Friday, September 21, 2012

Dél-Alföldi Saxophone Ensemble - Tótágas

Lord Palmerston, the 19th century British statesman once called the Hungarians "the Irish of the East". He didn't mean it as a compliment but I've never felt offended by the comparison. For ali that, I had no occasion to ponder its veracity until I came across lrish music for the first time. It was not some point of musical theory but the sheer emotional impact of lrish music that made me think of my homeland. Conversely, the music of the Dél-alföldi Saxophone Ensemble is so intensely Hungarian that the Irish come immediately to mind. I must have tried four or five times to listen through this album painstakingly, with a 'critical' ear. Not once did I succeed in my nitpicking efforts, because the music had such a holistic impact on me, It's possible, in fact probabie that it was the musicians' deliberate intention to have that total effect. Yet, their magnificent teamwork does not exclude improvisation. At times their improvisation totally submits to the logic of Hungarian folk music - yet, on other occasions, little clusters of simultaneous free improvisation weave around the carefully planted trees of composed elements. These pre-written parts, however, are all rooted in the Hungarian tradition or, in certain cases, in the folklore of the neighbouring countries. The Dél-alföldi Saxophone Ensemble was formed by three young sax-players ali born and, by and large, still living in the Southern and South-Eastern end of the Great Hungarian Plains. In fact they derive their name from the region of their birth. ("Dél-alföldi" means "of the Southern Plains"). They used to play in different folk-bands, street-bands, rock- and jazz-groups before a series of chance meetings brought them together. Their common ground is not just a matter of geography, although geography matters too because the corner of Hungary they come from practically borders on the Balkans and that is also something that you can hear in their music. The territory they really share is that curious margin where the sometimes majesticaily plaintive, sometimes violently passionate music of the Hungarian plains meets free jazz. Their musical chemistry is something special. When we Hungarians want to say ihat too many cooks spoil the broth, we come up with the proverb that "two pipers in the same inn are one too many". Yet these three pipers get on like a house on fire, They are: Béla Ágoston, Béla Burány and Balázs Szokolay. The two Bélas and Balázs listen to each other, feed ott each other and make music together. But beside the magnificent teamwork there's also room for a great deal of spontaneity. Careful compositions, head arrangements and unrestrained blowing blend effortlessly together when they play. They also have a phenomenal two-man rhythm section in the persons of Róbert Benkő, perhaps the finest bass player of the Hungarian avant-garde who combines virtuosity with mature subtlety, - and percussionist Tamás Geröly, a tremendously inventive and witty musician, both as a soloist and as an accompanist. It's not easy to fit the music of the Dél-alföldi Saxophone Ensembie into a neat category but 1, for one, don't think it matters. One of the reasons I'm not too bothered by such definitions is that I agree with the late Stan Getz who considered ali jazz to be folk-music. Of course, music like this is not born in a vacuum. To be fair, the Dél-alföldi Saxophone Ensemble owes a lot to that very Hungarian brand of jazz created by the brilliant saxophonist Mihály Dresch, who in turn is much indebted to the original pioneer of that school - the free improvising pianist and contemporary composer, György Szabados. No wonder then that it was one of Szabados' remarks that came to mind on hearing the three Dél-alföldis blow together. Szabados defined tonality as 'being plucked from the same string'. The Dél-alföldi musicians display staggering leveis of communication and empathy between themselves and with their audience, This tremendous rapport makes their sound both complex and totally absorbing, yet engaging and highly approachable. - by Peter Pallai

Artist: Dél-Alföldi Saxophone Ensemble
Album: Tótágas
Year: 2004
Label: BMC
Runtime: 55:50

1.  Kecske (Goat) (Balazs Szokolay) 8:05
2.  Közjáték (Interlude) 0:47
3.  Hajnalcsontok (Dawnbones) (Bela Agoston) 8:15
4.  Gyimesi nóta (Gyimes Song) (Balazs Szokolay) 4:56
5.  Jazz az Alföldrõl (Jazz from the Great Plain) (Bela Agoston) 5:47
6.  Csillagtalan sötét éjjel (Starless Dark Night) (Bela Burany) 13:23
7.  Dr. B. B. (Bela Agoston) 3:53
8.  Kislány, kislány (Little Girl, Little Girl) (Bela Burany) 5:41
9.  Búcsúzás (Farewell) (Balazs Szokolay) 5:00

Bela Agoston (Alto and Tenor Saxophone, Bass Clarinet, Voice, Throat-Singing)
Bela Burany (Soprano and Baritone Saxophone)
Balazs Szokolay (Soprano Saxophone, Bass Clarinet)
Robert Benko (Double Bass)
Tamas Geroly Sandor (Drums)


  1. I'm getting this one. Thank you very much for the share!

  2. i am excited about hearing this. great write up.
    downloading now!! thank u i never would of heard this without u.



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