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Tommy Vig: Welcome to Hungary!

Jerry D'Souza By

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Vibraphonist Tommy Vig has had an interesting career. Born in Budapest, he played the drums when he was six and recorded his first album two years later. Music was his passion, but the political landscape in Hungary was to cast a shadow on his days as a jazz musician. Jazz was banned in 1949, and Vig could not play it again until 1956. With the defeat of the Hungarian Revolution, Vig decided that it was time to move on. Move he did, through the minefields of Russia and into Austria. He later went to New York and the Julliard School of Music, but not before he had played with keyboardist Joe Zawinul. But his moving days were not over; he left New York for Hollywood, and then Las Vegas, and it was in those cities that he found the nail to his career as he established himself playing with Frank Sinatra, Joe Pass and Rod Stewart, among others.

Vig pursues the "Big Band American Sound" on Welcome to Hungary!, but goes for an interesting trajectory with the inclusion of saxophonist David Murray—whose free styles permutations energize the music—and two Hungarian instruments, the cimbalom and the tárogató. It all works well with the tasteful arrangements enriched by the musicians.

Murray and Vig state the theme of "Sahara" with tenor saxophone and vibraphone, respectively; both in melodic consonance. Murray angles out, changing the tempo and intensity of his notes in a virtuosic performance. The advent of the orchestra moves the composition into a swing time that Murray embraces with robust verve. The assimilation is seamless, and the soulful power absorbing.

"Vig Corn," based on a Hungarian folk melody, has an incipient beauty framed by Balazs Cserta on tárogató, accompanied by Rózsa Farkas on cimbalom. The mood explodes in a dazzling array of swirling melodic lines that quickly gravitate into swing. The concept makes for a lively outing and, with Cserta and Farkas adding intonations, this turns out to be most delectable of the set.

Another side of Vig's creativity comes through his solo on "Rise and Shine," where he probes the dynamics of his instrument with crystalline runs and an artful blend of harmony and melody. The orchestra dwells on the melody, and so does Murray, in what turns out to be another gem of big band swing.

The five bonus tracks feature a slimmer band that is spearheaded by the brass. This is a tight outfit, sure in its focus and approach that sees it melding composition and freedom with finesse. This trait is strong on "I Told You," where the melody's arc is pricked by the horns. Two ballads, expressively sung in Hungarian with feeling by Mia Kim, come in quite a different mode.

The accompanying booklet has information on the recording, and Vig's often acerbic views on music and politics make for entertaining reading.

Track Listing: Sahara; Buddy and Solita; Now is the Time in Hungary!; Rise and Shine; In Memory of Dizzy; In Memory of Monk; Only You; Vig Corn; Bonus tracks: I Told You; Only You; Me Shall; Veled Vagyok Meg Gondolatban; Fustbe Ment Terv.

Personnel: Tommy Vig: vibraphone, drums; David Murray: tenor saxophone; Rozsa Farkas: cimbalom; Balazs Cserta: tarogato; Istvan Elek: saxophone; Ference Schreck: trombone; Bela Szaloky: trombone, flugelhorn; Akos Tompa: trumpet; Janos Hamori: trumpet; Peter Kovacs: saxophone; Balazs Nagy: saxophone; Arpad Dennert: saxophone; Mia Kim: vocals.

Title: Welcome to Hungary! | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Klasszikus Jazz Records


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