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Budapest's East Gipsy band is augmented by Rolling Stones' sax player 

Although its rapid-fire melodies lean close to tradition, they also evoke the sound of bebop in their rhythmic and melodic complexity.

click to enlarge Tim Ries, the Rolling Stones saxophonist who's playing with East Gipsy Band
  • Photo courtesy of Lourdes Delgado
  • Tim Ries, the Rolling Stones saxophonist who's playing with East Gipsy Band

Musical worlds collide with the East Gipsy Band. The group of musicians, hailing from Budapest, Hungary, plays music with a clear link to members' ancestors. Vilmos Oláh's cimbalom, a hammered dulcimer with a sharp metallic tone, adds a haunting, traditionally exotic sound to the minor-key tunes.

But the band's sound doesn't start and end with gypsy music. Although its rapid-fire melodies lean close to tradition, they also evoke the sound of bebop in their rhythmic and melodic complexity. This isn't a fluke either. East Gipsy Band pianist József Balázs has proven himself to be a solid jazz man, having played with trombonist Robin Eubanks and other international improvisers. While performing, he can be seen singing the melody of his piano solo as he plays it, a la Oscar Peterson.

If that fusion of sounds wasn't enough, the group received something of a profile boost when it was joined by Tim Ries. This American saxophonist can lay claim to his own lengthy résumé, but he's best known as the saxophonist in the Rolling Stones touring band. Ries tackles the East Gipsy Band's music as if he too has been playing it for years, spinning soprano sax melodies in tandem with Lájos Sarközi's violin.

Ries performed with the band on a 2011 tour that brought the festive atmosphere to Small's jazz club in New York City. In a DVD documenting that trip, Ries calls the East Gipsy Band "magical."

"The audience feels the energy," he goes on. "It's fusing so many great traditions of classical and Roma music with jazz and folk." Playing with Mick and Keef might be a good meal ticket, but somehow, this gig seems more fulfilling.

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