András Dés Trio The Worst Singer in the World
Many questions naturally arise in connection with the album, the first one being the instrumentation: guitar-guitar-percussion. András Dés answers the whys in two short sentences. ‘Because Márton Fenyvesi.’ ‘And because István Tóth Jr.’ So with two guitarists of such creativity, openness, virtuosity, and sensitivity, you don’t really need any other musicians...
About the album
All compositions by András Dés, except tracks 2 and 5 by Márton Fenyvesi, István Tóth Jr. and András Dés
Recorded at BMC Studio, Budapest on 24-25 February, 2017
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Viktor Szabó
András Dés uses Bosphorus Cymbals
Artwork: László Huszár / Greenroom
Produced by László Gőz
Label manager: Tamás Bognár
The recording was supported by the National Cultural Fund of Hungary
George W. Harris - Jazz Weekly (en)
Jonathan Woolf - MusicWeb International (en)
Raphaël Benoit - CitizenJazz (fr)
Jean-Jacques Birgé - Mediapart (label feature) (fr)
Thierry Giard - CultureJazz (fr)
Claude Loxhay - Jazzhalo (label feature) (fr)
Michele Manzotti - Il Popolo del Blues (it)
Matti Komulainen - Jazzrytmit (fi)
Robert Ratajczak - Long Play (pl)
Dionizy Piątkowski - jazz.pl (pl)
Z. K. Slabý - UNI (cz)
Jan Hocek - Jazzport (cz)
Peter Dobšinský - skJazz ***** (sk)
Yvetta Kajanová - Hudobný život (sk)
Legát Tibor - Magyar Narancs ****1/2 (hu)
Gyöngyösi Gergő - JazzMa (hu)
Turi Gábor - Gramofon **** (hu)
SZE - Fidelio (hu)
Márton Attila - Demokrata (hu)
Czékus Mihály - HFP online (hu)
Komlós József jr. - Alföldi Régió Magazin (hu)
András Dés Trió: The Worst Singer in the World
The album is available in digital form at our retail partners
‘Guess what, I’ve bought a chromatic kalimba, and on it I can play the minuet from Bach’s G major Cello Suite’ said my friend András Dés on the phone a couple of years ago. I immediately sensed the enthusiasm in his voice. After all, what could be more wonderful than to play Bach on a miniature sub-Saharan percussion instrument? This phone call comes to mind not simply because the new album by the András Dés Trio opens with the sound of this kalimba (creating the magical atmosphere of Steve Reich’s repetitive music right from the very beginning of the Intro) but also because it reflects perfectly everything that makes the music of András Dés good to listen to. This music has no truck with distinctions between genres, while it successfully manages to eschew the congenital defects often resulting from the fusing of genres; it continually seeks for the new, but through the use of familiar musical elements it creates a comfortable acoustic homeliness for the listener; it radiates enthusiasm, and even in its most serious moments it has a message for us: there is nothing more marvellous than music. Which in the case of András Dés can fairly easily be taken to mean that there is nothing more marvellous than life. In spite of the difficulties, or even taking them into account. For the listener of the album, all this means is quite simply that this music is good to listen to.
Many questions naturally arise in connection with the album, the first one being the instrumentation: guitar-guitar-percussion. András Dés answers the whys in two short sentences. ‘Because Márton Fenyvesi.’ ‘And because István Tóth Jr.’ So with two guitarists of such creativity, openness, virtuosity, and sensitivity, you don’t really need any other musicians. Then there is the title: why does a trio album of percussion and instrumental music bear the title The Worst Singer in the World? This time the answer comes with some humming and hawing: ‘My two sons named me the worst singer in the world’ – which should not necessarily be taken as a criticism, particularly when it comes from those who are the most important in the world to you (the father actually plays on percussion). Then he suddenly becomes serious: ‘You know what, let’s talk about democracy instead.’ Fine.
Because if we think about it, this album is indeed about democracy. It is about what role is played in music by a central will; about how checks and balances work; about where the limits of mutual tolerance lie; and about whether we are able to allow others to sound their own voice alongside us. Let’s conduct a thought experiment, and take the world of musical genres to be a metaphor for political systems, and let’s imagine a continuum.
At one extreme we find classical music, embodying the various types of autocracy. In a detailed and elaborate score the composer, acting as an absolute ruler, sets down his compositional will, and the performer’s task is merely to implement this for an audience that adore the composer. At the other extreme, completely free from any constraint, is the anarchy of free jazz. There is no central will, no score (and not much audience either), and the basic principle is ‘do-it-how-you-like-somehow-it’ll-work’. If I were to seek the music of András Dés between these two points, I would look somewhere in the middle. The sensitively composed and airily orchestrated themes are linked by free improvisations; sometimes the percussion falls silent for a while, and in this three-man political system the individual is free up to a point: as long as he does not infringe the freedom of the others.
Freedom defines not only the relationship of the three musicians to one another, but that of the whole album, because the two improvisations without title and the seven composed songs actually form one single process, meandering like a river, freely forming, yet progressing in a clear direction. The story begins with the atmospheric music of the kalimba. A free improvisation leads from the introduction to Gardening, which mobilizes ancient chthonic energy through asymmetrical rhythms and polymetric gestures. From here it moves without interval to the song Hommage, in which András Dés pays hommage to the guitarists important for him. After this another free improvisation takes us to the balladic world of what can be considered the heart of the album, Holding Your Hand 150 Seconds before Midnight. The ‘midnight’ of the title refers to the Doomsday clock. This clock was erected in 1947 by American Nobel laureate scientists, and midnight is a symbol of a global catastrophe. When first erected it showed 23:53, in other words humankind was seven minutes from total destruction by nuclear war and climate change. During its history the minute hand has been repositioned twenty-two times: it was closest to midnight (23:58) in 1953, and furthest from it (23:43) in 1991. The last time the clock was altered was the election of Donald Trump as president of the USA: it currently shows 150 seconds before midnight. This hauntingly beautiful song tells not of tragedy. It is like last, slow dance, clinging to emotions, before total collapse. It is no coincidence that this is the only song on the album to conclude with a true cadence, rather than leading inevitably to the following song. Our story progresses nonetheless: Transparent Afternoon is a kind of ‘return to life’ after the depths plumbed by Holding your hand... Closure is brought by Sea at Second Sight. We have returned to the starting point: the kalimba plays the introductory material from the Intro, but in a slightly slower tempo, for we see the same thing for the second time, and the experience is no longer as euphoric. The album does not end yet though: the closing piece, Lullaby under the Sky is a kind of epilogue. A magical moment when András Dés creates the underlying soporific pulse not from the cajon, cymbals, framed drums, the canna, the bodhran, the kalimba, or any of the other items in his impenetrably rich battery of percussion instruments, but he uses his own body: he creates music with his hands, chest, mouth, and legs, and the harmony of the two guitars makes this complete. In the final seconds of the album the guitars repeat the same motif, persistently and increasingly quietly, and meanwhile the rhythm gradually slackens: these three wonderful musicians seem to have fused not only with music, but with nature itself.
Translated by Richard Robinson