The nine tracks on clarinetist Lajos Dudas' Live on Stage were taken from three different live performances in Germany. The technical quality of the recording is top-tier and intimate, providing a sense of both the atmosphere and space in which the music was made.
The repertoire suits the multiple streams that this group brings to its playing. Opening with Dudas' "For Gabor," the CD honors the late guitarist Gabor Szabo, an obvious influence for both Dudas and guitarist Philipp van Endert, a long-time Dudas collaborator. The shadings and detail on "Maydance," another Dudas composition, could serve as a Master Class on breath control, phrasing, and musicality for aspiring clarinetists (or, indeed, any horn players. As counterpoint, Sonny Stitt's "Blues for Rose," the classic blowing form blues, is updated in the sparest framework possible, yet absolutely nothing seems missing. "Kukeri Dance" opens with percussionist Jochen Bittner presenting a beautiful (albeit unexpected) solo gamelan to set the stage for an extended piece that weaves the players together in shifting combinations.
"Toledo" caught me off guard; if it isn't Chick Corea's "La Fiesta," a track that has been covered by many artists in bands ranging from small ensemble to big band, I'll eat this CD. This version stacks up with any of them, demonstrating the intensity that is possible with really good playing that does not depend on decibels.
"Fountain" begins out of tempo and then builds layer-by-layer, combining fractal elements of straight time with side-excursions which, although falling outside the time, always add to the overall story being told here. "Vehicle" lopes along in a slow 3/4 that suggests a jam amidst traffic that is also jammed. The track emulates the feeling of inching along as the light changes to green and then, too soon, changing back to red. As an antidote, "Walk in the City" is a nearly ten-minute 6/8 exploration that invites the listener to join in and step right along to keep up. The languid, fully-realized quality of Dudas' playing is especially apparent here. There's a lack of pinching, even on the most demanding phrases, alongside nice drums and bass from Kurt Billker and Martin Gjakonovski. "Autumn Leaves" gently settles Live on Stage down to a close.
Personnel: Lajos Dudas: clarinet; Philipp van Endert: guitar; Jochen Bittner: percussion (4, 5);
Martin Gjakonovski: bass (6-9); Kurt Billker: drums (6-9).