3 Leg Torso has a Christmas Charmer
3 Leg Torso’s Courtney Von Drehle and Béla Balogh brought their charming and really lovely new Christmas album to Saturday Joe and myself for a preview. Two years in the making and with guest vocalists making spirits bright, this can easily become your new holiday favorite.
The description of the collection of songs on this new album, provided at cdbaby , really nails it:
Gypsy-pop, operatic doo-wop, hoe-down, jazz and classical arrangements of holiday classics that feature sublime to carousing singing, anchored by masterful violin, accordion, double bass, percussion, rocking mandolins, electric guitar and trumpet.
Courtney and Béla tell us the group began as a trio, but eventually expanded, keeping their name intact. Now the result is a really fascinating mash-up of chamber music, Gypsy, Latin, klezmer, and even tango. Saturday Joe and I previewed the album and got the back story on how the project evolved, how the music was picked and who they brought in for guest vocals, including Storm Large and Valerie Day of Nu Shooz. Enjoy the conversation and learn more about the band at bottom of page.
This Christmas album – over two years in the making – was inspired by “A Circus Carol,” our holiday theater extravaganza with the Wanderlust Circus. Take a festive journey with 3 Leg Torso and our special guests and good friends, vocalist extrodinaire: Storm Large, Valerie Day, Scot Crandal, Noah Mickens, and guitarist: David Stassens. Let’s not forget our own T.J. Arko, stepping out from behind the drum kit in his singing debut with 3 Leg Torso, on God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen!
We have been an instrumental ensemble since 1996 and on this album we have been excited to add all these great singers to the mix. But what is the genesis story of 3 Leg Torso, you might ask? Well……
3 Leg Torso formed as violin, cello and accordion trio with the mission of creating original modern chamber music for their unique instrumentation. Over the following years, the ensemble has expanded both it’s musical mission and it’s size to become a quintet that now performs original compositions based on an eclectic synthesis of chamber music, tango, klezmer, latin, and Roma (Gypsy) music.
As principal composers, founding members Béla R. Balogh (violin and trumpet) and Courtney Von Drehle (accordion) provide the core of 3 Leg Torso’s sound. They are joined by veteran percussionist/mallet player Gary Irvine, the consummate mallets/percussion of T.J. Arko, and the gentleman of the acoustic bass, Mike Murphy.
The ensemble’s history began with street performances, which they titled “Meestering”, and has led to their releasing three award winning instrumental albums (3 Leg Torso, Astor in Paris, and Animals & Cannibals), East Coast and West Coast tours, performances with symphony orchestras and a profile on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered”.
The cinematic nature of their music has led to work with many film makers, including Oscar nominated documentary artist Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me), two short films with Teller (Penn & Teller) two films by Academy Award winning animator Joan Gratz The Dowager’s Feast and The Dowager’s Idyll, scoring With Hope and Help, a UNICEF funded documentary about living with AIDS in Thailand. One of the ensemble’s pieces has been used as theme music for a Bosnian television series, and the group’s music was also featured in the 2012 National Geographic special Preparing for the Apocalypse.
In 2003, accordionist Von Drehle was awarded a fellowship at the Sundance Film Composer’s Lab, and in 2010, his work on the Oscar nominated documentary “The Final Inch”, was nominated for an Emmy.
3 Leg Torso has a full concert set of arrangements for symphony orchestra which has brought them together for sold out performances with the Central Oregon Symphony, Pacific Crest Wind Symphony, Portland Festival Symphony, and the Metropolitan Youth Symphony. Composers Balogh and Von Drehle were commissioned to write a full-length piece, Sinfonia Misterioso, to celebrate the Metropolitan Youth Symphony’s 35th anniversary gala concert.