In a musical career spanning more than seven decades, Hungarian-born vibraphonist and percussionist Tommy Vig
spent many productive years as a composer, arranger, performer, leader and sideman in the U.S.A., and planted his jazz flag in many precincts, from straight-ahead to semi-classical, avant-garde to atonal, He touches almost every base on Jazz Jazz
, recorded in his homeland as the Coronavirus pandemic finally waned. Some listeners may love the music, others may dislike it, while the majority may fall somewhere in between. Whatever the response, Vig does not seem to care. "It is jazz, the way I understand the word," he writes in the liner notes. "My current music is easy to misunderstand unless you listen to and understand the new notes and harmonies... Now, is the music good? That is another question. Honestly, I recorded my current CD for posterity... I leave these compositions for future generations to judge if they will even pay any attention to [them]... I do not have to please anyone. I just have to stay true to myself." And that he does.
Vig is backed on several tracks (it is hard to tell how many, but at least five) by the large MAV Band. Vig handles the vibraphone solos (and is listed on some numbers as "rhythm section"); David Murray
is the lone tenor soloist, and pianist Roger Kellaway
sits in (and solos) on two selections ("In Memory of Fats," "Veni"). The compositions are Vig's, opening with a handful of tributes including those to Fats Waller
, Thelonious Monk
, Dizzy Gillespie
, Ludwig van Beethoven and the Hungarian folk song, and closing with his monumental "Budapest 1956," honoring the Hungarian Revolution, which was set in motion by an invasion of the city that year by the Russian military. The work was commissioned and performed in 2006 by the Budapest Jazz Orchestra. A second homage to Beethoven borrows liberally from his awe-inspiring Symphony No. 9, as does Tribute No. 1.
Careful listeners may recognize phrases from their best-known compositions in the tributes to Monk, Dizzy and Fats too, with Vig putting brass, reeds and rhythm on full alert, as he does on most numbers. Even the Hungarian folk song, which opens gently behind Vig's vibes and Murray's tenor, is soon transformed into an ode to joy in which the full ensemble takes command and brings it home. Sandwiched between that and the second tribute to Beethoven are four of Vig's lively and brass-centric compositions, the first ("Puella") featuring Murray, the last ("Veni") pianist Kellaway. As befits his eclectic nature, Vig intersperses classical themes throughoutand even uses Glenn Miller's "American Patrol" as a melodic anchor for "Cantio."
There are no solos on "Budapest 1956" whose ardent and powerful phrases summon to mind a solemn yet valorous event that altered the course of Hungarian and European history. Even so, its jazz roots are everywhere apparent as Vig paints a vibrant musical portrait of the incursion and its aftermath. This is the only selection on which a string section is used, and its presence is indispensable as Vig's graphic arrangement veers from impassive to explosive.
Vig is right, of course, when he writes that not everyone may be charmed by the music, as it is not an easy listen, even though the quality is high and the musicianship first-class. An audible drawback is the recording itself, whose overall sound is a tad too compressed and murky, dampening separation. As for Vig, at age eighty-three he keeps doing his thing, which is to write and perform the music that is dearest to his heart. If anyone cares to lend an ear, that is fine; if not, Vig believes that is fine too.
In Memory of Monk; In Memory of Dizzy; In Memory of Fats Waller; In Memory of Beethoven I.; In Memory of the Hungarian Folk Song; Puella; Cantiuncula; Desiderium; Cantio; Veni; In Memory of Beethoven II. (Sportos Beethoven); Budapest 1956.
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