András Dés Quartet Unimportant Things

BMCCD337 2024

The percussionist András Dés, who has been living in Vienna for five years, has formed a quartet with two Austrian musicians, Martin Eberle and Philipp Nykrin, and his old bandmate Márton Fenyvesi, who is now also based in Vienna, to capture the essence of European jazz: diversity, openness and the power of listening to each other.
Unimportant Things concludes a trilogy of albums that András Dés has recorded in various line-ups for BMC Records. The common feature of the three albums, which are based on very different concepts and moods, is that they all contain a good dose of spontaneity, in that rather than inserting improvisational sections into his compositions, the bandleader has linked them together with transitions. The eight compositions on the new album are thus transformed into a single musical flow, which had to be divided into tracks by artificial boundaries after recording.
Martin Eberle and Philipp Nykrin are established members of the Austrian jazz scene (though several threads link them to BMC), and while the trumpeter pushes his instrument to the limits with rhythmic precision, wild gesticulation, or timbres that imitate human speech, the pianist's playing is also extremely broad, whether in terms of the softness and hardness of tone or the transparency and density of the accompaniment. Márton Fenyvesi shows how at home he is in the world of traditional jazz and rock guitar playing and further captivates with his unique electronic timbres.


Artists

Martin Eberle – trumpet
Philipp Nykrin – piano
Márton Fenyvesi – guitar
András Dés – percussion


About the album

Compositions by András Dés (1, 3, 5, 7, 9-12); Martin Eberle, Philipp Nykrin, Márton Fenyvesi and András Dés (2, 4, 6, 8)

Recorded at BMC Studio, Budapest on 3-4 July, 2023
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Viktor Szabó

Artwork: Anna Natter / Cinniature

Produced by László Gőz
Label manager: Tamás Bognár

Supported by the National Cultural Fund of Hungary and the City of Vienna


Reviews

x - Recorder.hu (hu)

Papageno - Papageno (hu)

Olasz Sándor - Riff.hu (hu)

Dr. Nagy Sándor - JazzMa (hu)

Győrffy Ákos - Mandiner (hu)


3500 HUF 11 EUR

András Dés Quartet - Unimportant Things

01 Silent Part 5:06
02 Open Space I. 1:51
03 Complicated Souls 4:00
04 Open Space II. 3:33
05 3rd Song 5:28
06 Open Space III. 1:18
07 Did Anything Happen 4:19
08 Open Space IV. 1:20
09 Gingerbread Prospect 4:54
10 Das Neue Vorbei 5:29
11 Much More Obsessed 3:36
12 Unimportant Things (For my Parents) 4:41
Total time 45:42

