Goran Kafješ Subtropic Arkestra – The Reason Why Vol.2
(Headspin Head 021. CD Review by Peter Slavid)
I’m a big fan of contemporary big bands. My formative jazz experiences involved Loose Tubes, Sun Ra, and Brotherhood of Breath, and today the UK has several young bands following that tradition (not to mention Loose Tubes again!). I say this upfront to make it clear that my taste tends towards the slightly chaotic and quirky.
With a name like Subtropic Arkestra I was expecting something along similar lines from this CD. Add to that the fact that Croatian/Swedish trumpeter Goran Kafješ is am outstanding member of Oddjob – definitely a quirky band; as well as part of the ferocious Fire! Orchestra. So my expectations were high – maybe too high. There were times when I thought this was going to be a really great album – but it never quite made it.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s always enjoyable – with a nice funky, world music feel. There are some good solos too – but maybe not quite enough of them and maybe just too much repetitive riffing for my taste. It’s a talented band and when Kafješ himself and stellar musicians like saxophonist Jonas Kulhammer let rip, the music comes to life for me.
The opening track has a nice Balkan rhythm, some good guitar and trumpet solos. There’s a nice ballad – A Lua Girou, a Milton Nascimento tune that at times reminded me a bit of Oddjob’s fine album “The Good the Bad and the Ugly”. On Tamzara, an Armenian Folk Dance, the rhythms start to get interesting and then the saxophones lets rip with some fierce improvising. But there are other times where the CD feels on the edge of becoming easy listening. Sometimes the sound balance drops the soloist a bit too far behind the orchestra – and a live show would be stronger.
So, a good album, but perhaps a slightly misleading name. For me this is a big-band, not an Arkestra – or maybe I just read too much into a name.