Mihály Dresch, Lafayette Gilchrist, Mátyás Szandai, Hamid Drake

Sharing the Shed
BMC Records BMC CD 174

Budapest and Baltimore may have more in common than most realize – at least when it comes to improvised music. That`s the message communicated by this compelling CD, featuring Hungary’s most accomplished saxophone stylist and a Maryland based Funk-Jazz pianist. Woodshedding originals and one standard, the high energy front men are aided by a veteran Chicago drummer on call throughout the world and one of the Danube-bisected city`s most dependable bassists.

Hungarian Mihály Dresch, who plays tenor and soprano saxophones plus a fuhunna recorder he developed himself, epitomizes how attributes from Magyar folk heritage can be worked into a modern Jazz concept. He does this both with his own band, often featuring trumpeter/fiddler Ferenc Kovacs, as well as with visitors such as fellow tenor man Archie Shepp. Young pianist Lafayette Gilchrist, the Washington-born, Baltimore-based member of the Black Saint Quartet, headed by another tenor star, David Murray, brings elements of D.C. Go-Go, old school Soul, hard Funk and progressive Hip-hop into his playing here. Meanwhile the quartet’s rhythm section is made up of bassist Mátyás Szandai, part of Dresch’s working group as well as other Hungarian combos; and Hamid Drake who is as likely to show up in Europe backing numerous first-class players as doing likewise on his own Windy City turf.

Distinctive but similar brawny approaches to performance by the principals can be noted by comparing the Gilchrist composed “All In”, with Dresch’s tune, “Old House Ballad”. The latter is a bit of a misnomer since Drake’s accompaniment encompasses stop-time drags, rattles and martial stomps. When the pianist concentrates on feathery key plinks, the composer’s double-tongued overblowing with a thick reed are almost rock-solid in expression. Similarly murky flute or recorder vibrations take up a large portion of “All In”. But on it they’re expressed in the context of rocking piano rhythms. Gilchrist’s low-boil glissandi and harmonized bluesy cadenzas and Drake’s bass drum accents maintain the finger-snapping beat until the final turnaround. Even the coda is divided between heavily pummeled piano keys and a set of flute cadenzas.

Reductionist, since only Drake on hand drum and Dresch on recorder participate, “Night Spirit” also lives up to its title. Together the percussionist’s double-dutch palm whumps and resonations mated with the reedist’s staccato multiphonics suggest a sound picture of two Magyar warriors in repose on the plains expressing themselves through folk melodies.

More attuned to Jazz sensibilities is the pianist’s “Dried Goods” which begins with harpsichord-like plinks from Gilchrist and introductory rim shots from Drake. These set up Dresch’s elaboration of the theme with intense slurs, side-slipping exaggeration and bent notes. Before the pianist’s tremolo variations recap the head, Szandai’s sustained bass string slaps which sluice upwards and downwards in tandem with Drake’s flams, maintain the pace without bringing undue attention to themselves.

This type of musical modesty may be the key to the whole collaborative session. No matter how apocryphally flamboyant Hungarians or Americans may be elsewhere, in this situation they combine their talents selflessly to get the job done.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Shift One 2. Delicate Dancer 3. Down the Street 4. Waves 5. Dried Goods 6. Naive 7. All In 8. Old House Ballad 9. The Night has a Thousand Eyes 10. Night Spirit

Personnel: Mihály Dresch (tenor and soprano saxophones and fuhunna recorder); Lafayette Gilchrist (piano); Mátyás Szandai (bass) and Hamid Drake (drums and frame drum)