A Glimpse at the Past


Although Hungary doesn't rank among the world’s great jazz exporters, its jazz history is richer than even many local experts might think.

This is shown by a new book, “Hungarian Jazz Records 1912-1984” by Géza Gábor Simon, a jazz lover who has devoted himself to collecting data, articles and recordings relating to Hungarian jazz. His book is the first detailed catalogue of recordings made by foreign musicians in Hungary, and released under license in this country.

The listings follow the standard international discographical practice, making this work not only an indispensable handbook for Hungarian jazz researchers and fans but also for anyone interested in the jazz life of different countries. Although in the 1950s it was forbidden  for political reasons to play or listen to jazz, it is surprising to see the long list of jazz and jazz-related recordings made between the two World Wars. Although rarely heard in its pure form, jazz had its impact on many of the then excellent Hungarian dance and entertainment bands.

Some of these jazz-influenced recordings can be heard on the album “Jazz and Hot Dance in Hungary 1912-1949”, recently released by Britain's Harlequin label as part of its series documenting historic jazz recordings from different countries. The collection was compiled by Simon and another Hungarian jazz researcher, Attila Csányi, who possess extensive collections of pre-World War II Hungarian recordings. Some of the recordings were made abroad in such cities as Berlin and Copenhagen for the labels Gramophon, Union, Electrola, Radiola Electro, Durium/Patria Budapest.

This British release presents the best material from four decades, starting with the Gypsy bandleader Béla Berkes’ 1913 rendition of Alexander's Ragtime Band and ending up with a composition by the famous accordionist Mihály Tabányi. Although the pieces are mostly jazz-related dance tunes, they reveal some talented arrangers and soloists. Among the featured players are Ede Buttola (as, bs), Schenkelbach Filu (ts), Lajos Solymossy (p), Gábor Radics (v), Lajos Martiny (p), Chappy (dr), Károly Kurcz (b), Bubi Beamter (dr), Kató Fényes (voc), Elek Bacsik (g), and Tommy Vig (dr). Some American and British musicians also make guest appearances on the recordings.

This album is a valuable historical document of Hungarian jazz, but it is a rather strange situation that the LP should be released in England.

Contact: Géza Gábor Simon, Pf 654, 1365, Budapest 5.

(Jazz Forum, 1985/3)