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3 Leg Torso brings world music to Hillsboro

Walters Center hosts eclectic group with Hungarian roots

Fifteen years ago, Portland band 3 Leg Torso was a three-piece outfit specializing in quirky and elaborate compositions with shades of eastern European gypsy camps and chamber music. Now, the band has gained notoriety as one of the area's most eclectic groups, with violins, xylophone, percussion, accordion and other instruments thrown into a sonic stew that includes shades of Moroccan, Middle Eastern and South American sounds.

3 Leg Torso takes the stage of the Walters Cultural Arts Center Friday, March 18 for its third performance in Hillsboro.

'We decided we wanted to add more color to the sound of the band,' said founding member, violinist, trumpeter and composer Béla Balogh.

The son of a Hungarian musician whose grandfather performed in a gypsy band in the old country, Balogh said the group's journey has been marked by surprises, particularly given that he had no intention of making music as a career. But as the band began playing and more audiences' ears perked - the group boasts senior citizens and young scenesters alike among its fan base - its reputation grew exponentially.

Balogh credits much of the band's success to the music's cinematic qualities, which often make audiences feel as though they're experiencing the score to a yet-unseen film. Paired with the diverse influences, the band's sound is virtually unclassifiable, and keeps audiences guessing and captivated.

'It's got some film qualities to it. It's a very visual type of music,' said Balogh. 'A lot of my influences are from the music my family had played. I also love klezmer music, minor-sounding emotional music. There's a lot of Eastern European music, but we all started experimenting with South American music and tangos. There's a lot, but it seems to work out.'

Those cinematic qualities have not gone unnoticed: Balogh and company have been charged with scoring several films, including two films for Academy Award-winning animator Joan Gratz and famed Portland animator Bill Plympton's 'Idiots and Angels.'

The group also won the album of the year award at the 2011 Portland Music Awards for its record, Animals and Cannibals.

Balogh said 3 Leg Torso's success is due to the positive response audiences have each time it takes the stage, which keeps the band thriving. 'It's always a real experience to be at a live show,' he said. 'We've been pretty fortunate that people show up and are enjoying it. I feel lucky to have people keep liking us after so long.'