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Slavic Soul Party has the best steady gig in Brooklyn. Every Tuesday night at Barbé's belongs to the tight, Balkan ensemble: forever. It's a savvy business decision for the tiny bar-cum-performance space and a great opportunity for the ensemble to refine the potent mix of Balkan, gypsy, jazz and funk influences that make them utterly unique. Sets are routinely packed with a mix of dancers and onlookers and ten minutes in the air routinely takes on a sweaty, boozy thickness that is the perfect complement to their ebullient music.
There's nothing quite like seeing this spectacle in person, but Teknochek Collision comes admirably close to capturing the essence of Slavic Soul Party's live performances. The ensemble's third album is a heady mix of styles and influences, but never strays far from the odd-meter declarative anthems that are the trademark of Eastern European brass bands. The title track starts with a trumpet fanfare that is brought into sharp focus by a low-brass backbeat and authoritative trap of Take Toriyama. Toriyama (sadly and prematurely departed) and Slavic Soul Party founder/vibraphonist Matt Moran maintain a lithe, percussive groove throughout the album that is a perfect foil to the heavier, but still buoyant tuba of Ron Caswell.
On "Opa Cupa," Eva Salina Primack's vocal line wavers over Caswell's assured oom-pah beat, blending with the higher strains of accordion and brass. The juxtaposition of frenetic high brass and accordion over thudding tuba is also heard on "Occapella (Have a Beer)," this time as a sendoff for the solos of accordionist Peter Stan and altoist Oscar Noriega. The piece has an ambling, drunken air that carries over into Stan's statement, first as a series of trills, then a series of long, inflected lines. Noriega's solo is wailing and unabashedly tongue-in-cheek.
Track Listing: Ladies (and Gentlemen); Teknochek Collision; Shishko's Blues; Opa Cup [with ESP]; Occapella (Have a Beer);
Rumenka Takes a Drive; ¡Ruchenista!; Djelem, Djelem [with ESP]; Vranje; 9 at the Rive; Never Gonna Let You Go;
Personnel: John Carlson: trumpet; Ben Holmes: trumpet; Oscar Noriega: clarinet, alto saxophone; Jacob Garchik: trombone; Brian Drye: trombone, Ron Caswell: tuba; Peter Stan: accordion; Matt Moran: snare/bubanj/darabouka; Take Toriyama: snare/bubanj/darabouka.
I was first exposed to jazz while learning to play chess with my uncles. They would play smooth jazz, and then switch up to more standard types of jazz. But, when they played Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, I was
hooked and I haven't looked back.