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Lajos Dudas: Ein Künstlerportrait

Mark Sullivan By

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Lajos Dudas
Lajos Dudas—Ein Künstlerportrait
Stadt Neuss Kulturamt
2018

The German city of Neuss honors an adopted son with this three-part video project (under the auspices of the Culture Department of City Neuss (GER)). German/Hungarian clarinetist Lajos Dudas has made his home there since 1973, leaving the freelance life to teach at the Neuss School of Music. Dudas had been performing in rock and jazz, as well as a featured classical soloist. But his true love is jazz, as he makes clear during the brief 22-minute documentary, even attempting to answer the question "what is jazz?" He also talks about how he came to live in Neuss, and some of his jazz influences. His first exposure to the clarinet—purely by accident—was hearing legendary jazz clainetist Benny Goodman on the radio. An early festival experience (one in which he was also a featured performer) hearing trumpeter Miles Davis made a huge impression. And there are excerpts from live performances with different groups. The documentary is in German, with optional English subtitles.

The 44-minute Munich Concert is a 2003 duet performance with guitarist Philipp van Endert, a longtime playing partner for over 25 years. The guitarist is a modernist with full command of traditional jazz guitar, as well as the modern electronic extensions associated with players like Bill Frisell and Ben Monder. Dudas demonstrates his mastery of a wide range of jazz styles, all of which are usually associated with the saxophone rather than the clarinet (at least since the Swing era, when the instrument was more prominent). The set includes Thelonious Monk's "In Walked Bud," standards like "Deep Purple" and "All of Me," and Dudas compositions "Reni's Ballad" and "Back to LA." Saxophonist Paul Desmond's "Take Five" gets an especially creative duet arrangement, and the concert concludes with the famous "Gloomy Sunday" (aka "Hungarian Suicide Song").

The final part is a short concert by the duo at City Hall Neuss, a celebration of Dudas' tenure as Artistic Director for Concert-Series in the historic Town Hall of the City of Neuss/GER. In ten years he invited the cream of the European jazz players to Neuss—Gunter Hampel, Aki Takase, Markus Stockhausen, Charlie Mariano, Barbara Dennerlein, Wolfgang Lackerschmid, Joachim Kuhn, and others. Their performance of the standard "Autumn Leaves" is a fitting conclusion to the video portrait.

The entire project is a rare honor for a living jazz musician—this should be done far more often—as well as a fine "calling card" for the arts in the city of Neuss. Bravo to everyone involved. Offering it for free on Vimeo makes it accessible to anyone with an interest in jazz or the clarinet, and it displays especially well on a TV with the Roku Vimeo app. If you are not familiar with Lajos Dudas' playing, check it out!
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