...as David said, spontaneity and a tight schedule can sometimes produce great results: “inspiration can deepen and revelation become more profound.” Yes, I must agree that this is a deeply inspired album and in its most intense moments it is highly revelative. László Marton Távolodó
In September 2002 we were sitting in the Budapest Music Center trying to come up with names of better known foreign jazz musicians whom we could invite to play with Hungarian artists. BMC’s previous ventures of this kind have proved successful – Archie Shepp with the Dresch Quartet, Erik Truffaz with the band Off Course, Charlie Mariano with the Elemér Balázs Group –, as in addition to the positive critical response, an old tradition gained a brand new meaning. While Gábor Szabó, Attila Zoller and Mihály Ráduly had to leave their home country to try their luck and prove themselves on the international scene, now it seems that the tide has turned. This is a prestigious and promising road to follow, no question about it. The only problem is that I am not really at home in this type of music. But one name did occur to me, whose musical career consists of a long chain of collaborations, and whose Eastern European connections are considerable: Frank London.
Frank... – why not. We all agreed it was a great idea. From that moment it was just a matter of days and correspondence to bring things to a close.
David Yengibarjan was well aware of how much he would profit from such a collaboration and Frank did not take much persuading either: in March he had the time to participate in recording the material for David’s new album. Sheet music and CDs travelled back and forth between the parties.
The Yengibarjan-London tango-axis
I first met David Yengibarjan in winter 2001 when I was commissioned to write liner notes to his CD, like now. By then he had been living in Hungary for six years and he was on a roll: he was busy composing for the theatre and for films, he had received invitations from Western Europe, the chemistry in his band was just right, and he was about to record his first album. It was given the title: Tango Passion, and besides David’s original compositions contained mainly Piazzolla pieces. David got acquainted with Piazzolla’s work in Hungary, and – as he explained – Piazzolla opened up a whole new universe for him, a “new door where there is jealousy, ecstasy and hate all together”. And as for his own “passion”, he describes it thus: “it is like women yelling or a glass breaking, or like walking under a bridge.” And there is no doubt that in this kind of new tango David has found the piece of land where he can strike roots.So what else could I have asked Frank about other than his tango experiences?
In the mid 80’s Frank London was working in Kip Hanrahan’s band. Jack Bruce and Charles Neville were also members of the band which played tango and all sorts of Latin music. In those days Kip was Piazzolla’s producer – Tango: Zero Hour is linked with his name – and it was he who introduced Frank to Piazzolla, but they never worked together. From among Frank’s partners it is bassist Pablo Aslan who must be mentioned in connection with tango: what they created together could possibly be called avant-tango, and with Pablo’s leadership a whole movement developed from it in New York. And though the trumpet cannot be counted as a typical tango instrument, Frank was able to contribute to that good old sentimental feeling.
We spoke of all this in March 2003, on the second day of David and Frank’s working together. Who David really is became clear for Frank when he heard his original compositions and transcriptions of Armenian folk songs. His earlier impression of David called Piazzolla to his mind. But as soon as they recorded the composition D’ le yaman, Frank had every reason to feel deeply moved: the common motifs between the Armenian and the Jewish holocaust stood out clearly. And from David’s transcriptions it also became evident that the pain caused by these events is just as unique as it is universal.
In April 2003 I ran into David again; the mixing of Pandoukht was still in full swing. (Three days were allowed for the recording of the album and half a day was taken up by a concert promoting the CD: those lucky few who managed to get tickets to the Uránia cinema on March 18, had the chance to sample the material.) What had been given to Frank in the form of sheet music coincided only partly with what was finally recorded on the CD, but as David said, spontaneity and a tight schedule can sometimes produce great results: “inspiration can deepen and revelation become more profound.” Yes, I must agree that this is a deeply inspired album and in its most intense moments it is highly revelative.
David thinks “it would have been ridiculous to make another tango-album: people change, circumstances change and music changes, too.” This does not mean, of course, that Pandoukht has banished Piazzolla, what this album demonstrates besides the explosive force of the new tango is the farther reaching effect of Armenian, Jewish and Balkan folk music and jazz. In other words, all those elements that David has accumulated throughout his musical pursuit until the present. I asked him what he had expected or asked of Frank at the beginning of their work in the studio. He explained that he had let him decide everything, “from the very first moment he played in a way that made my ears melt with delight.” He had been carried away by Frank’s “intricate melodies” and the way “he could do whatever he wanted with his trumpet.”
It would not simply be a mistake: it would be wrong to forget about the accompanying musicians. We have already had a chance to hear József Horváth Barcza on David’s previous album – he was then a regular member of the trio – so the delicacy and the reserved elegance of his playing will most likely be familiar to the listener. The virtuosity of percussionist András Dés may prove to be a fresh experience, making it a must for us to follow his career; he is one of those rare musicians whose confidence and accuracy is not coupled with virtuosity that serves its own end.
