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Nikolett Pankovits Sextet & the River Voices

May 20 | Mon |
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Jazz singer Nikolett Pankovits and a brilliant cast of vocalists & instrumentalists re-imagine the haunting melodies of Hungarian folk music with a luscious array of jazz and Latin American rhythms.

The project builds upon the field research of legendary Hungarian composers such as Bela Bartok and Zoltan Kodaly, confounding stylistic expectations and melding disparate musical worlds. For Pankovits, the New York scene provided an ideal forum for melding the music of her youth with her love of jazz and kindred musical currents. Working closely with longtime collaborator Juancho Herrera, a New York string wizard and arranger from Colombia, she’s designed the Zankel Hall concert as a barrier-breaking event for both Hungarian music lovers and music fans drawn to creatively charged cross-cultural collaborations.

The concert grew out of Pankovits’ hit production featuring Latin jazz-inflected arrangements of traditional Hungarian songs Sad But True, which she performed to sold-out audiences in New York at venues such as the Blue Note, Joe’s Pub, the Bitter End, Club Bonafide, Rockwood Music Hall, and Lincoln Center.

Pankovits performs with both her jazz group and The River Voices, a female vocal octet featuring Laura Angyal, Reka Banyai, Kinga Cserjesi, Kata Harsaczki, Ildiko Nagy, Artemisz Polonyi, and Boglarka Goldea-Raksanyi. The group’s unique repertoire incorporates elements across the five major regions in Hungarian folk music. The program also features a Hungarian folk band with fiddler Jake Shulman-Ment, violist Aron Szekely, upright bassist Branislav Brinarsky (and dancer Denes Takacsy on one piece).

Nothing better captures the female-centric program’s frisson of tradition and innovation than Nagy performing on the gardon, the only instrument in traditional Hungarian music reserved for women. She spent years in Romania, studying and playing with the last classic couple of Gyimesi Csangó music.

While the vicissitudes of history have left the Hungarian people divided and separated, reinterpreting the music through a New York lens puts the pieces back together, offering an embracing vision of unity that transcends time and politics.

Venue: Carnegie Hall

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