Kalman Balogh & the Gypsy Cimbalom Band | Maurer Hall, Old Town School of Folk Music | International | Chicago Reader

Kalman Balogh & the Gypsy Cimbalom Band Recommended All Ages Soundboard Critics' Picks

When: Wed., April 1, 8:30 p.m. 2009

He’s one of Hungary’s greatest practitioners of traditional and Romany music, but cimbalom master Kalman Balogh has never handled it with the white gloves of a purist. He’s done some of his best work with this killer band, which pushes folkloric styles into the jazz realm—the blistering improvisation on Live in Germany (Traditional Crossroads, 2007) would sound equally at home in Romany music or in jazz, and though these guys stay more firmly rooted in traditional material than, say, Django Reinhardt, who’s a clear influence, they can still swing like mad. Balogh’s instrument is a sort of large eastern European hammer dulcimer, and he plays spindly lines in rapidly unspooling skeins, laying open the music’s complex harmonies as neatly and swiftly as a sushi chef. Saxophonist Peter Bede, violinist Frankie Lato (replaced on this tour by Sandor Budai), and multi-instrumentalist Ferenc Kovacs (equally fluent on trumpet and violin, and a recent visitor to Chicago with A Hawk and a Hacksaw) can rip through the sorrowful melodies at breakneck speed or sculpt them with serene delicacy; Balogh sometimes adds his cimbalom to this knockout front line and sometimes falls in with the lean rhythm section of bassist Csaba Novak and guitarist Mihaly Gyorgy, who make the lack of a drummer feel totally irrelevant. —Peter Margasak

Price: $5 suggested donation

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