Elemér Balázs Group Around The World
Elemér is one of the best drummers around right now, in my opinion. He plays with such musicality and finesse and has the ability to listen inside each musical moment with the kind of spontaneous decision - making that allows everyone that plays with him to sound their best. He also has a wonderful touch on the instrument - I always enjoy the chance to play with him and to hear him.
About the album
Track 1 arranged by Gábor Juhász; Tracks 2, 5, 7 music by József Balázs and Elemér Balázs; Track 3 music by Gábor Juhász; Track 4 music by György Vukán; Track 6 music by Gábor Gadó; Tracks 8, 9, 10 arranged by József Balázs and Elemér Balázs
Recorded at the Roxer Studio
Recording engineer: Péter Glaser
Mixed by Péter Erdélyi
Cover and portrait photos: István Huszti
Design: Meral Yasar
Produced by László Gőz
The recording was sponsored by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and the National Cultural Fund of Hungary and Artisjus (Hungarian Bureau for the Protection of Authors’ Rights)
Elemér Balázs Group: Around The World
The album is available in digital form at our retail partners
Given the artist's obvious intention to address the public in general, that is, practically everyone, it is easier to list those whom the present audio recording may not interest (certainly a minority) than those it will appeal to, though it would be idealistic to assume that any kind of music could appeal to all. Around the world certainly won't be a favourite of those who wouldn't love to travel at least half way round the world, or who can't see beyond the horizon and find a constantly changing perceptual, aesthetic and even cultural milieu disquieting. Neither would I recommend it to those for whom eclecticism has no appeal, and who approach with prejudice and mistrust unusual non-mainstream productions outside the scope of musical stereotypes. Though many may doubt this today, creative intent does not necessarily stem from unassailable professionalism or the drive to perform as dictated by the customary frameworks or trends, but from emotional attitude, mentality and the far-reaching aesthetic sensitivity of the artist.
Around the world is one of the few musical productions that clearly demonstrates these underlying motives, in spite of the fact that its creator was "originally" and still is, one of Hungary's top jazz drummers. Incidentally, the legendary saxophone player Lee Konitz, after a joint production in 1999, told Elemér privately: "you're not a drummer, you're a musician".
The CD offers both a real surprise to listeners first discovering the 33-year-old musician and something new even to those who are familiar with this artist's previous work. Elemér Balázs was just 6 years old when he first discovered the drums; he studied the piano while still an adolescent, and by 1988 had graduated from the prestigious Budapest Faculty of Jazz. His tutors Gyula Kovács, known in his home country as "Mr Drum", and subsequently Ferenc Kőszegi, were both renowned representatives of the instrument and the genre. By this time he was already much in demand as a drummer, in the vanguard of Hungarian jazz, playing with musicians such as Béla Szakcsi Lakatos, Gyula Babos and Dezső Lakatos Ablakos. In 1987, he founded Trio Midnight (a jazz formation of outstanding importance and considerable international recognition), with pianist Kálmán Oláh and double-bass player János Egri. Elemér Balázs is an exceptionally active jazz musician who has recorded with several significant orchestras (Test, Joy, No-spa, Creative Art Ensemble, Off Course etc.).
He has contributed to more than fifty recordings, including this one, which is the fourth recorded with his own ensemble, a circumstance testifying to his talent, professional skills and rare versatility. He is familiar with almost every trend in jazz, and often accompanies renowned and world-famous soloists such as Anette Lowman, Stepko Gutt, Zbigniew Namyslowski, Jukka Perko, Stephane Belmondo, Steve Houben, Lee Konitz, Art Farmer, Pat Metheny and Al Jarreau.
The title of this new CD makes it difficult to pigeonhole in the normal way. The journey "around the world", that is, the colourful musical adventure portraying it, should perhaps be considered far more brave and experimental than other ethno effect seekers, despite the current spread of world music which is gaining ground even on the jazz scene. Ethno-based world music mostly impresses with its exoticism, and hence often remains no more than an interesting curiosity, in contrast to the Balázs Elemér Group's music. The courage of the group is displayed, first and foremost, by their avoidance of superficial, "arty" effects. Grounded in their own talent and outstanding professional skills, they do not step out of their jazz idiom, but remain faithful to it, while surmounting the rigid conventions of the genre, enabling them to successfully conjure up the most different traits of folk and other musical cultures of the world. Instead of creating the illusion of other cultures, their refined, elegant, formal solutions and arrangements, performed in an accomplished way, express the common essence of these cultures deriving from emotions and beauty through the sound of the piano, the guitar, the double-bass, the saxophone, the percussion instruments and last but not least the male and the female vocalists. This music gives special emphasis to the melody though it is not fashionable to highlight these days.
Elemér Balázs's journey does not end in the wide world: with the closing piece of Around the world, he returns home symbolically (this is perhaps the first occasion he plays an adaptation of a Hungarian folk tune), while planning new journeys, nurturing long-term plans, with his new ensemble. His partners are all excellent musicians, known individually as the participants of significant jazz productions.
Singer Henriett Czerovszky, sharing the joys of discovery with the listener, displays her talent in a genre that is new to her.
Gábor Winand, the male jazz singer in Hungary, makes the production unique with his brilliant scat singing, an exciting contrast to the other vocals.
Gábor Juhász plays the guitar with a style that can be described as intelligence made audible. His excellent improvisations greatly enrich the compositions and his firm sense of style and fine taste add colour to the music.
Despite his tender age, pianist József Balázs gives a very mature performance. One would assume that these accords and solos require the experience of a lifetime, but József Balázs's example belies such prejudice. His impeccable, temperate rendering makes it difficult to imagine that these tracks could be entrusted to any other pianist.
The same can be said regarding Mátyás Szandai, double bass, and András Dés, percussion. Both are worthy representatives of the Hungarian jazz vanguard, who give the impression that they know all about music, although they are also very young.
On one track, we hear the lyrical beauty of Mihály Dresch's flute solo and another boasts a performance by David Yengibarjan, the very talented Armenian accordion player.
This latest recording of Elemér Balázs' despite his undeniable versatility and talent, includes several compositions with no drum part. This artist, unlike the typical jazz soloist, has no need to be constantly in the limelight, showing his all, rather than be upstaged by a fellow musician. A musician above all else, he puts the production and melody within it in the foreground, not himself. In his own words "I wanted to create music that anyone could listen to, at any time or place, with pleasure".
translated by Fruzsina Balkay, Eszter Molnár