Tev Stevig is a Boston-based guitarist and multi-instrumentalist, specializing in a variety of plucked string instruments from the Balkans, Greece, and Turkey. Currently Tev performs with his solo/duo project called Jeni Jol, for which he incorporates elements of music from the Balkans, Greece, and Turkey in his original compositions and arrangements for clawhammer style fretless guitar. This style (also known as frailing) is closely associated with old time American folk music played on the banjo and has its roots in Africa. By bringing frailing to the fretless guitar and applying it to various music traditions from around the world, Tev hopes to create a new folk music that is both listenable and danceable. Tev's recent release, Jeni Jol: Music of the Balkans, Greece, and Turkey has garnered universal praise from critics and is one of Acoustic Guitar Magazine's best albums of 2013.
Tev also plays electric guitar and oud with the klezmer/Balkan/jazz/rock band Klezwoods. He plays tanbur with the Ottoman art music group Orkestra Marhaba and bottleneck slide guitar and oud for the Balkan/new-grass group, Hickory Strings. He also regularly appears as guitarist and steel guitarist with Mr. Ho's Orchestrotica, the space-age pop big band performing the lost arrangements of Juan Garcia Esquivel, and as a regular guest on oud and tanbur with the Orchestrotica global jazz and exotica quartet. His musical travels have brought him to the main stage at the Montreal Jazz Festival, the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington DC, the Apollonia Festival of Arts in Bulgaria, as well as many other music venues in North America and Europe. He has performed with such seminal Balkan folk artists as Yuri Yunakov, Goran Alachki, Gieorgi Yanev, Adam Good, Beth Cohen, and Walt Mahovlich. He has also performed with Ramon de los Reyes Spanish Dance Theater, Julia Madeson and Aljashu (Sephardic music), Zamir Chorale, and the Turkish art music ensemble, Dunya.
Tev was raised on California's Central Coast and discovered the guitar after he graduated from high school. During his time as an Environmental Studies major at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Tev was lead guitarist in the original rock group Pollen. Pollen received many accolades during Tev's tenure with the band, most notably being chosen for Ticketmaster and Musican Magazine's nationwide music showcase. A regional finalist, Pollen was one of twenty featured bands in the showcase and was selected from over 10,000 entries.
Upon graduating from UCSB, Tev pursued a more serious music education and eventually moved to Boston, MA, where he graduated from the Berklee College of Music with a Bachelors of Music (summa cum laude) in Jazz Guitar Performance and received the prestigious Guitar Performance Achievement Award. While at Berklee, Tev studied privately with such top jazz musicians as Mick Goodrick, John Damien, Rick Peckham, Richie Hart, Brett Willmott, and Hal Crook.
For over 12 years, Tev has studied various performance styles on many plucked string instruments from Eastern Europe and the Middle East, including the Bulgarian and Macedonian tambura, Greek laouto, Turkish oud, cumbus, tanbur, and baglama. During this period, he studied with many masters of these instruments, including Haig Manoukian (oud), Adam Good (oud and cumbus), Beth Cohen (Greek and Ottoman Music), Feridun Ozgoren (tanbur), Panayotis League (laouto), Hakan Talu (tanbur), and Frederick Stubbs (Ottoman Art Music).
His early forays into Balkan folk music traditions included study and performance with established Boston-area Balkan folk dance bands, including Rakiya (electric Romany and Bulgarian wedding music), Turgay Erturk’s Village Music Group (Turkish folk music), and Zdravets (Bulgarian and Macedonian village music). These Balkan folk groups gave Tev training in traditional music and experience performing for dancers. During this same period, Tev also cofounded the composing and performing collective called Bajuco, which focused on exploring original compositions for several of his new acoustic instruments (including cumbus, oud, and Bulgarian tambura) and melding jazz and folk styles from the Balkans. Bajuco released several recordings – a self titled EP in 2002 and a full length CD entitled “Shaman” in 2004.
After Bajuco disbanded in 2006, Tev began a three and half year residency at Sabur Restaurant in Somerville, MA. This lengthy residency consisting of weekly Saturday night performances allowed Tev the time to work more on traditional music in numerous small settings. Tev recruited many jazz musicians from the Boston area to join his Balkan/Greek brass band, the Polydaktylos Orkestra, to perform together as a large ensemble, and also to train these musicians to perform with him at his residency at Sabur. The Sabur residency also resulted in the formation of Balkanski Motivi, an electric trio dedicated to original Bulgarian inspired music, which toured Bulgaria in the summer of 2007 and played the Appolonia Festival of Arts in Sozopol.
Outside of his performing career, Tev teaches guitar, bass, and banjo at Berklee College of Music’s City Music program, the Lexington Montessori School, and Powers Music School in Belmont MA, where he also serves as Chair of the Guitar and Contemporary Ensemble Programs. He enjoys traveling, surfing, and spending time with his wife and son.
"One of the best albums of 2013. Played on clawhammer-style fretless nylon-string guitar, Jeni Jol is an album full of odd meters, beautiful melodies, and gorgeous tone." - Teja Gerkin, Acoustic Guitar Magazine
"...one of the world’s most brilliantly individualistic guitarists....his clawhammer picking adds precision, often achieving an absolutely hypnotic fluidity....count this as one of the best albums in a year." –New York Music Daily
"... an eastern Mediterranean odyssey of carefully crafted arrangements and exquisite original compositions....Jeni Jol is truly an extraordinary recording of Eastern European inspired compositions and should make an excellent addition to collections of international music. – James Scott, Minor 7th
"It is a lovely album for background music, quiet contemplation, or serious listening. Methinks quite a few guitar pickers will develop serious envy from listening to this superb recording." – Rob Weir, Off-Center Views
"Stevig manages to fuse tradition with spontaneity with discipline...that some of the sounds are emerging from normal guitars is at times hard to credit...a compendium of serious superior musicianship unbound by any particular approach but composed of a blend of the higher reaches of many." –Mark S. Tucker, Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
"...will touch you as deeply as a stroll in downtown Epidauros. Wondrous work here." – George W. Harris, Jazz Weekly
"Stevig is playing this music seriously, and in the process making some valid connections between disparate musical cultures."–Gary Whitehouse, Sleeping Hedgehog
"No one will be dissatisfied with this release. It's that good." – Matthew Forss, Inside World Music
"8 out of 10. This is stately and elegant music respectfully rendered and beautifully played." –Nilan Perera, exclaim.ca
"...initiates something genuinely new by connecting and combining seemingly disparate musical cultures." –The Boston Globe
"...you'll be pretty amazed at what Stevig can pull off here....a tasty set throughout, guitar fans are just going to love this. Well done."–Midwest Record
"All of these tracks are incredible. 4.5/5 stars." – Alicia Mayle, CelebrityCafe.com
"....guitarist Tev Stevig (is) a fount of original, odd-time signature pieces steeped in Greek, Romanian and Serbian folk music..." -- The Hartford Courant
"...exceptional guitar playing..."--AllAboutJazz
"...bracingly rippling guitar solos by Stevig..."--Lucid Culture
"...oud master..." - The Boston Globe