Artist/Composer:Béla Szakcsi Lakatos, Christophe Monniot, József Barcza Horváth, Elemér Balázs
 Title:Density of Standards
(P) 2017
Rarely is such a ‘density of standards’ encountered on BMC Records CDs as in this selection by bandleader Szakcsi and his quartet. How unexpected for Szakcsi, of all people, to delve into standards so intensively, being the pioneer of jazz-rock in Hungary, creator of the concept Gypsy Jazz, celebrated composer of ballets and musicals, pianist of two truly memorable freely improvised duets, one with violinist Lajos Kathy Horváth and another with cimbalom virtuoso Miklós Lukács, bandleader of the ensemble Climate Change and accomplished solo artist.

Make no mistake, Szakcsi and mainstream jazz have always been inseparable. Why should that change now that he has been crowned the doyen of jazz musicians in Hungary, and is the only one to have received the Artist of the Nation award, a decoration comparable to becoming an NEA Jazz Master? He has plenty to look back on happily, as both of his sons have become internationally noted jazz pianists, not to mention the fourth pianist of the Szakcsi Generation Band, Monk-competition winner Kálmán Oláh.

Kornél Zipernovszky


01. Someday My Prince Will Come
Frank Churchill / Larry Morey
7:08
02. Body and Soul
Johnny Green / Edward Heyman, Robert Sour, Frank Eyton
11:00
03. Summertime
George Gershwin / DuBose Heyward
6:35
04. Mood Indigo
Duke Ellington, Barney Bigard / Irving Mills
5:31
05. Bye Bye Blackbird
Ray Henderson / Mort Dixon
7:12
06. Autumn Leaves
Joseph Kosma / Jacques Prévert
5:51
07. Green Dolphin Street
Bronisław Kaper / Ned Washington
5:54
08. Over the Rainbow
Harold Arlen / E.Y. Harburg
6:24
09. Days of Wine and Roses
Henry Mancini / Johnny Mercer
6:15

 Total time: 61:54
Performers
Béla Szakcsi Lakatos – piano
Christophe Monniot – alto saxophone
József Barcza Horváth – double bass
Elemér Balázs – drums
Production notes:
Recorded at BMC Concert Hall, Budapest on 28-29 January, 2016
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Viktor Szabó
Christophe Monniot plays Selmer saxophones and Vandoren reeds
Elemér Balázs uses Csibi sticks
Artwork: László Huszár / Greenroom

Produced by László Gőz
Label manager: Tamás Bognár

The recording was supported by the National Cultural Fund of Hungary

George W. Harris - Jazz Weekly (en)
Raul da Gama - JazzdaGama (en)
Claude Loxhay - Jazzhalo (fr)
Thierry Giard - CultureJazz (fr)
Matti Komulainen - Jazzrytmit (fi)
Hiroki Sugita - Jazz Japan (jp)
Robert Ratajczak - Long Play (pl)
Márton Attila - Gramofon (pdf) (hu)
Olasz Sándor - Riff (hu)
Gáspár Károly - JazzMa (hu)
Czékus Mihály - HiFi Piac (hu)

Click on the image for higher resolution!THE GALLOPING PRINCE, THE WIZARD & CO

Someday My Prince Will Come – the romantic hero of dreams is envisioned by the piano and the sax together, wearing all the necessary accoutrements. Suddenly the film of the dream movie is playing at double speed: come on, Prince, gallop now, they’re waiting for you! After a while, he is allowed to resume a leisurely trot. As he draws nearer, you can tell: he is dressed in new, modern clothes. Oh, and Oz, the Wizard approaches (Over the Rainbow) and then Summertime is just around the corner!

Rarely is such a ‘density of standards’ encountered on BMC Records CDs as in this selection by bandleader Szakcsi and his quartet. How unexpected for Szakcsi, of all people, to delve into standards so intensively, being the pioneer of jazz-rock in Hungary, creator of the concept Gypsy Jazz, celebrated composer of ballets and musicals, pianist of two truly memorable freely improvised duets, one with violinist Lajos Kathy Horváth and another with cimbalom virtuoso Miklós Lukács, bandleader of the ensemble Climate Change and accomplished solo artist.

Make no mistake, Szakcsi and mainstream jazz have always been inseparable. Why should that change now that he has been crowned the doyen of jazz musicians in Hungary, and is the only one to have received the Artist of the Nation award, a decoration comparable to becoming an NEA Jazz Master? He has plenty to look back on happily, as both of his sons have become internationally noted jazz pianists, not to mention the fourth pianist of the Szakcsi Generation Band, Monk-competition winner Kálmán Oláh.

The gear-change for the prince on horseback was not the only sign of their unapologetically having fun in the studio. The super-exact and always polished bass player, József Barcza Horváth emits a sigh after the very last tune in the manner of Sammy Davis Jr. with Count Basie: ‘Let’s play more!’ Playing music best describes what these musicians do, expressed by the same word in English, Hungarian and many other languages.

