Equanimity: A Futuristic Jazz Tale is the debut album from Viktor Haraszti, a Hungarian-born, Dutch-based tenor saxophonist and composer. It is a solo project, recorded in isolation in 2021, on which Haraszti also plays clarinet, EWI, flute and keyboards. Bad Plus drummer Dave King helps out on one track, drummer Marshall Curtly on another three, and poet Lisa Marie Simmons adds spoken word to a further two.
As the title suggests, the music is a suite. It is split into seven "chapters," sequenced chronologically around the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, and addressing on the one hand, chaos, and on the other, survival. Simmons' five-stanza first poem sets the scene as the world is gripped by fear and sickness; her seven-stanza second poem (from which the album takes its title) is concerned with recovery and the need to roll with the punches thrown by fate. Subsequent tracks deal with what, one fervently hopes, proves to be the aftermath of the pandemic. "Chapter Five" is an upbeat groove-based celebration of life returning towards normality. "Chapter Six" and "Chapter Seven" are more reflective contemplations (they are too outgoing and motor-rhythm driven to be called meditations) of the return of beauty and contentment, a new dawn.
We can expect other similarly themed albums in the months to come, and they will be welcome if their narratives are as well-crafted and imaginatively told as that on Equanimity, where instrumental music rather than vocals is the key storytelling device. All too often with projects such as this, banal lyrics diminish the impact and shorten the shelf-life. Simmons' words, however, are genuinely poetic rather than journalistic and are used sparingly; in short, her input works. In this respect the production resembles the use of Moor Mother's spoken-word contributions on Irreversible Entanglements' outstanding album Open The Gates (International Anthem, 2021).
Next time out it would be good to hear more of Haraszti's lyrical but robust tenor saxophone and less EWI, an underwhelming instrument in anyone's hands. That reservation aside, Equanimity is recommended.
In addition to writing and editing for All About Jazz, Chris is editor of the British style/culture/history magazine Jocks&Nerds and consultant Afrobeat historian for Google Arts & Culture and Partisan/Knitting Factory Records.