Slavic Soul Party

In Makedonija

Knitting Factory Records, KFW 310

Curtis Hasselbring, trombone; Matt Moran, tapan, darabouka, snare, riq; Ted Reichman, accordion; Chris Speed, clarinet; Rossen Zahariev, cornet

Slavic Soul Party's record In Makedonija is a collection of live performances of P.A. Sviraj tunes (and Duke Ellington's "Blue Pepper") and field recordings made by Matt Moran and Chris Speed in October 2001 in Makedonija. Rossen Zahariev is an excellent improviser. His blowing is one of this record's most entertaining elements. Regrettably, he has few opportunities to stretch out and when he does, it is with dense accompaniment. In fact, much of the time everyone plays at once, filling the space thoroughly.

The songs are nice enough--propellant melodies, limited but strategic harmonic movement--but SSP's arrangements are ineffective. There is a disappointing lack of creative orchestration and several similar, long introductions. On #10, "Romanian Holiday," Speed and Reichman improvise at length around the changes to the tune with little interaction. The ensemble finally initiates a fun tune (with the most harmonic material) and promptly, unceremoniously and confusingly ends it. This is in contrast to many of the songs in which the material, or group improvising that is thoroughly based on the material, repeats liberally, with little variation.

The field recordings are fun to listen to but are unintegrated with the SSP material. In Makedonija, despite the quality instrumentalists, is not cohesive or well-paced. The casual nature of this record doesn't do much to champion Sviraj's songs or Makedonijan musical traditions (seemingly priorities for SSP). In Makedonija comes off as an ambient record, a document of their trip, not a notable musical achievement.

by Eric Roth

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