Review: OG’s Unique Sound Captivates Black Box Crowd
By N3 Entertainment Team
When Occidental Gypsy took the stage at the Black Box Friday night not many in the crowd seemed to know what to expect from the quintet of musicians who were making a stop in Fremont between engagements in Cleveland and Indianapolis.
Then the group came off their intro and tore into...
...a lively take on Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing” sending a ripple of toe tapping and head bobbing through the audience. They segued into a languishing melancholic interlude for a bit before bringing back an energetic rhythmic upbeat pace to finish off the first offering and in that trio of sounds seemed to toss out a forecast of the gypsy inspired yet western influenced music that would be on the menu for the evening.
Brent Feldman who proved to be not only a most gifted guitarist but also a keen wit joked with the audience before turning to guitarist and vocalist Jeremy Frantz for a stirring interpretation of “Georgia’ on my Mind”. Mr. Frantz has an intriguing tenor-like range with a strong and clear tone that recalls songsters from the swing era the group seems to embrace so agreeably.
The next tune brought visions of Django Reinhardt as Mr. Feldman began to reveal his mastery on the guitar, cajoling and coaxing a symphony of sound from the instrument he so clearly held jurisdiction over. During one highly animated number the instrument presumably rebelled a bit popping a string and requiring the guitarist extraordinaire to retreat for repair but the group swept into a version of “Sweet Sue” that extended until the return of Mr. Feldman.
Violinist Derek Pell spun a wealth of spirited sounds in a seemingly effortless manner as he was able to capture the heart of the Romani music in one song and follow with wild swing-inspired riffs that impressed the crowd and drew frequent applause in admiration for the work.
Jon Chapman handles percussion duties with an understated excellence and showed a particular expertise with small and subtle additions. Bassist Jeff Feldman provides a perfect backbeat in helping to guide the pace while remaining discreetly out of the forefront.
Each tune seemed to further enchant the crowd and OG was able to achieve an interactive experience with the folks who filled The Black Box on this night. The audience responded to the music, the magnificent musicianship, and the infectious energy the group seemed to amplify as the evening progressed. Polite applause turned into cries of approval from the crowd, significant swinging to the beat and even a couple who were inspired enough to take to the dance floor.
One of the many highlights came before a song when Mr. Feldman (guitarist) spoke of a number he had written and dedicated to the memory of Rudolf Vrda an Auschwitz escapee whose reporting of the atrocities occurring in the camp led to an end to Hungarian deportation of Jews to Germany saving some 200,000 lives.
The tune was rather remarkable with a performance that wove it seamlessly into the story and Mr. Feldman’s intro also led this listener to a little research on the man who inspired the effort, a man deserving of innumerable accolades for his courage and fortitude.
When they announced their final song and then returned for the obligatory encore Mr. Feldman (guitarist again) joked about the social mores that dictate the last song/encore routine but it was clear from the reaction of the crowd they were not going to be denied another tune. They did not slowly rise to their feet they jumped up and accompanied the applause with the hoots and hollers that had been sprinkled throughout the evening.
Afterwards band members lingered to chat with the audience and their popularity was perhaps most evident by the lineup to purchase the band’s CD, a disc with a pair of plays already under its belt at N3 World Headquarters and Swing Music Sanctuary.
It proved to be an exceptional evening of music in a perfect setting and once again the Dogwood folks have served to broaden the entertainment horizons for we fortunate denizens of the Near North.
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