When: Wed., May 20, 9 p.m. 2009
Were it not for imaginative, folk-based-but-genre-straddling ensembles like Portland's 3 Leg Torso, we might never know that mallets, accordion, and strings could actually make a funky combination. But this group shows that modal pentatonic scales and microtones -- i.e., notes that are maybe a third of a tone flat, or a hair sharp -- are the root of all real happening music, even if you're playing a style that has been around for hundreds of years. Alternately characterized as "Gypsy folk," "tango," and "Klezmer," 3 Leg Torso plays new, hip arrangements of old Eastern European songs (like "Tanz, Tanz, Yiddelach") back-to-back with moony string ballads ("Elliot's Dream") and blues numbers like "Bills Last Adventure," which sound almost like church music. Catch the group, performing with the Fishtank Ensemble, on Wednesday, Feb. 27 at Ashkenaz (1317 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley). 8:30 p.m., $15.