Exposé Online banner

Ghost Train Orchestra — Book of Rhapsodies, Vol II
(Accurate Records , 2017, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2017-12-09

Book of Rhapsodies, Vol II Cover art

When it comes to the music of the 1930s, names like Duke Ellington and Count Basie come readily to mind, and their music is readily available. But during that era, many other composers and bandleaders were filling ballrooms and making 78RPM records. Brian Carpenter and his Ghost Train Orchestra are on a mission to bring the forgotten gems of that era to light, digging through dusty bins of old 78s and painstakingly transcribing the music found on them. But their goal is not to reproduce the old music note for note — they aim to interpret the tunes through a modern lens and have fun doing it. They are entertainers, not historians. After all, the 78s still exist, so if you want to hear the originals, you can seek them out. (Many are becoming available online in digital repositories.) In addition to Carpenter, who plays trumpet, the Orchestra consists of Mazz Swift (violin), Ben Kono (alto saxophone), Dennis Lichtman (clarinet), Petr Cancura (saxophone), Curtis Hasselbring (trombone), Ron Caswell (tuba), Avi Bortnick (guitar), Michael Bates (bass), Rob Garcia (drums), and Rob Reich (accordion). A number of vocalists also participate, including a chorus of children for “Kindergarten Flower Pageant.” Yeah, they’re having fun. Much like in an old-time radio broadcast, there are occasional announcements to introduce a tune, done in an appropriately deadpan tone even if the words are a little goofy. The main anachronism in the arrangements is the occasional prominence of electric guitar, which sometimes takes on a distorted tone that would not have been possible during the original era. That’s an observation, not a criticism — in no way does it detract from the quality of the album. A number of groups have lately been plying similar streams of music (Microscopic Septet comes to mind), but Carpenter’s ensemble has their own twist on it, and their own unique identity. All of the players are excellent (Swift stands out on several songs with some outstanding solos), and they dive into the material with a spirit of adventure and joy that shines through. Take a break from distortion and electronic trickery and get a taste for how people had fun 80 or so years ago. Bonus points if you wear vintage threads...


Filed under: New releases, 2017 releases

Related artist(s): Curtis Hasselbring (Curha), Ghost Train Orchestra

Latest news

2020-05-15
Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more

2020-05-14
Jorge Santana RIP – Jorge Santana, noted guitarist, leader of the band Malo and brother to Carlos Santan, died on May 14 at the age of 68. Jorge and Carlos worked together on a number of occasions, though Jorge's career was centered around Malo, solo work, and with Fania All-Stars. » Read more

2020-05-06
Florian Schneider RIP – Florian Schneider, one of the founders of the pioneering electronic group Kraftwerk, has died at the age of 73. Co-founder Ralf Hütter announced that his bandmate had passed away from cancer after a brief illness. » Read more

2020-04-23
Shindig Festival Goes Lock-Down – Here's what they're saying: It's A Happening Thing! The Shindig! Magazine Lockdown Festival. In our days of no large gatherings of people, maybe it's still possible to have a music festival. Shindig! Magazine is giving it a go with a multi-artist streaming extravaganza on Saturday April 25. » Read more

2020-03-24
Bill Rieflin RIP – The sad news reaches us today of Bill Rieflin's death. Rieflin was best known as a drummer in bands ranging from post-punk to industrial to indie-rock to progressive rock, including work with The Blackouts, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Swans, Land, and King Crimson. Rieflin had been battling cancer for several years, and succumbed to it on March 24. He was 59. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Murray Head - Greatest Hits – Summarizing Head's career of singles and one off recordings is actually a great career retrospective opportunity. Opening the track is Head's sensitive piece, "Say It Ain't So,...  (2002) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues