Sondorgo Bring a Boisterous Hungarian Counterpart to Bluegrass to NYC

by delarue

Sondorgo play what might be termed Hungarian bluegrass. Their sound relies not on soaring violins or punchy brass – instead, the band’s main axe is the spiky, mandolin-like tambura, which varies in size and register. An amazing bunch of multi-instrumentalists, Sondorgo play all of them, along with clarinet, alto sax, trumpet and accordion. They’ve got a new album, Tamburocket, streaming at Spotify, and their debut New York show coming up on Sept 25 at 7 PM at Elebash Hall at CUNY, 365 5th Ave. just north of 34th St. Cover is $25.

The album opens with a tightly unwinding, characteristically upbeat dance number that veers from a swinging, rustically nostalgic theme to a more insistent, almost frantic bounce. The band then romps through Marice, a brisk Croatian folk tune about a girl all the guys have their eyes on, but can’t get. Then they bring down the lights with the brooding, unexpectedly lush, angst-fueled minor-key Serbian tune Evo Secu, which eventually morphs back into more upbeat territory.

Hulusination, a long, serpentine mashup of a moody Serbian cocek dance and Chinese flute music. opens suspiciously like a Balkan remake of a notoriously cheesy American tv theme from about 25 years ago (no spoilers here) before introducing achingly incisive solos from brass and clarinet. Then two of the band’s three-brother team, Áron and Salamon Eredics whip through a lickety-split flute-and-tambura duet.

They slow it down once again with a swaying, ominously trilling chromatic number for sax, hulusi, accordion and tamburas over a hypnotic, nocturnal clip-clop beat: this song had a rich and eventful past life as an Egyptian snakecharmer. They follow it with a couple of spikily romping, trickily syncopated tambura dances, then the blistering Landing Cocek, a long launching pad for Dávid Eredics’searing clarinet, his cousin Salomon’s similar but more droll accordion, and a funky Attila Buzás bass tambura solo. The album winds up with a lively south Serbian ring dance. People from this band’s part of the world may have fought like cats and dogs for centuries, but, wow, did they ever cross-pollinate! Fans of bluegrass, Algerian mandola music, Italian tarantellas and the more upbeat side of Balkan music have a lot to enjoy here.