Sunnyside Records’ press release introduces Laszlo Gardony’s new CD “Signature Time” as follows:
Laszlo Gardony’s Signature Time Moves To The Rhythms Of The Motherland.
Rhythm is the marrow of jazz. An alert artist has to keep his ears open to the currents of time, to employ fresh rhythmic patterns in order to make sound surge and sing. On his current album, Signature Time, the pianist and composer Laszlo Gardony celebrates the various African-based musical styles that helped shape the development of his unique style. By drawing upon African, gospel, New Orleans, R&B and swing elements” as channeled through Gardony’s ingenious use of challenging time signatures, innovative song forms and advanced harmonic approach” Signature Time pays heartfelt tribute to the very source of the music itself.
“The lush palette of today’s music owes a lot to the birthplace of culture and sound” Africa,” Gardony says. “The album is an acknowledgment of how the many genres which draw upon the African musical heritage have enriched my own cultural experience and helped shape my voice so that I can speak to what is relevant to me today.”
The single achievement of Signature Time is how masterfully Gardony and his cohorts, including nine-year trio veterans bassist John Lockwood and drummer Yoron Israel, locate the musical mother lode in such resourcefully reworked material as George Shearing’s “Lullaby of Birdland,” Billy Strayhorn’s “Johnny Come Lately” and even The Beatles’ “Lady Madonna,” as well as the pianist’s own inventive compositions.
Sidestepping conventions, Gardony retools song form to expressive ends. Take his natural alternatives to the 12-bar blues form on “Bourbon Street Boogie” (which employs a 20-bar form) and “On African Land” (utilizing a 13-bar form). That neither feels self-consciously weighed down by these cunning deviations” that they, like every other performance, naturally swing” is testament to the leader’s inherent understanding of how form must follow function. In other words, if the groove is gone, so is the magic, and Gardony was not about to let that happen. “Today, when our life and our way of producing and consuming music are becoming more and more artificial, it is important to remember and recapture the purity and life-necessity of music as it was experienced in past times.”
As a departure from the expected, given his previous six trio albums, Gardony includes tracks featuring another old friend and collaborator, saxophonist and vocalist Stan Strickland. His haunting vocal contribution on “Spirit Dance” and mastery of both the post-bop tradition (as heard on “Johnny Come Lately”) and New Orleans flavoring (on “Bourbon St. Boogie”) provide a welcome addition to the trio’s by now recognizable sound. There’s another striking tonal surprise on the album: the reflective “Under The Sky” features the versatile percussionist Israel on the vibraphone, adding a dreamlike color to the piece. (Hear also bassist Lockwood’s telling contributions to “Silent Words,” whose alternatively dark and soothing harmonies display Gardony’s absorption of contemporary classical music.)
That the Hungarian born Gardony has seamlessly found his own voice by way of the mélange of musical influences unfurled on Signature Time is abundant proof that jazz transcends the specifics of national origins. In calling attention to the African source of the music, Gardony asserts how an authentic jazz musician is a citizen only of the world.
After graduating from the Bela Bartok Conservatory and the Science University of Budapest, Gardony worked as a much sought-after sideman in Europe where he released his first recordings as a leader. He then matriculated to Berklee College of Music on a full-scholarship, and joined the faculty after graduation. Among the prominent figures Gardony has worked with are Dave Holland, Miroslav Vitous, Mick Goodrick, David “Fathead” Newman, Bob Moses, Matt Glaser and Jamey Haddad, while Randy Brecker and Dave Liebman have appeared as guest soloists with his trio. Gardony has also been featured with the Boston Pops, the Utah Symphony and The Smithsonian Institute’s “Beyond Category” Traveling Duke Ellington Exhibit. He has been praised for his “fluid pianism” by The New York Times and for his “uniformly high quality of compositions” by All About Jazz.
Signature Time Is his ninth recording.