The cool aesthetic of Bandakadabra is immediately evident by their matching black suits with white shirts and skinny black ties. Their music twists and turns from playful and suave to serious and methodical in an instant. Dubbed an “Urban Brass Band,” this ensemble from Torino, Italy sets their sights on all sorts of brass music, from ragtime and jazz to Balkan, rocksteady, and Latin on their rousing live recording, Entomology.
A call to attention preludes “Skaravan,” which cranks ups the tempo with a delightful ska version of “Caravan” that jumps off the stage and gets the audience skanking.
The scales shift when Bandakadabra launch into their rip-roaring cover of Goran Bregović's “Underground Cocek.” Rolling percussion, tuba, and trumpets lock down the backing groove, while saxophone and trombone take some hard-hitting solos.
Duke Ellington's “Limbo Jazz” is a charming slice of Dixieland made even more memorable by the sweet melody that engages in some playful call and response with a range of brass and woodwinds.
“Who Walks in When I Walk Out?” is a terrific ragtime that demonstrates the depth of this ensemble, each instrument working together to build an impressive arrangement that swings with abandon, whipping the crowd into a frenzy.
The tempo shifts again for the laid back rocksteady of “Perfidia.” The warm sound of the saxophones and trumpets playing together over the danceable tuba bassline wraps this piece in sympathetic harmonies.
“Sanja Samba” is a rollicking Balkan tune with a Latin chorus. This merging of styles demonstrates the irresistible qualities of Bandakadabra, a band unafraid of mixing ideas and switching directions at the drop of a hat.
“Quizás, Quizás, Quizás” is the original Cuban version of “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps” written by Osvaldo Farrés and made famous by Bobby Capó in 1947. This arrangement has the band working as an orchestra, supporting and countering sections of the melody with tremendous harmonies.
Moving towards the final tracks, “Saint Louis Blues,” starts with a bit of Latin flair before transitioning to a saucy, swinging blues. The exuberant horns add to the end of the night, rowdy feeling of this song.
“Nikol” is a fantastic up-tempo cover of a Kocani Orkestar tune that gets the crowd clapping and stomping their feet. The band bursts with pride on this closer and gives the show a fitting finale.
This captivating release is both boisterous and tender. Each arrangement is dynamic, filled with a perpetual motion and groove that is locked into place by this large brass band. The heart of this live performance is captured brilliantly on Entomology and listeners will be impressed by the amount of variety on this disc. - Alex Brown