Fanfare Ciocãrlia

Iag Bari

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Whatever they put in the water in Romania, these musicians from the Fanfare bands must imbibe freely, since they play at speeds beyond normal human comprehension. Not that they can't slow it down a bit, as they do, at least on the beginning of the dance "Besh O Drom," before the accordion goes into a face-off with the brass players which will leave the listener -- never mind the musicians -- gasping for breath. This is essentially village music raised to the very highest levels, played with fire, panache, and more than a slight sense of humor; check their cover of "Moliendo Café," a remarkably familiar piece which they start off like a manic version of Ray Charles' "Hit the Road Jack." While they're equally at home on songs or instrumentals, it's when the brass gets to really play that they shine; the saxophone work on "Banatzeana" would be enough to make most jazz players break into a fearful sweat, especially as they work completely naturally in demanding, complex time signatures. The feel is ineffably Balkan in its harmonies, and the guest vocalists, especially the Bulgarian Voices Angelite, only emphasize that. For all how flashy it can be, it's still remarkably subtle (although a piece like "Hurichestra" wouldn't be out of place in a Carl Stalling cartoon soundtrack) and brilliantly played. Add to that a bonus video on the enhanced CD and you have an irresistible package of musicianship.