NEW YORK GYPSY ALL-STARS

The New York Gypsy All-Stars sprang the moment virtuosic clarinetist Ismail Lumanovski, scion of a revered musical family in Macedonia and a versatile Athens-born jazz bassist Panagiotis Andreou, both of whom were raised on the lush sounds of Macedonian, Greek, Turkish, and American roots, met. Tearing through the tollgates separating the region’s interlocking roots, the duo with composerly ears and a madcap relish for ill and crunky sounds, has expanded into a world jazz quintet of crack musicians with Lumanovski and Andreou eventually being joined by Turkish roots maverick Tamer Pinarbasi, who had long experimented with the kanun (traditional zither), throwing out his plectrums in favor of bare fingernails and kneading together microtonal makam scales with Western harmonies; Australia-born, Turkey-raised jazz-loving classically trained percussionist Engin Gunyadin; and wild keyboard innovator and sonic mastermind Jason Lindner. 

Zooming with Roma-inspired zeal from swinging salsa to jazz to pulsing bhangra, New York Gypsy All-Stars swing hard, display astounding chops, and remain true to the spirit of their name. According to the leader, Lumanovski, NYGA-S use lots of musical elements in their original compositions that are typically Balkan Romany in style but aren’t necessarily in your face. More important than that, Lumanivski notes, is how they use the Gypsy term in a broader sense by taking what the Gypsies did, traveling from India to the Balkans and on to Western Europe and putting together the best musical ideas from every nation along the way.

The All Stars come by this impulse and skill naturally. It’s a rare thing, even in music-rich Southeastern Europe and in musician-packed New York, to find conservatory trained-caliber musicians who grew up playing weddings or rocking a čoček or a çiftetelli with local masters. Yet that’s exactly what the All Stars are: Alongside degrees from places like Juilliard and Berklee, they grew up jamming with local roots musicians or defiantly attacking traditional zithers with their bare fingers, getting into Latin jazz or bringing the funk. 

It’s in playing and improvising together—often for marathon sessions or ecstatic crowds from the Black Sea to Brooklyn—that the All Stars have honed their repertoire over the many years. This led the strong-willed, devoted musicians to craft their acclaimed debut album Romantech which is being followed by a second recording due within months.

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