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Knitting Factory, New York City September 23, 2002
Two musical juggernauts that have been hurtling through time for centuries touched down together at New York City’s Knitting Factory resulting in the creation of a new musical culture; “The Brotherhood of Brass”. While John and Joel reminisced in the Garden, Frank London and Boban Markovic fronted their respective bands and forged new music with the combined Brotherhood of Brass. In a crowd dominated by young Serbs, well aware of the Markovic Orkestar and its professional approach to gypsy Brass Band music, the Klezmer Brass Allstars had to prove themselves. The All Stars soon had fans of both bands dancing together in the crowded ballroom. While each band excels at their respective interbred genre, it was the combined Brotherhood of Brass that made the evening more than memorable. Billed as a release party for two new CDs, “Brotherhood of Brass” and “Live in Belgrade” there were at times 18 musicians on and off stage. The sheer girth of the Brotherhood, packing enough brass to plumb all of lower Manhattan, filled the stage to the max and resulted in two of New York City’s finest clarinetists, Matt Darriau and Margot Leverett, playing from amongst the crowd. As Mark Rubin hoisted the massive bass helicon to his lips and the Markovic Orkestar, resplendent in black shirts and red and white bowling shoes mounted the stage, a gypsy cocek began to pump and set the tone for a 3 hour plus evening of solo trading and musical mixology. Freilachs and coceks that juiced the crowd to a feverish pitch were followed by a slow doina that gave the dancers some small respite. Special mention must go to trumpeters Susan Watts and Jovica Ajdarevic, each of whom displayed a sweet sound along with technical mastery in support of Frank and Boban. Susan could be seen amongst the stage side crowd leading the mosh pit dancing only to then get back on stage calming the masses by singing a beautiful version of “Shalom Aleichem”. The lone soprano saxophone among the trumpets and flugelhorns played like a man possessed and three drummers, each with attitude, at times set such a maniacal pace that the horns were in danger of falling behind. When this happened, the band was quickly and expertly brought back by the nonstop pumping of Alisanovic Sasa’s and Mark Rubin’s thumping heliconic backbeat. The evening featured cuts off both new CDs and along with the combined Brotherhood allowed each band to display their individual talents. Highlights included an extended mix of “Doin the Oriental”, a dueling Matt and Margot freilach klezmer clarinet showcase, and the Markovic Orkestar playing “Hava Nagila”. Boban showed himself to not only be a trumpet master with a sweet and versatile sound but a charismatic singer with an exciting stage presence. During a prolonged encore, he jumped into the crowd and led the singing of a Serbian anthem. Frank London, playing two trumpets at once, was alternatively a madman charting new musical ground and the consummate bandleader trying to add some order to a proceeding that was in danger of getting out of control. The music ended with the crowd and band collapsing from near exhaustion in a sweaty “It’s been a long time since I had one this good” bliss. With both bands saluting each other it was apparent that the best trumpets in Guca and Manhattan had come together to forge a new and exciting Brotherhood of Brass.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.