Fanfare Savale

Speed Brass of the Gypsies

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A Romanian Gypsy ensemble that formed in the late '90s, Fanfare Savale lives up to the album name perfectly -- quite often this is fast music, to understate it slightly. Those familiar with quicker brass sections in traditional Mexican music or ska's hyperspeed groove will find much to love and more here. Reworking 20 traditional melodies and songs in the space of just over 40 minutes, the 11-piece group -- all but one are musicians, though about half sing -- don't rely on percussion alone to get the velocity across, though drummer Ionel Preda certainly sets a fast pace. But it's the seemingly chaotic swirl of horns and reed instruments that turns this into an instant blast of merrymaking chaos on song after song. Sometimes it can be just one instrument leading the way, but songs like "Harapeasca" and "Sarba de la Chisinau" shows that's no bad thing. There's comparatively little soloing though here and there one can catch different melodies during a song, as on "Suita a Lu Nelu" -- the aim, though, is overwhelming, truly group performances most of the time. Despite the focus on quick paces, there are the occasional calm moments that are equally entrancing -- if songs like "Dansu Ursului" essentially revolve around one repeated melody, the spirits are high in the performance, while lead singer Ion Dragoi sounds like a great old-school MC from another time and place. The lovely "Petricuta," meanwhile, sounds like the Danube got exchanged for the Rio Grande. Other gambits include starting off slow before taking off completely -- thus the romantic "Ciocarlia," which after a graceful solo trumpet turn swirls and breaks for the horizon. Though arguably many of the songs on the album start blending into each other, if at heart this group and album has one core approach, it's a great, enjoyable one.

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