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World Music CD Reviews Europe

Kalman Balogh Gypsy Cimbalom Band

By Paula E. Kirman
Published February 19, 2008

Live In Germany
Traditional Crossroads

As fans of Toni Iordache are aware, the cimbalom is as fascinating to look at and listen to as it is difficult to play. A 36-stringed version of the hammered dulcimer from the 16th century, the instrument has a medieval sound in and of itself, but in the hands of virtuoso Kálmán Balogh, it’s transformed into an expressive vehicle that’s geared for folk, jazz and traditional Eastern European music. On this new release, the energy of Balogh’s masterful playing is captured live during a performance in Germany, where he’s backed up by his ensemble of bass, horns, guitar, and violin. Several tracks derive from traditional compositions and recall Eastern European life in the Jewish shtetl, with the cimbalom front and center. Others rustle up a more contemporary jazz flair and feature some fine saxophone, trumpet and other melodic leads, with Balogh’s playing adding yet another tantalizing texture.