Barcza and Balázs are leading figures of their generation in Hungarian jazz, as illustrated by the many sessions they have participated in. Classically trained Barcza is always meticulous on the bass, and also produces and musically directs vocal and instrumental groups. He has worked alongside Erik Truffaz, Palle Mikkelborg, Frank London, as well as world-jazz violinist Zoltán Lantos and bandoneon virtuoso David Yengibarian. Elemér Balázs might be the first-call drummer around, but has also earned a great reputation as a bandleader with a unique touch, praised by Pat Metheny, Charlie Mariano, Núria Rial, Mihály Dresch, and Gábor Gadó, not to mention his over twenty-five-year tenure in the No.1 mainstream band Trio Midnight, with Kálmán Oláh and János Egri.

It is hard to recall the last time Szakcsi felt as leisurely, truly a homo ludens, playful as a partner and as a soloist, being inspired and inspiring in the studio, as in these sessions. We have enjoyed the gift of his playfulness in concerts, where his larger-than-life heart, as well as his openness towards his fellow musicians, was always evident. He also has a very extensive, marvellous discography, despite the fact that in the first decades of his career, as a jazz musician he was not exactly favoured by the establishment. He already peaked artistically in the period of the ancien régime and at least five years were to pass before the state-owned (and only) record company Hungaroton allowed jazz musicians anywhere near a studio, let alone release an LP by them. Younger generations heard only through the grapevine, or from rare recordings how great bands like Rákfogó sounded. The dreaded company was a little more flexible with another jazz-rock setup of Szakcsi’s, called Saturnus, having become more open to commercial success in the 1980s.

Later Szakcsi contributed significantly to the success of the group Special EFX on JVC and GRP and earned the right to release his solo album overseas: Straight Ahead. Hungaroton belatedly tried to compensate by releasing a collection of pop and musical hits featuring legendary sax player Dezső Lakatos Ablakos – 25 years after the original recordings had been made.

In recent decades BMC records has made a significant contribution, and the recorded output of the seasoned Szakcsi now better reflects his unique musical personality, something that was truly appreciated by the rhythm section of the Szakcsi Generation Band, John Patitucci and Jack DeJohnette. His contemporary vein came to the fore when Chris Potter, Reginald Veal, Terri Lyne Carrington unit joined him to form a quartet, and his delicate sensitivity was much appreciated by Tim Ries (Rolling Stones), a contemporary US sax player with a completely different approach, when he visited Szakcsi in Budapest, with Bob Hurst and Rudy Royston providing the rhythm.

Elemér Balázs was the most obvious choice for this recording of ‘straight ahead’ and standards material. With all the experience he has, he supplies a rhythmic basis with zest, and is always on the lookout for any space that could be filled to embellish the music. The other half of the high-precision instrument that this rhythm section resembles is bass player Barcza. If you listen to him, you might well be reminded of what Szakcsi is famous for: being an ebullient romantic.

The unmistakably individual French sax player Monniot forms an experienced and mutually respectful duo with Szakcsi, even if they are an odd couple by any standards, suffice to consider the rhythm of their voicing. Monniot is an outstanding player of his generation in France, he has been featured by bandleaders or as a member of Daniel Humair’s excellent Baby Boom, the Moutin Factory Quintet, the Station MIR, the Guillaume Roy Quartet, François Raulin, as well as David Chevallier. He is also the most frequently engaged French musician on the BMC label. Leading his own band Ozone in two sessions, where he teams up with pianist Emil Spányi, as well as another Hungarian expat living in the shade of the Eiffel Tower, bassist Mátyás Szandai.

Monniot recorded a handful of Bob Marley songs with US drummer extraordinaire Hamid Drake and the vocal wonder from Germany, Michael Schiefel. On Monio Mania he features Marc Ducret and Manu Codjia. Szakcsi was his pianist again when he made an album with his trio called La Campagnie des musiques à ouïr and three Hungarian musicians including Gábor Gadó.

Monniot, unlike your average sax player, while putting all his heart, and lung capacity, into his playing, is prepared to show how fragile he is. He often uses many different reeds in concerts, while he is inexhaustible in what he has to say – could use more than one instrument at the same time (he has in fact done that Kirkian trick elsewhere). His vibrato and the bending of his melodies resemble the sighs of his deep soul, but within a bar may take an abrupt turn to the ironic. Monniot has a pretty universal vision of the world, and is able to show the reverse side of things that inspire him. When he and Szakcsi take a tune to new heights they also invite the other to explore new ground. This is how the succession of old-school evergreens becomes new material, the medium and the message of playing. Rather than robbing the listener of the pleasure of recognizing well-known standards, their new interpretations remind us that imagination has no bounds.

Kornél Zipernovszky