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Andreas Varady: Guitar Wizard On The Rise

R.J. DeLuke By

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Listening to Andreas Varady play guitar, it's difficult to guess his age. Its not just the fleet fingers across the fret board, the subtle bending of notes and the dexterity. Many young players display those features. He possesses a warm tone, a mature style with free-flowing ideas that go to interesting places. His style is mature and he's a teller of stories.

Mature and strong enough to impress Quincy Jones, who brought the guitarist into his management company after hearing him a few years ago, saying he sounded like George Benson in his teens. "All you can do is listen, because you are left without words," he says in the liner notes to Varady's new CD.

Varady is all of 20. His boyish looks belie his intensity and focus when it comes to his instrument. But the sense of wonder and openness of spirit that comes with that age are his allies. The native of Slovakia, of Hungarian descent, recently released a new album, his third, The Quest (Resonance Records), and it is a statement like few so early in a career. It contains music—all original—with many moods, executed by a group that feels the music and interacts as a unit.

Three quarters of the quintet on the recording are family—Andreas, his brother Adrian on drums (a 15-year-old blossoming fiend) and father Bandi. They are joined by two other young musicians, fellow Slovak Radovan Tariska on saxophone and Benito Gonzalez from Venezuela on piano. Unlike the first two albums of Varady's career, this one is more to his vision. He produced it and oversaw every detail.

Varady is a self-taught guitarist. The ever-evolving results are speaking for themselves. As a producer, he has shown similar efficiency.

"It's great. I'm working with great people," Varady says of Quincy Jones Productions. "They understand what I want to do. We're a good team. We have good ideas about what we want to do and the goals we want to reach, growing and pushing my career."

Approaching the recording, he says he never had any concrete concept in mind except "creating the music I like and what is true to myself at this time... It was created in a period of my life that is experimental and creative. I'm doing my music. My vibes. It's never stiff."

Having his family and other natural sidemen, not stars, was important As well. He says, "I wanted to have my dad and brother on it. That's how we played together in a trio. That's how we sound together. That's how we react together. The chemistry. That's what people love at our gigs. We tried to recreate what you heard on those gigs."

"We put it together in a nice way where it fits for the album. I'm really happy with it, from the cover to every detail. It's a special album to me. It's the first time I've done everything," he notes. "I'm happy and proud of it. It was about the album, the story behind it and the ideas.

He has been touring with the music, but already working on new things that will culminate in another recording at some point. Something pushing beyond what's there now, "current, right-now type of music."

The initial cut, "Lost Memories," is brief, but an adventure to come. "Radio Joint," displays a strong and multi-layered by the younger Adrian Varady on drums. He's a catalyst throughout, always stoking the fire, which at times gets pretty damn hot. Tariska's solo is free and furious—the whole, combined with piano and soaring guitar, is like a trip down river rapids. "Follow Me" starts out pensive and takes a serpentine path with varied textures. "The Quest To Openness" is aptly named, as the group opens different musical doors on a melodic journey. The variety and depth of the music is stellar. It's raucous and joyous. Softer moments give way to explorations. Astounding from someone who does not read music.

"When I write, I usually just play and come up with different ideas. I record it on my phone or something like that. I listen back and change it. Once I'm done it stays in my memory. If I ever need notes of it, I know people that can help me with that. I haven't really needed it much. But if I need to write out charts for someone, I can do that easily. But all the notes and everything that's so detailed, I never, ever in my life have done that. Either we have to practice before a gig and they learn, or I give them charts."

Alvarado, a child prodigy, picked up the guitar at the age of 4 in Slovakia. " I was just playing. I picked it up and my dad taught me a few tunes. I was self-taught from there on. Figured stuff out on my own. Then I figured charts out on my own. I don't read notes. But I've never required it so far in my life. If I do, I'm sure it's not hard. But I can read charts. I didn't take any training. I just wanted to play music. So I just picked up guitar up and played."

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