Swing-polka-jazz band debuts at Crestone Brewing Co.
The name evokes images of gypsies in dark, mysterious covered wagons traveling the countryside working for spare change or a simple meal to fill their bellies. That image is not too far off, but rather than riding around in wagons, they cruise around the West in a station wagon playing music to all those who will listen.
Zoltan Szekely was born in Romania to a Hungarian family, lived a stint in Canada before moving to Albuquerque, N.M., in 1998 with his mother, who had landed a job there as a nurse. He was influenced at an early age by the likes of jazz artists Leon Redbone, Louis Armstrong and Django Reinhardt, as well as the eclectic and humorous “Weird Al” Yankovic.
In addition to being a full-time musician, Szekely has also found himself in several movies including The Lone Ranger and Seth McFarland’s A Million Ways to Die in the West. This happened while busking one day in downtown Albuquerque. A talent scout noticed his rather large mustache and told him they were looking for people with rather large mustaches to play a small role in a Western they were producing. The rest is history.
With Szekely leading the way on guitar and vocals, The Fortune Tellers add depth with Fernando Garavito on drums and Ian Davis playing the tuba. “The tuba makes us unique in many ways,” he explains. “Not many bands these days have that sound, which was more popular in the early 20th century.” In addition to the main trio, occasional guest musicians will step in to provide flavor and spice to an already eclectic main dish. Their music can best be described as a blend of early jazz, folk and swing, expanding to genres such as polka, ragtime and folk-punk.
They also enjoy crowd participation. Szekely tells a story of an unsuspecting listener. “We were playing in Topeka on a bar patio and were about to head into a song about tropical islands. We try to paint a complete musical picture, so we sometimes will do seagull sounds during that particular tune. A lady at a table was trying to get her friend’s attention and called over to her. I think she might have yelled ‘Sheila,’ or something along those lines, but we thought she was an avid fan making seagull sounds for the enrichment of the song, so we called her up to do it on the mic while we played. She promptly shook her head in a firm sideways no, but the crowd started clapping and cheering her on, so she ended up coming up on stage and told us she was just trying to get her friend’s attention with her loud, bird-like holler. … It was, however, too late, as the crowd was cheering her on, so she ended up doing seagull caws for the whole song to satisfy the audience. Surprisingly, she wasn’t too upset with us at the end, and all worked out well as everyone applauded her newly discovered talent.”
The band’s Colorado tour will feature a two-piece version of the band with Szekely on guitar, vocals and foot drums and Davis on the tuba. Their fun and family friendly show in Crestone is scheduled for 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28, at the Crestone Brewery.