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Szilard Mezei Ensemble: Nad/Reed

Jerry D'Souza By

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Szilard Mezei calls his music contemporary improvised music—a term that has often been used and abused, showing how music can either be transformed by imagination or lack thereof. The impact is in direct proportion to the skill of the musicians, which is why listening to the Szilard Mezei Ensemble is such a singular experience. The 14-piece band is a revelation, as comfortable in composed work as it is on the expanse of freedom.

The Hungarian Mezei was born in Senta, Serbia. In addition to the viola played on Nad/Reed, he also plays violin and double-bass, and has been a member of several conglomerations ranging from two to nine members. For his own projects he has assembled trios, quartets, quintets and, for this album, a big band. In the final analysis, however, it's the music that counts.

Mezei balances composition and improvisation deftly. He melds jazz, folk and classical music and, in the midst of doing so, opens the windows for his musicians to fly into the land of adventure, with each movement turning out to be a revelation.

The Ensemble plays with a cohesive voice, lending the initial structure to "Corkula/Circular Saw." The linearity dissolves into undulating lines and from then on, the course is unpredictable. At one moment the reeds are blazing and cutting an incendiary swath, at the next the flute is dancing on a light melody. Mezei's juxtapositions are remarkable as the horns explode before setting out to march in tandem. In a delightful turn, Slobodan Dragas (trumpet) goes the New Orleans route and Bogdan Rankovic (alto sax) swings with melodic grace before drawing Mezei into the crux.

A fanfare heralds "Fohasz/Petition." The classical theme sits in the middle, warm and tender, even as the drums and percussion rumble around and, when the horns raise their voice in a hosanna, the move beckons a swirling tide. The arrangement is open, accommodating the several voices perfectly. Rankovic plays the melody with a pure, open tone before digging deep and taking his alto into a curve, allowing pianist Milan Aleksic to make some dynamic statements as he weaves jazz and classical harmonies.

The music is stately and invigorating and never ceases to thrill. Mezei has fashioned a multi-dimensional and absorbing piece of art.


Track Listing: Corkula/Circle Saw; Esolovak/Rain Horses; Hep 1; Hep 2; Fohasz/Petition.

Personnel: Svetlana Novakovic: flute; Emoke Zakany: oboe; Bogdan Rankovic: alto sax, bass clarinet; Slobodan Dragas: trumpet; Branislav Aksin: trombone; Kornel Papista: tuba; Szilard Mezei: viola, leader: Albert Markos: violoncello (solos); Viktor Molnar: violoncello; Ivan Burka: vibraphone, marimba, xylophone; Milan Aleksic: piano, celesta; Ervin Malina: double bass; Hunor G. Szabo: drums, marimba (left); Istvan Csik: drums, percussion (right).

Title: Nad/Reed | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Red Toucan Records


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