Livestream Joshua Tree, CA
Players: Will Magid, trumpet, producer, DJ; Morgan Nilsen, clarinet; Teddy Raven, saxophone; Lis Viegas, percussion
Material: The Joshua Tree Music Festival usually takes place twice a year but, as with everything else right now, the organizers are having to think well outside of the box in order to put on any sort of event at all. Unsurprisingly then, they’ve gone virtual for this fall edition and assembled a stellar lineup that includes Jesika Von Rabbit, Thumpasaurus, Afrolicious, Year of the Crow, Heather Christie & Vir McCoy, and Subko. The sets were actually prerecorded in order to get the quality of the stream as high as possible, and it works out well (despite the fact that the festival had to be delayed by a week). Balkan Bump is trumpeter and producer Will Magid’s baby––a jazz project that blends Eastern European flavors with Latin vibes. It’s wonderfully energetic and joyful, chill in places, and ultimately passionate.
Musicianship: The fact that Magid has collaborated with the likes of Talib Kweli, Solomon Burke and Erykah Badu suggests he’s no slouch, and the JTMF set proves it. Splitting his time between trumpet and trusty laptop, he creates a lush, layered soundscape that is easy to just fall into. He’s surrounded himself with quality too; the percussion is beautifully tribal, while the three wind instruments harmonize perfectly. Bliss.
Performance: The lack of a crowd (besides what sounds like a handful of people cheering between songs) does hamper the energy slightly, through no fault of the band. This is music that would ordinarily feed off of a baying audience, and the band can’t have that at present. But they make lemonade out of lemons. “If you come after me for a hug, I’m gonna run away,” says Magid. “But let’s do it––take a test, wait two days and then hug.” You have to love that attitude, and it’s typical throughout. Magid is an engaging host, getting into the desert fest spirit without falling into a hokey hippie-dippy trap.
Summary: It’s easy to like Balkan Bump, even if you’re not a big jazz-head. The music is fun and free, and easy to listen to (as opposed to easy listening). A livestreamed party isn’t a cinch to pull off, so congrats to the Joshua Tree Music Festival organizers and to Balkan Bump for creating something that felt very real and authentically joyous, even while we sat at home wishing for better days. – Brett Callwood