Áron Tálas Trio New Questions, Old Answers
Áron Tálas is a pianist, drummer and, if need be, singer and bass guitarist in one. He is an emotive composer, not without an exuberant lyricism, who is well suited to danceable beats and electronic timbres reminiscent of pop music, but who also occasionally incorporates folk elements, classical music or rock quotations into his compositions.
His new album seems to combine the features of his first trio album Little Beggar, released on BMC Records, and his two solo albums: groove themes and song-like compositions are juxtaposed. He doesn't even try to separate himself from the predecessors: Brian Blade, Roy Hargrove, Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Erik Satie, Carpathian Basin tunes - this list is just the surface of the bottomless well from which Tálas draws inspiration.
Áron Tálas - piano
István Tóth - double bass
László Csízi - drums
About the album
All compositions by Áron Tálas
Recorded by Viktor Szabó at BMC Studio, Budapest on 1-2 November, 2022
Mixed and mastered by Viktor Szabó
Artwork: Anna Natter / Cinniature
Produced by László Gőz
Label manager: Tamás Bognár
Áron Tálas Trio: New Questions, Old Answers
The album is available in digital form at our retail partners
A DISC OF MANY LAYERS
If Peer Gynt, Ibsen’s individualist (anti-)hero were a musician, the genre in which he would restlessly seek his inner essence would be jazz, for sure. In nocturnal jam sessions, tour buses, and stops at petrol stations, barnstorming round the provinces, the capital, and festivals abroad, he’d try to peel layers off himself during his adventure, while he searches for his individual sound following the teaching To thyself be true! Of course, our protagonist would not be the lout depicted in the drama, and would try not to lose himself in a world of dreams: he’d spend his days practising, polishing his skills, so as not to be hampered in self-expression by a lack of technique. In this genre, the ladle of the Button Moulder would hover particularly menacingly over our imaginary character, because not only is there the difficulty of being different to his contemporaries, but there is a host of great predecessors, the creators of the genre, whose influence is unavoidable and at times sticks to you whether you like it or not. Redemption (which in the drama is Solveig’s selfless faithfulness) can only be experienced for a few moments, when the Self is immersed in the unconditional love of the community.
Of course, some will scoff at this thought experiment, because they know, or at least suspect, that there is no core, only layers – and it is the the sum of these that makes the essence: whole, sliced up small, or diced, essential and fundamental, like the role of onion in food. In this respect, Áron Tálas is a fortunate man, because in him, layers of musical personality lie not beneath or over one another, concealing each other, but often in a puzzling, obvious, juxtaposition: this is what gives his music its exciting chameleon-like changes of colour. A pianist who is practically just as good as a drummer (and won a drummer’s scholarship into the prominent European programme, Focusyear in Basel), and even a vocalist and bass guitarist, if needed. A composer with a generous dose of emotion and flowing lyricism, who is just as at home with danceable beats and electronic timbres reminiscent of light music, but also from time to time smuggles into his music elements of folk, inspiration from classical, or even quotes from rock. He has even formed dedicated line-ups (Flight Modus and the Áron Tálas Trio) and CDs for groove and melodic jazz. After the predominantly emotional compositions on his first CD Floating Island, released on the Japanese label Gats Production, and the trio album Little Beggar released by BMC in 2018, he struck out on a markedly different path with the groove-fusion mood of his solo album Beats from my Heart. Most recently he recorded Blue Enough, a melancholy album for solo piano, where lyricism dominates. This album is a synthesis of all these: here, groove themes and lyrical compositions lie side-by-side.
