Adrian Raso and Fanfare Ciocarlia, Devil’s Tale

Chris Nickson

By Chris Nickson

on 01.20.14 in Reviews

Gypsy jazz meets gypsy brass on this spirited collaboration between Canadian guitarist Adrian Raso, a stylistic descendent of Django Reinhardt, and the lauded Romanian horn troupe Fanfare Cioc─ârlia. The results are often unexpected: “Charlatan’s Waltz,” for example, evokes the post-war Vienna of The Third Man with its zither-like guitar, while “Quattro Cicci” is a prog-meets-rockabilly dash, in which strings and horns madly chase each other.

A globetrotting tale filled with twists and turns

Indeed, this globetrotting Devil’s Tale is filled with twists and turns. The album opener, “Urn St. Tavern,” sees the ensemble taking a trip back to the early days of New Orleans jazz, with ghostly hints of Dixieland in Raso’s strummed banjo. “Leezard’s Lament” conjures a spaghetti-Western feel, with high lonesome trumpet notes and twanging strings echoing into the distance.

It’s far from Gypsy music as we know it, and it is also a huge departure for Fanfare Cioc─ârlia, who usually blast Balkan melodies at breakneck speeds. Here, they assume the role of back-up band to Raso, only rarely letting fly with whirlwind solos. By their standards it’s very restrained, but this merging of talents is an elegant experiment that works.

And they do get to blow off steam in the end, with “Django,” a track that belies its name by taking a wild, playful trip through as many classical quotations as they can cram together in three minutes. Exhilarating, fun and breathless, it’s the perfect finish for an album that never feels less than a blast.