Speaking the language of jazz


Gábor Turi’s remarkable career has blended a love of jazz with journalism, civil service, academia, and a major book project supported by a Fulbright scholarship in 2013.

In his early years Gábor had little exposure to jazz, but when he arrived at the Lajos Kossuth University in Debrecen in the early 1970s, his roommates came with some records and tapes of jazz music and shared their music tastes with him. Gábor grew to love the music and culture of jazz and he also grew to appreciate the jazz’s association in the United States with the Black Consciousness movement and the Civil Rights struggle.

The developing music culture in Hungary in the 1970s presented Gábor with a unique opportunity to combine his passion for jazz with his academic degrees in history, English, and journalism. He started working as a journalist for the Hajdú-bihari Napló newspaper in Debrecen, first writing about domestic politics but soon moving to cover culture, theater and jazz. His work was well respected and in a few years he began publishing articles on jazz topics in national and international newspapers.

Gábor became increasingly active and prominent as a jazz journalist, serving as the Hungarian correspondent for Jazz Forum, the magazine of the International Jazz Federation, and was twice elected Vice President of the Hungarian Jazz Federation. He traveled internationally and covered major jazz festivals, concerts, and cultural activities. He also published three books on jazz – I say: Jazz, a collection of interviews with Hungarian musicians, Jazz from Hungary, a guide to jazz in Hungary, and Time for Jazz, a commentary on improvised music.

The changed political climate in the 1990’s opened new opportunities for Gábor. He served as cultural attaché in the Embassy of Hungary in London, UK, (1992-1995), press attaché in the Embassy of Hungary in Washington, DC, (1998-2002),  deputy mayor of the city of Debrecen, and counselor on international affairs for the city council of Debrecen. He then moved to academia, taking on the role of director of the Center for External Relations at the University of Debrecen.

All the while, however, his love for jazz and all it symbolizes remained strong. So in 2012 he decided to apply for a scholarship from the Hungarian American Fulbright Commission for Educational Exchanges, to pursue a major book idea – a chronicle of the development and status of jazz in the country of its birth, the United States, over the last 100 years. Gábor spent three months at the Newark campus of Rutgers University during which time he had a chance to meet some of the greatest figures from today’s American jazz scene. He was doing research for his book which examines jazz from the perspective of its three core constituencies; the creators (musicians), the mediators (the jazz business), and the consumers (audiences). The book, titled ‘American (jazz)diary’, is a work in progress to be completed in 2015.

(Web site of the US Embassy, Budapest, 2014)