A Greek bassist ducked into a little bar in New York's Alphabet City and heard the Eastern Mediterranean and Southern Balkans pouring across the packed room. The clarinet was keening and singing, and he knew every tune.
From this blown-away moment of discovery, the New York Gypsy All-Stars sprang, uniting bi-musical virtuosi raised on the lush sounds of Macedonian, Greek, Turkish, and American roots and forged in the halls of the world's best music schools. With composerly ears and a madcap relish for ill and crunky sounds, the quintet of crack musicians tears through the tollgates separating the region's interlocking roots on the long-awaited album of original pieces, Romantech (Traditional Crossroads) and on tour in February with concerts in cities including Chicago and NYC.
Through all the complexity and ability, a good-times vibe jumps out at listeners, making the hardest-core kopanitsa in 11/8 feel like an easy two-step. "We have a piece called ‘EZ Pass,' because our music can feel like an easy pass to the Balkans," Lumanovski laughs, explaining one of the album's song titles and its ties to the New York area toll pass. "With an EZ Pass, you don't stop; it's very fast. You just go. And it just flows."