Formatia Valea Mare
Departe de Casa
MA Recordings (

The Tokyo/Encino based company continues to make incredible recordings of geniuses combed out of the tall grass from all over the world. For shear novelty, impressario Todd Garfinkle has outdone himself with his latest, project number 60. He happened upon this mature septet from Romania playing in the Metro in Paris while attending the Spring 2001 Salon de la Musique Expo. To up the ante in the brass band recording craze, he had them lay down 22 tracks in a nearby gothic cathedral, which make it a gold medal contender for the genre's highest fidelity specimen yet. If a slightly surreal, circus-like aura already surrounds the gypsy speed brass phenomenon, this presentation pushes the envelope to new heights of the spectacle. Too fast to dance to and a little too loose, gritty and repetitious for the concert hall, its hard to place the best environment for, or point of, this listening. Garfinkle's amusement park sleeve graphics provide a clue: as celebration of pure dizzy fun. The Rromani brass band are the heirs to a tradition that is already 150 years old in their town of Valea Mare, and the virtuoso velocity and intricate synchrony seems largely like an outlet for excess male energy. But testosterone has come a long way baby, as it's unlikely they were playing at this kind of breakneck pace back in 1850. The middle aged and well oiled team includes flugelhorn (Costel Jean Sarambel), trumpet (Beluri Bosnea), clarinets (Viorel Dusu & Octav Cristea), baritone horn (Ilie Chiperi Donita), tuba (Manole Caramidaru Bacica), and drum & cymbal (Gabi Tomita). You'll want to hold onto your hat taking in these original and especially brisk sarbas, horas, and batutas. But though they can raise the dead with their brand of head-spinning frenetica, Formatia Valea Mare are at the very least an object of beautiful earthy amazement perfectly at home in our age, as they deliver as much data as a cable modem. The question is what do they play for relaxation? - Steve Taylor


Hollow Ear

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