The music of Hungarian-born clarinetist Lajos Dudas doesn't fall under a neat little heading. While no mere label can define an artist, some clarinetists can be categorized in a fairly accurate manner, using few words. We have neo-traditionalists (Ken Peplowski
), New Orleans torch bearers (Evan Christopher
and Dr. Michael White
), technical marvels who brilliantly bridge the jazz and classical divide (Eddie Daniels
), and those who defy categorization and have been embraced by the jazz mainstream (Don Byron
and Anat Cohen
), if such a thing exists. Dudas doesn't belong under any of these banners. For decades, the German-based Dudas has done his own thing, from avant-garde chamber music and big band swing, to personalized takes on the music of J.S. Bach. 50 Years With Jazzclarinet: The Best Of Lajos Dudas
covers all of it.
While this highly varied program, spanning multiple decades, provides an important overview of Dudas' career, it also comes with a price. Production inconsistencies from track-to-track are one obvious issue, and flow, from one track to another, can be awkward, with so many different ensembles and settings thrown into the mix. Looking beyond these small matters, the only other negative surrounds some musical elements that didn't age very well, like the faux '80s, Marcus Miller
-style background on "Summertime," or the keyboard on the otherwise-exhilarating "At Carmelo's."
Fortunately, the pros significantly outweigh the cons. Dudas leaves no stone unturned in his efforts to get inside music of all shapes and sizes, and this collection is audible proof of his magnificent artistry. Dudas delights in creating abstract and angular lines ("Detour"), but he also knows how to tear it up with a driving big band behind him ("Song For Jinni"). His solo interpretation of Bach ("Grave") proves just as marvelous as his trio work ("Sarabande"), and he takes another classical musical iconFranz Lisztin a completely different direction.
While Dudas' clarinet and occasional saxophone work is at the heart of all of these pieces, some other notable names and important musical partners help him flesh out his varied visions. Guitarist Attila Zoller
makes an appearance and adds some spiky statements to "Rumpelstilzchen," while German trombone maverick Albert Mangelsdorff
comes off like a wonderfully harried and agitated version of cartoon character Charlie Brown's teacher on "Blueduet." Howard Johnson
makes an appearance on bass saxophone during an exotic, world music-influenced number ("La Gelee"), and a significant portion of the second disc highlights Dudas' work with guitarist Philipp van Endert
. These pieces prove to be some of the most inviting and user-friendly performances in the collection, but all of the music really needs to be heard in order to form a full picture of Dudas' artistry.
While Lajos Dudas hasn't attained name recognition in the U.S. jazz market, he's clearly one of the best-kept clarinet secrets in Europe, and this album should go a long way in bringing some well-deserved attention to his impressive body of work.