I awoke from dreamland this morning with the voice of Astrid Kuljanic singing an upbeat tempo song. Her clear voice and delivery made me smile, even as it was happening inside my head. The song, included on her latest CD, RIVA, was “Show Me,” and it was performed live by the artist and her band, Transatlantic Exploration Company, at the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall on October 24, 2017.
Billed as a Croatian jazz singer fusing traditional Cres, Brazilian and reggae beats, Klezmer and vocal-improv, my expectations for the album release concert were high. My excitement revamped as I received my press kit, which included a colorful, tall-stemmed, eclectic felted flower. Astrid was to explain the significance of the woolen flowers later in the concert, and, for myself and others, hearing explanatory tie-ins to traditional Croatian culture enhanced our feelings of community and identified us further as supporters and fans.
The star of the show, Astrid Kuljanic, is a behemoth personality with matching voice and talent. Ms. Kuljanic collaborates with musicians who complement and catalyze her formidable voice. Surprising, sassy, with a balance of humor and world-class insights, Ms. Kuljanic and her band dominate. Together for just over two years, Transatlantic Exploration Company (including Ben Rosenblum, accordion; Mat Muntz, bass; and Rogerio Boccato, percussion) are richly united and well-rehearsed, performing as one unit of multi-talented individuals.
Guest interludes of traditional Croatian dance and song provided colorful background to the history of Ms. Kuljanic’s musical travels from Croatia to New York. A special treat, the performance by Asaran Earth Trio after Intermission; Ms. Kuljanic is one-third of the trio where the voices harmonize beautifully, and transcend. In addition to the album RIVA, look for the Asaran Earth Trio debut album and tour beginning November 2017.
The set at Carnegie Hall included “Breathe Freedom,” a somber dedication to a longtime friend of the artist who had lost his father the prior weekend. Here, the audience was directed to join voices and sing loudly and accompany Ms. Kuljanic. Keeping with her rhythm of softer, then rousing songs, the evening finale (“Divojcici Rozice”), a traditional song performed with all guest artists on stage, almost blended into cacophony, but stayed this side of the edge, leading everyone to stand for a well-deserved ovation.