Laszlo Gardony
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Laszlo Gardony

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | INDIE

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | INDIE
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"January 12, 2009 CD review: Laszlo Gardony, "Dig Deep" (Sunnyside 4008)"

Local audiences know pianist Laszlo Gardony's playing well — he's been here since 1983, when he first came to Berklee from Hungary, and he's been performing and recording regularly since. He's known for his great touch, his tunefulness, and his facility in different styles. But on Dig Deep, his fifth album for the Sunnyside label, you might hear something a little different: the sound is somehow bigger, Gardony's rich keyboard voicings giving each chord new depth and breadth. The tunes, meanwhile, are as hooky as great pop, whether it's the rolling descending figures in the set opener, "In Transit," the New Orleans–tinged 5/4 of "Out on Top," or the rock-backbeat two-syllable refrain of "Heavy."

One simple explanation for the expansive grooves is in the interplay between Gardony and bassist John Lockwood: on just about every tune, they play unison bass lines, Lockwood extending the patterns in the pianist's left hand and giving them extra heft, Yoron Israel's drums adding another bump. The nine pieces (which include a reconfigured "Summertime") also ride on waves of rolling gospel piano figures. (The trio will be playing at Amazing Things Arts Center in Framingham this Friday.)

When I get Gardony on the phone at home, he explains that the pieces on Dig Deep emerged during his family's annual vacation in Maine's Acadia National Forest. He brought an electric keyboard and spent hours a day improvising. "I was trying to never let myself just play the piano but always play music that I felt in that moment, from someplace very deep." He recorded everything and wrote the tunes based on those improvisations. He continued to play and write that summer and into the fall, then went into the studio in January 2008 with Lockwood and Israel.

He was looking for "anthems," something to alleviate "the toxicity of recent years." So the music was a response in a sense to the Bush era. "When something is jaded or crooked for so long, after a while it becomes the right way to think." A child of the Eastern Bloc, Gardony was familiar with the feeling. "It's not like the first time I experienced that, but I'm very sensitive to it."

Part of what's fascinating about the album is the way its surface simplicity — the sharp melodies and rolling grooves — contains that complexity. Odd meters abound, as do harmonic shifts. After three albums and seven years working with Lockwood and Israel, Gardony felt confident enough to pull off an album of this kind, even to the point of pushing Israel into the unfamiliar rock beats of "Heavy." His genius is in making complex ideas simple — another kind of liberation.
- JON GARELICK - Boston Phoenix

"December, 2008 CD review: Laszlo Gardony, "Dig Deep" (Sunnyside 4008)"

Laszlo Gardony’s Dig Deep finds the jazz pianist in fine form with his trio, featuring John Lockwood on bass and Yoron Israel on drums. Gardony describes a key element of his sound when he mentions, in the self-penned liner notes, that he enjoys “marrying odd meters/changing time signatures with the sound and groove of gospel, funk, jazz and rock.” This trio has been together for six years and they show a strong musical rapport throughout the eight originals and one standard (a version of “Summertime” with a strong facelift). All the pieces presented here are first takes which allows the music to maintain a live and organic feel. “In Transit” has a catchy bass line which helps to anchor the parts of the song in seven. Meter changes come and go here with the music moving to six and then to one measure of five to bring things back to the original groove in seven. This song isn’t so much about melodic direction as it is about fleshing out the harmonic ideals in the music and the time changes (a fact the pianist admits in the notes). Israel can move from light cymbal patterns to heavy crashing here and this variety holds your interest throughout. “Wide Awake” has a beautifully aching, yearning quality to it. This piece is built on emotional content, not chops, and Gardony fleshes out the chord progression for all it’s worth before allowing Lockwood to take over. Lockwood never moves too far away from the melodic heart of the music and Gardony takes the reins again after he’s through. Changing meters play a big role on “Three Minute Mile.” The sections in fifteen, or 8 and 7 alternating (depending on how you hear it), have a bluesy edge to them and while you might be tempted to count your way through the piece, you’d be missing out on what these three musicians are playing within that time! The energetic, rocking rendition of “Summertime” fuses all the aforementioned genres and more as they put a fresh coat of paint on this well worn number. Israel and Lockwood even get into a little bit of disco-funk as the drummer drives the music with his hi-hat groove and the ascending bass line locks in with it. When musicians enjoy themselves it comes out in the playing and that is clearly audible during Gardony’s solo.

