Hungarian avant-garde jazz pianist György Szabados, leading his “Royal Hungarian Court Orchestra” (MAKUZ) for decade, plays on this excellent album live show with Art Ensemble of Chicago sax player Roscoe Mitchell. Live album contains three long compositions, recorded in Budapest Thalia Theater in 1996.
Two first are Szabados originals, each lasting more than 26 minutes. Characteristically for all György’s music, them both are tightly composed, with strong Central European classic influence and full of Hungarian folk soul, rhythm and sparks. MAKUZ (originally fluctuating line-up band) here contains some best Hungarian jazz musicians on board, including reedist Mihály Dresch, acoustic bassist Róbert Benkő and violinist Ferenc Kovács among other. Lead by Szabados and playing together for years, band demonstrates telepathic relations on Szabados compositions they obviously know perfect. Mitchell is obvious newcomer to this music and it’s interesting how he’s finding his way to participate. On “Motív”, divided between MAKUZ almost groovy and quite free if tuneful parts and Szabados well-composed chamber sounding moments, Roscoe adds one of his most soulful and tuneful alto solos sometimes dueling with Dresch tenor.
Revelation is another well-composed song, but this time main accent is Hungarian folk roots, from Szabados shamanic ritual singing to plenty of so important to any Hungarian music violin soloing. Kovács demonstrates real magic here very successfully balancing between complex almost chamber composition’s construction and almost dance-able Csárdás fest. He still never cross this dangerous border, separating tasteful folklore from music for tourists. As on previous song, Mitchell participates in few places adding fantastic clear and tuneful sax solos, then all music generally quite massive and very European, in seconds becomes lighter, more playful and full of American jazz blood.
Albums closer, shortest but still over 18-minutes long composition is free improvisation, dedicated to Roscoe’s Art Ensemble Of Chicago(AAoC) music. It leaves all chamber seriousness aside and now it’s true free jazz jam. Dresch plays bass clarinet, rhythm section with two percussionist imitate something what could be counted as “small instruments” and even Szabados adds fast and non-all-that serious piano improvs. All music here recalls early very free AAoC works, still European section are obviously too heavyweight and anchored to reach real AAoC playfulness.
Recording sound is quite clear, just mix could be better-balanced – with reeds on the front, Szabados piano sounds as it’s placed backstage as a result lot of Szabados excellent playing nuances are missing.