It took Bay Area musician Kurt Ribak a while to find his path – but he found it. After coming up immersed in classical music and spending much of his twenties playing in rock bands, he discovered his voice – playing bass, leading a jazz band, and writing music for that group based on his broad musical experiences. “Growing up I played and listened to tangos, African pop, operas, salsa, reggae, cumbias and a lot of other things, including R&B and gospel,” says Kurt.
“These influences all show up in my music.” Kurt’s varied music experiences influence his compositions, which are deeply inspired by Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, and Charles Mingus, but are also influenced by artists such as The Meters, The Skatalites, and Astor Piazzolla. Despite the diverse influences there is a consistent thread of melody and danceable rhythms. Kurt notes, “It’s kind of sad how many people now think jazz is strictly a cerebral music. That intimidates people and they turn away from music that can give them joy and solace – it can engage both their minds and their (ahem)… their bodies.”
Kurt first sang as a child with the San Francisco Boys’ Chorus. Kurt then took up ‘cello. He continued his cello playing, playing in the back of youth orchestras, knowing that as much as he loved the music he wasn’t satisfied. “By the end of high school, I got into electric bass and began playing in R&B cover bands and rock bands. I still played the cello, which is a great instrument, but I was losing interest in the context in which I played it – classical music. I felt I was musical but wasn’t really able to express myself fully.” Kurt suffered a period of tendinitis, which forced him to stop playing for a time. He rebounded and won scholarships to Berklee College of Music, where he graduated summa cum laude with a diploma in composition. There he discovered he liked writing tunes.
Kurt says, “It was something I had dabbled in but had never really pursued. While at Berklee I wrote jazz tunes for my harmony classes. We still perform some of those tunes – they’re among my best.” After graduation, Kurt focused on upright bass. As time passed he realized he needed to have his own group so that he could consistently play his own tunes and have an outlet for new ones. Day work ranged from being a ditch digger and jackhammer operator to playing in a small circus and sharing the stage with a mix of performers ranging from preachers to strippers (although not at the same time).The Kurt Ribak Trio has three albums out, all of which enjoy airplay on KCSM-FM, the largest jazz station on the West Coast, as well as other stations, including KPFA-FM. The Kurt Ribak Trio CDs have also proven popular in Japan. Kurt notes “At this point, our CDs sell as well there as here – and we haven’t played there.” The track “Pseudoafrocubanismo” from “Kurt Ribak Trio” was included in the Japanese LP and CD compilation “Jazz Bar 2007.” The track “Prima” from the “more” CD appeared on “Jazz Bar 2008,” and “Tango Para Mi Padre” from “gone” appears on “Jazz Bar 2009.” The group’s CDs enjoy regular airplay on KCSM-FM, KPFA – FM and other radio stations. Kurt has become source material for Mark Coggins’ August Riordan series of mystery novels. Kurt has had the peculiar experience of viewing a night of his life as working jazz bassist described through the eyes of the August Riordan character, Coggins states “Kurt Ribak has served as a kind of real-life alter ego to my fictional private eye, August Riordan.”
Greg Sankovich is an El Cerrito native. He loved the piano as a child. He says banging on the piano “was my go-to thing to relieve stress.” He started classical training at age 6. His parents’ love for dance music inspired Greg’s feel for music that moves people, so his inclination from an early age was towards dance grooves. He studied with pianist/educators Norma Bossi, Al Zulaica, Mark Levine, and Art Lande. As a teen, Greg was active in many SF bay area bands performing jazz, blues, and dance music. During college at UC Berkeley, where he played also with Kurt and Lincoln, Greg toured Europe and Japan with the UC Jazz Ensembles. After graduation, Greg moved to Tokyo to perform with his fusion group Taikun, where he lived over 10 years, performing with a long list of top Japanese artists.
After moving back to San Francisco, Greg immersed himself with keyboards in the blossoming club dance music scene, recording dance tracks on over 25 record labels with popular club DJ’s like Hipp-E, Terry Francis, Garth, and Doc Martin. He currently plays with Lincoln Adler in the jazz/funk band Times 4 and performs and records with some great bay area artists like Sheilani Alix, Rocio Guitard, and Kurt Ribak. His musical inspirations include Herbie Hancock, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Keith Jarrett, and Bill Evans.
Lincoln Adler is a Kensington native. He started playing various musical instruments at the age of 5 and was drawn to the saxophone in high school. Lincoln became fascinated by the power of music to communicate feelings across the boundaries of language and culture.
He developed his sound playing in Bay Area bands and refined his abilities at the University of California, Berkeley as a member of the UC Jazz Ensembles. His teachers include legendary saxophonist Joe Henderson and local hero Hal Stein. In Los Angeles he became an in-demand session player and composer/producer for TV and film. He released four albums under his own name as well as one with the L.A. based Rain-bo Tribe, and two with Times 4. Lincoln has performed and recorded with actor/pianist Jeff Goldblum, The Jets, kd lang, and Olivia Newton-John.
Lincoln plays regularly with Kurt Ribak and is a member of jazz-funk group Times 4, including multiple appearances at both Yoshi’s Nightspots. Musical influences include Sonny Rollins, Johnny Griffin, Grover Washington Jr., Stanley Turrentine, Gustav Mahler and Meshell Ndegeocello.