"King" Naat Veliov
& the Original Kocani Orkestar,
Gypsy Follies
(Felmay, 2003)

It is easy to sum up Gypsy Follies: brass, brass and rambunctious brass. If you do not love the sound of a rowdy trumpet supported by a bouncing tuba, stay away from this CD. For the rest of us, it is a trip to brass heaven.

As a former brass player, I can analyze this collection from the most critical point, but find nothing to criticize except a total lack of trombones. These guys demonstrate technique that is only exceeded by concise timing. They can abruptly change from opposing melodies to a single melody that is so well timed that it sounds almost like one instrument. They triple tongue, they rip, they slur and they flutter. If it can be performed in the brass section, these guys do it and do it exceptionally well! But, after all, that is what they have been training to do since birth.

The story of these Gypsy Nefesli Orkestars (brass bands) of Romany is quite interesting. They are usually composed of male members of one family, with the head of the family being the lead trumpeter. Once he gives up the lead position to his son, he takes over the bass tuba.

This is true with the Kocani Orkestar. Naat Veliov plays lead trumpet. His son, Orhan, plays second trumpet. His grandson, Neat (junior), is apprenticed to Naat. His father, Hikmet, plays the bass tuba. Once Orhan takes over as lead trumpeter, Naat will move to the bass tuba and Neat will become the second trumpeter.

The Kocani Orkestar is different from others in the region because they historically were more nomadic and ranged further than the others. The techniques and ethnic styles of the various regions through which they traveled influenced their music. They often perform traditional music for "ethnic clients." Still, they maintain their own traditional music that has been handed down from father to son for many generations.

These tunes range from a traditional kolo in 2/4 to a butterfly in 4/4 to a most difficult oro in 7/8. But, by far, the most complicated tune is the one that changes from 5/8 to 11/8, "Trno Mome," which is supposed to be as complicated to dance to as to play. (Being a dancer as well as a brass player, I disagree -- although it does require some excellent coordination between body parts.)

"Berlin Melodij" is actually three versions of the same tune that Naat composed. It begins with a blues style, but changes to jazz and ends as a super-kolo. It really kicks butt in the music department. If there is any question about the difference in blues and jazz, get this CD and study this selection. The two styles are distinctly clarified and demonstrated here.

Gypsy Follies is a killer collection of brass. If you enjoy the sound, this is a must-own. Order a copy today. If you are into hard cardiac workouts and fast dancing, it belongs in your collection. If the belly dance music is not challenge enough, try to keep time with the changeups. Either way, this CD is sure to please the most astute listener.

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 12 June 2004

Buy it from Amazon.com.