It’s a rare band whose most recent lineup change came 30 years ago, but that’s when bassist Joel Landsberg joined Jens and Uwe Kruger in the aptly named acoustic music group the Kruger Brothers. The European-born Kruger siblings (Jens plays banjo and Uwe plays guitar) have been together as a band since 1979, crafting a daring-but-beguiling blend of folk, classical, and bluegrass music that’s surprisingly flexible.
They can play their pieces, many of which were composed by Jens, as a trio or with all manner of classical ensembles backing them, from a string quartet to full symphony orchestras. And what’s perhaps most appealing about their music is that the trio doesn’t really recognize any boundaries between genres. There’s really only one dividing line when it comes to what they play.
“The common ground is that there’s no such thing as bad music,” Landsberg says. “There’s badly PLAYED music. There are only 12 notes, and you can only put them together in so many finite ways. So it’s just what you put in as far as feeling goes.”
And Landsberg thinks that there’s no better way for the Kruger Brothers to play their “good” music than in their long-standing trio formation, without any extra bells and whistles to hide behind.
“Each voice is so vital and important to the music in a trio,” he says. “A lot of times in a bluegrass situation, you’ll have a guitar and a mandolin and a violin and there’s room to kind of blend into the mix, whereas with a trio, every note is vital. Every instrument is important for the sound. There’s nowhere to hide; it’s exhilarating and it’s challenging.”
There’s also something to be said for experience. This trio, who will perform at the Chapman Cultural Center in Spartanburg next Thursday evening, has three-decades-plus of time together, and their level of communication onstage allows for some serious daredevil-style improvisation.
“For us, no two shows are exactly the same,” Landsberg says. “We’ve been together so long and we know each other on such a fundamental level that we can literally turn on a dime as far as the program is concerned, or even in the midst of a song. Uwe can take a guitar solo in another direction and we can just follow him. That makes for a lot of excitement both onstage and in the audience.”
There’s a deeper connection in the Kruger Brothers’ music, as well; a connection between folk music and classical music that often gets overlooked.
“A lot of classical music is based on folk themes,” Landsberg says. “Classical and folk music are very closely tied to together.”
Whatever the roots of their genre-bending music, Landsberg says the ultimate goals are to give people a musical experience they’ll never forget and to create a space where the audience can escape the outside world for a while.
“We try to aim for emotion, for the hearts of the people,” he says. “We’re not trying to intellectualize what we do. We’re not a dance band and we’re not playing free-jazz. We try to give people something that they can take home with them and feel good about. There’s so much chaos going on in the world right now that we want to give people a couple of hours of mental meditation and personal reflection in the music.”
The word “obligation” isn’t quite right, but Landsberg says the three absolutely take their occupation seriously.
“It’s definitely a responsibility where you’re in front of 400 people or 10,000,” he says. “You have so much power from the stage. You have a responsibility to impart goodness.”
What: The Spartanburg Philharmonic’s Bluegrass Series presents the Kruger Brothers
When: 8 p.m. Thursday, April 25
Where: Chapman Cultural Center, 200 E. Saint John St., Spartanburg
Info: 864-542-2787, https://www.chapmanculturalcenter.org