Szilard Mezei | Mint amikor tavasz | When Spring | Not Two Records

Not Two, 2009 | MW 819-2 | CD

Szilárd MEZEI – viola, double bass

Viola: Jozsef Magyar, Budapest, 2003. Cover painting by Erno Sagmeister. Graphic work by Erzsebet Mezei. Cover design by Imre Sebestyen jr. Recorded May 2005 at Vamosszabadi ‘Mindszentek’ Church by Kapui Szabolcs, Gyorfree. Sponsored by Varszegi Tibor es tarsulata / Tibor Varszegi Theatre Company

Tracklist: 1. No / So [05:44] 2. – [06:40] 3. Bolondút / Road of Fool [12:23] 4. Bolondút kék / Road of Fool Blue [06:44] 5. – [04:27] 6. – [05:37] 7. – [05:25] 8. – [02:04] 9. Hétrét / Seven Fields [01:55] 10. – [08:09] 11. – [02:02] 12. – [03:06] 13. – [01:37] 14. Mint amikor tavasz / When Spring 5:50 [05:50] 15. – [04:51]

Szilárd Mezei

is a contemporary European violinist, violist, double bass player, composer and leader of various formations; he is perhaps the greatest hope of European jazz violin since the tragic death of Polish violin master Zbigniew Seifert in 1979. Szilárd Mezei was born February 12th, 1974 in Senta, Serbia (then Yugoslavia) as a member of the Hungarian minority in the multiethnic region of Vojvodina. He completed his violin studies in Senta and Subotica and studied composition for four years at the University of Arts in Belograd under prof. Zoran Eric. He plays contemporary improvised music, mostly performing his own compositions. As a composer, Mezei is interested in exploring the relationship between improvisation and composition (similarly to Witold Lutoslawski’s aleatoric and Anthony Braxton’s creative music methods), incorporating elements of jazz and authentic folk music as well. As a young musician he followed the path of B.Bartók and Gy.Szabados. Mezei is also very actively involved in composing scenic music and plays authentic Hungarian folk music on genuine folk instruments (koboz and oud). He leads the Szilárd Mezei Trio, Szilárd Mezei Quintet (/ Sextet / Septet / Octet), and plays in many formations (duo, trio, etc.) for improvising music (among others, in duet with György Szabados, and with his own orchestra MAKUZ, The Fonda/Stevens Group.

While both his recent releases

(orchestral double cd “Bot” also on Not Two, quartet lp “February Fadontes” on No Business”) are really good, I decided to get back to his solo outing which I feel is something really special. Szilard Mezei, both as composer and performer, manages to create link between folk melodies and sophisticated avant-jazz or chamber methods and strategies of composition and execution. Here, in a solo setting, his musical vision is displayed as clearly as ever.

In so many cases a solo recording are incredibly difficult to listen to, quite often presenting none any actual music but demonstration of skills. And while there’s no lack of virtuosity here, this is not a record just for other viola/violin players nor an exercise in technique. Between the legato, gentle playing of the “Not / So” that begins the record and sharp and staccato shattered sound of the second track (some of the pieces instead of a title have a simple picture) this promise you a lot of diversity from the beginning and it delivers.My definite favourite is “Bolondut / Road of Fool”,also the longest track of the cd, with its folkish short motif serving as a recurring theme, platform extended through sensitive and imaginative improvisation. The sound of viola is crystal clear, bare, right in front of ears.”Bolondut kek / Road of Fool Blue” is one of the few pieces played on double bass, deep and magnificient sound of arco and once again with a simple recurring motiv, ending with a great use of extended techniques, surprisingly fitting for the folk atmosphere.

In the cycle of picture tracks that follows Szilard plays viola in deconstuctive way of Joe Morris guitar (track 5), pierces the air with light-speed arpeggios and dramatic harmonies of gypsy descendance (track 6) and provides the balance going way low on double bass again , this time without the bow (track 7).Tracks 8 through 13 (except 8 minutes, double bass track 10) are minitures, all around 2 mins long. Short outbursts of creative flame, from the long frullo (track 8), through passionate wild shrills (track 9 and 11), otherwordly misty, full of air and microtonal distortions sound (track 12) up to somehow combining last two in the track 13. The cd ends with one track apiece on viola, exploring more romantic territory, and the bass, with nice walking technique, somehow a jumpy twist to the melody.

I guess at 70 something minutes overall, this is not exactly an easy listening, still a solo viola album (excluding the four bass tracks) is extremely uncommon. (I don’t know any other) and as ambitious as it is, it succeds greatly. On the final note. Happy Birthday to Szilard who was born on the 12th of february. — jazzowy alchemik | 11.02.2011.

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