The Greek and I share certain proclivities and tastes. What better wingman for a Saturday night double-header? Add to this we were in similar mental states at the start of the evening and let's just say I'm pleased to find upon inspection I have every thing in my possession this morning that I had with me when I left my apartment last night.
The first gig was Slavic Soul Party at the Swedish American Hall, another of SFJazz's outside the box shows. SSP is a nine-piece, New York based band who take Roma music (that's the politically correct way to identify anything you might want to label gypsy, fyi) and filter it through a variety of musical influences, whipping up a pretty irresistible brew of dance music. It's Baltic funk, anchored in the rhythm section of Matt Moran on snare drum and cow bell, Chris Stromquist on bass drum and cymbal (only one!) and the tireless Ron Caswell on tuba. Who needs a bass when you have a tuba?
The rest of it is all brass and an accordion and it rocks harder than you would believe unless of course you've seen this kind of thing before. Roma music tends to start in one place before moving on to somewhere you don't expect- yeah, kind of like a pick pocket. Almost all of SSP's tunes started off in one groove and then morphed into an entirely different rhythm, sometimes subtly, sometimes not, always led by the drummers, who have an uncanny way of taking the most primitive instruments and using them in highly sophisticated ways. One of the best things about this ensemble is how they take what initially sounds like a glorious mess and turn it into something that's deceptively sophisticated. It looks easy, but it's certainly not, though the sold-out crowd dancing through it all probably didn't even care.