It might surprise that Hungarian-born drummer Ferenc Nemeth makes his debut as a leader with Night Songs
. The sophistication and self-assurance of his composing and arranging have the earmarks of a seasoned veteran. Nemeth has assembled a group of musicians with whom he has worked before and who have worked at various times with each other; this all-around familiarity is what gives this disc its verve.
In spite of its title, the tune "War isn't really violent. Nemeth's driving, inspired drum solo is as close to a martial flavor or aura as the song gets. The surprisingly up-tempo tune begins things here, with Mark Turner's driving tenor contrasting nicely with Chris Cheek's weary alto. The dynamic Lionel Loueke adds his rich, subtle guitar and sensual vocalizing to "A Night, a lush yet calm piece that defines reflection.
Bassist John Patitucci's excellent Middle Eastern-flavored pizzicato sets the stage for the wonderful "Vera. Turner and Cheek weave and soar amidst Nemeth's percussion, with Loueke's almost subliminal vocals providing a sensual backdrop. Nemeth's arrangement of Wayne Shorter's "E.S.P. puts a mischievous bounce in its step. Turner and Cheek again play a nice tandem on "New Song, with the spare, strong voices of their horns blending soulfully. "Ballad for the Stars is another showcase for Patitucci, and Loueke leads the way on the Weather Report-inflected "L.L..
The Middle Eastern/African-influenced "Lullaby features Aaron Parks' outstanding piano and more of Nemeth's shimmering percussion. Night Songs is an eye-opening debut, one where style and substance walk in perfect balance.
Personnel: Ferenc Nemeth: drums; Lionel Loueke: guitar; Chris Cheek: saxophones; Mark Turner: saxophones; Aaron Parks: piano; John Patitucci: bass guitar.