When: Sat., Feb. 25, 9 p.m. 2012
This hard-hitting quintet, founded by Macedonian clarinetist Ismail Lumanovski, applies a heavy funk backbeat not just to music from along the route followed by the nomadic Gypsies (the polite term is "Romany") over the past thousand years—northern India, eastern Europe—but also from entirely unrelated places like Latin America. The New York Gypsy All-Stars obviously aren't a traditional group, though their original tunes borrow ages-old melodies and modes; with members from Greece, Turkey, Macedonia, and the States, the band represents the melting pot of its adopted city at least as much as anywhere else. Balkan sounds throb at the music's heart, and on the band's recent debut album, Romantech (Traditional Crossroads), Lumanovski and Tamer Pinarbasi, a wizard on a plucked zither called the kanun, dominate the front-line action with wildly zigzagging unison melodies and the improvisational asides and solos that spring from them in quicksilver flurries. The group slows down here and there, but its ballads tend to be weighed down by the hypertechnical excesses of electric bassist Panagiotis Andreou and drummer Engin Gunaydin. Even jazz keyboardist Jason Lindner, who's generally pretty terrific, makes a few ugly forays into fusiony synthesizer noodling. But when the band keeps the tempo up—whether trafficking in bhangra on "Balkan Bollywood" or dropping in some son montuno on "Butcher's"—it can be counted on for a blast of raucous party music. The New York Gypsy All-Stars made their Chicago debut as part of the 2007 World Music Festival, and tonight they open for Turkish pop star Gulsen, which explains the steep ticket price. —Peter Margasak $60, $50 in advance.