Szilard Mezei: Februari Fadontes (2011)
Serbian-born, Hungarian violist Szilard Mezei leads a quartet of his countrymen through a satisfying program of three multi-sectioned compositions on this limited edition LP. Mezei has become increasingly visible on the international scene, with a string of releases from ensembles of different sizes, and a guest appearance with the Fonda/Stevens Group. This new foursome features the attractive frontline blend of viola and Peter Bede's tenor saxophone, recalling the pairing of Billy Bang and Frank Lowe in the Jazz Doctors, but with fewer blues inflections, while the rhythm team of bassist Erno Hock and drummer Hunor Szabo capably shifts between high energy and understatement.
Mezei pens substantive themes drawing on Balkan folk traditions though not subservient to them, which provide material aplenty for the players to seize, soaring and roiling within their boundaries, but never arbitrarily elbowing past them. Evoking haughty but faded grandeur, "Akkora/By Then" creates tension from the off, pitching a slow moving melody against a clattering rubato undercurrent. Tenor and viola launch into the first of many exciting simultaneous flights in what is one of this group's hallmarks. Mezei is by turns excitable, uncompromising and grandiloquent.
By contrast "Pakak/Sedges" is open and spacious, sketched by viola and clarinet in loose conversation. Mezei steps out, darkly emotional, with lovely accents and shadings on his sustained notes, while Bede's woody lower register ruminations culminate in multiphonic shrieks. Hock also gets the opportunity to shine here plying a lexicon of arco scrapes, harmonics and percussive taps. The title track is a mid-tempo bounce boasting a tenor outing of jazzy asymmetric phrases and an angular viola offering painted in broad impasto, before more intense interplay. Pulsing pizzicato bass variations, accompanied by off kilter tapping presage a reprise of the head with humorous syncopation to finish off this fine album on a sweet note.
Track Listing: Akkora/By Then; Pakak/Sedges; Februari Fadontes/Felling in February.
Personnel: Szilard Mezei: viola; Peter Bede: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Erno Hock: double bass; Hunor G. Szabo: drums.