3 Leg Torso plays Paschal Winery
Violinist Bela Balogh and accordion player Courtney Von Drehle share an affinity for music from around the world.
"We put a lot of energy and passion into our music, and we have a lot of experience on our instruments," Balogh says. "We've performed since we were very young, so for me it's second nature. I've performed with symphony orchestras, Irish groups and rock bands."
Balogh and Von Drehle collaborated with artistic director Martin Majkut for three performances with the Rogue Valley Symphony in early 2015. They'll perform with the Central Oregon Symphony for three performances in October.
"We travel the world musically," he says. "That's one of the things I've heard people say about our shows. One can travel around the globe during a two-hour show and hear the sounds of Argentina, Eastern Europe and France. Our show is a thick, cultural experience."
The Portland band — Balogh, Von Drehle, drummer T.J. Arko and upright bassist Mike Murphy — will perform at 7 p.m. Friday, July 1, at Paschal Winery, 1122 Suncrest Road, Talent. Admission is $15. Call 541-535-7957 for reservations.
Expect the group to shift gears throughout its performance. Look for everything from wild klezmer music to beautiful waltzes. New to 3 Leg Torso's repertoire will be several tangos by Argentine composers, along with a Tom Waits song, "Shoot the Moon."
"We've known the tangos for a long time, though we haven't played them in public," Balogh says. "We interpret the music in our own special 3 Leg Torso way. Like our percussionist plays mallet instruments for the tangos. That's not very traditional. But we do stick to the form — fairly closely. We've also known 'Shoot the Moon' for a long time, but rarely play it. It's the one Tom Waits song we dare to interpret."
Then there is Balogh's and Von Drehle's original music. Two of 3 Leg Torso's albums, "Astor in Paris" (2003) and "Animals and Cannibals" (2010) were named Album of the Year from The Oregonian and the Portland Music Awards. Its 2015 "And to All a Good Night" is a Christmas-themed album featuring vocalists Storm Large of Pink Martini and Valerie Day of Nu Schooz.
"It's not your traditional Christmas album," Balogh says. "It's got some dark stuff, but it's also got some joyful stuff. It's really a mix of different tunes that we gathered for our performances with Wanderlust Circus, a theatrical circus troupe based here in Portland."
As principal songwriters and bandleaders of 3 Leg Torso, Balogh and Von Drehle like to interact and engage audiences with stories and songs that border on surreal.
"Courtney wrote a song called 'Bill's Last Adventure,' " Balogh says. "It's Courtney's story of how we met. We were seated together on a trans-Atlantic flight. The fellow seated next to us with the window seat was named Bill. Bill untied his shoes and fell asleep. We hit some heavy turbulence, and the window shattered and popped out. So Bill was being sucked out of the plane. I grabbed him by his feet, his shoes unfortunately came off and so out went Bill. We went to see some therapists, but they told us to just keep it inside.
"Many years later, Courtney and I met again on a ship crossing the Atlantic. We were enjoying the beautiful horizon. Then we heard a noise and looked up as a body with no shoes fell out of the sky. It was Bill."
The song can be heard on the group's second album, "Astor in Paris."
"It's actually a very beautiful tune," Balogh says. "It has some gospel to it, and a western vibe. Our original music is more surreal than dark. The violin can create a lot of different textures, same with the accordion. I can make high whispers and low biting tones from my lower register. On a tune called 'Frog Secret Agent,' which is on 'Astor in Paris,' I use a technique called pizzacatto. It's plucking the violin strings to create the sounds of raindrops."
Balogh is a Portland native. His mother immigrated from Germany and his father from Hungary. His father — a conductor and violinist — played with the Oregon Symphony for about 30 years. Von Drehle was born in Dearborn, Mich. His father was a lawyer for Ford Motor Co. and moved his family to England when Ford relocated its foundry. Von Drehle attended the American School in London, then came to Portland to attend Reed College.
"We don't take ourselves seriously, but we do take our performances seriously," Balogh says. "When we perform, we try to be as musical and precise as possible. But we do like to mix in some humor and a feel that the audience can connect with us, through our storytelling and our music making."
3 Leg Torso's albums are available on Balogh's and Von Drehle's independent label, Meester Records.
"The label's name comes from how we actually got started," Balogh says. "Instead of going out and busking on the streets of Portland, we'd go out 'Meestering,' calling to each other as 'Meester' Hill, or hello 'Meester.' We'd dress in Eastern European clothing and say, 'Hello, Meester, you wanna play some music?' We'd end up playing for people on the street and get invited into restaurants, bars and cafes, where we'd stand on tables and perform. People would throw money at us. It was a great experience."