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Lucian Ban and Mat Maneri Bring Their Broodingly Modal Transylvanian Jazz to Barbes

Pianist Lucian Ban calls the music on his album Songs from Afar “Transylvanian jazz” since that’s where he’s from. Any connection to Bela Lugosi or Bram Stoker is strictly a fluke of geography. While Ban and Bill Frisell come from completely different places, they’re essentially doing the same thing, making jazz out of pastoral themes from their own respective folk heritages. That being said, Ban’s compositions are typically pensive and often pretty dark. He and his brilliantly distinctive violist collaborator Mat Maneri have been playing Barbes pretty much every month lately; their next duo show there is this Saturday, March 5 at 8 PM. As Kate, the personable and persuasive blonde who runs the music room there most nights will tell you, if you haven’t got ten bucks to throw in the tip bucket for the band, she’ll be happy to put it on a card.

Besides Ban and Maneri, the band on the album comprises Abraham Burton on tenor sax, John Hebert on bass and Eric McPherson on drums, with Gavril Tarmure on vocals on three tracks. It opens with a brooding, understatedly poignant tableau, Transylvanian Sorrow Song. The gist of Tarmure’s plaintive baritone vocal is “Someday I’m going to sleep and never wake up,” Ban’s stately ripples underpinning Burton’s soulful resonance and McPherson’s judicious waves of cymbals.

Farewell begins on a similarly moody chamber-jazz note and warms as Burton’s carefully considered lines rise up to a dancing Hebert solo: it owes as much to Eastern European mnimalists like Georgy Kurtag as it does jazz. Travelin’ With Ra, a shout-out to Sun Ra, begins with shivery suspense coming in from every angle, then the band coalesces around a minimalist, enigmatically modal theme with an austere solo from Maneri and a more spacious one from Burton. It does justice to its inspiration’s vampy, saturnine explorations.

Solo For a Brother with Perfect Timing (For AI) is an Abdullah Ibraham homage, Ban shifting slowly out of neoromantic rainy-day mode toward a catchy, bluesy theme. There are two Transylvanian Wedding Songs here. The first comes together around a syncopated take on a bouncy, rustic folk theme and then send the band’s individual voices out along the perimeter again. The second is more wistfully pastoral.

Chakra, the Island hints at latin noir with an implied clave beat, then shifts to a twinkling nocturne spiced with Burton and Maneri’s souful harmonies. Spiritual (For HJ), dedicated to the late Charlie Haden moves out of a careful gospel-tinged intro to an allusively tantalizing Burton solo, McPherson coloring the music from a distance: throughout the album, drums provide far more texture than actual pulse. Then McPherson goes against the grain and slowly swing the similarly laid-back stroll Southern Dawn. The asutere final cut, Teaca, A Song From Afar brings the album full circle. It doesn’t have the crystalline tunesmithing of Ban’s understatedly brilliant 2013 release, Mystery, but it’s a good indication of the kind of surrealistic magic he and his quartet can pull out of thin air onstage. And it’s especially cool to hear Burton, an electrifying player, show off his lyrical side here. Now where can you hear this? There are a couple of tracks up at Sunnyside’s album page.

She’Koyokh’s Wild Goats & Unmarried Women Runs Wild

Wild, polyglot eight-piece British band She’Koyokh blast through music from across the global Jewish diaspora with the same fiery intensity they bring to feral old folk songs from the Balkans. Fronted by haunting Kurdish-Turkish chanteuse Cigdem Aslan – who recently earned a rave review here for her otherworldly solo album, Mortissa, a collection of Turkish and Greek rembetiko anthems – the band also includes members from the US, UK, Greece and Serbia. They may play big European concert halls now, but they got their start busking, and that jamband energy still resonates throughout their latest album Wild Goats & Unmarried Women, just out from World Music Network and streaming at their album page.

Too many recordings of folk music are overproduced and sterile; others drown the melodies in elaborate arrangements, or add schlocky pop elements like synths and drum machines. She’Koyokh are all about big crescendos and blistering solos. Mandolinist Ben Samuels tremolo-picks for a suspensefully flurrying sound like a balalaika. Clarinetist Susi Evans rips through lightning-fast chromatic runs with a stiletto precision alongside Zivorad Nikoli’s equally adrenalizing accordion, Meg-Rosaleen Hamilton’s sharp-fanged violin and Matt Bacon’s similarly incisive, Djangoesque guitar. Nimble bassist Paul Tkachenko doubles on tuba, and percussionist Vasilis Sarikis lays down a snaky, slinky beat utilizing a large collection of Balkan and Middle Eastern hand drums.

