From the title, you know something different is in the air, and the Sultans of String are a daring new band (this is their second release) blending hard core mid-East sounds with blues, jazz, and folk. Their sobriquet is apt: they're indeed sultans when it comes to musicianship and, man, does this swing! The strains of gypsy music are just as evident, and Yalla Yalla! (transation: "Come on! Let's go!") clearly shows how the cultures co-located in that section of the world couldn't help but influence one another and spread.
Down here in my neck of the woods (Los Angeles) the Fishtank Ensemble (here) might be the closest correllate, an ensemble just as startling virtuosic and equally variegated. The Sultans themselves number five but pull in various other top-notch talents to provide a wide sound (horns, oud, erhu, keys, etc.), matrixing each cut to perfection. Then there are fascinating covers and fusions. Gymnorumba weaves together Erik Satie's Gymnopedie style with rumba and Cuban percussion, though the latter occurs in the second half of the piece, picking up the pace, revealing a variation that well might have had Erik kicking his heels up and joining Toulouse and the showgirls for a bit of hoofin'.
Pinball Wizard gets the best treatment it's ever received short of the original cut, a spunky rave-up centering in Chris McKhool's violin but with everyone joining in to embellish. Ironically, the song comes off as a blend of The Who and a group that was a proto-World rock group back then, Les Variations, who occasionally followed the Sultans formula to a fare-thee-well. Think strongly of what David Balakrishnan has been doing for the last 20 years, and you'll have a good starting point for the Sultans of String. Nothing here diminishes the capacities of anyone, as these guys are aces.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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