I think Herb Alpert's to blame. As a pre-teen, I was a solid Dave Clark 5 rock 'n roller but one day heard The Lonely Bull by Alpert & the TJ Brass. The beautiful melancholy of that composition just nailed my ears to the wall. I bought it and played the 45 until the needle wore though to the other side. Thus, when rocker buddies couldn't get hep to jazz 'cause o' da horns, I had long been groovin' the reet pleat. Then, over the last couple decades, I've been really partial to bands of the ilk of the Either/Orchestra, among many others, so you can safely blame all that fusion I gorped down in the 70s, but, hey, anyone who'll turn in a horn version of King Crimson's Red has my undivided attention.
Somewhere in there, I discovered Carnatic, gypsy, and klezmer musics and started really digging the exotic strains of their unorthodox inflections and often death-defying, frequently giddily joyous, chops. Seeing Srinivas in concert, catching Django's hot jazz, and picking up on the Klezmatics only whetted the appetite e'er more. Thus, whenever a disc like Fanfare Ciocarlia's Gili Garabdi comes along, I'm ready, willing, and able: clear the decks, drag the shot glasses out of the closet, and tell the neighbors to batten the hatches, 'cause I'll partying for the rest of the day and night while playing the music LOUD.
Kicking off with 007, the James Bond theme, this ensemble of beer hall bad boys wastes no time establishing mood and tone, setting a lively tempo, multiple layers and attacks, even a high-toned Volga Boatmen refrain…while thankfully feeling no need to translate to English, thus keeping intact the joie de vivre of the Balkan/Romani old country, now brought forward via the kind of grinning mutations Ennio Morrricone has proven so wizardly in producing. With 12 members, the sound is amazingly uncluttered due to the democratic intelligence of every single gent. That's right, in a very unusual move, no one lords it over anyone else and each player's acumen is so acute that he knows precisely, in fact almost supernaturally, how to index himself with fellow players. The result, while bawdy and raucous, is as clear as a well-limned piece of draftsmanship.
Perhaps Sirba Moldoveneasca is the best place to start. Chiefly a Flight of the Bumblebee type of song, it mixes brisk classicalism with oom-pah-pah, klezmer, jazz-folk lyricism, tarantella (a Bacchanalian neo-tarantism perhaps?), and darting quotations of myriad other modes. Ah, but then the take on Ellington & Juan's Caravan mixes Slavic Dixie with N'Awleans pulse, taking the chestnut in a direction I've never quite heard before, a street vendor's heel-kicking outburst. Next, heh!, one of the guys comes out singing like a cross between Popeye, a happy drunk, a ranchero vocalist, and a rabbinical cantor in Ma Maren Ma…and you can catch a scatty reprise of that from the barside gutter in Golden Days. In both, and in everything here, you'll find an infectious pulse that terrains all Fanfare Ciocarlia's work (and this ain't their first CD—they have five others and a DVD). The songs roll on, one after another, provoking non-stop earthy delights, and if you recall the closing credits of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, that was them playing Born to be Wild, so ya knows they have a sense of humor.
I'm tellin' ya: beware of catching this band live, as, before you know it, you'll be downing ouzo shooters, dancing the hoochie-mama two-step while belting out gusty gritos, and booking a flight for the Balkans and Mediterranean so as to defy the death throes of psychotic capitalism and join a gypsy caravan. That could get expensive. Better you should, like me, just turn your own back parlor into an impromptu cantina for the weekend. Make sure first, though, that you've stocked the wet bar well and have plenty of aspirin on hand for the morning after.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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