The album’s title track is a Turkish billy goat dance – you can guess what that’s about. It’s arguably the most exciting song here, Aslan and the band winding their way through a firestorm of microtones up to a hard-hitting, chromatically-fueled chorus. They take Esmera Min with its darkly catchy South Serbian inflections and give it a sly cumbia groove. Then a trio of tunes that give a shout out to – A) legendary pre-WWII Soviet song-gatherer Moishe Beregovsky, B) Hungarian country shtetls and C) klezmer clarinet legend Naftule Brandwein – serves as a launching pad for high-voltage solos from guitar and clarinet.

Bacon’s icepick, Djangoesque precision fuels the Moldavian dance Hora del Munte. The band scampers tightly together through the traditional Romanian Romany shuffle Tiganeasca De La Pogoanele and then turns the clarinet and guitar loose on the flamenco-tinged diptych Poco Le Das La Mi Consuegra/ Scottishe ‘Saint Julien,’ a tale of warring Sephardic mothers-in-law. Bacon choose his spots and then Evans ramps up the suspense on the swaying Greek overnight-ferry theme Argitikos Kalamatianos. They keep the flame burning low on the expansively jazzy Greek lament Selanik Turkusu. a groom pleading for more time with his cholera-stricken fiancee.

You wait for the blithely trilling Bulgarian dance Kopano Horo to go creepy and chromatic, and the waiting pays off – then it gets all happy and bouncy again. The band does the same thing, but really makes you wait for the payoff, with the Serbian tune Jasenièko Kolo/Miloševka Kolo. An ancient Bosian love song, Moj Dilbere gets a bittersweet treatment, a deliciously shivery accordion solo and an angst-fueled coda from Aslan as she takes it up and out.

Der Filsof /Flatbush Waltz pairs a satirical inside joke about warring rabbis in the Hasidic community with a sad, lushly pensive theme. The long medley Svatbarska Rachenitsa/Yavuz Geliyor & La Comida La Mañana vamps and burns through Bulgaria, Turkey and Spain over a clattering, boomy groove, through searing violin and clarinet solos – it seems designed as a big crowd-pleaser. The Greek Amarantos/Tsamikos is a showcase for the band’s moody side, Evans and Aslan leading the way. There’s also Limonchiki, popularized by Soviet crooner Leonid Utyosov in the 1930s, a distinctly Russian take on Cab Calloway-style hi-de-ho noir. You like esoterica? Adrenaline? This one’s for you.

Globalfest 2014: Esoterica Rules

Globalfest, the annual celebration of high-energy, danceable music from around the world, grew out of the yearly booking agents’ convention. Youtube may have made live auditions obsolete, but every year the talent buyers for cultural centers across the country, along with the agents for a seemingly nonstop onslaught of global acts, still get together for an all-expenses-paid Manhattan party on the company tab. What’s most auspicious about this past Sunday’s edition of the festival at Webster Hall was the number of kids and random New Yorkers of all ages in the crowd. The booking agents drank hard and schmoozed: none of them seemed to be the least bit interested in the music. The kids, on the other hand, packed the main room for dramatic Bollywood pop revivalist orchestra the Bombay Royale, explosive Kiev folk-punk ensemble DakhaBrakha and even more explosive Romany brass band legends Fanfare Ciocarlia before cramming the downstairs space for darkly fiery Arizona desert rockers Sergio Mendoza y la Orkesta.

What’s happened is that there’s been a sea change among audiences, and among young people. Hard to believe as this may seem, thirty years ago it was considered weird for an American to like reggae – unless you were of Jamaican heritage. Forget about the kind of ridicule you might have faced if, perish the thought, a classmate discovered that you’d been sending oodles of money through the mail for limited-edition, low-budget vinyl pressings of Ukrainian folk or Romany brass music – or, if you were really lucky, you’d found a fellow weirdo who’d let you make cassette copies from his or her secret stash. People were troglodytes back then, weren’t they?

The Bombay Royale’s 2012 album You Me Bullets Love is a psychedelic blend of classic 60s-style Bollywood dance numbers spiced with surf and garage rock. This show  – the dramatic eleven-piece Melbourne, Australia band’s New York debut – found them taking their sound forward another ten years into the disco era with a lot of new material. Period-perfect as they sound, all their songs are originals. Singers Shourav Bhattacharya and Parvyn Kaur Singh – decked out in snakeskin suit and sari, respectively – slunk and spun, traded coy glances and wry pouts while the four-piece horn section, led by alto saxophonist Andy Williamson, blasted behind them.

