Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Boban Markovic Orkestar [extended]

  • Live in Belgrade [Piranha, 2002]
  • Boban I Marko [Piranha, 2003] A-
  • The Promise [Piranha, 2006] B+
  • Obecanje: The Promise Balkan Mix [Piranha, 2006] A-
  • Go Marko Go! [Piranha, 2008] ***
  • Devla: Blown Away to Dancefloor Heaven [Piranha, 2010] A-
  • Golden Horns: The Best of Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar [Piranha, 2012] A-
  • Gipsy Manifesto [Piranha, 2013] ***

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Live in Belgrade [Piranha, 2002]
"Best trumpet of Guca" gets wild, indulges Balkan romanticism, plays "Hava Nagila" ("Ring, Ring," "Votopad") [unknown]

Boban I Marko [Piranha, 2003]
Never mind Bright Balkan Morning's Steven Feld soundscape, which overdoes ambience, or Knitting Factory's wannabe Slavic Soul Party in Makedonia, which shortchanges chops. This Serbian-Roma horn band is where I hear the Balkan-style "participatory discrepancy" Charles Keil declares unrecordable--the "relaxed dynamism," the "semiconscious or unconscious slightly out of syncness." Father-and-son flugelhorn virtuoso-and-phenom trade perky theme statements and heartbreaking solos in an ensemble that hangs loose from the slack wire between chaos and expertise. Tuneful and jaunty when it's generic, miraculous and hilarious when it hits--or just misses--its groove. A-

The Promise [Piranha, 2006]
In which the most invigorating Balkan brass I know becomes a tad neater under the watchful production of Meddlin' Ben Mandelson. The general air of woofled hilarity continues. But in a slack-wire music of crooked harmonies, naturally occurring dub, and unisons that are no such thing, virtuosity is best deployed in the vicinity of a near miss, and there aren't quite enough of those here. B+

Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar: Obecanje: The Promise Balkan Mix [Piranha, 2006]
Reviewing 2005's The Promise, I surmised that the Markovics' British producer had neatened music better left a mess. But when flugelhorn maestro Boban Markovic and Serbian bassist Nicola Pejovic went so far as to remix the thing, they made it clearer and more "commercial." Clarity includes extra percussion and more breaks for trumpet prodigy Marko. Commerce requires cross-cultural gestures and lyrics, some in English ("When the music hit the beat, feel the magic, a-ha"). There's also a lively new vocal feature and a full reordering that turns the new finale as woozy as the end of a long night. All in all, an improvement I couldn't have imagined and the only version you need own. A-

Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar: Go Marko Go! [Piranha, 2008]
Young man with a horn leads family business toward the bigger time ("Dzumbus Funk," "Romano Bijav"). ***

Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar: Devla: Blown Away to Dancefloor Heaven [Piranha, 2010]
With son Marko now firmly in command--he leads all but one track--Serbia's premier Gypsy brass ensemble has gotten not funkier but peppier. Amid an abundance of singing guests male and female and young and old, the most striking solo turn is by clarinetist Erol Demirov, and the wildest track is the one that features paterfamilias Boban double-tonguing his flugelhorn as "little-known idol" Mustafa Sabanovic gravel-barrels his vocal. That falling-down-drunk thing is in abeyance. But if you've ever read an ecstatic account of a great polka band who proved too cutesy by half on record, this is what you hoped they'd sound like. A-

Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar: Golden Horns: The Best of Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar [Piranha, 2012]
Like Huun-Huur-Tu and Tinariwen, this is one of those how-much-is-enough bands. I've pretty much liked every record they've put out since I caught on with 2003's Boban i Marko, which was where flugelhorn prodigy and heir apparent Boban started getting equal billing in the brass ensemble he now leads. Did I learn to tell these albums apart? Not really. Replay them? Seldom. But after suitable reconnaissance I can make some distinctions for you. If you actively like Boban i Marko, this will be worth your while even though it scatters three keepers from that breakthrough among its own 15. But if you found Boban i Marko too raffish or disorganized, it may also be worth your while, because it comes down on tune where that one came down on the tipsy Balkan version of groove. I must have noticed "Khelipe E Cheasa" on Devla, but it never penetrated my recall memory, which is my bad. Relaxed, jaunty, and devilishly catchy, it leads their best-of because it's their best. The rest of the collection does what it can to keep on keeping on. A-

Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar: Gipsy Manifesto [Piranha, 2013]
Adding "guitar, accordion, piano and drum kit, giving a decidedly contemporary sound that's both danceable and radio-friendly"--in other words, completing their evolution into a damn fine tourist band ("Caje Sukarije (Beautiful Girl)," "Zivot Cigana (Whistle)") ***

See Also