Review: Dunajska Kapelye

Dunajska Kapelye
(Vortex, Dalston, February 23rd 2011, Review by Tim Woodall)

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Here was proof that there is more to gypsy jazz than Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli. London-based five-piece Dunajska Kapelye played tunes from Turkey, Macedonia, Hungary, Russia and Transylvania – as well as a few Hot Club de France numbers – at a sold out, packed Vortex last night.

The inspiration behind this far-reaching passion for gypsy music clearly begins with Piotr Jordan, who put this group together with help from the Vortex. (Dunajska Kapelye are regulars at the club’s monthly Gypsy / East European Night.) A slight, bespectacled figure and seemingly diffident stage presence, the Polish violinist is a remarkable bandleader. He plays with sinewy virtuosity but, unlike so many gypsy jazz violinists, doesn’t dominate the texture with continuous speedy solos.

He is more often cajoling his colleagues – guitarist Jez Cook, Zac Gvirtzman on accordion, Raph Mizraki on double-bass and supporting violinist Flora Curzon – with high register effects and encouraging head nodding. Everyone gets the opportunity for a short solo, but the focus with Dunajska Kapelye is on ensemble playing, whipping easily between runaway, foot-stomping swing and the mournful hush of the ballads.

Cook’s guitar and Mizraki’s bass form the band’s core and combine to bring out the jazz manouche flavour. Cook’s presence is unobtrusive to the point of reticence, but the few licks he allowed himself channelled Reinhardt’s spirit, while Mizraki switched between slap-bass brilliance and solid accompaniment.

Gvirtzman’s fractured, creative accordion playing (and indeed Jordan’s style of fiddling) moves the band’s centre of gravity eastward and to the Balkans, from where the majority of the night’s melodies originate. From melancholic Russian songs (one of which was sung with soul by Gina Boreham) to Transylvanian folk themes, all gypsy life was here.

Dunajska Kapelye put out an album in 2009, and there’s another on the way, apparently. Whether either of these CDs can match them live – with the audience dancing, whooping and clapping – I doubt somehow, but they will certainly be worth a listen.

Dunajska Kapelye’s Myspace

Next London gig: Green Note, Camden, Sunday March 20th

Dunajska Kapelye’s 2009 CD on Bandcamp

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