Nightlife » Special Events

Kaki King Plays River to River Festival with ETHEL

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Monday Jun 23, 2014

On Tuesday, June 24, guitar virtuoso Kaki King teams up with the acclaimed classic string quartet ETHEL for "...And Other Stories," a free show at the River to River Festival.

After an auspicious start as a six-stringed slinger and singer-songwriter, King is now devoting herself to the crystal clear tone of the acoustic guitar and other string instruments as well as compositions that stem from masterful arpeggiations.

ETHEL, comprised of violist Ralph Farris, cellist Dorothy Lawson, and violinists Kip Jones and Tema Watstein, welcome indie rock darling King to an inspired collaborative space, an exploration of shared histories and vibrant soundscapes. Together they've developed a unique sound that nimbly roams through jazz, blues, folk, post-rock and new classical.

"They had reached out years prior to do something, and so I invited them to play on my last album," said King. "I met with Ralph, the musical director and violinist, and we wrote the arrangements for two songs on my album. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

This was back in 2012, when King was recording her sixth full-length album, "Glow." The quintet agreed to continue working together and subsequently created "...And Other Stories." The program moves from slow burning, sophisticated pieces to driving, dynamic new works as the artists play off each other in textural opposition a counterpoint of colors.

The concert is anchored by a groundbreaking reimagining of Bach's masterful "Brandenburg Concerto #6," and also includes works from ETHEL's repertoire by Phil Kline and John Zorn. Original works by King and a rearrangement for ETHEL and King of Aleksandra Vrebalov's Logbook (commissioned in 2013 by Dusan Tynek Dance Theatre) round out the program. The effect is magical.

"It’s sometimes as if our instruments are having a conversation, or even an argument with each other," said ETHEL co-founder and cellist Dorothy Lawson. "It’s a hybrid of strums, finger tapping, spun melodic lines, percussive slaps, tender obligatos, and whatever else we have up our sleeves."

King, who lives in Brooklyn with her wife, said that the collaboration suits her fine, as she never really was a rock star. She loves the sound that her acoustic guitar makes with the strings, saying, "When I play a note, the first strum is the loudest. But with strings, you can have a note that goes on for days. They are incredibly versatile, they can play loud, quiet, dark or high, so it’s more a matter of ETHEL playing to me and me dealing with my own limitations than anything else."

Right now, King is working on her new album, "The Neck is a Bridge to the Body," which uses a computer to cut to size images that are projected on to the body of her guitar.

"The screen is right behind me, and we have all of these amazing images and animations," said King. "It’s quite involved, and I’m pretty excited. From a storytellers perspective, it’s pretty cool."

If you miss King at the River to River Festival, catch her when she plays with Gary Lucas at Le Poisson Rouge on June 27.

Kaki King and ETHEL will play at 7:30 p.m. on June 24 at Brookfield Place, Winter Garden, 220 Vesey Street in NYC. For information, visit or

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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