factory, 1999), are imaginative reworkings of tunes drawn from across Europe, and collectively they highlight the commonalities between Turkish, Greek, Sephardic, Romanian, and even Yemenite traditions. The group also connects this material to America, where musicians like klezmer clarinetist Naftule Brandwein and the New York cimbalom player Joseph Moskowitz adapted such tunes for their own purposes. Darriau is gorgeously fluent on clarinets, alto and soprano sax, and the kaval–a Bulgarian end-blown flute. The lineup also features the resourceful Rufus Cappadocia on five-string cello, dumbek master Seido Salifoski, who’s worked with the great Bulgarian clarinetist Ivo Papasov, and Brad Shepik, a jazz guitarist who works extensively with this music in other contexts, like the quartet Pachora and his own solo recordings. (Shepik recently performed here with the Palestinian oud and violin master Simon Shaheen, the subject of my column last week.) His work on the electric saz, a Turkish lute, on Source is particularly beautiful. This is the Paradox Trio’s Chicago debut. Sunday, October 7, 3 PM, Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; 312-744-6630.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Arjen Veldt.