A Hawk And A Hacksaw were recently seen on these shores supporting Zach Condon’s Beirut with a full band line-up. Since then, Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost have hooked up with Hungary’s Hun Hangár Ensemble for their own headline shows and released a second album. But it is not with the Ensemble they return to the Luminaire tonight.
Instead, installed behind a sizeable, carved wooden contraption called a cimbalom, a type of hammered dulcimer, sits its sizeable, suited player Balazs Ungar. With Barnes on accordion and percussion duties to his left and Trost fiddling away to his right, Ungar dominates the small stage from his seat, banging the chunky yet elegant instrument’s strings and generating noises ranging from electric guitar through to ensemble glocks. The speed at which his hammers move defies the mere human eye.
Barnes and Trost spark off him, Barnes producing a virtuoso performance of his own as he combines chords and rhythm on his vintage accordion with the look of a one-man band, feet controlling drums and cymbals as he plays. Very occasionally he adds in vocals to the mix, but for the bulk of the set A Hawk And A Hacksaw are an instrumental proposition. Later on, as Ungar takes a well-earned breather, Trost acts as Barnes’s muse, sashaying across the stage and meeting him in the middle for a musical conversation. It’s charmingly brilliant.
But when Ungar does his own solo piece, jaws drop to the floor. On the new album this tour de force is called Vajdaszentivány, and on the recording it sits incongruously with the accordion-fiddle dominated set. Tonight, it is the main attraction in a set that never falls short of delighting the packed audience.
It’s unclear if Ungar is merely one of several guest musicians Barnes and Trost could collaborate with as they hawk their hacksaw around the globe. That he was the main talking point of the evening is no slight on them – indeed it is to their credit that they are happy to showcase such a mesmerising talent on their own stage. The impression left is of consummate musicians bereft of ego and delighting at the very spark of performance collaboration. Their enjoyment was ours.