Cleveland's Harmonia brings a taste of the Roma to Chicago this week

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Harmonia
  • Courtesy Rock, Paper, Scissors
  • Harmonia
The Cleveland group Harmonia (not to be confused with Michael Rother's old post-Neu! combo of the same name) arguably ranks as America's finest practitioners of Roma string-band music, often playing with velocity and virtuosity (if not bloodied intensity) comparable to Romania's Taraf de Haidouks or Hungary's Okros Ensemble, with fiddles sawing and cimbalom shimmering. On the group's latest album, Hidden Legacy (Folk Sounds), the septet once again draws from a fairly wide range of eastern European sources—Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Hungary, and Slovakia—with impressive stylistic fidelity and precision.

While group singer Beata Begeniova is technically skilled, the sweetness of her voice usually takes some of the edge out of Harmonia's performances, and I have to fess up to an abiding displeasure with the traditional instruments played by Andrei Pidkivka—the sprightly wooden flute from Ukraine called the sopilka and the aspirated pan flute, with all of its egregious Andean and Zamfir connections. But when the rest of the group is trucking away, it's hard not be sucked in by their energy and gritty textures. Below you can check out the album's best track, "Seven Step Hora."

The band performs Wednesday at the Old Town School of Folk Music and again on Friday at Mayne Stage.

Today's playlist:

Jürg Wickihalder European Quartet, Jump! (Intakt)
Modern Jazz Sextet, Modern Jazz Sextet (Verve)
Rod Stewart, A Night on the Town (Deluxe Edition) (Warner Bros./Rhino)
Alfredito Linares, Salsa . . . a Todo Sabor (Lion Productions)
Kenny Dorham, Blues in Bebop (Savoy Jazz)

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