The opening notes of “Sunday Afternoon” are misleading in many ways. For a few seconds the music has a dirge-like quality and the relaxed, positive energy in the music, which isn’t what you expect at first, comes out soon after. The feel and sound of this piece are reminiscent of what Jacky Terrasson did for “Mo Better Blues” and, similarly to that track, I enjoyed this so much that I had to keep listening to it! If you combined Dr. John and Horace Silver and asked them to write a piece in five you might end up with “Out On Top.” Add some Cajun spice and soul to the gospel, blues and funk already discussed and you can already taste this music. Yoron Israel moves to brushes for “New Song,” a piece that was inspired by African music. The bass in the song provides the grounding force as simple ostinato patterns and drums move on, like waves in the ocean, beneath Gardony’s piano work. “Heavy” is the most rock-oriented track on the album and all three men dig deep, excuse the reference to the album title, and drive each other along as Gardony plays with passion and intensity. While “Rhymes” might have found its inspiration in Indian music, as Gardony mentions, the song itself actually doesn’t betray this influence, beyond Israel’s hand drumming. The sound of the piece seems to owe more to American ballads or even folk music. Gardony’s energy, sense of melody, playful use of meter changes and ability to craft mood altering music (in a good sense) make Dig Deep a rewarding listen.

- DAN BILAWSKY - Jazz Improv NY

"November 16, 2008 Live Performance Review: Laszlo Gardony at Scullers"

“We live in exciting times,” Laszlo Gardony said to a Boston audience at Sculler's Jazz Club a week to the day after the election. And his music was right in sync with all the hope and change in the air. Gospel, blues, acoustic rock—all things distinctly American and distinctly joyful—that is where this consummate jazz pianist and composer took his trio of seven years in a set of original tunes and standards, largely drawn from his latest album, Dig Deep. Gardony’s harmonic density, rhythmic complexity, and linear exotica were all there, but the music was accessible, almost throwing off the shackles of jazz esoterica to celebrate the radiant good times in this artist’s life.

Hungarian-born Gardony, who has recorded eight albums as leader, is always in fine company with bassist John Lockwood and drummer Yoron Israel, Boston’s first call musicians on their respective instruments. They’re the type of players who simply choose not to go to New York, although musically there’s no distance between them and the jazz musicians in the Big Apple.

As a unit, the seasoned trio is a must-hear no matter what they play. With impeccable dynamics and a deep understanding of their musical roles, they support and enhance, never getting in each other’s way. John Lockwood’s solid pocket anchors the piano and drums, both of which have a busier conversation over him. Gardony and drummer Israel play sometimes in sync, or, Israel will trade, echo and accent the piano’s complicated rhythmic figures.

There may be a lot of superlatives coming at you here, but, believe me, they’re well deserved. John Lockwood’s tone is buttery, his time is a rock, and he is equally comfortable with fluent runs and single notes that ground a measure in a ballad. As for Yoron Israel, he’s one of the most musical drummers I’ve heard in a long time. He doesn’t waste rhythmic energy, he channels it—shaping a tune, toping off a soft phrase with the sibilance of his cymbals, closing out a solo with the right bass drum accent.

Gardony, who’s been playing since he was five, displays his technical mastery and has the piano’s full palette at his disposal. He’ll throw in an unusual scale in the middle of a solo, off the cuff—sort of the musical equivalent of expressing an idea in Hungarian—because it fits. On Tuesday night, he played harder than in the past, when he has been more airy, delicate and attenuated.

The tunes varied from the strong slow diatonic major voicings of “Wide Awake” (what Gardony has described as a power rock vibe) to the reharms of standards like “Softly (As in a Morning Sunrise).” Much of Gardony’s new material lays down a rolling groove, like the 7/4 of “In Transit.” Its descending piano lines over a repeated bass figure give you the feeling of moving along in space as well as time. “Three Minute-Mile” —an appropriately named workout with meter changes, gospel accents, and a heavy-handed diminished chord that rocks the tricky form—was a great springboard for Yoron Israel’s solo, which echoed the tune’s phrases within its rolls and fills.

If you wanted to hear transformations, this group’s take on standards was the way to do it. “Summertime” put contemporary harmonies on a gospel feel, and Gardony cooked in an inspired, bluesy solo. In “Softly (as in a Morning Sunrise)” the bass ushered in the dawn with an eerie dirge-like motif behind it. Heavy on reharmonization, the arrangement swung on the piano solo, and Lockwood played tight, fast melodic lines over the changes before taking the tune out. The group stood “Satin Doll” on its head with what Gardony called an “Afro-Cuban/Hungarian” influenced arrangement. Yoron Israel broke loose with a hard-hitting insistent beat that pulled the tune over the top.

Reflecting on the good vibes in the room, Gardony beamed, “It feels wonderful to be an artist in these times and share these thoughts through an instrument.”

Amen to that.



