Sunday, May 17, 2015

Debrecen Jazz Group – Debreceni Jazz Együttes

   Social and cultural change in Europe after the Second World War gave jazz serious impulse for redefining its artistic ideas and for further development. In clubs of post-war Paris jazz became more music for listening and thinking than just a dance or accompanying songs as it was in beautiful swing era. West society accepted this change. The same process in countries of Warsaw Pact was significantly delayed. Nevertheless in countries of central Europe jazz played special role – it was expression of unbreakable will of freedom. In the underground of official musical life, jazz won the audience behind the iron curtain. 
   Hungarian jazz was strongly connected with popular and dance music. This relation was common feature in many countries, and it’s quite understandable. The same need for popularity moved American jazz in first decades of classical period and later in smooth jazz genre being a reaction for modern improvements. This was the moment jazz in Hungary started its parting from dance music. Recording companies in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and German Democratic Republic were publishing artists and ensembles which predominantly played jazz in its smooth version. In Hungary the moment for jazz came in the end of sixties, the modern jazz became explicitly presented in public media and on records.
   In early years of Hungarian jazz many bands have no chance to be recorded or published. Only the best or achieving international applause were considered as worth of recording. One of the bands published in 1979 by Pepita was Debreceni Jazz Együttes (Debrecen Jazz Group), the ensemble playing fusion jazz with elements of Hungarian folk music. The story of this ensemble started in 1966 in Debrecen. The main lineup of the quartet were saxophonist Zoltan Gyarmati, pianist Ernö Kiss, Csaba Fazekas playing bass guitar and drummer Ferenc Mátyás. The first five years in bands history was the time for collecting awards of both professional and amateur jazz festivals. Band played in Zurich, Vienna and San Sebastian and many European countries. The Debrecen Jazz Group was also a host of Debrecen Jazz Days.

Debrecen Jazz Group (1979)

   General characteristics of this album are in main current of mid seventies. It is an example of fusion jazz with some elements of various traditions. First theme Apokalipszis (Apocalypse) has strong folk impact but improvisations are continuing hard bop ideas, even if rhythm section is playing in fusion style. Second track Bitter has stylish fusion arrangements, with strings in background and funky ostinato. This piece of clearly lyrical character is focusing on melodic theme by Csaba Deseö, violinist who worked with Debreceni Jazz Együttes during their tour in Netherlands. He was also guest performer on first side of the album.
   The Debreceni Jazz Együttes has its roots in amateur musical movement. It was clear and understandable since those times jazz music was banned from public space and for playing more swinging and expressive way students were expelled from musical schools. In this situation participation of professional musicians like Csaba Deseö and Simeon Sterev (in English transliteration Shterev) was the element of band’s strategy. Csaba Deseö, graduate of Béla Bartók Conservatory in 1961, in sixties was as a virtuoso playing popular concerts in Hungarian Radio and TV, he was also violinist of the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra. Simeon Shterev, graduate of Pancho Vladigerov National Academy of Music in Sofia, is one of most successful musicians from Bulgaria. He was active as jazzman (playing with Chick Corea, Maynard Ferguson, Albert Mangelsdorf, Kenny Wheeler and Jan Garbarek) and as classical and modern music soloist – he recorded works by Antonio Vivaldi and Marin Goleminov.
   Most original track of Debrecen Jazz Group album is Magyar népdal (Hungarian Folk Song) where soloing artists are searching for some new stylistic and formal connections in consecutive solos. Ernö Kiss played his Fender piano solo in hard bop style with perfectly reacting bassist Csaba Fazekas, saxophonist Zoltan Gyarmati with drummer Ferenc Mátyás turn to the idioms of free jazz and Csaba Deseö started his solo with folk simplicity and sound expression than turned to more traditional swinging phrases and developed his solo into virtuoso and expressive climax closing to free jazz style. Second side starts Debreceni seta (Stroll in Debrecen) played with Bulgarian jazz flutist Simeon Shterev. Nice fusion sound and interesting solos make this presentation great occasion to promote the ensemble playing jazz with virtuoso improvisations and trendy sound. This way the record is valuable document of jazz in Hungary – two and a half in a five-star scale.

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