Gypsy Dream (Mesa/Bluemoon Records, 2014)
Outstanding Hungarian classical violinist Ferenc Illenyi has a parallel career as a fabulous Gypsy music violinist. His album ‘Gypsy Dream’ takes the listener to the multidimensional world of Gypsy music.
“I was classically trained,” he explains. “That was my education, but growing up in Hungary, Gypsy music is there in your soul, subliminally. With classical music you do as you are told, you play what’s in the score. Gypsy music is so much freer; people take and add their own parts to the melody.”
Gypsy Dream opens with charming tango-influenced version of the ancient melody Ando Beco. Next, Illenyi takes you to the Gypsy jazz sound of French cafes on the melancholic ‘Tears.’
Playing flamenco is not easy, but Ferenc Illenyi gives it a try on ‘Boabdit, Bulerias.’ His violin rises to the occasion. The guitar and palmas however are a little weak. Next time he may want to call flamenco musicians from Spain.
“The flamenco nearly killed me,” Illenyi laughs. “The rhythm is so different. Erich Avinger, the guitar player and arranger, suggested it. I learned it through headphones and I love it, in part because it was so hard for me to capture. Flamenco is really music for guitar, not violin, and that made it so much more difficult – but intimately, very rewarding.”
Ferenc Illenyi delivers a masterful romantic rendition of Kreisler’s “Gypsy Caprice.” The next piece is the spirited ‘Indifference,’ where classical meets, Gypsy jazz and Brazilian influences.
‘Oblivion’ and ‘Tortura’ returns Ferenc Illyeni to passionate tango. This is followed by the vibrant Django Reinhardt jazz classic ‘A Minor Swing.’ “Jazz is a natural extension of Gypsy music. Gypsy musicians cross over all the time,” Ferenc Illenyi explains. “It is almost a requirement. In the hotels in Hungary, musicians have to do it all the time.”
Ferenc Illenyi transitions from swing to heartbreak on ‘Gloomy Sunday.’ It’s followed by an original flamenco jazz composition by guitarist and producer Erich Avinger titled ‘The Birds of Santa Maria Novella.’ “Erich Avinger wrote it about 20 years ago after seeing the birds fly around a square in Italy. Our version is very different from his original,” says Illenyi.
The album concludes with a classical flavor, with the delightful Scarlatti piece ‘Sonata in F Minor K466.’ “It’s a version we put together. It’s so different from what Scarlatti wrote,” says Illenyi.
Gypsy Dream features Ferenc Illenyi on violin, jazz pianist Andrew Leinhard, guitarist Erich Avinger, and bassist Chris Maresh. Guests include violinist Zeljko Pavlovic, director of the Vivaldi Music Academy; tabla player Dexter Raghunanan; tambura player Branko Pavlovic; cellist Daniel Saenz; viola player Sheldon Preston; percussionist James Metcalf; and pianist Scott Holshouser.