SIGNATURE TIME (Sunnyside) 2011
with Stan Strickland, John Lockwood and Yoron Israel

DIG DEEP (Sunnyside) 2008
with John Lockwood and Yoron Israel

NATURAL INSTINCT (Sunnyside) 2006
with John Lockwood and Yoron Israel

with John Lockwood and Yoron Israel
Recorded live at WGBH radio

BEHIND OPEN DOORS with Jamey Haddad and John Lockwood (Sunnyside)

BREAKOUT with Mick Goodrick, George Jinda, Satoshi Takeishi, and Stomu Takeishi (Avenue Jazz)

CHANGING STANDARDS, solo piano (Sunnyside)

THE LEGEND OF TSUMI with Dave Holland and Bob Moses (Antilles/Island)

THE SECRET with Miroslav Vitous and Ian Froman (Antilles/Island)

REGGAE FOR ZBIGGY with Zbigniew Namyslowski (Krem)

PROGRESSIONS with Forward Motion (HEP) (co-leader)

THE BERKLEE TAPES with Forward Motion (HEP) (co-leader)



Laszlo Gardony is a critically acclaimed artist who has brought his soulful and elegant improvisations to audiences in 23 countries. Winner of the Great American Jazz Piano Competition, Gardony has been called “a pianist worthy of praise within the highest pantheon of performers” — Jazz Review . com and “a great pianist” by Dave Brubeck. He has released nine albums as a leader collaborating with Dave Holland and Miroslav Vitous among others. His new CD “Signature Time” (Sunnyside) features his trio members of nine years, bassist John Lockwood and drummer Yoron Israel, as well as multi-instrumentalist/vocalist, Stan Strickland.

Laszlo Gardony has performed with the David “Fathead” Newman Quintet as well as with Randy Brecker, Dave Liebman, John Abercrombie and John Blake who all appeared as guest soloists with his trio. Gardony has been featured with the Boston Pops, the Utah Symphony and The Smithsonian Institute’s “Beyond Category” Traveling Duke Ellington Exhibit. He also wrote and arranged for The Danish Radio Big Band. As a sideman, he toured and recorded with Yoron Israel, Shelley Neill, Garrison Fewell, Steven Kirby and the Wayfaring Strangers.

Gardony has been praised for his “fluid pianism” by The New York Times and for his “uniformly high quality of compositions” and “harmonic complexity” by All About Jazz Magazine. JazzTimes has called him "one of contemporary music's truly original voices." Laszlo has been living in Boston for the past twenty years, where he is a Professor of Piano at Berklee College of Music.

Sunnyside Records' press release introduces Laszlo Gardony’s new CD "Signature Time" as follows:

Laszlo Gardony’s Signature Time moves to the rhythms of the motherland.

"A great pianist" -- Dave Brubeck

"One of contemporary music's truly original voices" –Jazz Times

Rhythm is the marrow of jazz. An alert artist has to keep his ears open to the currents of time, to employ fresh rhythmic patterns in order to make sound surge and sing. On his current album, Signature Time, the pianist and composer Laszlo Gardony celebrates the various African-based musical styles that helped shape the development of his unique style. By drawing upon African, gospel, New Orleans, R&B and swing elements – as channeled through Gardony’s ingenious use of challenging time signatures, innovative song forms and advanced harmonic approach – Signature Time pays heartfelt tribute to the very source of the music itself.

“The lush palette of today's music owes a lot to the birthplace of culture and sound – Africa,” Gardony says. “The album is an acknowledgment of how the many genres which draw upon the African musical heritage have enriched my own cultural experience and helped shape my voice so that I can speak to what is relevant to me today.”

The signal achievement of Signature Time is how masterfully Gardony and his cohorts, including nine-year trio veterans bassist John Lockwood and drummer Yoron Israel, locate the musical mother lode in such resourcefully reworked material as George Shearing’s “Lullaby of Birdland,” Billy Strayhorn’s “Johnny Come Lately” and even The Beatles’ “Lady Madonna,” as well as the pianist’s own inventive compositions.

Sidestepping conventions, Gardony retools song form to expressive ends. Take his natural alternatives to the 12-bar blues form on “Bourbon Street Boogie” (which employs a 20-bar form) and “On African Land” (utilizing a 13-bar form). That neither feels self-consciously weighed down by these cunning deviations – that they, like every other performance, naturally swing – is testament to the leader’s inherent understanding of how form must follow function. In other words, if the groove is gone, so is the magic, and Gardony was not about to let that happen. “Today, when our life and our way of producing and consuming music are becoming more and more artificial, it is important to remember and recapture the purity and life-necessity of music as it was experienced in past times.”

As a departure from the expected, given his previous six trio albums, Gardony includes tracks featuring another old friend and collaborator, saxophonist and vocalist Stan Strickland. His haunting vocal contribution on “Spirit Dance” and mastery of both the post-bop tradition (as heard on “Johnny Come Lately”) and New Orleans flavoring (on “Bourbon St. Boogie”) provide a welcome addition to the trio’s by now recognizable sound. There’s another striking tonal surprise on the album: the reflective “Under The Sky” features the versatile percussionist Israel on the vibraphone, adding a dreamlike color to the piece. (Hear also bassist Lockwood’s telling contributions to “Silent Words,” whose alternatively dark and soothing harmonies display Gardony’s absorption of contemporary classical music.)

That the Hungarian born Gardony has seamlessly found his own voice by way of the mélange of musical influences unfurled on Signature Time is abundant proof that jazz transcends