12 September 2011

Most worthy recommendations

My outing to the Jazz Gallery to hear Daniel Szabo and band with guest Chris Potter came with a string of recommendations. DS had plaudits from Martial Solal and had won the piano competition under his name; Jazz Gallery was suggested by one Australian musician now resident in NYC as the only jazz venue he needs; Chris Potter is on everyone’s lips and I’d heard him with Dave Holland anyway so knew what to expect. But I was still floored. It was a sadly poorly attended gig, but this small, informal, concert-like venue and the band produced the goods.

The music is mostly written by DS although altoist Kristof Bacso provided at least one compostion. It’s a strangely sounding form of jazz, as much European jazz is. There are influences of classical, in the capability of the players but also in the structure of the improvisations, but perhaps more of east-European folk music in the complex, convoluted, jagged melodies. I often count tunes, and did this time, and realized they were all in 3 or 6 other than one in 5 and one that repeated at 20 but I wasn’t sure how that divided up. I mentioned this to bassist Jozsef Barcza Horvath in the break and he said it was just luck of the draw. I asked the same to DS after the gig and he said the same. I’m not so sure; I don’t think there was one four. The combination of instruments was different too. This band used percussion rather than drums and added a cello. The cello added that bowed string sound, and this was welcome and Balaza Kantor was a seriously good player and improviser, but it was the percussion most varied the tone from US jazz. The rhythms by Andras Des were much the same, but the tone was softer, less insistent and less punchy, and the result was a gentler although no less active groove. I heard this in bassist Jozsef Barcza Horvath’s tone, but especially in the comparison of sax solos. Chris Potter’s sound was muscular whilst KB’s was intimate. It may make little difference in a studio, but on stage it was obvious. The approaches of the two saxes was also different for most of their solos. CP’s approach was classic modern jazz, with four note structures that stated the chord and modes with immense clarity. KB’s solos were initially more effusive, with lines that moved in long sprees that changed tonality with the underlying harmonic movements, but I noticed he also played a more four-note jazz structure in later solos.

The playing all round was great. I mention the classical training, not simply for their skill levels and the wonderful classical training that so many Euro jazzers have, but also for their approach to melody. There’s a breadth and sense of embellishment and melodic structure that shouts classical to me. DS and KB sounded that way. There was also a sense of rubato and dynamics that I also associate with classical music, and this music had that.

There’s more to say. The band is from Budapest, Hungary, and has worked with a string of collaborators including CD releases with Chris Potter and Kurt Rosenwinkel. There was one piece in four, a ballad called Tangiers and written by Chris Potter which was in US jazz territory and played with subtlety and relative sparseness by the duo of DS and CP. The band took off with energy in solos, but especially with CP who is so unforced but so powerful and well structured. CP mainly played tenor, but also played soprano and bass clarinet once each.

Whatever, this was too poorly attended for such a good concert. It was a great night of complex jazz with some wonderful playing and Chris Potter’s stunning presence. Memorable. Daniel Szabo (piano), Kristof Bacso (soprano, alto sax), Balaza Kantor (cello), Jozsef Barcza Horvath (double bass) and Andras Des (percussion) were joined by Chris Potter (soprano, tenor sax, bass clarinet) at the Jazz Gallery, NYC.

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