Check it out, Igor
Records (P) 2005
BMC CD 108
Béla Szakcsi Lakatos - piano
(Fazioli grand, model F278)
Miklós Lukács - cimbalom
All improvisations by Béla Szakcsi Lakatos and Miklós
Recorded at Phoenix Studio, Hungary on 22-23/10/2004
Recording producer: Ibolya Tóth
Sound engineer: János Bohus
Cover art by GBMY based on photos of István Huszti
Portrait photos: István Huszti
Art-Smart by GBMY
Produced by László Gőz
Executive producer: Tamás Bognár, György Wallner
The recording was sponsored by the Ministry of Cultural
Heritage, the National Cultural Fund of Hungary
and the Artisjus Music Foundation
Music begins where words lose their meaning and when music reaches the standard
it has on this album, it's well-nigh impossible to verbalise it. I received
a rough copy of this record long before it was finalised. It had no title. All
that was written on it with a felt pen were the names
of the two artists: Bela Szakcsi Lakatos, arguably the greatest jazz pianist
in Hungary and Miklós Lukács, the phenomenal rising young star of the cimbalom
(a folk instrument not unlike the hammer dulcimer and much loved by the Gypsies
of Hungary and Romania). Szakcsi Lakatos has recently recorded an album with
his own trio that brilliantly fused his Romany Gypsy musical heritage with mainstream
jazz, while Lukács has been playing with the leading lights of Hungary's incredibly
rich ethno-jazz movement and also appeared at the 2004 London Jazz Festival
with Arnie Somogyi's Improvokation, a highly original Anglo-Hungarian outfit.
So, what was one meant to expect? Before putting the CD on, I was wondering
how on earth a piano and a cimbalom will sound together without the mediation
of a solid rhythm section? Will it be Gypsy jazz? Will Szakcsi Lakatos 'brilliant
pianism', as a noted British critic (Alyn Shipton) described it, bury the cimbalom?
To be frank, I was not prepared for what I was to hear.
The music struck me as a conversation between equals, as two men were telling
a long and involved story with several interesting and dramatic, frequently
humorous twists to it, sometimes speaking excitedly at the same time, sometimes
taking turns and sometimes embellishing the story as told by the other. Bela
Szakcsi Lakatos, with the humility of the truly great artist he is, was not
trying to drown the younger man out, while Miklós Lukács, the brilliant exponent
of his uncommon instrument, took the cimbalom into regions where it had never
ventured before. This is contemporary music of the highest order but without
the ugliness - 'de rigeur' nowadays - that's meant to convey the sorry state
of the world we live in. The music is life-affirming, invigorating, thought-provoking,
full of feeling and does owe its debt to jazz inasmuch as it's improvised from
beginning to end, but the Hungarian and the Gypsy are also there while the influences
clearly stretch from Bach to Bartók. This is a tour de force, a meeting of minds,
a tremendous and unique experience.
P.S. The music was recorded in just eight hours, improvised from beginning to
end. Bela Szakcsi Lakatos and Miklos Lukacs were called upon on a whim since
there was an expensive studio all paid for but not used for a couple of days
by BMC. Top that!
Béla Szakcsi Lakatos appeared in the fifties and sixties in
guitarist Andor Kovács' group, but by the mid-sixties he was performing with
his own band. In 1970 he won second prize at the Montreux Jazz Festival with
Aladár Pege's quartet. From Zürich to Warsaw, from Nürnberg to Belgrade, from
North America to Asia he has performed at the most prominent festivals. As the
soloist of Special EFX created by George Jinda and Chieli Minucci, Szakcsi featured
on eleven albums as composer and performer, and it was thanks to these that
in the middle of theeighties he was able to make a contract with the American
company GRP (Sachi, 1988; Mystic Dreams, 1989; Eve of Chance, 1992; Straight
Ahead, 1994). Szakcsi's qualities as a composer and performer were appreciated
by Chick Corea, and he has played with great figures in the genre, such as Carmen
Jones, Frank Zappa, Art Farmer, Mark Ledford, Dave Weckl, Omar Hakim, Terri
Lyne Carrington, Marvin 'Smitty' Smith, Jay Leonhart, Gerald Veasley, Victor
Bailey, Randy Roos, Attila Zoller, Rodney Holmes, David Sanchez, Bob Mintzer,
John Patitucci and Jack DeJohnette.