They opened with a cinematically marching blend of Bollywood and spaghetti western, with the first of pyrotechnic keyboardist Matt Vehl’s many surreal, woozy synthesizer solos. Bhattacharya and Singh duetted on a surfy minor-key number, showed off some dance moves to a swaying bhangra beat and then went deep into anthemic funk. They followed that with Bobbywood, a number that sounded a bit like an Indian disco version of the Rocky theme mingled with brooding cinematics. Trumpeter Ros Jones ended up taking the first of many of the night’s chilling, chromatic solos; a little later, Williamson animatedly traded licks with Singh’s vocals on a creepy downtempo ballad.

It’s hard to think of another band writing songs that mix chromatic Dick Dale surf with Indian-spiced go-go vamps. Their sitar player wasn’t audible for much of the show, but ended up adding a surreal, bluesy solo on one of the later songs. Bass player Bob Knob’s chords loomed ominously underneath a couple of the harder-edged, surf-oriented tunes,  guitarist Tom Martin switching in a split-second from a twangy, reverb-toned attack to scratchy funk lines. The crowd roared for an encore; they didn’t get one.

Word was that it had taken the intervention of a U.S. Senator to assure visas for all four members of DakhaBrakha (Ukraininan for “give-and-take”), but the effort was worth it. They drew the most applause of all the bands on the bill. Their percussion-heavy sound is balanced by the eerie, high, close-harmony vocals of drummer/singer Olena Tsibulska, keyboardist/percussionist Iryna Kovalenko and cellist Nina Garenetska. The band’s lone male member, Marko Halanevych, also sang and contributed on both percussion and garmoshka (a small Ukrainian accordion). Garenetska started by plucking out funky pizzicato bass but before long she was firing off long, growling, raspy, sustained lines punctuated by macabre swoops and dives. Likewise, their set followed an up-and down trajectory, beginning with a wary marching feel with apprehensively insistent vocals, then a trio of creepy dirges before growing louder and more assaultive. Their funniest moments had a tongue-in-cheek hip-hop flavor. The most intense song in their set built explosive give-and-take interludes between ominous drums, ghostly vocals and snarling cello, sinking to a rapt, sepulchral interlude before rising to a pummeling outro. They wound up with a silly but very well-received spoof of cheesy electronic dancefloor beats.

The pride of Romania, eleven-piece Fanfare Ciocarlia were tight and fast beyond belief. The world’s most exhilarating Romany brass band has a precision to match their outrageous tempos, and chops that most American jazz players can only dream of. The four-man backline of a tuba and three slightly higher-pitched trubas played a looming, ominous introduction for their clarinetist, who then launched into wild volleys of shivery chromatics before the rest of the band came on to join in the hailstorms of rat-a-tat riffage.

They’d stop and start, sometimes taking a song doublespeed and then doublespeed after that, other times switching between soloists in a split second. One of the truba players came to the front about midway through the show and added a rapidfire solo of his own. They began with a single standup drummer, then added another for extra firepower. One of the more senior of the four trumpeters sang a couple of ballads, or at least parts of them, before the rest of the orchestra blasted them into the ozone. Hurichestra, true to its name, became a launching pad for a series of abrupt accelerations that were almost exponential: that any horn player can play so fast yet so fluidly defies the laws of physics. They traded birdcalls on a relatively brief take of their signature anthem, Ciocarlia, then teased the audience with droll Balkanized versions of Duke Ellington’s Caravan (which they probably learned from the Ventures) and St. James Infirmary.

Downstairs, Lebanese singer Yasmine Hamdan, backed by bass, drums, keyboards and a lot of pre-recorded stuff, played simple, low-key darkwave that, she said, was influenced by Siouxsie & the Banshees as well as Egyptian pop. The night ended with the feral southwestern gothic energy of Sergio Mendoza y la Orkesta, who put pretty much every other desert rock band to shame. The brass-fueled Tucson group pounced on a couple of noir-tinged, ska-punk flavored songs to open the show, then Mendoza put down his acoustic guitar and played surreal, macabre organ over a funereal bolero sway. From there they hit a lively, upbeat Tex-Mex groove that took a turn in a much more menacing spaghetti western direction when least expected, followed by an early Santana-esque psychedelic rock epic with long, space-reverb interludes for both organ and slide guitar.

