Raya Brass Band is one of Brooklyn’s most exciting ensembles. Their party vibe is infectious and with the release of their third album, This Train Is Now, the band has matured into a sonic powerhouse. Their tremendous blend of Balkan, Romany and klezmer influences will make you wish you’d worn your suspenders to sustain their hip-shaking grooves. The quintet sounds larger than they appear as they maximize the sound of their instruments. The group includes Greg Squared (sax), Ben Syversen (trumpet), Matthew Fass (accordion, farfisa), Don Godwin (tuba, tenor horn, keyboard) and EJ Fry (tupan, percussion). Recorded at Old Soul Studios in Catskill, NY, This Train Is Now is the band’s finest effort to date. Raya Brass Band constantly performs and will spontaneously appear on a street, at a fair, a wedding or a Russian bathhouse. Song ideas can pop up at any time and often present themselves on the go.
“We’ll have a gig in the street, say, and be waiting around for the organizers. So we’ll start messing around. Someone will have a phone and we’ll record it. We’ll be under a bridge or on the corner, some arbitrary spot, and an off-the-cuff idea will become the jumping off point for the whole track.” – Don Godwin
These collections of ideas and riffs are spun into gold on This Train Is Now. Available as an 8-song LP or 11-song CD, this album brings out the best of New York’s diverse musical atmosphere. While brass band sounds from Serbia to New Orleans find their way onto this disc, so too do the improvisations of Manhattan’s downtown jazz scene or the tight hip-hop beats of the Bronx. EJ Fry lays down some heavy rhythms on his tupan which wouldn’t sound out of place in a jungle funk outfit especially with Don Godwin keeping the pulse on his tuba. When the sax, trumpet and accordion harmonize over these tracks, the result is pure bliss. Keyboards add another layer of depth and the organ vibrato adds nice texture on several numbers.
This Train Is Now takes listeners on an adventure where intricate compositions pour through the speakers in the form of a bustling brass-stomp delight or a gentle, tender ballad. The record maintains all the excitement of a live performance while bringing out the clarity of a studio recording, but the best way to experience the band is by seeing them in the flesh. Don’t miss them in Brooklyn when they play Littlefield on Saturday, November 30th and Barbès on Saturday, December 21st, the longest night of the year. Pickup This Train Is Now at your local record store or check it out at bandcamp.