EXCERPTS OF REVIEWS:
Much of the [Tamburitzans] music was played on traditional and homemade instruments. One, a curious-looking trumpet-violin, was inspired by the introduction of the gramophone to Transylvania. The strangely Celtic-sounding music was performed by Kalman Magyar Jr., who stood out for his warmth and musical versatility.
Jennifer Dunning, New York Times, November 2, 1994
Lead violinist Magyar proved to be an excellent showman as well as a versatile player of five different instruments, including the hurdy-gurdy. In fact, Magyar’s humorous and unabashed rapport with the audience tended to point up the dancers lack of experience in making similar contact.
Carolyn Jack, Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 17, 1997
And the versatile Kalman Magyar Jr. displayed his mastery of many ethnic instruments rarely heard in concert, including the intriguing Transylvanian trumpet-violin and the eerily beautiful fujara of Slovakia.
Betsy Kline, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 31, 1994
Tunes from across the Balkans from US-born Magyar, who plays all the instruments of his Hungarian band himself, multi-tracking with one mic in his NJ basement. Hes a skilful, experienced player, particularly on violin, and he makes a convincing combo
Folk Roots (fRoots) Magazine (UK)
The noted American musician steps out of his usual role as ambassador of Hungarian village music to show off not only his musicianship but also his diverse musical interests, in a recording of Hungarian, Romanian, Balkan and Gypsy songs. Kalman performs all the parts on this studio recording, and impresses throughout.
Exposed demonstrates Magyar’s encyclopedic knowledge of European folk music, as well as his facility on a large number of instruments. Not only is his source material engaging, but the arrangements themselves are entertaining and musically satisfying. The disc not only teaches us something, but is a delight to hear — what a concept!
Kalman Magyar’s Exposed provides his fine solo recording of music from not only Hungary but Romania and the Balkans. Eighteen selections of folk tunes range from show music to dance pieces to laments – but each holds something special, and a uniquely Eastern European feel. Most are quick-paced fiddle songs, but each demonstrates a different pace and style. Here is a Turkish-style dance tune, there an Irish ballad, elsewhere gypsy fiddle imitations of bird sounds!
Kalman Magyar is an extremely gifted musician who grew up in a family that was active in the traditional Hungarian dance world. He began violin studies in childhood and his prodigious multi-instrumental abilities also seem to date from an early period. Already conversant with jazz and classical traditions as a teenager, his boundaries expanded greatly vis-ŕ-vis other Balkan music when he became a member of the well-known folk dance and music group associated with Duquesne University, the Tamburitzans. At present, Magyar is involved with various groups, but the liners to Exposed state that he wanted to make a record to reveal other musical ideas. No doubt the desire to showcase his multi-instrumental capacities was also involved, and its very difficult to think of another recording where one musician overdubs all the parts thats quite as impressive as this. In addition to fiddles, he also plays viola, accordion, guitar, bass, jews harp, piano, hurdy-gurdy, percussion, and other odds and ends. He also sings reasonably well. Amazingly, he has kept the music sounding quite live through all the hours of overdubbing each tune must have required. In the end, the one-man-show aspect is secondary to the excellent musical results.
On Crossing Paths, Kalman Magyar teams with cimbalom master Alexander Fedoriouk for another impressive outing. Lavish use is made of multi-tracking, and the results are excellent, but one must say that it would be nice to hear these two outstanding players produce a CD devoted to straight fiddle-cimbalom duos. Here, they cover ground such an approach couldn’t accomodate, with full-ensemble renditions of Balkan dance tunes. They also come up with some fun new wrinkles, notably on “All Jazzed Up,” where the cimbalom plays an adapted boogie-woogie bass line under a Gypsy-jazz melody that leads to some delightful improvisation. Balkan fans should definitely check out both discs.
Dirty Linen Magazine
Kalman Magyar is one of those rare people who raise the quality of our world a bit higher. This fellow grew up in New Jersey, absorbing the Hungarian folk culture of his parents and friends. By age of twelve he was a much-sought-after multi-instrumentalist performer. He went on to get degrees in business and law, all the while touring and honing his already formidable skills and repertoire. Now a full time lawyer, he still maintains an outrageous musical life. And I was the lucky reviewer at the Green Man to have a go at two of his recordings.
The first thing that struck me about Exposed was the cohesion and versatility of the band. I was blown away when I read the liner notes to find that the project was a solo effort, with Kalman composing, arranging, and then playing on violin, viola, the kontra, the 4-string guitar, accordion, various basses and percussion, keyboards, and let’s not forget the jaw harp. Although his musical influences are too diverse to classify succinctly, he’s at both the roots and topmost leaves of Folk, Jazz, and Rock, as brought to us through the traditions of Eastern Europe.
The title track, “Exposed,” is a very lively Romanian piece centered on the violin. Two notable Bulgarian tunes are “Pajdusko,” a 5/16 time dance tune, and “Recenica,” a tune in 7/16 time. His other material covers numbers from Hungary, Transylvania, Moldavia, Serbia, Croatia, and even Ireland, with “Lullaby for Trixie.” All his material is underscored by crisp playing, inspired by regions that have been rich in cross-cultural music for millenia.
Kalman’s versatility has to be heard to be believed. Besides his tradition-based material, there are many surprising twists and turns. “Sorrow” is derived from Hungarian sources but features vocals and guitar leads not unlike those of Aztec Two Step. “The Lark” is a flashy show tune that pours into a very credible imitation of the self-same bird with a trademark rhythm reminiscent of that in the Bluegrass harmonica standard “The Orange Blossom Special.” Kalman is also a master of the pick-slap, pick-slap string styles and chord progressions that made their way into American Swing.
Having whetted your interest, I’ll be brief about Crossing Paths. It’s a collaboration with Alexander Fedoriouk, an awesome Ukrainian jazz and traditional player of percussion, woodwind, and accordion. The only way to describe this CD is to imagine David Grisman’s groundbreaking Dawg Grass with a few more ethnic traditions’ worth of sounds layered in, and the Improv knob cranked way up.
Kalman Magyar is the Eileen Ivers of Gypsy music. I know I don’t usually lavish such gargantuan praise, but I’d swear on a pile of my editors’ skulls that I’m not wallowing in hyperbole here!
Mike Stiles, Greenman Review
Kálmán Magyar, hailing from the wilds of New Jersey, is one of North America’s most in-demand Balkan style violinists. On the eighteen tracks of Exposed, he makes the rounds of Eastern Europe, with music from Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Moldavia, Transylvania, and Ireland. Wondering about that last one? “Lullaby for Trixie” is “a tune based on the traditional Irish ballad sound,” as Magyar puts it. He breathes new life into chestnuts such as “Invirtita,” a Transylvanian dance tune, and that “Orange Blossom Special” of eastern European music, “The Lark.” His fiddling is formidable, with a sharp attack and lots of clean little ornaments. He throws in some sonic surprises, such as percussion and keyboards, which usually work well.