Ty Burr
August 30, 1991 AT 04:00 AM EDT


Current Status
In Season

We gave it an A-

In America, the words ”wedding music” conjure up a guy in a blue tux and a bad rug crooning ”Hit Me With Your Best Shot.” In Bulgaria, they know better. There ”wedding music” is played at any celebratory drop of the hat, and the band you have to reserve a year in advance belongs to legendary clarinet madman Ivo Papasov. On Balkanology, Papasov’s six-man outfit charges through Bulgarian folk melodies with free-jazz complexity and rock loudness; the best comparison is to Artie Shaw on drugs leading the devil’s own klezmer band. Traditional Thracian dance + music forms the launching pad for songs like ”Ivo’s Ruchenitsa” and ”Ergenski Dance”: The band effortlessly negotiates sharply angled peasant rhythms before blasting off into the improvisational stratosphere. Where Papasov’s first U.S. release, 1989’s Orpheus Ascending, was perhaps too atonal, Balkanology finds just the right niche between outre art and dance-’til-you-drop reveling. The only thing missing is the caterer. A-

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