Eclectic Gypsy Jazz from Tarkany Muvek
Hungarian combo Tarkany Muvek put a deviously entertaining, traditionalist spin on what we in the cimbalom-deprived United States tend to lump together under the nebulous rubric of gypsy jazz. The group’s latest album Introducing Tarkany Muvek is out as a digital download from World Music Network and it’s tremendously enjoyable, as original as it is intelligent. Frontwoman Juliana Paar’s high soprano ranges from misty, to stark and haunted, to wounded and brittle, over the richly resonant cimbalom (Hungarian hammered dulcimer) of the group’s main composer, Bálint Tárkány Kovács along with multi-reedman Gergo Kovats (also of Koala Fusion and Oláh Dezso Septet), violist Endre Papp and bassist András Bognár. They have a sense of humor (the first song on the album is titled Bite It) and shift seamlessly between folk and jazz idioms. A bouncy Hungarian torch song becomes a jaunty jump blues; Kovats’ tenor sax ranges from Louis Jordan ebullience to Philip Glass hypnoticism, and Papp’s elegant orchestration gives the music a welcome heft and lushness.
That first track sure has some bite: a protege of the legendary Kalman Balogh, Kovacs prowls from apprehensive to triumphant and back, sometimes in a split second, then the song goes halfspeed with a misty tenor sax interlude before picking up again. They follow that with a pensive, starkly hypnotic ballad and then the ironically-charged Hush Peacock, which segues into a bouncy Hungarian torch song that morphs unexpectedly into a lickety-split jump blues. There’s a trancily rhythmic number built on a Steve Reich-esque circular riff, a rubato folk-rock ballad with flute aptly titled Autumn Sketch; a tongue-in-cheek bounce entitled So Much I Love, and a cleverly low-key, loungey take on the gypsy standard Csirrip that Paar sinks her fangs into just enough to keep the irony in the red.
They follow that with an instrumental that sends the sax soaring over a tense, mysterioso background that the cimbalom eventually joins to add an extra layer of suspense that Kovats eventually ends up shattering – it’s one of the album’s most enjoyable moments. After that, they take an absolutely charming stab at a tiptoeing retro Roaring 20s vibe that wouldn’t be out of place in the Lake Street Dive fakebook, then wind up the album with a number that begins on a minimalist, Satie-esque note, Kovats’ smoky sax adding a warm wee-hours edge before the whole band picks it up and sends it up flying. Lucky Hungarian fans can catch their next gig on September 7 at 9 PM at the Mustache Festival.
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