If you’re a music purist you’re going to love the band Eastern Blok. Comprised of jazz guitar virtuoso Goran Ivanovic, a native of Croatia, the band successfully melds flamenco, Balkan, classical, blues and jazz with his three American bandmates to form Eastern European folk tunes with a jazz structure.
The band released a disc in 2005 entitled Goran Ivanovic Group and gathered strong backing from the Los Angeles Times, Downbeat Magazine and Time Out among others. Download 6-minute album opener “Gates To the Unknown” at the band’s website to get a feel for the airy melodies the band pulls off. If you want more, download the jam “Blacksmith’s Dance.” This is promising and uplifting stuff.
Some publications have compared Ivanovic to Bela Fleck and the comparison is not that far off. Eastern Blok definitely has the grassroots jam sound that would flourish at Telluride, MerleFest, Bonnaroo or any of those similar shindigs. Eastern Blok is wholly original, highly skilled musicianship at its finest. Goran Ivanovic is an expert at his craft and it is an absolute delight to listen to. I wouldn’t be surprised if this band got an opening gig for Dave Matthews, Tim Reynolds, Trey Anastasio, String Cheese Incident or any other in that scene, as there is a lot of that jazzy-roots sound in songs like “Balkan Healer,” “Kalajdzisko Oro” and “Seven Boats.”
My personal favorite is “Macedonian Girl” which is so romantic it makes a perfect song for courting or charming a young lady, perhaps even a Macedonian. Mayhap the best demonstration of Ivanovic is “Episodes from a Village Dance,” a lively and energetic number where you can almost see the village dance unfolding before your eyes. Though the disc does drag on — thirteen songs feels a bit much — Eastern Blok are certainly a force to be reckoned with and are a breath of fresh air in the Chicago music scene.
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