A Spring Sampling: Jazz and Blues Gem Recordings From Local Boston Artists: Laszlo Gardony – “Ever Before Ever After”

[Sunnyside 1107]

Shelley Neill “Entrée Blue” (with Laslo Gardony, Yoron Israel and Ron Mahdi)

[Cobalt Blue Music-www.cobaltbluemusic.org]

 

                             


It is a marvel of nature that here in the Northeast, buds on trees actually form during the previous summer season, even before the brilliant show of Fall. Some trees, like the mountain ash and poplar, have sticky resinous coverings that protect their buds from hungry animals during the winter while apple and cherry trees protect their incipient leaves and flowers encased together under protective scales. Trees here in Boston only have three short months to activate their buds, shooting forth leaves to create their photosynthetic harvest of cyclical energy.

These two recordings from longtime Boston based artists Laszlo Gardony, Shelley Neill and their incomparable bandmates remind me of such New England trees, storing their precious buds and then shooting forth their bounty into the longer Spring light of day, perfectly timed and full of confidence. We should start with the wondrous Hungarian born pianist, Laszlo Gardony, who anchors both of these recordings with his melodious lines created from influences as diverse as Bela Bartok, Afro-Latin beat and gospel tinges. On Gardony’s opening foray on Ever Before Ever After, “Satin Doll,” he takes Duke Ellington’s classic on a joyful romp through Afro-Latin paces, reminding me of the great African melodies of Abdullah Ibrahim spreading East. Gardony weaves powerful piano lines stretching furiously up and down the registers, all combined into a stylistic whole that has the listener on edge as to the next bluesy motif. This recording also showcases several other great local Boston musical treasures. It was recorded live before an audience at WGBH’s Eric in the Evening program, (which is itself a stalwart of jazz radio programming), and the live feel of the action is perfectly captured on this pristine disc. In addition, the recording boasts the prodigious talents of local Boston bassist John Lockwood and drummer Yoron Israel, who join Gardony on his fascinating sonic journey. Both of these sidemen provide a perfect foil for Gardony’s exploration, with Lockwood’s bass captured full and woody, and Israel’s drums and brushwork a marvel to behold. I would vote Israel as my “young lion” of the drumkit, as his forays into cymbal creativity are beyond my comprehension. For example, on Israel’s solo on “Stella By Starlight,” his brush work is so delicate, so fragile, yet so perfectly a piece of this intricate ode to a classic, that Israel will have you hanging on each stroke, decaying perfectly into the wide soundstage and air captured on this stellar recording. Indeed, several of these pieces conclude with Israel’s beautifully sculpted cymbal work, fading out on a Gardony breeze of a chord.

The effervescent joy emanating from this recording continues on the title track, a beautiful simple melody that is weaved into a contemplative journey by Gardony’s slow and fluid notes in the lower registers, building to a crescendo full of confidence and optimism as Lockwood lays down a wonderful foundation of rounded and full bass. “Come Away With Me” is a playful Calypso blues number, filled with flashes of color from Gardony and those marvelous cymbal and stick inventions by Israel. The disc ends with the lilting melody of “Mockingbird,” soaring over Lockwood’s textured rounded plucks and rays of color painted by Gardony. If you love melodic explorations in a trio setting, this recording holds the promise of many sonic gifts, with its live feel and vivid, accurate soundstage presence.

Heading over to Cambridge, MA. to the wonderful venue of the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center, we stop in to hear Gardony, Israel and Ron Mahdi on bass accompanying the dynamic Shelley Neill performing tunes from her latest release, Entrée Blue. Grafting the magic from this exceptional trio onto her deep, smooth bluesy delivery, Neill produces a disc that provides immeasurable pleasures to explore. My favorites are the cuts which highlight Neill’s deep vocal caresses moving fluidly over Gardony’s piano and Israel’s inventive drumkit. Don’t forget about Mahdi on bass: here, in contrast to Lockwood’s lighter touch on Ever Before, this recording focuses nicely on Mahdi’s forceful plucks, and in particular on the cut, “All Blues,” Mahdi strides forth with great tight bass, sometimes slapping string to wood to accentuate his rhythmic prowess. The quality of the recording captures this technique and rhythmic force perfectly. On this same number, Neill accurately explores all shades of the Blues, with deep husky tone one moment, giving way to smooth, airy vocal touches the next, over Gardony’s pinpoint and light accompaniment. Get up and dance to the joyous rhythmic treatment provided by “Bring Back The Moonlight,” a swinging ballad given life affirming treatment by this great band, and Neill’s upbeat bluesy vocals. Local Boston composer Harriet Goldberg’s lyrics are captured in full, moving fashion, with Neill ending on a wonderful vocal high and Gardony moving up and down his piano furiously to keep pace. The disc concludes with Neill’s breathy and bluesy rendition of Duke Ellington’s “In My Solitude,” perfectly capturing the depth and character of this slow burning number. Mahdi again provides a beautiful, tight and tuneful bass solo echoed and expanded upon by Neill’s deep and moving melodic vocals. The recording quality of this disc is excellent, again offering a live and tangible feel to this wondrous recording.

We welcome readers’ comments or suggestions for other audiophile CD favorites for upcoming Stereo Times reviews. Please contact NelsonBrill@stereotimes.com