The New York Gypsy All-Stars (NYGA), masters of contemporary Balkan Gypsy music, is a musical chemistry experiment with explosive staying power. It was born from the very first “loud and proud” New York Gypsy Festival, spotlighting Easter European and Balkan music, and the musical intuition of Serdar Ilhan, festival producer and NYGA manager (Village Voice).
Living up to their name in every way, the NYGA blend traditional Gypsy and Turkish melodies with a scorching jazz and funk backbone, creating a unique sound that satisfies the brain and soul. The band exemplifies New York in the most eclectic sense possible, hailing from Macedonia, Greece, Turkey and Brooklyn.
Equally at home in a concert hall or a downtown club, NYGA embraces opportunities to bring their music to new listeners in non-traditional spaces. The group continues on this path with their groundbreaking debut album “Romantek,” coming out in April 2011. The album’s name is a play on the phrase “roman techno” and expresses a heartfelt love for Gypsy music and culture. However the name “Romantek” is no indicator of pace or sentiment as the album is marked by blasphemous “sizzling chops” and a marked disregard of any specific musical style limitations (Lucid Culture Blog). Heart wrenching melodies, lavish ornamentation and off-beat improvisation against complex drum rhythms—an East-meets-West fusion of the highest order.
The NYGA combine complexity with cohesion, playing intricate melodies with a breathtaking dexterity, musicality and tenacity. Headman Ismail Lumanovski, Macedonian/ Turkish virtuosic clarinetist, leads the groups through a “blistering series of haunting dance numbers” (Lucid Culture Blog). Lumanovski blends the nuanced talent of a Julliard masters scholar and international contest winner with the musical sensibilities of a long time classical music listener.
Lumanovski is accompanied impeccably by the one and only Tamer Pinarbasi, who plays the Kanun/Quanun (Turkish zither). Pinarbasi’s combining of the makam (classical Turkish scales) and Western harmonies gives his music an unmistakable originality. By forgoing the traditional use of a misrab (plectrum) on each pointer finger, Pinarbasi uses his finger nails, drastically increasing the musical possibilities of his instrument.
Engin Gunaydin, percussion extraordinaire, was born in Melbourne, Australia but moved to Turkey as a child. In Turkey, Gunaydin was a frequent guest member with the Bilkent Symphony Orchestra. Backed by a solid classical education, Gunaydin gravitated towards jazz and contemporary set playing which landed him squarely in the ranks of The Berklee College of Music. There he solidified himself as an accomplished percussionist and jazz set player.
Bringing the funk, Panagiotis Andreou, from Athens, Greece, has graced audiences around the globe with his vast stylistic repertoire. Afro-Caribbean, South American, Balkan, Turkish, Armenian, Western African and Middle Eastern are a few of the wide array of styles Andreou has performed and recorded. Additionally, Andreou was recently awarded “Best Latin Jazz Bassist of the year” for 2010, in esteemed jazz blog “The Latin Jazz Corner”.
Jason Linder, as described by Chick Corea, is “a musical universe”. In the NYGA he commands the keyboards, but is also an acclaimed bandleader, composer and arranger. Lidner’s artistic projects and musical collaborations are as exhaustive as his abilities.
Performance highlights include Carnegie Hall, (Le) Poisson Rouge, Central Park Summer Stage, Central Park De La Corte Theater, Joe’s Pub, Berklee College of Music, Chicago World Music Festival; Madison World Music Festival and home venue Drom. The NYGA have also completed two US tours covering eight major US cities from Virginia to San Francisco.
NYGA has performed with artists like Selim Sesler, Derya Koroglu, Al di Meola, Brooklyn Funk Essentials, Ivo Papasov, Husnu Senlendirici and Vassilis Saleas.
Members of NYGA have performed with the likes of Paquito D’Rivera, Sertab Erene, Lauryn Hill, Elvin Jones, Branford Marsalis, James Moody, Erkan Ogur, Zuhal Olcay, Omer Faruk Tekbilek and Ray Vega.
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