The slight of hand that Slavic Soul Party! has achieved with deft arrangements and strong Balkan playing is wonderfully disorienting. This is music that has taken several trips across the Atlantic, in both directions. It’s obviously a brass band that has fallen in love with the sound of jazz, but where is this music from?
Slavic Soul Party! has always had a complex answer to that question, tangling issues of authenticity, originality, expression and identity. The name itself has confused many, and rightly so; inspired in part by Yugoslav brass bands (Yugoslav means “southern Slav”), Slavic Soul Party! has never had much of a connection to the larger Slavic cultures of Russia or Poland. When percussionist Matt Moran (Claudia Quintet, Joe Maneri, Sufjan Stevens) started the band in the late nineties, listening to unlabeled cassettes passed among folk music aficionados, he didn’t know that much of what inspired him was Roman music – yet another tangled web of identity and geography. Slavic Soul Party’s music is ultimately New York music: a strong Balkan brass sound pumped through the filter of life in New York's outer boroughs, making new music out of the unplanned results of immigration, proximity, and globalization.
In 1966, Duke Ellington recorded his brilliant collaboration with Billy Strayhorn, The Far East Suite. Fifty years later, Slavic Soul Party! re-imagined The Far East Suite as an Eastern European brass band discovering an exotic American sound, reversing the "exotic tinge" and reveling in this subtle, funky, and brilliant music.
“The arrangement found on Slavic Soul Party! Plays Duke Ellington's Far East Suite is a match made in high-concept heaven (or maybe just in Brooklyn): a rambunctious Balkan party band reinterpreting Ellington's earthy, yet endlessly sophisticated music,” says NPR. “Somehow, this mashup sidesteps touristy exotica. Starting with rhythms you'd hear on the street or at a Balkan wedding, the band's nine musicians give those majestic Ellington melodies a shot of adrenaline.
What's most impressive: Slavic Soul Party! did this live, on a single night. The band took a beloved big-band score, reconfigured it for a much smaller group and executed it with precision — and dazzling energy.”
Slavic Soul Party’s Magic Triangle Series performance will feature much of The Far East Suite.