The lead guitarist took an even longer, more murky, echo-drenched solo later on, then lit up a couple of more familiar southwestern gothic themes with some chilling slide work as memorable as anything Friends of Dean Martinez ever recorded. A long, slinky, pitchblende cumbia groove might have been the highlight of the night, although a similarly brooding, low-key bolero that might have been Mendoza‘s version of Besame Mucho was right behind. Addressing the audience in Spanish, singer/percussionist Salvador Duran explained that out in Tucson, or Nogales, where Mendoza comes from, everything is up for grabs: banda music, rancheras, cumbia, rock, you name it. They closed the set with a rapidfire return to a darkly shuffling border rock theme. This was Mendoza’s first New York show as a bandleader, hopefully the first of many.

Adrian Raso and Fanfare Ciocarlia Blast Through Their Devil’s Tale

Hearing explosive Romanian brass orchestra Fanfare Ciocarlia relegated to the role of backing band is surreal. But guitarist Adrian Raso is a spectacular and eclectic player, to the extent that he doesn’t get overshadowed by the legendary Romany party monsters. Their new collaboration, Devil’s Tale, due out next month, is in many respects as noir as noir gets: it’s both the roots of noir and the cutting edge as well, along with a couple of more lighthearted, more pop-oriented tracks. Raso distinguishes himself as a bearer of the Django Reinhardt legacy as well as a searing soloist whose signature style draws on decades of Americana.

The opening track, Ulm St. Tavern is sort of St. James Infirmary transplanted to Bucharest – people have died in this bar. It’s a Kurt Weill-style noir blues theme driven by banjo and tremolo-bar guitar early on, the orchestra looming in and then receding, Raso peeling off a snarling slide guitar solo, the band speeding it up at the end although the song is over before it gets completely out of hand. It sets the stage for pretty much everything that comes afterward.

Swing Sagarese is the first of the Romany jazz numbers, the band adding a circus rock edge with a delicious handoff between alto sax and trumpet. The Absinthe-Minded Gypsy, another noir blues, opens with ominous banjo and a wash of horns, like a more ornate take on the Dimestore Dance Band, bristling with eerie chromatics and bitingly brief solos from banjo, dobro and tuba. C’Est La Vie goes back to spiraling, flurrying, wickedly catchy Romany guitar jazz, while Quattro Cicci brings in a high-voltage flamenco feel with a lush bed of guitars bolstered by the orchestra’s signature pinpoint, precise brass. After Raso’s done wailing, it builds to a big, anthemic stadium-rock outro.

Charlatan’s Waltz is more low key and creepy, like Beninghove’s Hangmen in especially brooding mode, a carnivalesque waltz with pulsing staccato horns, accordion and a judicously spiky Romany jazz guitar solo. The arguably most surreal number here is the title track, a Romany jazz orchestra doing Duane Eddy, or vice versa; Raso’s hammering, staccato solo over rimshot drums midway through adds both unexpected humor and suspense. Likewise, there’s both twistedness and drollery in the slowly swaying Leezard’s Lament, with its darkly rustic banjo, lingering slow-burn tremolo guitar, weird jawharp and samples in the background.

Both Cafe Con Leche and Spirtissimo venture toward Gipsy Kings territory, the first with hints of a bolero, the second more of a flamenco-flavorred tune. Birelli’s Waltz starts out as an elegantly moody theme and then warms as it moves into more straightforward guitar jazz. The album ends with the briskly marching, playful Django, with its gritty horn pointillisms and wry quotes from famous themes from across the ages. Fanfare Ciocarlia are at Webster Hall in the main room at 9:40 PM on Jan 12 as part of Globalfest.

Meet Tipsy Oxcart

More about that amazing triplebill at the Jalopy on Oct 24. Guitarist Tev Stevig opens the show at 9, playing songs from his haunting solo album Jeni Jol, a mix of Turkish and Balkan traditional tunes that he performs on fretless acoustic guitar. Headlining at 11 are exhilarating Boston klezmer/Balkan dance band Klezwoods. In the middle, at 10, are Brooklyn’s own Tipsy Oxcart, who have a killer new album out, coyly titled Meet Tipsy Oxcart, streaming all the way through at the group’s Bandcamp page. It’s not certain if this fab five will someday rank with the guys from Liverpool, but they might be off to a better start than the Beatles, at least musically speaking. No joke.