The album is available in digital form at our retail partners



THE IMPORTANCE OF INSIGNIFICANT THINGS

Master of the Smallest Link is the title of a book published by the most important philosopher of music and society in the twentieth century, Theodor W. Adorno (1903–1969), about his former composition teacher Alban Berg (1885–1935). The title refers to the fact that in Berg’s music any small idea, even a motif of a few notes, or a particular combination of timbres, is able to function as a link between two self-standing musical ideas, two thematic sections. This was perhaps possible because in the musical language Berg used, which he borrowed from his master Arnold Schoenberg (1874–1951) and adapted for his own purposes, practically anything can acquire significance. Even a motif of a few notes, or a particular combination of timbre. Seen like this, paradoxically there is no essential difference between the ideas and the transitions that link them: there is no insignificant musical idea.
From the point of view of Adorno, who could not abide jazz, perhaps it would seem blasphemy to quote him of all people in relation to the new CD by the Dés András Quartet, but I have several expressly musical reasons for doing so. First, because of the way musical institutions are conditioned, this CD will obviously be categorized as “jazz” in various professional forums, on the physical shelves of CD stores and on the virtual shelves of streaming services, although this jazz is not the music that Adorno classified under the label in the mid-twentieth century.
The four musicians who play on this CD are known for being jazz musicians, but the range of unusual percussion forces required by András Dés, who composed the tracks and leads the band, itself indicates that this is far from being traditional jazz, as does the unusual make-up of the quartet. The percussion is joined by trumpet, piano, and electric guitar, and moreover the way these three instruments are played often differs from what is customary. Martin Eberle’s trumpet sometimes moves way beyond the stereotypes of the instrument, be it the softness or brightness of the sound, rhythmic precision, mind-blowingly rapid wild gesticulations, or timbres imitating human speech and alien to the trumpet. Philipp Nykrin’s piano similarly pushes at the limits of the playing techniques for the instrument: he moves in a breathtakingly broad spectrum, whether we consider the softness-harshness of the timbre, or the transparency–density of the accompaniment types, and sometimes as a supplementary percussionist he vouches for the rhythmical assurance of musical ideas. As for the guitar playing of Márton Fenyvesi: although at some points he offers a glimpse of how at home he is in the world of traditional jazz and rock guitar, in a significant part of the songs he conjures up dazzling electronic timbres, if necessary he provides a backdrop, and when needed he comes to the foreground as a partner to the trumpet, yelling, wailing, lamenting, and elsewhere he enters into intense dialogue with the piano.
The musical components of this album are at least as manifold as the playing of the four musicians.
The thinking of András Dés and his fellow musicians is defined just as much by many different trends in American and European jazz of the last few decades, as by earlier and contemporary classical music, the instinctively complex rhythmic structures of traditional musical cultures, or even the influence of various popular music styles, for instance, the elemental energy of rock music. Given that genre labels are now increasingly the relics of outdated conditioning, and give little clue to the true nature of the most exciting new music, it is simpler and more informative if instead of “jazz” we dub the latest CD of the Dés András Quartet as “contemporary improvisatory music”. This way, we leave Adorno’s spirit untroubled too, for my having quoted his thought on “the smallest link”.
This thought occured to me, as the album’s first listener, because part of the essence of András Dés’s musical universe, as his previous two albums also testify, is that links are just as important as the actual compositions. Though as outsiders we might imagine the most difficult task for a composer is to invent exciting themes, the creation of links between the themes is at least a great a challenge, because this is what turns the separate musical ideas into a genuine sequence of events. In other words: into music. This album consists of eight pre-composed pieces (some of which were composed almost note for note; in others the compositional intent left more leeway for performers’ freedom), and of these, completely free improvisations can be heard under the title Open Space. What fascinates me is that in the transitions, there is nothing that smacks of a mere bridge passage: these musical processes are just as tense, exciting, and demanding of our attention, as András Dés’s compositions. This is not to detract from the value of the compositions, but rather testifies to the astonishing quality of the attention the four musicians direct to one another (as does the fact that what we hear on this album was recorded in a single session, with no cuts).
Together with the links, the eight compositions form a single musical sequence of about three-quarters of an hour, in which written and improvised ideas merge in a manner similar to the ancient Greek epics, which today we know as written works, their final form having taken shape as they were transcribed, though their origins go back to a culture of oral tradition, and they were kept alive by the improvisations of singer-storytellers. And just as the dramaturgy of many ancient epics is determined by a journey, the most famous example being the Odyssey, so this album by the Dés András Quartet can be listened to as such. From the irregular pulsation of the note B at the beginning of the first track, Silent Part, to the major chord that closes the final, title track Unimportant Things, we proceed from island to island, from one adventure to the next, like Odysseus on his way home from Troy to Ithaca. With its gradual increase in intensity, the first track is a veritable overture: the title Silent Part refers to a section of András Visky’s novel Kitelepítés (Deportation). This beautiful work tells the story of a Hungarian family deported to a Romanian gulag in the late 1950s, and is narrated from the point of view of the smallest child. At one point the family greet an inhabitant of the camp with polyphonic singing, but they ask the smallest boy to just mouth the words, not to spoil the song, he can be the “silent part, because without silence there is no music, and if I do not sing with all my heart, with all my soul, and all my strength the notes of silence, then my efforts are in vain”. The second track, Complicated Souls, with its stubborn repeated ostinatos, and complex rhythmic figures obscuring the basic pulse, speaks for itself. The next track, called 3rd Song, is the most obviously traditional composition on the album: it starts with a wonderful regularly structured melody, and seems like a personal confession with its large-scale piano solo, but the melody never returns; in the transition the piano loses the thread, and pulls the trumpet along with it, which begins a crazed solo, from there we move on into the stubbornly questioning world of Did Anything Happen? where a zappy rhythm contrasts with a hymn-like undulating musical idea. Strange sounds lead us to the song that contains the album’s most innocent moments. Gingerbread Prospect also asks questions, but more tamely: what is the view like from a gingerbread house? But the end of the track takes listeners in a different direction to what they expected; the ideas become weightier, then disintegrate.
The next two compositions lead listeners into the darkest regions of the album. Das Neue Vorbei – the new is past, says the title, and the trumpet and distorted electric guitar start griping so loudly that it’s difficult not to read the ranting dialogue of the two instruments, over the resigned repetition in the accompaniment as some ironic social commentary. The penultimate song signals in its very title (Much More Obsessed) that this music is about us, we who live in the post-truth era, who talk our talk either coherently, or incoherently, taking no heed of one another or of the world. As the bass pulses in five against a sequence of chords pulsating in four, at one point the trumpet and piano actually lose their mind, and more clearly than any sociological or political analysis the shows the mental tensions to which twenty-first-century society is subjected.
Yet the last song does at least offer some kind of way out of this state. With the simple rocking of its accompaniment and the clear contour of the melody, the ethereal clarity of the guitar sound, the title song Unimportant Things seems to show that we are left with only small, personal, “unimportant” things if we wish to retain our humanity in the increasingly atomized, impersonal, shrill world; that what seems insignificant to others, may be important to us, and vice versa. There is no other way to recognize this than to pay attention to others. Just as these four marvellous musicians pay attention to one another in this exceptionally rich three-quarters of an hour.

Gergely Fazekas
Translated by Richard Robinson

Thank you:
To my parents and sisters for the important and unimportant things.
Dóra, Matyi and Misi for the happiest moments of my life.
To Martin Eberle, Philipp Nykrin and Márton Fenyvesi for their skill to make my dream even more thrilling and lyrical.
Viktor Szabó for the fantastic quality of his work.
To BMC for being a sanctuary, a refuge and a playground.
To Gergely Fazekas for his depth and freedom.
András Visky for the Silent Part.

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