Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Concert Experience - Laszlo Gardony Quartet

The Laszlo Gardony Quartet
This past Thursday, January 22nd, I was fortunate enough to be able to go to the Regattabar to watch the Laszlo Gardony Quartet perform.

Laszlo Gardony's Quartet consists of Gardony on piano, Stan Strickland on reeds, Yoron Israel on drums, and John Lockwood on bass.

Laszlo Gardony is a pianist, composer, bandleader, and an educator at Berklee College of Music. To learn more about Gardony, visit his website here.

A Concert Experience - Laszlo Gardony Quartet

As soon as I sat down I heard the word, "PoemJazz" from the table next to me. I turned around to realize I was sitting next to the former United States Poem Laureate, Robert Pinsky! I have spoken about his influence on my poetry in former blogs including, "A Concert Experience - Vijay Iyer and PoemJazz", "There Are No Rules", and of course as an inspiration for my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem". To learn more about Pinsky, click here.

Pianist Laszlo Gardony

As the concert started Gardony introduced the band, and explained that he wished to put the audience in "a trance-like state". Songs of the night included, "Break Out", "Out on Top", "Ever Before Ever After", "Hidden Message", and "Elanor Rigby", among others.

Gardony's solos throughout the night shared many characteristics. Notably, Gardony utilized a strong sense of motivic development, which would be heard throughout the arc of each solo. Gardony would play a phrase, and oftentimes repeat this phrase three or five times but with different rhythmic or melodic inversions, such as displacing a note or moving a phrase up in register. This melodic sense, coupled with a blend of two handed chordal and single line melody playing, helped to build each solo in the shape of a mountain - starting out relaxed and building to a buoyant climax.

Yoron Israel playing drums

Yoron Israel's playing throughout the night showcased the joy and vibrancy of each tune. While other performers were soloing, Israel would listen intently and respond to their phrases with a similar rhythmic pattern. This allowed the soloist to expand the melodies, by creating a conversational tone. During his own solos, Israel exuded energy, and you could hear the original tune over his solos through the cymbals, toms, and bass drum.

Listen to Laszlo Gardony playing, "Bourbon Street Boogie":

Stan Strickland playing bass clarinet
Stan Strickland's solos were diverse in nature. Just as Gardony, Strickland employed a motivic sense, with a focus on call and response. Strickland - on saxophone, clarinet, and flute - had a unique voice, and used many extended techniques, such as growling, multiphonics, and altissimo notes in order create a vocal quality to each line. Extending on the vocal approach to improvisation, Strickland's use of space in the melodic line allowed for the rhythm section to respond to each phrase. I especially enjoyed Strickland's warm, wooden tone on bass clarinet. 

Stan Strickland playing alto flute

Listen to Laszlo Gardony playing, "Heavy":

John Lockwood playing bass

John Lockwood is an incredibly versatile musician. Within one week I had seen him perform with Phil Woods, The Fringe, and Gardony's group. Lockwood's solos highlighted the peaks and valleys within the harmony through creating a melodic line that reflected on the intent of the song. While others were soloing, Lockwood created a strong bass line that blended with Israel's groove.

Listen to Laszlo Gardony playing, "Three Minute Mile":

Stan Strickland playing tenor saxophone

Final Thoughts:
Meeting Laszlo Gardony after the show

Laszlo Gardony's music has an immense sense of joy that permeated through the audience. And I think this sense of joy, more than anything, is the reason I love jazz.

Please visit my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem", where I improvise a new poem everyday. I also have a song and drawing of the day, so stay tuned!

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