Historically, it is Szakcsi whom we must credit with the spread of fusion jazz
in Hungary: from the beginning of the seventies, he taught jazz piano at the
Béla Bartók Secondary School of Music. In the meanwhile he was also occupied
with collecting Gypsy folklore and forming it into stage works. His first Gypsy
musical, Red caravan was shown in 1975, and was followed by Once
upon a time a gypsy girl and Cartwheel. In 1989 he wrote a rock
opera entitled The beast about Erzsébet Báthory, and in the quincentenary
of the discovery of America he presented a one-hundred-minute ballet at the
Hungarian State Opera.
Szakcsi is equally at home in all these musical genres. He recorded Hungarian
folk song arrangements with the opera singer Ádám Horváth and the folk singer
Gyöngyi Écsi (My flower, my flower, 1988), and pieces for four hands
with the pianist György Vukán (Conversation for two pianos & orchestra,
1998; Das Duell I-II-III - Vukán-Szakcsi in Gottingen, 1998; Conversation
plus, 1999; Fourhand, 2000); in the meantime more jazz recordings
were made with Imre Kőszegi and Jackie Orszaczky (Journey in time,
1998), Bob Mintzer and Peter Bernstein (On the way back home, 2001).
Over the last ten years he has immersed himself in the study of the compositions
of György Kurtág, György Ligeti, Péter Eötvös and Pierre Boulez, resulting in
the album In one breath (BMC CD 061) made with the violinist Lajos
Kathy Horváth, in which he pays a homage to these composers in his improvisations.
In 2004 he recorded Na dara! (BMC CD 103) with the drummer Peczek Lakatos
and the bass player György Orbán, with Roma singers lending an authentic colour
to the trio. The year 2005 will also see the release of his recordings with
the French trio La Campagnie des musiques a ouir, as well as the guitarist Gábor
Gadó and the violinist Balázs Bujtor.
The Hungarian State recognised his work by awarding him the Liszt Prize in 1987,
the Artist of Merit award in 2002 and the Kossuth Prize in 2005.
Miklós Lukács was born in Törökszentmiklós in 1977. His father
played the cimbalom too, and his mother played the violin for ten years. He
began studying music in the Aladár Tóth Music School, under Ágnes Szakály. At
the age of nine, he attained second prize in the adolescent age group in the
Aladár Rácz cimbalom competition. His first performance abroad took place in
1990: he gave a solo concert in Brussels, organised by UNICEF. From 1991 to
1995 he continued his studies at the Béla Bartók Conservatory, where his teacher
was again Ágnes Szakály. It was at this time that his interest in jazz, particularly
improvisation, began to grow. After finishing the conservatory he was admitted
to the Ferenc Liszt Music College, and graduated in 1999. At the college he
trained with the instruction of Ilona G. Szeverényi.
In 1997 the Cimbalom Friendly Circle Foundation was formed, and he became a
member of the board of directors. He featured at festivals organised by the
foundation as both performer and composer. Many of his works were played, including
the Cimbalom Concerto for cimbalom and chamber orchestra, dedicated
to Ágnes Szakály. In 1997 he featured as a soloist on the disc Liszt: Six
Hungarian Rhapsodies by the Budapest Festival Orchestra. In 1998 he performed
in the United States as a soloist of the Concertante di Chicago chamber orchestra.
The great success led to the orchestra being invited back for the next season.
In 2000 he received the Artisjus Prize. After his college studies, in addition
to classical music he immersed himself in other musical genres, primarily jazz
and ethno music. To this day he is a member or a permanent guest of many formations,
including Kvartett B, the Borbély Workshop, Irén Lovász, the Csaba Tűzkő Septet,
the East Side Jazz Company, the Mihály Dresch Quartet and Improvokation. As
well as performing he is active as a composer: in 1993 he wrote pieces entitled
Hazám (My Country) for the Krétakör Theatre, and Divertimento
for chamber orchestra and cimbalom for the ELTE Chamber Orchestra.