Szilard Mezei Ensemble | BOT | Not Two Records

Not Two, 2009 | MW 818-2 | CD

Szilárd MEZEI – viola | Ervin MALINA – double bass | Radmila STANIŠIĆ – violoncello | Kornél PÁPISTA – tuba | Branislav AKSIN – trombone | Slobodan DRAGAŠ – trumpet (5,6/CD1; 2-4/CD2) | Lordan SKENDEROVIĆ – trumpet (1-4/CD1; 1,5/CD2) | Damir BAČIKIN – trumpet | Bogdan RANKOVIĆ – bass clarinet, clarinet, alto saxophone | Emőke ZÁKÁNY – oboe | István CSÍK – drums, percussions (CD2)

All compositions by Szilard Mezei

Recorded at Novi Sad Theatre on May 8 and 24 June 2004 by Studio Vilenjak, Lazar Zivanac and Sasa Milankov. Graphics by Erzsebet Mezei. Cover design by Special thanks got to Novia Sad Theatre.

Tracklist Album One | 1. Bot / Stick (2002) [25:24] 2. Föld – levegő / Earth and Air (1998) [06:41] 3. Tamara – ki? / Tamara Who? (2002) [17:14] 4. Yerma (trad.) (2001) [06:52] 5. Tibeti gyors / Tibetan Allegro (2000) [13:04] 6. Lépésben / In Step (2000) [10:32]

Tracklist Album Two | 1. Női box / Female Boxing (2004) [21:21] 2. Csip csip (2003) [17:42] 3. Huzatos huzat / Breezy Draught (2004) [10:34] 4. Napszekér / Chariot of Sun (2004) [16:41] 5. Medium (2002) [13:08]

If, as they say, the stick or rod is a part of the world-tree

then this must be as true for the bow of the viola as it is for the flute, oboe, clarinet, tuba, or drumstick. Expert users of this bow are motivated by a quest for the path leading to the world-tree. As I imagine things, the person who draws his bow across his instrument knows that since they belong to the world-tree, sound and silence are not two separate things, but spring from the same stem. Because the root of these two things is one, silence cannot be the absence of sound, and sound is able to become music by virtue of the fact that it does not merely fill a space, but also creates that space. Accordingly, the person who having heard the silence stands centre-stage and calls forth sound with his bow creates and opens up a whole world. — Tibor Várszegi | Translated from the Hungarian by Chris Sullivan

The Szilárd Mezei Ensemble

consists of musicians performing various kinds of music (jazz, folk music, classical music) who are united in their commitment to improvisation as an approach. The ensemble’s musicians reside in the Voivodina region of Serbia and are active contributors to the traditional musical improvisation workshops of Novi Sad. The band, which is based in the town of Novi Sad, is multi-ethnic, as is the Voivodina region itself. It has been operating in its current form since 2002, with minor changes and shorter and longer breaks. The basis of the band is the Mezei Trio. Among the band’s members are trained solo musicians (Pápista, Dragaš, Zákány), students enrolled at music academies (Stanišić, Malina, Bačikin), a teacher at a music academy (Aksin), and a multifariously employed jazz musician (Csík), as well as a multi-instrumentalist interested in archaic folk music who has a band of his own (Ranković). The repertoire of the band consists of the compositions of Szilárd Mezei, works in which improvisation plays a decisive role.

Violist, composer, and bandleader Szilard Mezei

weaves so many different strands into his audacious music that it’s an impossible (and pointless) task to sort them out. With a knack for challeng­ing arrangements of complex compositions, rooted in his study of violin and viola, Mezei composes music that evokes his classical background, Sun Ra, Ellington, Mingus, Henry Threadgill, traditional dance music and much more. His cause is aided by a dedicated cadre of versatile and sympathetic musicians. Bassist Ervin Malina and drummer Istvan Csik, who seem to be especially attuned to Mezei’s often extreme dynamics and quick shifts, can also lay back and groove in a offhanded and casual way that belies their disciplined rhythmic attack. Bogdan Rankovic, a fluid performer on saxophones and flutes, is another key member. Mezei’s tentet on Bot is heavy on the brass, with two trumpets, trombone, and tuba to play with, while the octet has a rather different balance with pianist Milan Aleksic and Gergely Ittzes on various flutes altering the instrumental array. Mezei likes to revisit and recast his compositions, which serves to deepen the pleasures of his music.

“Bot/Stick” and the provocatively titled “Noi box/ Female Boxing” appear on both releases. The title track leads off Bot , a long episodic piece that features solos separated by ensemble passages with considerable variation in tempo, attack and velocity. Mini-groupings of horns or strings provide continually vary­ing supportive riffs. Three discs and three hours of listening later, the piece reappears when the octet performs it to conclude their concert in Hungary. While the trajectory is similar, this version is distinguished by the grounding effect of Aleksic’s piano and the ethereal blend of Mezei’s viola and Ittzes’ flute. There’s so much music on these sprawling discs that a blow by blow account would take plenty of space while illuminating almost nothing. As one example, “Tonk – Ho/Stump – Snow” by the octet begins with a majestic orchestral swell.

A stately melody with complex internal dissonance takes over, soon giv­ing way to intense collective improvisation over skittering drums and a feeling of suspended time. That’s in just the first two minutes of this 13-minute piece, and words utterly fail to convey how wonderful his impressively rich and nuanced charts actually sound. In his investiga­tions of control versus disorder and the nuances of sound, Mezei has effectively created his own sound world. While it’s true that he has pretty much the same tools as everyone else, he uses them in original ways imbued with a keen sense of curiosity and adventure. Mezei has built up an impressive discography over the past few years with bands of varying sizes, and this pair of splendid releases reinforces the point that something wonderful is brewing in Serbia. — Stuart Kremsky


Hungarian violist, composer & multi-bandleader, Szilard Mezei

is one of the most ambitious and challenging musicians to emerge from Eastern Europe in a long while. I own nearly a dozen of his discs with different sized ensembles and each one is great and well worth investigating. For this disc Mr. Mezei has organized an impressive 11-piece ensemble with the instrumentation of an oboe, clarinets, 3 trumpets, trombone, tuba, viola, cello, bass & drums. Szilard composed all of the music between 1998 & 2004 and all but two of the elevens pieces are over ten minutes long. Some of the pieces were recorded live at the Novi Sad Theatre and the rest in a studio, hence the sound is consistently splendid throughout.

Mezei continues to explore the area between Hungarian folks melodies and modern European avant jazz. The title piece “Bot” (which means stick) is first and it is filled with tight layers of charted and freer parts. While the rhythm team moves in waves, the strings and horns swirl together around them. One spirited solo emerges at a time rising above the waves, first the alto sax, then the viola and even the oboe, all strong and intense solos. Bassist Ervin Malina and drummer Istvan Csik are most impressive throughout these long pieces. What Mr. Mezei does so well is take these enchanting melodies and use them as a central theme while the ensemble swirls tightly around with various currents interlocking above and beneath the waves. In the middle of the first long piece, another more solemn theme takes over with the tuba playing that eerie melody. “Earth and Air” features a complex spiraling written theme that is most engaging with some great plucked strings and twisted horn harmonies. Each piece features fascinating structural ideas, enticing melodies and/or consistently demanding interaction. What we have here is some 2 & 1/2 hours of brilliant music played by one of the best ensembles to emerge from the Eastern European underground in a long time. Treat yourself to this treasure and take some time to fully absorb the wealth of amazing music found within.– Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery



Double CD version (incl. shipment cost world-wide)

$ 26.00
Out of Stock

MP3 version 227.55MB zip download)

$ 12.00

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