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Koncert! by Kampec Dolores + Istvan Grencso

I love bands like Kampec Dolores - their music refuses to fit into any of those pre-conceived pigeonholes required by the music marketing machine. One could call them a 'progressive rock' or 'folk rock' band, I suppose, but such labels overlook the fact that there is quite a bit of improvisation going on in their music. Yet, Kampec Dolores is certainly not a jazz group, either.

At the nexus of whatever it is they do is a few hundred years worth of Hungarian folk music which - combined with modern instrumentation, an edgy rock / funk sound, and the virtuoso jazz improvisations of Istvan Grencso - sounds foreign and familiar at the same time.

The pairing of Gabi Kenderesi's voice and Csaba Hajnoczy's slashing guitar form the core of the group. This core has remained intact for about twenty years, and the two have an uncanny understanding. Kenderesi's voice is lovely, clear, unaffected, playful, and almost child-like at times. She uses lyrics (both in Hungarian and in 'unknown languages'), but often sings improvisationally in a sort of Eastern European vocalese style that will not sound unfamiliar to those who have heard Ivo Papasov's Bulgarian Wedding Band.

The rhythm section clearly has jazz chops and that Eastern European flair for maneuvering odd time signatures. They do not overplay and keep the pulse of the music funky, sharp, and taut - with a feel not unlike the early Talking Heads recordings. Istvan Grencso's multi-reeds soar over the top of it all, squealing jagged Dolphy-esque jazz one moment, and tenderly intoning centuries-old Hungarian folk tunes the next.

Koncert! is the band's first live recording. The recording quality is excellent, and the playing is spirited throughout - though the audience seems a little nonplussed. Even so, those who have a passing familiarity with the many flavors of Eastern European ethnic music will recognize and appreciate the band's crunchy, driving, and edgy take on these traditions.

Most of the material rocks pretty hard, and Grencso and Kenderesi provide numerous solo highlights. A notable exception is 'Kalimba' - a meditative track that makes extensive use of shakers, kalimba, recorder, and a harmonium sample to create a delicate, hypnotic background for Kenderesi's floating, unaffected vocals. A more frenzied and theatrical side of Kenderesi's voice is evident on "Small Cloud I". Hajnoczy follows with a metalloid, distorted tangle of a solo on "Small Cloud II". The CD concludes with two new studio tracks, both of which fit right in with the live set.

Koncert! is a worthwhile recording that will not appeal to everyone, but will certainly appeal to those whose ears are attuned to Eastern European art-rock.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Kampec Dolores + Istvan Grencso
  • CD Title: Koncert!
  • Genre: Progressive
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Record Label: ReR Megacorp
  • Tracks: A Walk, Orangeland, Eye of the Needle, Tan Naa Ne, Kalimba, Sitting on the Buffalo, Small Cloud I, Small Cloud II, There is a Time, Levitation, Water Country
  • Rating: Three Stars
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