Raya Brass Band – This Train Is Now – vinyl

by | Oct 20, 2013 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

Raya Brass Band – This Train Is Now – Raya Brass Band 12-inch vinyl (2013) ****:

(Greg Squared – sax; Ben Syversen – trumpet; Metthew Fass – accordion & Farfisa; Don Godwin – tuba, tenor horn, keyboards; EJ Fry – tupan, percussion)

In 19th century Serbian trumpeters in the military transposed folk songs during harsh times. The music has often melancholic oriental melodies and is tied in with the rebellion of the Serbs against the Ottoman Empire. Now Balkan brass bands are popular thruout that area, with usually fast beats and various brass instruments predominating, though most anything goes. This music accompanies weddings, births, baptisms, state and church festivals, harvesting, and funerals. Annually there is a huge brass band event in Guca, Serbia, with 300,000 visitors. There’s also one in New York City, with 40 or more brass bands competing. Some bands have even fused the Balkan sound with klezmer, ska or electronics. While some of the bands have a dozen members, this one is based in Brooklyn, and here’s Raya_brass_Photowhat their five members look like:

While I wouldn’t call the LP audiophile-level, it is an excellent preservation of this in-your-face Balkan brass music. Things are a bit loose, but that’s the idea. The recording, made at a studio in the Catskills, is excellent.  Tuba-player Don Godwin is the low bass support of the quintet, just like the tubaists were on old trad jazz 78s (the doublebass didn’t record well acoustically).  There are sometimes striking harmonies produced by the duetting sax and trumpet or trumpet and tenor horn. The closing track on the second side slows things down with a lot of tuba. You can imagine dancers doing the native kolo to this music.

TrackList:  For Mia, Bloody Knuckles, Bump, Tsamika Tarragona, Let the Crickets Decide, Riff Cloud, This Train Is Now, Locks and Latches

—John Henry

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