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November 2005

Fanfare Ciocarlia
Gili Garabdi: Ancient Secrets of Gypsy Brass
Asphalt-Tango

The 12 members of Fanfare Ciocarlia hail from the Romanian village of Zece Prajini, population 400. The band limits its instrumentation to the artillery of its forefathers: trumpets, saxophones, clarinet and tenor and baritone horns. Two tubas hold up the bottom, together with a "large drum" and percussion.

Many of the songs on Gili Garabdi sound like distant cousins of klezmer: Almost everything is played in a solid 2/2 time, usually in a minor key. The complexity comes in the melodies, which require a good deal of speed and skill that haven't been heard since the early days of bebop. On "Sirba Moldoveneseasca," the trumpets play with the speed normally heard when a record is played on the wrong speed.

But the gents in Fanfare don't live in a musical vacuum. This becomes apparent with the album's opening track, a marching-band version of "007 (James Bond Theme)," a song that fits their musical approach perfectly. The same can be said for their version of "Caravan." Vocals and shouts pop up throughout the album and add to the festive mood even if you don't speak the language. Their only misstep was stepping into the 21st century and allowing a limp DJ remix of "Alili" to end the album.

Originally published in November 2005
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