Guitarist Gábor Gadó joined in the recording of the CD halfway through, which “aggravated” the spontaneity of the outcome. The first recording day was already over when it occurred to Frank that a guitar with a more radical sound could have a positive effect on the material, throwing it out of balance at places as it were. Gábor happened to be in the country at the time – he lives in France –, was ready and willing and found his feet immediately: the five numbers he is featured in owe him a lot. And it is quite possible that new dimensions have opened up for David too, where he can plant and set off yet more “explosives” to shock and rouse his listeners.
In June 2003 the master copy was completed. Hopefully this text has been completed too. There are two more sentences necessary to put down: Those who no longer live in their native land are called ‘pandoukht’ in Armenian. David Yengibarjan has not been back to his homeland since 1995.
László Marton Távolodó (translated by Barbara Bércesi)
Frank London (New York City, 1958) began to play jazz, Latin, Balkan and Jewish music at the end of the 70’s as a student of the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. He formed his Les Misérables Brass Band in Boston, the band that recorded the music for Robert Wilson and David Byrne’s play entitled Knee Plays, but the real breakthrough came in New York with the Klezmer revival: his band, The Klezmatics, formed in 1986, has made 6 records so far, and is considered one of the most prestigious Klezmer bands in the world. Besides leading The Klezmatics and shaping the renaissance of Yiddish folk music Frank is spearheading “the alternative Jewish music movement” with the jazz formation Hasidic New Wave, which he founded with saxophonist Greg Wall. He also plays Jewish liturgic music with Lorin Sklamberg and Jewish brass music with Frank London’s Klezmer Brass Allstars. If we were to measure his career by the number of the records he has made, we would have to count over a hundred albums; if we wanted to determine his openness to other art forms, we would have to list dozens of pieces for the theatre and for films, and if the inventory of his partners was to serve as the gauge, we would definitely have to mention Itzak Perlman, the band They Might Be Giants, Lester Bowie, LL Cool J, Chava Alberstein, LaMonte Young, Boban Markovic, John Zorn, Marc Ribot, Gary Lucas and Maurice Al Médioni.
David Yengibarjan (1976, Yerevan)
Though he has been living in Hungary only since 1995, he is one of the most well-known and sought-after accordionists. He has participated in a great number of theatrical and film productions both as a performer (Bertold Brecht: Jungle of the Cities, Andor Lukáts: Portugal, Joye Sergent: Crime and Punishment) and as a composer (Ferenc Molnár: Liliom, András Szoke: Three, György Farkas: Blood Line, András Fésos: Street Heart Beat, Zoltán Egressy: Blue, Blue, Blue, Tamás Sas: Struck by Love, Kinga Rófusz: Harlequin, Andor Szilágyi: Letters Unsent).
His recognition in Hungary has been accompanied by requests and invitations to perform abroad; he has played in Paris, London, Amsterdam, Vienna, and Edinburgh. He founded his own group, the Trio Yengibarjan, in 1999, after recording the film music of Holstein Lovers (which has a tango theme) with Ferenc Snétberger and József Horváth Barcza. His aspiration is to create a fusion of the Argentinian tango, the “New Tango” of Astor Piazzolla, and various types of folk music. On his album of 2001, titled Tango Passion, he plays with József Horváth Barcza (bass) and Gábor Juhász (guitar); later the line-up was altered: currently János Egri can be heard on bass and József Botos on guitar.
József Barcza Horváth (1974, Budapest) studied at the Béla Bartók Conservatory of Music, subsequently at the Ferenc Liszt Teacher Training College of Music. He won the title of “best bass-player” at the Jazz Juniors Competition in Krakow in 1995; in 1997 won second place at the International Bass-player’s Competition in Debrecen. Between 1995-97 he was a member of the Gustav Mahler Youth Symphony Orchestra led by Claudio Abbado, then played with the Budapest Festival Orchestra for a year. Since his high-school years he has taken an active part in Hungarian jazz life, and has participated on the albums and at the concerts of such famous artists as Kirk Lightsey, Benny Bailey, Tony Lakatos, Rick Margitza, Márta Téli, Gábor Gadó and the group Off Course.
András Dés (1978, Budapest) is also a talented representative of the younger generation. First he studied classical percussion, then his interest turned towards the music of different nations. Currently he is a student at the Jazz Faculty of the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music. He performed and recorded with Frank London and the Budapest Jazz Orchestra, the Bosambo Trio, Erik Truffaz and the band Off Course, and with the Kaltenecker Trio. He participated in recordings of film music and music for the theatre. Gábor Gadó (1957, Pécs) formed his first band named Joy, and recorded his first album titled Cross Cultures when he completed his studies at the Jazz Faculty of the Béla Bartók Conservatory of Music. In 1991 the first record under his own name, Special Time was released, then he toured with Nikola Parov all over Europe. In 1995 he moved to Paris, where he formed the Gábor Gadó Quartet five years later. He played with his French colleagues for the first time on the album Greetings from the Angel, which was followed by the one titled Homeward, then the highly successful Orthodoxia. He composed and appears on Gábor Winand’s CD Corners of my mind, which was selected among the best jazz records of the year 2002 by the reviewers of the French magazine, Jazzman.