Legend has it that the Devil likes to frequent crossroads, cutting deals for souls and spinning his cunning yarns. Yet not all crossroad pacts are diabolical; some are just damned brilliant. Take the crossroads encounter behind Devil s Tale, where the eastern force field of Balkan brass meets Gypsy Jazz guitar, as Romania's Fanfare Ciocarlia joins up with Canadian guitarist Adrian Raso.
Fanfare Ciocarlia are a 24-legged brass beast whose eastern funk groove has torn up halls and festivals across the planet. Raso is a master guitarist, deeply versed in the French Manouche / Gypsy Jazz stylings of Django Reinhardt.
Could a string musician find a way into Fanfare's fierce Balkan brass blast? Could the legends of brass adapt their horns to the fluid eloquence of a jazz guitarist? The answer, as heard on this album, is one of brilliant defiance.
Adrian Raso has dreamt of this project for years. The gifted guitarist possesses a vast musical vocabulary rooted in Gypsy Jazz yet, in his fleet fingers, capable of referencing metal, Latin, funk and his family's Italian tarantella roots. Raso built his virtuoso reputation playing Toronto's toughest clubs as a teenager. More than two decades later he remains on a musical quest that demands he challenge himself.
The quest lead to him reaching out to Fanfare Ciocarlia - the Romany Gypsy orchestra from the invisible village of Zece Prajini in north eastern Romania - who blast a fierce, very individual brand of Balkan brass. Both Raso and Fanfare share a love of Django and big band jazz but initial concerns surrounded whether their very different backgrounds would allow for a common musical dialogue to ensure. Meeting the band was a great experience, says Raso. We bonded instantly. We joked about being separated brothers as it really did feel like that. Musically we understood each other from the get go. Fanfare Ciocarlia are the world's greatest Balkan brass band. When a band is at the top, the undisputed heavyweight champion, they have two options: either get lazy and repeat themselves or seek out new challenges. Fanfare Ciocarlia are hungry men and, having seen too many Balkan brass bands descend into the farce of playing-standards-too-fast or allowing tone deaf DJs to exploit them as decoration over a lame electronic beat, they chose to broaden Balkan brass's vocabulary. Meeting Adrian Raso gave Fanfare the perfect musical foil.
Across several chilly Toronto days the Romanians and the Canadian came together. Raso called in several heavy friends to contribute to sessions. These included legendary guitarists John Jorgenson and Rodrigo (of Rodrigo & Gabriela) and rock drummer Kevin Figueiredo (of Extreme).
This album - reaching down to New Orleans, across the Atlantic to Paris, deep into the Balkans and back through decaying Detroit to Toronto's grandeur - is the result. Raso's guitar sets off on a fluid journey, caressing and cajoling the horns who tell tales of a music that has ancestors in Africa and India, one shaped in old Europe and young America. Spread the word - here is magic that might charm even jaded old Mephistopheles! (Garth Cartwright)
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