Personnel: Toni Iordache (dulcimer); Mitica Chiru (violin); Buze Pane, Bebe Serban, Nicu Bela (accordion); Costel Vasilescu (trumpet); Ion Barbulea (double bass).
Recording information: Electrecord Studio, Romania (1964-1980).
Translator: David Berry.
Some people warrant the term genius, and Toni Iordache is one. He plays the tambal, or hammered dulcimer, like you've never heard it before, and your heart is in your mouth as you try to follow his lightning improvisations. But it's not just the speed, it's the way he structures and develops everything. Listen to the opener here, "Variatiuni Pe Tema 'Foaie Verde Si-O Craita'" and you'll be amazed. At hyperspeed he has each hand playing a separate but complementary melody. It seems impossible, but it's not. These tracks, from the 1960s and '70s, are showcases for his talent. But he's certainly not the only talent in his ensemble. The violin and accordion can match him, and you can only imagine what it must have been like live. On the slower tracks he squeezes emotion from his instrument in a way only a Romanian Gypsy can, finding the heart of an aching melody. He was evidently a remarkable player from an early age, and growing older didn't diminish his skill or imagination at all. The saddest part is that he died in 1988, aged just 45. These cuts don't go that far, but it's likely he was still at the height of his powers. He toured internationally (and spent two years in jail for importing foreign currency), but also, like most musicians, played a lot of weddings. When he takes off on a solo, as with "Cantec de Ascultare Si Breaza," he carries the listener along with him, and it's only when he reaches the end that you realize you've been holding your breath. And only the best can make you do that. Pure genius. ~ Chris Nickson
Dirty Linen (p.45) - "Iordache was an astonishing technician and had the ability to play with a light touch even at breakneck speed."