New Questions, Old Answers – with the very title, Áron Tálas tells us he is aware of how impossible it is to say something genuinely new. There is nothing new under the sun, the answers to new questions can be found after the old ones (he tells us), as if there were an objective standard, independent of periods and styles, that “measures” good music. Defining himself as an “old timer” Tálas seeks the recipe for what makes a melody memorable, what gives it a longer than average lifespan. “For a long time I wanted to play the piano well. Now I just want to write good songs,” he muses, with a touch of irony in his voice. “It’s also important for the rhythms to be more accurate too, or for me to play them better in fifteen, but the most important for me to write something memorable. Somehow I believe that objectively stronger melodies can be constructed from the same tonal system. I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to figure this out,” he says. Moreover, he knows there is no hook that would bear the weight of all the cloaks the jazz predecessors have left us, so he doesn’t even attempt to free himself from them; instead, with distinctive moves, he breathes new life into them, acknowledging an actual, a stage, or a musical communality with these outstanding figures. Because like Peer, he is fond of daydreaming. But while the wandering of Peer’s mind, in most readings, holds the threat of dead-end abyss, a total loss of reality, Áron works with creative imagination: for him, his fantasies of making music with his models are the source of wonderful compositions and, indeed, actual musical and stage situations.
For instance, the title song is an imaginary session with Brian Blade: Áron toyed with the idea of what kind of music he would invite his favourite drummer to play in, and this gave rise to the vigorous melody that conjures up his dynamic music and incomparable sound, and forms the basis for the mood of the entire album. Hargove evokes a situation that, dreamlike as it may be, actually happened: while our pianist was in New York, he suddenly found himself on stage in Smalls jazz club, with the trumpet legend Roy Hargove, who has since passed away. The monotony of the drum line sets this musical hommage in the world of groove, but the piano sings, in Áron’s imaginary film, and at a subsequent concert the melody is taken up by the wind instruments. The composer whisks us with ease from New York to the Carpathian Basin with the 3/4 time Old Soul, an extraordinarily difficult composition with a folky melodic line and a broad dynamic range, which is followed by a ballad without a solo. The Choice You Never Had once more steers the listener to the domain of emotions, and putting all his modesty aside, Áron refers to this lyrical composition as his most polished melody – and rightly so. The series of sources of inspiration continues with Joshua Redman Elastic Band, in the song Elastico, which with its structure and refrain-like theme is like a pop song. And as if that were not enough, in Rain we hear echoes of Red Hot Chilli Peppers from Tálas’s rock past (namely, the bass line from One Big Mob). And we can discern the tart, blues-like style of Brad Mehldau, particularly in the laddish, unkempt raggedness of Cnile Kinlu, while in Afrosatie, the French composer’s membrane-like melodies are juxtaposed with heavy Afro rhythms.
And this list is merely the more transparent surface of the bottomless well from which Áron Tálas’s inspiration springs. This is not the essence. When we listen to the CD we don’t hear Blade, Hargrove, Joshua Redman, or Brad Mehldau. We hear Áron Tálas, his inimitable cheer, his roguish humour and optimism, which shines even through melancholy. Rare indeed is it to find such highly developed rhythmic and melodic thinking coupled as they are in Áron Tálas.
But I should be more precise: we are “ear witnesses” not only to Áron Tálas, but also, through his compositions, to the sympathetic vibrations of three good friends. The trio he makes with drummer László Csízi and bassist István Tóth is not only a musical entity; they are also close friends, and the oldest of fellow musicians. László Csízi (one of the most sought-after percussionists in Hungarian jazz, and a member of the Modern Art Orchestra, Subtones, and many other lineups of various styles) was already a member of Áron’s former band, the Hybrid trio, founded at the jazz department of the Béla Bartók Conservatory in Miskolc, and which even then performed at festivals abroad. István Tóth (noted on the Hungarian jazz scene as both guitarist and bassist) was Áron’s classmate at the Budapest Liszt Academy.
Between the three of them, praise (and Áron is no miser with praise) is not mere empty words of respect, but perhaps an attempt to describe the essence. Because if there is one genre that is individualist, it is jazz, but it’s equally true that if there’s a collective musical genre, then it’s jazz. In the “Áron Tálas Fellowship” (to refer back to Brian Blade) endeavours to find the inner essence of the individual can only be realized in community (on stage and by happenstance). With his friends, in the midst of joyful musicmaking, Áron Tálas does everything that Peer puts off in his fervent search for self-realization, and which in the drama the natural elements take him to task for: he sings the whistling of the air; he thinks the grave thoughts of the tufts of clouds scudding over the sky; with his songs he washes the thorn that pricks the heart; he creates the works that have to spring from his pen.
Translated by Richard Robinson