Balkan Kafe Orchestra

balkan kafe orchestra
Members of Balkan Kafe Orchestra

The BKO sprang from the imagination of Hank Bradley in collaboration with Frannie Leopold and Cathie Whitesides. Based on the bands Hank saw perform in Macedonia, Greece and the Balkans, they enjoy learning up as many musical languages as possible with the ever-challenging hope they might sidle up to your table at a cozy cafe and play just the very tune you were dreaming of. Obviously life-work in progress, nevertheless Greek, Serbian, Romanian, Russian, American, Irish and Cajun tunes get a good run, and with sufficient tips original and spontaneous tunes sometimes occur. In the summer of 2008, BKO released "Moon Over Mendocino." Read the review below and find out how to buy a copy on our Listen and Buy page.

Moon Over Mendocino reviewed in Fiddler Magazine Winter 2008/09

BKO ~ Hank Bradley, Cathie Whitesides, and Frannie Leopold, Moon Over Mendocino

Perhaps the liner notes to the CD explain it best: "The BKO is anything goes from outrageous originals where cultural plundering and stealing is the norm to the heights of exotic Greek and Romanian music, along with beautiful old-time fiddle blues, rags and song."

Imagine Hank Bradley, surrounded by his like-minded cohorts, fishing from the Golden Gate Bridge into the Aegean Sea, using chicken-fried souvlaki as bait. This CD is the resultant catch of the day. There are Greek and Romanian tunes with what Hank calls "socket-wrench time signatures," such as 7/8 and 9/8. Hank and Cathie both fiddle up a storm, and Frannie not only holds down the challenging guitar chair but "warbles as she flies" as well.

Hank sings of coming to California from the Carolinas "with a slide rule in one hand, and a fiddle in the other, just in case there was a band." He also reveals the long-held secret of the origin of the bouzouki. I won't reveal too much of the plot, but I will tell you that it involved a mandolin, a giraffe, and a lot of beer. Rest assured - Hank will explain.

I thoroughly enjoyed the pair of fiddle tune medleys performed on this CD. The first finds a tune from the Stripling Brothers bracketed by two Arthur Smith tunes. The second pairs the "Combination Rag," from the East Texas Serenaders, with a Cathie Whitesides original - a tribute to Fats Waller simply entitled "Fats."

You'd have to burn up a ton of frequent flyer miles to track down the sources of the music on this disc, but fortunately, you don't have to. Just get the CD, fasten your seatbelt, and take the BKO World Tour.

- Paul Anastasio


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