Music/New York Gypsy All Stars
New York Gypsy All Stars are a New York City based band whose music is a bit difficult to describe. Comprised of clarinetist & bandleader Ismail Lumanovski, kanun player Tamer Pinarbasi, bassist & vocalist Panagiotis Andreou, keyboardist Jason Lindner and drummer Engin Gunaydin, they mix jazz with the music of the Balkans, adding touches of pop, funk and even rock along the way to create a sound that's simultaneously exotic, familiar and, above all, completely unlike anyone else. Lumanovski has said, "We cover all the Balkans melodically and we cover the world rhythmically and harmonically.". The band initially formed thanks to a chance meeting between Lumanovski & Andreou and have released two albums to date, 2011's Romantech & 2015's Dromomania.
In addition to their unique combination of genres, New York Gypsy All Stars are also notable for their unusual instrumentation. The band's use of a clarinet, instead of the more typical saxophone, brings an old school element to their music that evokes Dixieland jazz and Klezmer, but Lumanovski coaxes a remarkably full, smooth tone from his instrument that's quite different from the thin, reedy sound commonly associated with the clarinet. Of course, the far more unconventional part of their lineup is Pinarbasi's kanun. The kanun is a Turkish zither that uses a series of levers to raise the pitch of the strings. Pinarbasi chooses to play without plectrums, which also gives him a warmer tone than the instrument is usually known for, and he & Lumanovski often play in unison, frequently executing fast passages that bring a signature element to the band's already singular sound. All of these elements, as well as the sheer virtuosity exhibited by all five members of the band make New York Gypsy All Stars one of the most original and unusual bands that I have ever heard.
I'll leave you with their live performance of Romantech's EZ-Pass, from the Congahead Youtube channel, and the official video for Melandia from Dromomania. You can find both of their albums on Amazon & Spotify, Dromomania on iTunes and you can download the song Romantech for free on Bandcamp.
If there's a movie, recording artist, anime, podcast or any other media that you'd like me to check out for possible inclusion on the rec list, please contact me and let me know about it.