About Nashaz

  For us, the soul and sophistication of maqam music is a natural fit for the spontaneity and energy of jazz music. We play all original music featuring oud, percussion, trumpet, saxophone, and bass, finding common ground between Arabic rhythms, jazz improvisation, and melodies inspired by traditional middle-eastern music.

We are all musicians whose musical interests have taken them all over the world, pursuing the common humanity of all music.

Brian Prunka—Oud
Kenny Warren—Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Nathan Herrera—Alto Saxophone, bass clarinet, Alto Flute, Kaval
Apostolos Sideris—Bass
George Mel—Drums & Percussion, Cajon, Frame Drum, udu
Vin Scialla—Frame Drum, Percussion & Drums, darbuka, Riq

People often ask, “how did you end up bringing oud music and jazz together?”

While there's no simple answer—all of the musicians involved have diverse backgrounds with and interest in many kinds of music—the seeds of the band were sown in 1995 when founder/oud player Brian Prunka was an upstart jazz musician in New Orleans. Catching a cab to a gig one night, the Egyptian driver noticed the guitar and started talking to him about music. As he dropped Brian off, he suggested, “you should learn to play the oud, it is the most beautiful instrument.”

   Although the comment prompted little more than puzzlement at the time, it turned out to be a prophecy of sorts: soon after, he came across an oud album while digging through a record store and bought it on a whim. When he put the music on, he was hooked. He learned as much of the music as he could on the guitar and then started trying to get his hands on an oud—which was not easy in New Orleans. After months of searching, he finally found someone who could ship him one. Within weeks of receiving it, he had obsessively taught himself dozens of tunes and started performing on oud with some of the more open-eared jazz musicians in the city.

He later traveled to study with renowned Arab musicians including Simon Shaheen and Bassam Saba and eventually wound up in Brooklyn, where he met the musicians whose mutual interests led to the formation of Nashaz. The name of the band is a tongue-in-cheek joke in Arabic, pre-empting the reactions of the purists— the word “nashaz” refers to musicianship that is aesthetically displeasing (usually playing out of tune).

About the Musicians:

Brian Prunka (oud, guitar):

Transplanted to Brooklyn from New Orleans, Brian brings together jazz adventurousness, New Orleans rhythm, and years of experience with Arabic music as an essential voice in the band. He has performed internationally with Simon Shaheen, Michael Bates, Ravish Momin, the New York Arabic Orchestra, The Vancouver International Orchestra, Zikrayat, The Near East River Ensemble, and others. In addition to national and international events, he has performed in New York at The Stone, Tonic, the Knitting Factory, the River to River Festival, Symphony Space, Alwan for the Arts, Trinity Church, and CBGBs, among others.

Kenny Warren (trumpet):

As an improviser, Kenny Warren is rooted in jazz, but for the better part of a decade he has been following his ears all around the globe. Joining the New York City brass band Slavic Soul Party in 2008 led him to study Roma music from the Balkans, as well as Turkish and Arabic Maqam. As a jazz and free jazz musician Kenny has played in bands led by Rob Brown, Tony Malaby, Noah Garabedian, and good friend from his days at SUNY Purchase, Bobby Avey. He has played with The Walkmen, The Budos Band, The Sway Machinery, Devothcka and Spoon, recorded for television and films including “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, has released two records with the experimental rock and jazz collective NOOK, and leads his own roots Americana and singer-songwriter project whose debut record will be available in the fall.

Nathan Herrera (alto saxophone, alto flute, bass clarinet):

An accomplished multi-instrumentalist, Nathan is an aficionado of many musical traditions, having intensively studied Indian music and Macedonian music in addition to jazz and modern classical music. With Nashaz, he brings all of these elements together into a seamless personal style.

Apostolos Sideris (bass):

A native of Greece, Apostolos has become well-known in New York for his affinity for traditional and modern Arabic music, performing with Zikrayat, Tareq Abboushi, and others. Equally at home playing jazz or near eastern music, he brings his deep understanding and exquisite musicality to Nashaz in the form of powerful grooves, creative and sensitive accompaniment and impeccable execution.

George Mel (percussion):

Originally from Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia, George Mel is the stage name of George Melikishvili. Drawing on his decades of jazz drumming as well as frame drum studies with masters Jamey Haddad & Glen Velez, George has combined many percussion techniques and instruments with a jazz aesthetic, forging a unique hybrid percussion approach which includes the best elements of all the styles while retaining respect for the underlying traditions. Not only does George maintain a busy schedule as a sideman and collaborator with many world-renowned artists across styles and generations, performing in such venues as Carnegie Hall, the Blue Note and Smoke, he is also prolific composer and arranger, leading his own Quartet with regular engagements at “Jazz at Kitano,” among other prestigious New York venues. He has released two albums as a leader and composer to rave reviews. georgemel.com.

Vin Scialla (percussion):

A noted protegé of famed Lebanese percussionist Michel Merhej, Vin performs regularly with a wide range of jazz and world music artists, playing Arabic and Indian percussion as well as drum set. Scialla is best known for his innovative fusion of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Indian and American musical traditions. Inspired by his cultural heritage, combined with his performances and sessions with masters of Arabic and Indian Classical music in New York, he records and regularly tours with rising Indian mandolin virtuoso Snehasish Mozumder, Balkan Stomp, and Mission: on Mars w/ Neel Murgai, when he's not playing with Nashaz. He recently performed at Lincoln Center out-of-doors with Snehasish and Sound of Mandiolin (Random Chance/Liftoff Records).