Csaba Palotaï, Steve Argüelles, Rémi Sciuto Antiquity
When I asked Csaba Palotaï why he had christened his CD Antiquity, he replied that the word sounded good. It’s true: it is in four sections, with three sounds of the letters ‘i’ or ‘y’. The rhythm resonates. And this is funny (or at least, logical), because the first thing I noticed about him is the sonority of his guitar: his ‘timbre’ drew me like a moth to a flame, before even knowing what the ‘story’ was about...
Csaba Palotaï – guitar
Rémi Sciuto – baritone & sopranino saxophones
Steve Argüelles – drums, omnichord
Guest: Vincent Ségal – cello (6, 12)
About the album
All compositions by Csaba Palotaï except track 12, which is a collective improvisation
Tracks 3-5 inspired by Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives
Recorded and mixed by Steve Argüelles at Plushspace, Paris in June, 2018
Artwork: László Huszár / Greenroom
Produced by László Gőz
Label manager: Tamás Bognár
Franpi Barriaux - CitizenJazz (fr)
Franpi Barriaux - CitizenJazz (Interview) (fr)
Matthieu Durand - le-grigri.com (fr)
Jean-Jacques Birgé - drame.org (fr)
Martin Laurentius - JazzThing (de)
Heinrich Brinkmöller-Becker - nrwjazz.net (de)
Matti Komulainen - Hifimaailma (fi)
Dionizy Piątkowski - jazz.pl (pl)
Z. K. Slabý - UNI (cz)
Patrick Španko - skJazz.sk ****1/2 (sk)
Olasz Sándor - Riff.hu (hu)
Dr. Nagy Sándor - Jazzma.hu (hu)
Komlós József JR - Alföldi Régió Magazin (hu)
Szabó Király - hangzasvilag.hu (hu)
Csaba Palotaï, Steve Argüelles, Rémi Sciuto: Antiquity
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(find original French text below)
When I asked Csaba Palotaï why he had christened his CD Antiquity, he replied that the word sounded good. It’s true: it is in four sections, with three sounds of the letters ‘i’ or ‘y’. The rhythm resonates. And this is funny (or at least, logical), because the first thing I noticed about him is the sonority of his guitar: his ‘timbre’ drew me like a moth to a flame, before even knowing what the ‘story’ was about. He always gave me the impression of trying to give birth to sounds, rather than to notes – if we set out from the principle that a sound is diabolically versatile and that a note is gently obedient. His guitar had a wild DIY feel of people who prefer setting out to arriving, who can breathe more easily in a messy cellar than in a renovated chateau. Because in the six-stringed world there are so many pale imitations, so many wheezing clones or dumb copy-cats that it’s always an experience to discover someone who doesn’t sound hollow. A guy whose sound has some personality, some verve, who isn’t neat and tidy, waxed smooth or with a short-back-and-sides. No, Csaba Palotaï’s sound scratches, rubs, and grates. It’s a sound that can’t be domesticated: you let it kindle itself like a wood fire.
And after all, guitarists (jazz ones particularly, but not just them) often like to show that they are guitarists. Csaba Palotaï tries rather to make us forget that. Sometimes, I think, he even wants us to believe he’s a film director. But not one who turns out blockbusters, rather a craftsman who makes his films with three shillings and sixpence and a few pieces of string. A kind of Ed Wood without the kitsch.
But then, not copying doesn’t mean not belonging anywhere. On the contrary, it even means remembering that his masters have already done things so well that it is no use doing them again. In his music, of course I hear him swerving into Marc Ribot, John Fahey, or Jeff Parker. I hear the atmosphere of Neil Young in Dead Man by Jim Jarmusch, or the scraping Ry Cooder did for Wim Wenders.
I hear beach rock just as much as chamber jazz. Quite probably I hear loads of things that aren’t there and that’s why I like (re)immersing myself in it so much. But I also hear (and particularly in Antiquity more than before, I must confess) Malian blues. That of Ali Farka Touré or Boubacar Traoré. Csaba Palotaï confirmed this for me: ‘Technically, what I like with African guitarists is the plurality of sound, the elegance and modesty with which they are at one and the same time in the accompaniment, and solos.’ And as often happens when one describe models, one makes a watermark portrait of oneself. Plurality of sound, elegance, and modesty, this is exactly the trinity that could define this Hungarian now based in France for more than twenty years. Not for nothing does one of his favourite maxims come from Borgès: ‘for me, writing a story lies closer to discovery than to deliberate invention’: for him, the musician (and above all the improviser) discovers the sounds that he has within him, rather than creating them out of nothing. And the most striking thing is that the lineup he makes on Antiquity with the French saxophonist Rémi Sciuto and the British drummer Steve Argüelles could also be described with these three characteristics. Just as those qualities could summarize the oeuvre of the model trio in this genre (saxophone, guitar, drumkit): Joe Lovano, Bill Frisell, Paul Motian. Actually, this alloy is rather uncommon in the history of jazz, but it allows an intoxicating lightness for both players and audience. As if, bereft of the (double)bass, the music could fly off differently.
Because with this album, Csaba Palotaï returns in some way to Antiquity, to the old part of his life, before his rock, pop, or psychadelic periods (Atlas Crocodile, Playing Carver, or The Ground). His admission to the jazz department in the Paris Conservatoire, his first garage jazz quintet with Thomas de Pourquery (Grupa Palotaï), the first time he listened with Rémi Sciuto, his friend of twenty years, to a disc featuring Steve Argüelles (this was the Human Chain by Django Bates, which he discovered thanks to the good advice of the bassist and conductor Fred Pallem). This idea of going back to old things has been present since their first concert together in Hungary in 2016: no fuss, no electronics (or not much), no editing, just three mates who come together like the three sides of a triangle, pointing to what is essential. This famous idea of interplay so dear to Bill Evans that this trio makes their own, but without piano: leadership springs from every musician, without ever stopping in a precise place. And then, even when the trio becomes a quartet in two numbers (‘The Seventh’ and ‘Storm in Paris’) with the presence of the French all-rounder Vincent Ségal, the music continues to circulate hypnotically, democratically. As if nothing had happened, as if his cello had always been there, even when it wasn’t.
In fact, what I like about Csaba Palotaï, and what I find again in this CD, is the dust. Because dust is what stays on books, it allows itself to be carried by the wind, it is what makes westerns beautiful, it is what is left to us of Antiquity, it is a sign of life (if houses are too clean, personally it bothers me, I’m worried about making a mess), it’s what gathers little by little on things without being noticed. Dust is something long-term, something suggestive. Dust is what will be left when everything is forgotten. It’s improvisation, ephemera, movement. In brief, it’s the jazz of Csaba Palotaï: it can stain, and it can sparkle.
Translated by Richard Robinson