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Laszlo Gardony: Signature Time

Raul d'Gama Rose By

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As composer, Laszlo Gardony posits—without much opposition—that the inspiration of all modern music owes a debt to the "birthplace of culture and sound: Africa. As a composer and pianist he develops his hypothesis with Signature Time, an album of considerable and somewhat dark beauty. Driven by the percussive nature of African music—in almost continuous binary rhythms—Gardony's compositions and performance is supported by the rolling thunder of John Lockwood's bass and Yoron Israel's joyously dancing drums. Gardony also manages to capture the myriad and rich, dark shades that might otherwise have been hidden were it not for the pianist's unusual performance on the piano.

Gardony not only makes full use of the piano's rhythmic nature—hammering out chords to accompany the dense melodic movement of his right hand—he also does not stray very far from the melody itself. Rather, he uses that linear movement to dictate ascending and descending chords, varying the force which he exerts on his left hand, as it strikes the progression of notes, so that he controls not only timbre, but also the dramatically changing palette of shades, which explode in mighty bursts, every time a chord is struck... and then repeatedly struck, again, for effect. As he continues to tease the ear with the melody, Gardony also makes controlled use of his piano's damper pedal, sustaining notes with hypnotic effect and allowing them to resonate with Lockwood's root notes.

Gardony reserves the most beautiful playing of this nature for his treatment of "On African Land," which sounds as if it might be inspired by Abdullah Ibrahim, and on "Silent Words," introduced by Israel's superbly controlled break. The pianist also relocates two well-known The Beatles charts to his African soundscape. "Lady Madonna" is almost completely recast in a rhythmic mode, echoing, resonating and fibrillating with mightily imagined harmony and reverberating chords. The hypnotic arrangement of "Eleanor Rigby" is no less effective, yet completely different from the mesmerism of "Lady Madonna"—racy and almost illusive, painting a ghostly picture of the character that Lennon and McCartney created as emerging from that fabled churchyard.

Throughout, Gardony's playing is luminous and informed by a gravitas reserved for musicians who appear to have soaked in even the most hidden worlds of music. In the case of Gardony, it is his love for history, especially the history of music. Like his obvious ally, the mighty South African musician Ibrahim, Gardony is also deeply spiritual in his playing and seems to invoke ancient gods, whose majesty, mystery and magic infuses his music with rare splendor. Even though it seems too little, Gardony is joined on two tracks by the equally spiritual playing of saxophonist/singer Stan Strickland. Billy Strayhorn's beautiful "Johnny Come Lately" is suitably embellished by Strickland's playing, as is "Spirit Dance" for his singing. Signature Time will also be remembered for its rich and enduring colors.

Track Listing: With You At The Bridge; On African Land; Lady Madonna; Lullaby of Birdland; Silent Words; Johnny Come Lately; Under The Sky; Eleanor Rigby; Spirit Dance; Bourbon Street Boogie.

Personnel: Laszlo Gardony: piano; John Lockwood: bass; Yoron Israel: drums, vibraharp; Stan Strickland: tenor saxophone, vocal (9).

Title: Signature Time | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records

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