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European Jazz Conference 2015: Hungarian Showcases

Henning Bolte By

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Mihály "Dudás" Dresch is an outstanding figure of the Hungarian jazz scene. His albums are considered cornerstones of Hungarian jazz merging Hungarian folk music with the universal language of jazz. In this concert Dresch started muscular on saxophone but soon switched to his customized folk-flute. Besides Balázs Horváth on double bass and István Baló on drums he had the great Miklós Lukács on cimbalom, the most Hungarian instrument. Miklós Lukács is a kind of joker that can be used in a lot of musical contexts. It became a powerful and folk-inflected start of a strong working band. Dresch's quartet is a classic that performed according to its high standards reputation.

Next to laidback Lakatos on the piano a busy agitating Monniot could be seen. Monniot has plenty of strong chops and is playing a game with the game of performing. He is one of those players that can spin out enormously but also can get pretty self-concerned by it. Among others the group paid tribute to Austrian-American master Joe Zawinul by orientalizing Weather Report pieces, which was not lacking a certain irony since Zawinul's grandmother was of Hungarian origin and Zawinul himself called his first composition in the 1950s "Mekka." With great ease the group played a catching and unorthodox variant of fusion.

The next two groups, both younger ones, performed at the smaller jazz club of BMC. The Platypus trio of Michael Schiefel premiered at Moers Festival in 2013—then with cellist Paolo Damiani and cimbalom player Miklós Lukács, now with Jörg Brinkmann on cello (more info}. The performance was much more playful, funny, poetical now, and much more compact compared to then. Now it was a kind of chamber opera about strange creatures and with strange but also conversant creatures on stage.

Of quite different caliber was saxophonist Kristóf Bacsó's unit with Árpád Oláh Tzumo on Fender Rhodes, Marton Juhasz, drums, and as guest, young guitarist Márton Fenyvesi. Fenyvesi who studied at the renowned Rhythmical School of the Conservatory of Copenhagen is a powerful musician with plenty chops. Bacsó, the leader, is an amazingly versatile saxophonist who can deal with a lot of different situations, styles etc.. He is as good a leader and as a sideman. The foursome played a fiery set. Groups like this deserve more attention in other arts of Europe at least to the same extent as vice versa.

It became apparent that concerning exchange Hungary (as well as other Eastern European countries) make lot of efforts to invite and exchange with musicians from Western European countries. Nonetheless it has not enough developed into a symmetrical situation yet. In the past Eastern European musicians had to migrate into western and or northern direction. Examples like Gabor Szabo, Gabor Gado, Tony Lakatos and Zoltan Lantos testify it.

Second Night

The second night opened with a performance of first-rate guitarist Gábor Gadó and his new quintet comprising Otto Rácz on hobo (and bassoon), saxophonist Kristóf Bacsó this time on alto, József Barcza Horváth on double bass and young drummer László Czizi subbing for one of the most well known Hungarian drummers, Elemer Balazs (1967) who was playing the same night at an Anglo-Hungarian meeting at London's 606 Club. Gabor Gadó is a unique and highly approved guitarist with great phrasing and timing. He is also a quite demanding leader what clearly could be sensed during the performance. The musicians apparently had to be highly alert and frequently had to adapt quickly in the moment. A unique elaboration of the group's music is the combination of electric guitar and hobo/bassoon. It provided beautiful passages within Gado's uncompromising, deep and cutting edge playing that wove chamber music elements through the music in intriguing, groove driven ways.

Like more Hungarian jazz musicians, reed player Mihály Borbély is very much dedicated to Hungary's indigenous music. As co-founder of the longstanding ethno group Vujicsic he took the interweaving of jazz and folk music to new heights. His last album featured two of Hungarian guitarist Attilla Zoller's famous pieces, "Hungarian Rhapsody" and "Gloomy Sunday." Pianist Áron Tálas as the youngest member in the band formed the rhythm section together with bassist Balázs Horváth experienced drummer István Baló who played in Dresch's group the night before. The quartet's music revealed a bright and powerfully driven more jazz inflected performance.

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