Béla Szakcsi Lakatos Live at the Budapest Jazz Club
Béla Szakcsi Lakatos - piano
About the album
Compositions by Béla Szakcsi Lakatos (1,3,5,7), Miles Davis (2), Edward Heyman, Robert Sour, Frank Eyton and Johnny Green (4), Victor Young (6)
The recording was made in coproduction with the Budapest Jazz Club, (Open Culture Private Co.)
Recorded live by Zoltán Schmidt at the Budapest Jazz Club, 9 October, 2010
Mixed and mastered by Zoltán Schmidt at CODA Studio, Budapest
Photo: Palace of Artsd, Szilvia Csibi
Artwork & design: bachman.hu
Produced by László Gőz
Label manager: Tamás Bognár
Supported by the National Cultural Fund of Hungary and the Artisjus Music Foundation
Béla Szakcsi Lakatos: Live at the Budapest Jazz Club
This much-awaited live recording from the Budapest Jazz Club showcasing pianist Béla Szakcsi Lakatos, a true luminary of Hungarian music, caps almost three years of continuous development. Jazz has once more found a permanent and internationally appreciated home in the Hungarian capital.
The 19th century palace now housing the Budapest Jazz Club has become a much cosier place since early 2008 when the sound of jazz was first heard in that magnificent building. The main hall upstairs has not only good acoustics and a more than decent sound system but it mixes the ambience of a concert hall with the intimate atmosphere of a club. The more open and informal premises of the ground floor accommodate the wild, late night jam sessions on Friday and Saturday where the cream of the young Budapest jazzmen tend to congregate after their gigs elsewhere.
Everyone who’s anyone on the Hungarian scene has played at the BJC where new albums are launched and festivals are also held. Richard Bona from Cameroon, Liane Carroll, Gerard Presencer, Byron Wallen, Jim Mullen and other British jazz stars have taken the stage there with Dave Douglas, Joey Calderazzo, Joe Fonda and Kurt Rosenwinkel making up the American contingent.
During the 2010 Jazzforum Budapest the giants of the Spanish and Belgian jazz world made the place their own and had a fantastic time at the BJC. Besides, the German and Austrian scenes presented themselves in frames of bigger events as well.
Hungarian fans and those from abroad have found a home of music in the Budapest Jazz Club.
The man and his music
The doyen of jazz critics, the late great Whitney Balliett once observed that “jazz is the art of surprise”. He didn’t know Hungary’s Béla Szakcsi Lakatos who, more than anyone whom I’ve ever experienced live, is the living proof of Balliett’s bon mot. Béla surprises not just his audience but probably himself as well each time he sits down to the piano.
Ideas and inventions but also incredible warmth pours out from his fingers as soon as they touch the keyboard. His is not a cold sort of brilliance but a passionate stream of thought and feeling that blends into a seamless unity. This rare co-existence of a big heart and a highly organised musical mind inside the same person made the respected and rather severe British jazz critic, John Fordham of The Guardian actually put in print that “Béla Szakcsi Lakatos is simply wonderful”. And one couldn’t agree more. Although he is one of the great accompanists of all time because of his professional humility and infinite empathy, when playing solo he casts a total spell over his audience.
This spell was duly cast on that Saturday evening in October at the Budapest Jazz Club where these recordings were made of Béla playing unaccompanied to a live audience. So many came expecting the musical miracle that he always, unfailingly creates that it was literally hard to breathe in the crush. However, the terrific atmosphere more than made up for the lack of air.
Szakcsi, perhaps unwittingly, re-enacts on the piano, on each occasion in a different form, the long and winding road he has travelled musically. The descendent of a long line of Gypsy folk and café musicians, he set out to be a great classical composer or concert pianist but was waylaid by the freedom and passion of jazz. He then diligently paid his dues by acquiring the musical armoury of the American masters. Soon enough, however, he infused his learned technique and phraseology with his own Hungarian Roma background and temperament, enriching it with his vast knowledge of the classical field. Added to all that is his almost childlike curiosity, his open ear that takes in the sounds of different continents, of different ages and generations, as well as an inquiring mind that turns scraps of music from any source into true gems.
This solo concert at the Budapest Jazz Club was true to form in its delightful unpredictability because the only predictable factor about Béla’s playing is its constant excellence. This great musical conjuror pulls out something different from his hat on each occasion. This time we were treated to modern jazz with pure Hungarian roots, but also to brilliantly improvised contemporary music dedicated to the two Hungarian giants of that genre, György Kurtág and Péter Eötvös. (This is not his first foray into the field of contemporary music by a long shot. Check it out Igor, his aptly and wittily titled, amazing duo album with cimbalom wizard Miklós Lukács is ample, but far from the only testimony to that.) But even those who like their jazz undiluted by other influences will be totally dazzled by his beautifully lyrical yet totally individualistic retelling of the three great evergreens, Blue in Green, Body and Soul and Stella by Starlight.
Listening to this album is, in fact, a journey of discovery to the very heart of music.
Thanks to the glory of God; my wife, Katalin; Csilla Patkó, Tamás Bognár, Zoltán Susszer, László Bóna, Csaba Sár, Kristóf Keleti, Balázs Susszer, Zoltán Schmidt, Péter Pallai, Kornél Zipernovszky and Márton Vasvári.
Béla Szakcsi Lakatos