The Jazz.com Blog
November 16, 2008 · 0 comments
Roanna Forman covers the fertile Boston jazz scene for jazz.com. She recently wrote in this column on the Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival and Roy Hargrove’s appearance at Sculler's Jazz Club. Below she offers her perspective on a performance by Hungarian-born pianist/composer (and Berklee professor) Laszlo Gardony. T.G.
“We live in exciting times,” Laszlo Gardony said to a Boston audience at Sculler's Jazz Club a week to the day after the election. And his music was right in sync with all the hope and change in the air. Gospel, blues, acoustic rock—all things distinctly American and distinctly joyful—that is where this consummate jazz pianist and composer took his trio of seven years in a set of original tunes and standards, largely drawn from his latest album, Dig Deep. Gardony’s harmonic density, rhythmic complexity, and linear exotica were all there, but the music was accessible, almost throwing off the shackles of jazz esoterica to celebrate the radiant good times in this artist’s life.
Hungarian-born Gardony, who has recorded eight albums as leader, is always in fine company with bassist John Lockwood and drummer Yoron Israel, Boston’s first call musicians on their respective instruments. They’re the type of players who simply choose not to go to New York, although musically there’s no distance between them and the jazz musicians in the Big Apple.
As a unit, the seasoned trio is a must-hear no matter what they play. With impeccable dynamics and a deep understanding of their musical roles, they support and enhance, never getting in each other’s way. John Lockwood’s solid pocket anchors the piano and drums, both of which have a busier conversation over him. Gardony and drummer Israel play sometimes in sync, or, Israel will trade, echo and accent the piano’s complicated rhythmic figures.
There may be a lot of superlatives coming at you here, but, believe me, they’re well deserved. John Lockwood’s tone is buttery, his time is a rock, and he is equally comfortable with fluent runs and single notes that ground a measure in a ballad. As for Yoron Israel, he’s one of the most musical drummers I’ve heard in a long time. He doesn’t waste rhythmic energy, he channels it—shaping a tune, toping off a soft phrase with the sibilance of his cymbals, closing out a solo with the right bass drum accent.
Gardony, who’s been playing since he was five, displays his technical mastery and has the piano’s full palette at his disposal. He’ll throw in an unusual scale in the middle of a solo, off the cuff—sort of the musical equivalent of expressing an idea in Hungarian—because it fits. On Tuesday night, he played harder than in the past, when he has been more airy, delicate and attenuated.
The tunes varied from the strong slow diatonic major voicings of “Wide Awake” (what Gardony has described as a power rock vibe) to the reharms of standards like “Softly (As in a Morning Sunrise).” Much of Gardony’s new material lays down a rolling groove, like the 7/4 of “In Transit.” Its descending piano lines over a repeated bass figure give you the feeling of moving along in space as well as time. “Three Minute-Mile” —an appropriately named workout with meter changes, gospel accents, and a heavy-handed diminished chord that rocks the tricky form—was a great springboard for Yoron Israel’s solo, which echoed the tune’s phrases within its rolls and fills.
If you wanted to hear transformations, this group’s take on standards was the way to do it. “Summertime” put contemporary harmonies on a gospel feel, and Gardony cooked in an inspired, bluesy solo. In “Softly (as in a Morning Sunrise)” the bass ushered in the dawn with an eerie dirge-like motif behind it. Heavy on reharmonization, the arrangement swung on the piano solo, and Lockwood played tight, fast melodic lines over the changes before taking the tune out. The group stood “Satin Doll” on its head with what Gardony called an “Afro-Cuban/Hungarian” influenced arrangement. Yoron Israel broke loose with a hard-hitting insistent beat that pulled the tune over the top.
Reflecting on the good vibes in the room, Gardony beamed, “It feels wonderful to be an artist in these times and share these thoughts through an instrument.”
Amen to that.
This blog entry posted by Roanna Forman