by Jim Blum
One look at the cover of this CD and you have to at least listen. The four players are probably not in costume, but they look like they are, each holding their instruments and looking like they are about to fly – without a plane. When you do listen you’ll understand why. This music is so fast, (sometimes too fast) that you’ll feel like YOU are about to take off.
They define themselves as a high energy gypsy band from California. They blend Romanian, Turkish, gypsy jazz, Flamenco, Balkan, and Tango. The lineup is basically 2 violins, guitar, and slap bass, though other musicians make guest appearances. Fiddler, and apparent leader, Ursula Knudson doubles on something called a banjolele. She also sings – on some numbers “Betty Boop” style like Christina Maars of the Asylum Street Spankers. Knudson’s singing on “Espagnolette” is really wild – almost an operatic scat which morphs out of her musical saw – at first listen you can’t tell the saw from the singer. She can sing in Romanian, French, Japanese, as well as in her native English.
Djordje Stijepovic slaps his bass throughout; they ought to pay him double because with him they don’t need a drummer. He’s good. Douglas Smolens plays guitar, and Fabrice Martinez is the prime violinist – that is when he isn’t back in France traveling by Caravan collecting songs (true story). It’s a little hard to keep up with the albums pace, but I bet it would be a hoot to see them live.