Ernő Rubik Quintet

Telling Tales – Live at JazzaJ
Den 018

A lot easier to appreciate than the correct formula to solve the Rubik cube, Budapest-based keyboardist Ernő Rubik’s combo offers an incisive glimpse of Hungary’s evolving Jazz scene with this disc. Recorded as part of Budapest’s JazzaJ concert series, Telling Tales finds the quintet mixing electro oscillations and hints of Rock with uncompromising improv and the faintest paprika-like sprinkles of Magyar dance music.

While a good intro to the talents of the band which includes bassist Ernő Hock and drummer Zsolt Sárvári Kovács, as well as Bálint Bolcsó on live electronics plus Paris-based saxophonist Lawrence Williams, this seems to be an aural snapshot rather than a fully realized portrait. In this club space Rubik and company have room to stretch and experiment with multiple strategies. But at the same time, an enhanced comfort level at their home base leads to a few too many protracted pauses sapping energy from some of the performances. Hungarians also have a reputation for loquaciousness, and each of the tracks here has a title lengthier than a listing of the countries that made up the Austro-Hungarian Empire. With a minimum of 25 words each, it’s easier to refer to them as track one, track two etc.

Generally Williams’ alto and tenor saxophone reed tones and tongue smears plus Rubik’s line-curving comping take the foreground positions during these improvisations. Electronic wave forms plus bass stops or bass guitar below-the-bridge sprawls help move the expositions forward. If there’s a variation on the formula it’s when the keyboardist’s melodic arpeggios add more expansive and strengthened chording to the tracks.

However it isn’t until nearly the end of the program at track six, that the correlation among the band’s different sections becomes more comfortable. A finale of sorts is reached with the last and penultimate tracks, but only because Hock, whose experienced lies with funk as well as Jazz bands, adds some connective heft to his backing; plus Kovács, who also works with multi-reedist Mihály Borbély, modifies his backing from Rock-like thumps to ethno affiliations. Lagging behind the beat, at those points Williams outlays climatic sequences where his improvisations appear suspended in the quivering ether outlined by the oscillations from Bolcsó’s processing.

Challenging in its way, but not quite distinctive enough to make an undeniable impression, the performance of Rubik’s quintet is in no way as square as its namesake cube. However if the keyboardist wants to make a statement as distinctively original in improvised music as his namesake architect did with his interlocking puzzle, the group’s compositions, arrangements and improvising must become equivalently inspired

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Praise Water In Sudden Soft Needles Waist Plural Blossom Over Brisk Flur Method Of Weak Anger Cannot Itch Healing Cubes Ahead Daily Jumping No Shade Fighting Grown This Word Bleak Jarred Mutual Rocks This Rolling Changed Expedition Past Track Courage Visited Airborne Machine Gun Attack 2. Forest Little Species Mud Tools Rub Stones Hanging In The Air Flap Tongue Into Water Hey Newbie Coming From Across The River Lazy Excitement Boxing Worship Must Access Allow Question Invitation Little More Friendly Suspicious Glance Back Again Rubbing Against Breathe Morning Ashes Resonance Welcome 3. Brave Yes Insists Story To Tell Ritual Preparation Wind West Living Wasted Masks Deep Singing Yes That’s Me Happened Came Through Front] 4. Mostly You Through Clouds Down In The Cave We Lived Main Road Trading File Perfect Fences Nothing Rocks Into Echo Alone Vanishing Passing Growing This Little Thing Over Years Time Innocent Bones Intestines Soul To Be Developed Eyes Saw Finally Open First Fist Wing Mud Listening Safe What Stays 5. This Here Slow Fire Closing Light Snow Spoon Fortune Simmering Shadow Of Wheels Together Fluid Repeat Steam Now Again Spoon Yet Asleep 6. New Day Light Care Sight Hits Neurons Solid Teak Blocks Saw Sharing Shapes Mutual Sudden Real Up Gravity Swings All Flate In Body Affair Worse Morse Idea Sack Buzz Float Be This Place Drift Away Home Error 7. Dance On The Hill Paste Telling Never Leave Cry Muse Ahead Absent Gather Enter Space Choice Problem Channeling Extension Fight Molecules Spread Joint Next Funk Barrel States Flex Proud Ground 8. Yin Side Parallel Chamber Ore Flickering Boost Slide Short Mallable Side Off Boat Waterfall Closing Metal Plate Ascending Laser Flow Unknown Regular Chance Insects Night Sigh Is

Personnel: Lawrence Williams (alto and tenor saxophones); Ernő Zoltán Rubik (piano and digital piano and, melodic); Bálint Bolcsó (live electronics); Ernő Hock (bass and bass guitar) and Zsolt Sárvári Kovács (drums)