What distinguishes Tipsy Oxcart from the many absolutely kick-ass American Balkan bands out there is that they have a rock rhythm section – Ayal Tsubery plays bass and Celestial Shore’s Max Almario plays drums on the album, with Dani Danor now taking his place behind the kit. Violinist Maya Shanker’s deliciously raw, microtonal lines and then Connell Thompson’s similarly otherworldly clarinet fuel the long, irresistibly catchy opening track, Pauline’s Kyuchek, a bouncy but bracing Serbian tune. Pajdushko, a Bulgarian number by Nicola Iliev, gets a gorgeously grey-sky intro (can grey skies be gorgeous? These grey skies are) from the violin and clarinet before it turns into a dizzyingly syncopated romp punctuated by a suspensefully spiraling solo from accordionist Jeremy Bloom.

Me First, by Shanker, works a dancing violin/accordion pulse up to a hard-hitting, catchy chorus,  moody clarinet solos, a a searing violin break and an absolutely sizzling accordion solo over the tricky rhythm. Dajcovo, the traditional Bulgarian song, has a rapidfire, almost bluegrass break in the middle of its tricky, impossibly funky melismatics. Hora De La Tescani. which may or may not be by Romanian Ion Dragoi (the band thinks it is; they’re probably right) winds up this high-voltage band’s debut on a scorching, chromatically-charged note, Thompson’s gritty but precise alto sax anchoring Shanker’s feral assault and Bloom’s rich, luscious washes of sound, Tsubery adding a brief, droll solo. Warning: if you’re not already among the converted, this music will leave you insatiable for more. It’s a lifelong addiction that cannot be cured. If you’re one of the growing lucky few who share it, you’re in for a treat with this band. And for the hell of it, how does this music sound when you’re tipsy compared to when you’re not? Pretty much the same. It kicks ass either way.

Oana Catalina Chitu Resurrects a Dark Romanian Icon

This year marks the centenary of Romanian singer Maria Tanase’s birth. Officially forgotten in her native land during the Ceaucescu regime, the overthrow of the dictatorship there led to renewed interest in her work, which was wildly popular from the late 30s through her death in 1963. With her dramatic alto delivery and flinty sense of irony, Tanase was sort of the Romanian Edith Piaf, although while Piaf sang mostly cabaret material, Tanase was best loved for her stagy, orchestrated versions of ancient folk songs. Now, singer Oana Catalina Chitu draws on a vibrant Berlin-based Romanian expat community to celebrate Tanase’s legacy with her new album Divine.

Like her inspiration, Chitu is a strong singer, although her interpretations are considerably more eclectic than their source material. Her superb all-acoustic band includes guitarist Alexej Wagner, accordionist Dejan Jovanovic, violinist Anton Slavici, cimbalom player Valeriu Cacaval, bassist Alexander Franz, drummer Philipp Bernhardt and alto saxophonist Vladimir Karparov.

The album opens with Trenule Masina Mica. which is sort of Tanase’s Mystery Train. Chitu’s version amps up the suspense as well as the energy with a bracing violin solo and then a mad dash to the end. Pâna Cand Nu Te Lubeam (Before I Fell in Love with You) takes the haunting, wounded intensity of the original even further into the depths before surrealistically swirling, plaintive sax and accordion solos. Likewise, the band gives extra edge and bite to Aseara Ti-am Luat Basma (Last Night I Bought You a Scarf), trading Tanase’s weepy strings for blistering sax and another sprint to the finish line.

The big, sweeping ballad Pe Vale (In the Valley) gets a richly dynamic treatment that stops short of grand guignol. Habar N-ai Tu (You Have No Idea) works a vindictively gorgeous noir cabaret vein. Tanase’s recording of Cine Iubeste Si Laasa – “the curse of all unfaithful souls,” as the liner notes put it – is absolutely bloodcurdling, gothic to the core; Chitu and band make an epic out of it, with a grinding, macabre accordion intro that’s twice as long as Tanase’s hit single.

