Last winter's most important jazz event was a concert series at the University Theater in Budapest. The 13 evenings revealed the strength and promising future of the younger jazz genera-tion. Somé of the more established groups deserve special mention here as well.
The ‘80s brought a revival of traditional music in Hungary. The nine-piece Budapest Ragtime Band, for instance, was formed in 1983 by classically trained musicians. Since then, the group has released an LP and toured in many European countries. For the most part, its repertoire consists of Scott Joplin and James Scott piano originals transeribed into multicolored, witty instrumental arrangements.
Bop Art, led by keyboard player Attila Malecz, represents the fusing efforts of modern jazz. Due to its use of synthesizers and the orchestration, this combo’s sound is symphonic and big band-like at the same time. It also integrates the traditions of classical music and the rhythmic variety of rock. The group has emerged as a finalist in many competitions, for example in Dunqerque and San Sebastian.
The quartet Dimension was formed in 1980 and reformed in 1985. With the personnel changes, the quartet’s fusion style has moved toward a more intimate, emotional, acoustic chamber music, relying largely on the outstanding improvisational capacities of its members, especially reedman László Dés. Dimension has appeared at various important European festivals and won the critics prize at the Wroclaw Jazz Festival.
Found in 1984, the Dresch Quartet plays the compositions of its leader, reedman Mihály Dresch, whose musical inspiration and roots can be found in Hungarian folk music. In his pieces, the Hungarian musical idiom meets the progressive, avant-garde attitude of the '60s black movement, resulting in a music with a distinctively ethnic flavor. The quartet also draws inspiration from pianist György Szabados.
The Grencsó Kollektiva is also influenced by the musical world of Szabados. The five-plus-members group plays the witty, strongly accented, often ironical compositions of leader, reedman István Grencsó, consciously avoiding and mocking the clichés of traditional and mainstream jazz.
The virtuoso unit of premier guitarists John McLaughlin, Al DiMeola, and Paco DeLucia was a challenge for guitarists all over the world. The Hungarian Guitar Trio response to that challenge is modern mainstream jazz spiced with boppish phrasing and Latin rhythms. Attila László, Gábor Gadó, and Ferenc Snétberger, known from other formations as well, are true “professors” of their instrument.
By the mid-‘80s, saxophone player Tony Lakatos had become the best known and accomplished young Hungarian musician in Europe. He has appeared at a number of famous jazz festivals and played with such musicians an Rainer Brüninghaus, Toto Blanke, Jasper van’t Hof, Charlie Mariano, Michael Sagmeister, and Kenny Wheeler. He is an all-round musician who fits into various contexts from bop to modern swing, and free jazz to fusion. He is a virtuoso instrumentalist with a distinctive personal sound. His present Hungarian unit is the fusion band Things, although he spends half his time in Western Europe.
The Makám ensemble was formed in 1984 and plays a sort of improvisational chamber music containing elements of classical music as well as contemporary jazz and rock. Its melody and rhythm are influenced by East European folk and oriental music, and most of the group’s exotic instruments were made by its members.
The No-Spa Sextet favors the reflective, controlled lyricism of cool, which it combines with the rhythmic and harmonic devices of present day jazz. Its original compositions are mostly written by leader, keyboard player Mihály Farkas.
The Synapsis Quartet has won festivals in Karlovy Vary, Kromeriz, and Debrecen, and is an original representative of today's jazz trends in Hungary. Leader László Süle’s idea is to create a compositional chamber-like jazz music that sounds contemporary yet relates to Hungary's valuable jazz heritage. Süle is the most promising composer-pianist in the younger generation.
Finally, the vocal quartet Vocaleast consists of two male and two female voices, featuring evergreens and modern standards in its repertoire, and lending a special color to the local jazz-palette.
(Jazz Forum, 1987/3)