3 Leg Torso brings gypsy tango to Bend

The ever-flamboyant Storm Large may be the headliner for Friday night’s Hullabaloo at NorthWest Crossing, but don’t sell 3 Leg Torso short.

My guess is that you may never have heard anything like this eclectic Portland band.

Many idiosyncratic musicians have been germinated in Portland’s creative soil. Consider, for instance, Pink Martini or Pépé and the Bottle Blondes. But none of them melds the high-energy Balkan gypsy tango that 3 Leg Torso prefers to call “world chamber music.”

There may in fact be no words to accurately describe this instrumental music. Said violinist and co-founder Béla Balogh: “When we started, we didn’t put any parameters on what we’d play.” That holds true today.

His co-founder, accordionist Courtney Von Drehle, came up with the name 3 Leg Torso. “We had one foot in modern chamber music, one foot in Eastern European music, and one foot in free improvisational music,” Balogh explained. “These all came together to form one large trunk.”

The band today: Von Drehle is in yellow, Balogh looks through the window.

Balogh and Von Drehle met in 1993 at a music store where Balogh worked, and soon wound up playing in a rock band together. But they discovered their musical passions lay elsewhere.

3 Leg Torso was born in 1996 as a trio, including a cello; later, drums and bass were added. Today the band includes standup bass player Mike Murphy and percussionists T.J. Arco and Gary Irvine.

Balogh and Von Drehle write all of the band’s original music. “Our music is influenced by many genres,” Balogh told me. “I come from a classical and Eastern European background, and I watched a lot of cartoons in my youth. Even sometimes I watch them now with my son.”

Collaborations with symphony orchestras have inspired a new passion of writing for larger ensembles, Balogh said. 3 Leg Torso has even performed with his father, Hungarian-born Lajos Balogh, a longtime symphony conductor at Portland’s Marylhurst University.

The band has produced three independent albums — most recently “Animals & Cannibals” in 2010. Despite its roots, it has at times been loosely compared to Argentine nuevo-tango originator Ástor Piazzolla and to the Kronos Quartet modern chamber ensemble.

Certainly, 3 Leg Torso has the inventory to do all of that. In addition to the violin, accordion, bass and drums, you may also hear the xylophone, vibraphone, trumpet and saxophone. “I’m starting to bring in my octave mandolin,” Balogh said. “And Courtney might add his slide guitar.”

You can watch the band perform on its web site — www.3legtorso.com — or, better yet, live and free tomorrow night in Bend. 3 Leg Torso takes the stage at the NorthWest Crossing Neighborhood Center at 7 p.m., preceding Storm Large and following local Celtic-influenced favorite Five Pint Mary.

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