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Left Foot In: Brave Combo at Blob's Park, Aug. 14

Left Foot In: Brave Combo at Blob's Park, Aug. 14

Carl Finch led

through the classic, swinging beginning of the jazz standard "Body and Soul" at Blob's Park on Saturday night. The Texas band's grizzled eminence in a pork pie hat then stopped abruptly and said, "That's a cool tune, right? You're probably asking how could anyone, even Brave Combo, the coolest band on the planet, make such a beautiful song even better. By making it a twist and playing it in a minor key, of course." The quintet roared back to life, giving "Body and Soul" an early-'60s dance beat and filling it with flatted thirds and sevenths as if Chubby Checker were jamming with Coleman Hawkins. And sure enough, the parquet wooden dance floor in the cavernous Bavarian polka palace filled with Dundalk grandmothers, Hampden hipsters, and Columbia families all pumping their elbows and gyrating their hips with abandon. This was far from the only act of musical transformation that the magicians in Brave Combo pulled off. A medley of "Jeepers Creepers" and "Chopsticks" was turned into a salsa. A medley of the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Green River" was turned into a cha-cha called "No, No, No, Cha, Cha, Cha," with a free-jazz jam in the middle. "Do the Hokey Pokey," which had three-fourths of the audience putting its left foot in and its left foot out, smoothly incorporated James Brown's "Licking Stick" into the hand-waving dance. And when Finch announced, "That Beethoven was a pretty good songwriter, right?" you just knew what was coming next: The Ninth Symphony distilled to a three-minute polka. It all worked because the five members of Brave Combo are all such terrific musicians, especially Jeffrey Barnes, the rounded, bearded figure in the Asian sunhat who played the theme from Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" as he introduced the polka standard, "The Clarinet Polka." It also worked because the band takes dance music seriously, playing "Satellite Polka" from its new album

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Kikiriki

and "Holiday in Poland" from the Connecticut Twins with crisp authority. And when it dedicated "Oaxaca Polka" to its composer, Tex-Mex legend

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, the "Jimi Hendrix of the Accordion" who died Friday night, they did so with obvious feeling.

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