What?!?! Shlomo's coming? Cool! Now the party can get started! And it certainly does, as this quintet is an energetic Balkan ensemble rooted in good times. Even the staggered laybacks, Vagabond Dreamin' for instance, have a kind of half-buzzed ambience to them, like someone brought along the ouzo or rakia and everyone dipped their beaks, thenceafter grinning from ear to ear before picking the instruments up. And these guys fill up each cut nicely, making more sound than one might expect: trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone, sousaphone, and tappan drum. That's right: four horns and one percussionist. You don't exactly run across that on every street corner.
PR guy Garrett Baker winged this one my way because I'd been so delighted with the Fanfare Ciocalia he'd sent me a year or so before. The Ciocalia gentz are unique in more ways than one, and, as it turns out, it was that same mighty band that trumpeter Sam Dechenne had run across in a local library, intrigued. Checking it out from the establishment, he sped home, slapped it into the CD player, and fell into rapture. That ecstasy shows very well in Shlomo. Crafting up songs, he wasn't sure what to do with 'em until Cocek came together, he was fascinated with the enticing sounds and rhythms, kind of obsessed, very happily so.
It's interesting how the ancient, the modern, and the post-modern (that last is kind of a stupid term when you think about it, but what the hey?; we critics aren't noted for our scientific cogencies) come together so damn well in ethnic airs. Makes you think our grandfathers, their grandfathers, and even their grandfathers—which, by Biblical thinking, should take us back to before the Earth was created—had a hell of a lot more on the ball than we ever guessed, doesn't it? Dechenne, who wrote every cut, blends klezmer with Roma, both of which have long histories, and then the rest of the Cocek gentz get to work. The result is absorbing, intriguing, half serious as a heart attack and half hilarious with enough singular clevernesses to provoke a college course in the study of them. Among many humorous elements everywhere in the disc, there's something simultaneously comical and attention-getting in a constant sousaphone presence.
It's a scientific fact—or, wait, maybe I read it in the Bible!—that, despite the fact that the gravid deep-below-the-mantle-of-the-Earth basso profundo of tuba and sousaphone rumbles like an earthquake, the outcome is nonetheless lighthearted and winsome. True! Listen to oom-pah-pah music; funny as hell! With no bass or drums, the sousaphone by default becomes the rhythm section and much more, and the Cocek! Catz build industriously upon it, making for a musical hayride. In fact, I can't help but think these bad boys woulda been the PERFECT openers on tour with the late lamented Asylum Street Spankers, the place where Americana and Balkaniana would meet, shake hands, drink a sixer, maybe three, and shine.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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