Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!


Nikolett Pankovits: Magia

Mark Sullivan By

Sign in to view read count
Vocalist Nikolett Pankovits was born in Hungary, but she found her musical direction in New York City melding Hungarian songs with Latin American rhythms. She has a lovely warm voice, with almost no vibrato. Magia (the Spanish and Hungarian word for magic) is an eclectic mix of traditional Hungarian songs, torch songs, one Great American Songbook standard, and one original. The album opens in traditional territory, with the Béla Bartók arrangement of "Kis Kece Lányom." "Madárka, madárka" is also a traditional song (collected by Zoltán Kodály) but this time guitarist/arranger Juancho Herrera gives it a Latin feel—the sort of unusual stylistic crossroads the album abounds in.

The torch songs come courtesy of the repertoire of legendary Hungarian actress/singer Katalin Karády, who is famous for her rescue of numerous Hungarian Jews during World War II. They are given spare arrangements with acoustic guitar, drums, and upright bass. Guest saxophonist Greg Tardy adds an additional color to "Fogadj El Engem."

Two other songs share a similar vintage. "Gloomy Sunday/Szomorú Vasárnap" (aka "Hungarian Suicide Song") was published in 1933, and made famous with Billie Holiday's 1941 version in English. "Don't Ask Me Who I Was/ Ne kérdezd ki voltam" is a 1941 song also associated with Karády, with Pankovits' English lyrics. This is very dark material, on the topics of suicide and faithless love. Pankovits sings them beautifully, but I have to say that I was not convinced emotionally. She just seems entirely too sunny for such bleak feelings.

She redeems herself with the closer, the Mandel/Bergman standard "Where Do You Start?" With the help of pianist Jason Lindner and Tardy's saxophone, this beautiful song about divorce finds just the right tone. Other standouts include the Balkan dance rhythm of "La Dama De La Muerte," with a dialogue between trumpeter Josh Deutsch and violinist Zach Brock (who is second only to Herrera as MVP of the session). On the sole original, "Stop For A Moment," Herrera is featured on electric guitar for the only time.

Nikolett Pankovits makes a strong debut here, aided by Herrera's skillful arranging and a strong supporting cast of musicians. It will be interesting to see what she does next.

Track Listing: Kis Kece Lányom; Madárka, madárka; Száz Panasz Ég a Dalomban; La Dama De La Muerte; Gloomy Sunday/Szomorú Vasárnap; Don't Ask Me Who I Was/ Ne kérdezd ki voltam; Fogadj El Engem; Bésame Mucho; Stop For A Moment; Where Do You Start?.

Personnel: Nikolett Pankovits: vocals, piano (1); Zach Brock: violin (1,2,4,5,8,9); Juancho Herrera: guitar (2,3,5,7,9); Jason Lindner: piano (4,6,7,8,10); John Benitez: upright bass (2,4,5,6,7,8,9); Yayo Serka: drums, percussion (1,3,4,5,8,9); Adriano Santos: drums, percussion (2,7,8); Josh Deutsch: trumpet (4,9); Greg Tardy: tenor saxophone (7,10); Ferenc Nemeth: drums (6); Keita Ogawa: percussion (2,7); Edward Perez: upright bass (1); Jorge Roeder: upright bass (3).

Title: Magia | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Self Produced


Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Shadow Work CD/LP/Track Review Shadow Work
by Phil Barnes
Published: November 22, 2017
Read Veterans of Jazz CD/LP/Track Review Veterans of Jazz
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 22, 2017
Read Ariel CD/LP/Track Review Ariel
by Paul Rauch
Published: November 22, 2017
Read Fukushima CD/LP/Track Review Fukushima
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: November 22, 2017
Read Dedication CD/LP/Track Review Dedication
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: November 21, 2017
Read Surface of Inscription CD/LP/Track Review Surface of Inscription
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 21, 2017
Read "DICE" CD/LP/Track Review DICE
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: July 11, 2017
Read "I Am" CD/LP/Track Review I Am
by Geno Thackara
Published: November 13, 2017
Read "Bring Joy" CD/LP/Track Review Bring Joy
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: January 4, 2017
Read "Pocono Git-Down" CD/LP/Track Review Pocono Git-Down
by Edward Blanco
Published: March 1, 2017
Read "One" CD/LP/Track Review One
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: March 31, 2017
Read "Riser" CD/LP/Track Review Riser
by Roger Farbey
Published: July 16, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Please support out sponsor