Laszlo Gardony is a critically acclaimed artist who has brought his soulful improvisations and compositions to audiences in 27 countries. Winner of the Great American Jazz Piano Competition, Gardony has been called “a pianist worthy of praise within the highest pantheon of performers” by JazzReview.com and “a great pianist” by Dave Brubeck.
Laszlo Gardony is a critically acclaimed artist who has brought his soulful improvisations and compositions to audiences in 26 countries. Winner of the Great American Jazz Piano Competition, Gardony has been called “a pianist worthy of praise within the highest pantheon of performers” by Jazz Review and “a great pianist” by Dave Brubeck.
He has released twelve albums, leading groups that included Dave Holland, Miroslav Vitous, Mick Goodrick, Yoron Israel, John Lockwood, Jamey Haddad, Bill Pierce, Don Braden and Stan Strickland among others.
Laszlo Gardony's new solo piano CD, “Serious Play” (Sunnyside) was named by the Boston Globe as one of the 10 best jazz albums of 2017, and received four-star reviews in Down Beat and All About Jazz. “Serious Play” was also on the list of the “Ten Best Jazz Releases in July” on BandCamp, and it was named one of the “Ten Best Jazz CDs of 2017” by ArtsFuse Magazine's Michael Ullman.
His previous CD, “Life In Real Time” - featuring Bill Pierce (saxophone), Don Braden (saxophone), Stan Strickland (sax, bass clarinet, vocals), John Lockwood (bass), Yoron Israel (drums) and Laszlo Gardony (piano, composer, arranger) - was also named by the Boston Globe as one the ten best jazz albums of 2015, and was an Editors' Pick in Down Beat
Gardony has been praised for his “fluid pianism” by The New York Times and for his “uniformly high quality of compositions” by All About Jazz Magazine. JazzTimes has called him “one of contemporary music’s truly original voices.” and “a formidable soloist who lives in the moment.”
As a sideman, Gardony recorded and toured extensively with Yoron Israel's High Standards Quartet and with Matt Glaser's Wayfaring Strangers. He has performed with the David “Fathead” Newman Quintet at numerous jazz festivals. Randy Brecker, Dave Liebman and John Blake appeared as guest soloists with his group.
Gardony has been featured with the Boston Pops, the Utah Symphony and The Smithsonian Institute’s “Beyond Category” Traveling Duke Ellington Exhibit.
Additionally, he appeared live and on record with vocalist, Shelley Neill's group and with guitarist, Garrison Fewell's quartet. He has performed with the Eddie Gomez Quintet, Victor Lewis and the Marco Pignataro Jazzet. Gardony was also commissioned to arrange his original compositions for The Danish Radio Big Band.
Laszlo has been living in Boston for the past thirty-four years, where he is a long-time Professor of Piano at Berklee College of Music.
Born in Hungary, Gardony showed an early aptitude on the piano. He wasn’t much older when he started improvising, devising little tunes inspired by the blues, pop and classical music he heard around the house. Immersed in the European classical tradition while growing up, he was drawn to progressive rock as a teenager, and spent countless hours improvising blues-based music at the piano. He investigated gospel and studied jazz, a passion that soon overshadowed his classical pursuits. “We had jazz and African music classes at the Conservatory,” Gardony recalls. “There were some very knowledgeable people and a lot of records. When it came to jazz it was a tiny community, but very inspiring.”
After graduating from the Bela Bartok Conservatory and the Science University of Budapest, he became one of Europe’s most sought after accompanists, and released his first albums as a leader. Possessing a powerful sense of swing, a strong feel for the blues and a firm command of post-bop vocabulary, he gained invaluable insight by sharing festival stages with acts like Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and Abdullah Ibrahim. After several years on the road, Gardony decided he needed to deepen his knowledge of jazz.
A full scholarship to Berklee brought him to America in 1983, and a faculty position at the school upon graduation kept him stateside. He made his US recording debut with the acclaimed 1988 album The Secret (Antilles) featuring Czech bass great Miroslav Vitous and drummer Ian Froman, but it was his 1st place win the following year at the Great American Jazz Piano Competition that catapulted him into the national spotlight.
He seized the moment with 1989’s brilliant release “The Legend of Tsumi” (Antilles), a trio session with bassist Dave Holland and drummer Bob Moses focusing on Gardony’s finely wrought original compositions. The album earned rave reviews. Scott Yanow wrote in the All Music Guide, “the most impressive aspect of this performance is how the pianist totally integrates his playing with that of his sidemen, so they speak in one unified voice.”
He’s collaborated with saxophone greats like David “Fathead” Newman and Dave Liebman, but his subtle and rhythmically intricate pianism has meshed particularly well with jazz’s most inventive guitarists. Over the years he’s performed with Mick Goodrick, John Abercrombie, John Scofield, Mike Stern and Garrison Fewell. “Being with Dave and Miroslav was such an education,” Gardony says. “If you really immerse yourself in those moments, it can change you, whether it’s one concert or a week-long gig. If you’re really present, amazing transferences and exchanges can happen.”
His primary vehicle for the past decade has been his state-of-the-art trio with bassist John Lockwood and drummer Yoron Israel, an ensemble first documented on the 2003 Sunnyside release “Ever Before Ever After”. One of the finest working bands in jazz, the group performs and records regularly, exploring Gardony’s extensive book of original pieces as well as the occasional standard and jazz classics by the likes of Horace Silver and Billy Strayhorn. Gardony augments the trio’s latest release, 2011’s beautifully textured tribute to jazz’s African roots “Signature Time” (Sunnyside), with Stan Strickland on saxophone.
“It’s heaven playing with such great musicians,” Gardony says. “John and Yoron hear the music around them so well. If I give them charts they immediately understand what I’m trying to do. People think it’s a great career move to do projects. You do something and then you move on. But all of my heroes in rock or jazz, Coltrane or Pink Floyd, created in the context of a great band.“
No band has stretched Gardony more than The Wayfaring Strangers. A long-time fan of Gardony’s who credits the pianist’s first solo album “Changing Standards” with opening his ears to modern jazz, violinist Matt Glaser initially recruited him to perform on one track of 2001’s “Shifting Sands of Time” (Rounder), contributing a haunting solo to Ralph Stanley’s elemental rendition of “Man of Constant Sorrow.” By the release the project’s second album, 2003’s “This Train” (Rounder), Gardony was an essential member of the ensemble. The group continues to perform, exploring its singular synthesis of bluegrass, Appalachian roots music, and jazz. Like every other profound musical experience under his belt, some of the Wayfaring Strangers has shaped Gardony’s expression in straight ahead contexts. “Playing with Matt and people like Tony Trischka you learn so much about American folk and Appalachian music,” Gardony says. “I’ve developed such reverence and love for it. There’s an immediacy, intimacy and intensity when you hear folk musicians playing for each other. It’s definitely influenced my music making.”
(Excerpt from Sunnyside Records' press release for Gardony's 2013 release, “Clarity”)
Laszlo continues to tour and record, attracting new fans and earning critical acclaim for his synthesis of many musical sources and for creating a joyous, powerful, insightful, and open spirited music.
Laszlo Gardony is a New England Foundation for the Arts Touring Roster artist. NEFA provides up to 50% of musician fees when his trio is presented by a non-profit organization in five New England states (not in MA) . For more information please visit Laszlo Gardony’s page at NEFA’s Matchbook.org
First Prize, Great American Jazz Piano Competition
Baldwin sponsored artist.
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