Lajos Dudas: Radio Days: The Music of Lajos Dudas

Budd Kopman By

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It is always a nice surprise when someone pops up who is new to you, but who, it turns out, has been playing for decades, has an extensive discography, and who has been reviewed quite a few times here at All About Jazz.

That someone is clarinetist Lajos Dudas, and with Radio Days, celebrates his seventy-fifth birthday and a fifty-five year career with tracks recorded over a twenty year period, starting in 1984.

The immediate impression of Dudas over this stylistically wide-ranging material is that he is a pure player with a very strong musical personality, comfortable with whatever situation in which he finds himself. Joy and ebullience flow out of Dudas' every note, and it is infectious. His technique is effortless and his tone, which varies according to the material, can range from being as smooth as silk to the edgy raspiness of folk music. He is also a fine composer, as all tracks (except the last "Meet" by Attila Zoller) are composed and arranged by him.

The tracks are arranged more or less chronologically by the radio studio at which the recordings were made, or that which recorded the live performance (1-4: WDR Cologne; 5-6: MTVA Budapest; 7-10: AtM Studio Cologne; 11: BR Munich/Studio Traumraum Augsburg; 12: HR Frankfurt; 13: ORF Vienna/Live in Radiokulturhaus).

The first group of four ("Pacific Coast Highway," "Surfriding," "Reni's Ballad," "Cab Car") have a definite fusion sound, complete with the appropriate keyboard and bass sound. However, Dudas flies high over this, being completely himself; what he does fits, but is also timeless. "Highway" also has a very tasty guitar solo; "Surfriding" gets hot when the ponderous bass starts walking, and there is also some fine trumpet playing; "Reni" is lower energy, but Dudas' solo coolly wafts over the rhythm section; "Cab Car" sounds more straight ahead at first, and has a section where what sounds like a saxophone is playing, but no sax is credited -is this Dudas?

The next two tracks ("Kukeri Dance" and "Urban Blues") are quite different from the earlier ones and from each other. The former has a distinct folk music (Baltic/Black Sea) feel to it, mixed with a jazzy vibe. Dudas clearly can play within the genre, but again tends to be himself, implanting his personal stamp on the music. The latter moves to the city, and is an extremely interesting mix of free-playing Dudas and a more straight-ahead sound.

The second group of four tracks ("West Coast," "Zugabe," "For Gabor (Remember Gabor Szabo)" and "Cool Getz") contains a delightful mix of various mainstream styles and grooves. Once again, Dudas manages to play both inside the style of the moment while always being his joyous self and projecting the ability to do anything he wishes while making it work. These tracks also feature the first appearance of guitarist Philipp van Endert who complements Dudas' flexibility. All the tracks have many fine moments, but "For Gabo" stands out for the ending solo. For those not familiar with Szabo, Dreams is one of his finest albums. "Cool Getz" is what one would expect —a samba, with Dudas' tone so pure, there are times when it sounds almost like a flute.

Radio Days ends with three tracks recorded separately, "Bach's Gedenken" (gedenken is Dutch for 'to commemorate or remember'), "Minimal Musical" and Attila Zoller's composition, "Meet." Remembering Bach with almost free playing by Dudas and Endert is intriguing, as are the not quite quotes of "Minuet in G." "Minimal Musical" is the longest track and arguably the high point of the set, with a very fine piano solo and more of Dudas swooping and swirling around the band, playing both inside and outside along the way. The Zoller piece is played by Dudas and the Endert guitar trio who were present in the AtM Studio Cologne set of tracks. This atmospheric tune is performed live, and Dudas is irrepressible, supported and complemented more than ably by Endert. Zoller should be better known -some solo Zoller and Zoller & Jim Hall.

Dudas is clearly a master musician, and Radio Dreams is a tour de force, making it puzzling why he is not better known on this side of the Atlantic.


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