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December 2001

Taraf de Haidouks
Band of Gypsies
Nonesuch Records

It was an eye- and ear-opener to catch Taraf de Haidouks, the cross-generational Gypsy ensemble from the Romanian village of Clejani, in the documentary Latcho Drom. To see Taraf de Haidouks live and in real time on its first official U.S. tour was another kind of confirmation of its greatness. The organic odd meters, the wild, loosely intonated fiddling, wide-vibrato vocals and lithe cymbalum playing sound all the more vivid, and slightly surreal, with the band right there in the house with you.

Band of Gypsies (Nonesuch 79641; 62:26) is a live recording which captures the sometimes over-the-top pleasure awaiting release when they take a stage-or show up to play a wedding. There are the insane tempos ("A Gypsy Had a House"), taken without apparent sweat, and distinctive laments ("Sorrow, Only My Sorrow") that, like all great music, conspire to create a world unto itself. If I wasn't already married, and was in a high enough tax bracket, this would be my idea of a wedding band with which to toast a healthy future.

Originally published in December 2001
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