As with any good pot of stew, the idea behind the Garlic Band has been simmering for a good long time, waiting for the right moment to come to the table.
In 2011, Chuck Corman, a good friend then living in New England, was planning to visit us in Los Angeles. For several years we had gigged together in Vermont under the “Trei Arcuși” banner, specializing in Transylvanian dance music. When Chuck came to Southern California, it seemed only natural to try and recreate some of the musical fun we had had in the Northeast. To this end I recruited two LA musicians who were amenable to some heavy duty woodshedding in advance of my Vermont friend’s visit - bassist Simeon Pillich and cimbalomist Cory Beers. Shortly after Chuck’s arrival in November, 2011, we had a very satisfying performance at the Coffee Gallery in Altadena, CA. We called ourselves “Taraful Usturoi;” translated from the Romanian, it means the Garlic Band.
Simeon, a seasoned professional bassist, who has played (among others) with jazz artist Al Jarreau, and toured with the musical “Rent,” was gung-ho to try new musical idioms. (After all, he’s also a professor in ethnomusicology.) Cory was a Cal Arts graduate with a specialty in percussion who had recently become enamored with the cimbalom - the grand piano of hammered dulcimers. Cory had immersed himself in Romanian folk music to the extent possible in Los Angeles but unfortunately a decent instrument was hard to come by and he was playing on what could charitably be called (at best) a factory reject. Also, aside from obtaining a better cimbalom, he knew he needed to study seriously if he was to advance to the level he wanted to.
There are only a few music schools that offer a program in the cimbalom and none of these are in the States. Because of Cory’s interest in Romanian music, he enrolled in the music conservatory in Chișinău, Moldova, and studied there for two years. Needless to say, when he returned to Los Angeles he had full command of the instrument - plus he returned with a very decent cimbalom, and perhaps most important of all, he had an insider understanding of Romanian music.
I was ready to reinvent our band and both Simeon and Cory were willing co-conspirators. I wanted a fourth musician and Cory thought his accordionist friend, Joshua Kaufman, would be a good fit. It was an inspired suggestion: Joshua knew and loved the music and had even travelled to the Balkans and Moldova playing street music with his band, the Petrović Brothers Blasting Company. Plus, like Simeon and Cory, he's an excellent musician.
We're doing a performance again at the Coffee Gallery in December, 2014 and this time instead of a reunion lark, it's going to be more of a launching party. I expect this band to be going strong for a good long time because we're versatile, playing a repertoire that has a surprising breadth. As stated in the publicity for the December concert:
«....most of the repertoire is East European folk-based (especially Romanian) but we'll wander down a Reinhardt/Grappelli street or two, play original compositions and even some Bach and/or Debussy»
The Garlic Band has an extensive folk dance repertoire in addition to that intended for your listening pleasure so if you think we'd be a good fit for your party or special occasion, please don't hesitate to get in touch.