Yet not everything here is about to jump off the rails. The sadistic lullaby Cantec de Leagan contrasts Chitu’s pillowy delivery with a grimly nocturnal backdrop – it’s a litany of all the monsters that mom’s going to protect you from, now good luck getting to sleep!  Lume Lume (World, World) gets an unexpectedly dreamy, jazzy guitar-and-voice arrangement, by contrast to the original’s stagy angst and sweep. Mi-am Pus Busuioc In Par (I Put Sweet Basil in My Hair) is even balmier than Tanase’s American-influenced ballad from the 1930s, at least until Wagner decides to mutilate his guitar strings. Daca Nu Te Cunosteam (If I Hadn’s Met You) sticks close to the Djangoesque original. And Lunca Lunca (Meadow Meadow), a Romanian cowboy song of sorts, gets some aptly droll electtric guitar. There’s also a rapidfire, violin-fueled version of the folk dance Tananica. All this makes a good introduction to a Romanian icon who enjoyed a worldwide following (she appeared at the 1939 World’s Fair in Flushing), as well as to an imaginative singer and her band who’ve taken on the task of carrying a weighty legacy and succeed mightily.

Rare, Raw, Intense Field Recordings From Across the Balkans Newly Digitized and Back in Print

Back in the old country, folk dancing was a step along the way to marriage (arranged by the ‘rents, of course). It was a way to get the guys to meet the girls, but under controlled circumstances. Since the whole village was involved, often under the pretext of a saintly festival of some sort, you couldn’t get toooo crazy. It was the musicians who got to go crazy, which might explain why, for centuries on end, so many country folk played an instrument or two – that, and the fact that music as spectacle rather than communal activity hadn’t yet filtered down from the upper classes. Martin Koenig, one of the founders of the organization now known as the Center for Traditional Music and Dance, had the extraordinary foresight and good luck to capture some of this music in its feral, original state in the late 60s, traveling throughout the Balkans and Greece. Although often recorded outdoors, the sound quality of what he managed to get his hands on is surprisingly good, and the music is wild and exhilarating. It’s not an exaggeration to say what Koenig found in the Balkans ranks with Alan Lomax’s archival recordings from the southern US. And not only is it available now in digital form, it’s also streaming at Bandcamp, AND, the CTMD is selling their remaining stock of original vinyl at absurdly low prices. Fans of bands like Gogol Bordello, Mucca Pazza and even Beirut will devour this stuff, especially since it often makes those bands look tame by comparison.

True to their origins as serious efforts in ethnomusicology, all of the releases – generally ep-length, four or five songs at the most, some of them 45 RPM singles – have prosaic titles like the debut release in the series (which when reissued last February, received a rave review here), Balkan Arts 701: Folk Dances of Bulgaria. Throughout the thirteen-record set, accordions blast and pulse, bagpipes wail, flutes shriek, drums rumble, fiddles fire off supernatural overtones, voices raising with what seems like a defiant exuberance, as if to say, so the American guy with the tape machine thinks we’re exotic? Let’s sing so hard we break his gizmo! Musicians and pickup groups represent for Bulgaria, East Serbia (three volumes worth), Macedonia, Greece, and Romania. While some of the players achieved regional fame, most were unsung locals, adding to the collection’s historical value. You want to know who the Bulgarian equivalent of a Dock Boggs or a Skip James was? The answer could be here. What’s most striking about everything here is that as raw and roughhewn as the playing is, it’s often spectacularly good: these dirt farmers somehow found the time to keep their chops in top condition.

Because most of the collection is dance music, the majority of the songs are upbeat. Biting chromatic riffage alternates with sunnier passages and the occasional droning interlude. Interestingly, while some of the music (particularly the Macedonian stuff) employs eerie, Middle Eastern-flavored microtones, the majorify of it does not. Those scales are more common in the music of the Romany people, some of whom may be represented among the musicians even though their own musical heritage is not.

The best of the series is probably the initial release of Bulgarian songs. The most otherworldly might be the second volume of Macedonian folk tunes. If you dial up Balkan Arts 713: Folk Dances of Romania, be careful to keep the volume down because it’s an audience recording and there’s a whistler in the crowd (or maybe the band) who’s damned if he’s not going to drown everybody else out. In addition to this treasure trove, the CTMD has an even more vast, historic archive of recordings streaming at their site much in the same vein as the collection of live shows at Roulette. Among the goodies which will be uploaded in the weeks ahead: the only known footage of klezmer clarinet great Dave Tarras.

There’s a sad backstory here as well: most of the sons and daughters of the men and women who played and sang this music left for the cities to find work, which pretty much stopped these traditions in their tracks not long after these recordings were made. But just as Americana roots music has made a big comeback in recent years, the same has happened in the Balkans: that it was an American who first saw the need to immortalize this music is more than a little ironic.