Gresnscó Open Collective

Marginal Music
BMC CD 222

Marginal Music is a suite of compositions that expresses a Hungarian-styled take on the improvised music world by a sophisticated sextet headed by Budapest-based multi-reedist István Grencsó. This shouldn’t be surprising from a leader whose past gigs have included stints with the bands of saxophonist Mihály Dresch Quartet and pianist György Szabados. At the same time the CD is also an object lesson in how to integrate a novel texture – in this case the individualistic coloring from Berlin-based clarinetist Rudi Mahall’s horn – into a working band. Since Gresnscó plays bass clarinet, flute and soprano saxophone as well as his usual tenor saxophones here, Mahall’s presence is like adding another canine to a dog sled team. Happily though, the augmentation merely adds additional vigor to the proceedings.

Like a carnival game where you have to find a pea hidden under identical nutshells, a tune such as “Collective Ploughing” encompasses so many variations in style from dance rhythms to call-and-response riffing to Magyar variations on Hard Bop, that it’s difficult to name the genre, let alone to pinpoint which clarinetist is flutter tonguing the theme or pushing out water pipe-like peeps alongside it. More obvious though is how Mahall’s bass clarinet is harmonized with the dual double bass lines from Robert Benkő and Ernő Hock to produce a dreamy balladic interface on “Take Your Time”, with the meticulous harmonies also expressed through Szilveszter Miklós’s drum pitter-pattering and Máté Pozsár’s soothing piano chording. Or if a fanciful John Coltrane-Benny Goodman meeting could be imagined than the blueprint is “From Beyond the Margins”. With Gresnscó’s saxophone style growing out of the Trane tradition, his cyclone-like blowing provides the notable contrast to Mahall’s high-pitched straight horn variations. Behemoth-like pressure from the pianist shape the underpinning so the tune retains a buoyant swing even after the two horn parts dissolve into aviary pitches. Mahall’s moderated clarinet trills also suggest the equivalent of adding jewellery embellishment to a matron’s high-fashion outfit on “April 13 (In Memory of Laci)”. But the corrosive reed bites from Gresnscó on a similar straight horn prevent this memorial from becoming too gushy. Opposing textures elaborated by both reedist throughout the body of the tune, eventually meld for an appropriately connective finale.

Probably the best instance of thematic expansion via different tonal strategies occurs on “John’s Memorial Volume”, which also includes Pozsár’s most memorable solo. Combining different sorts of keyboard narratives like the atmospheric conditions gathering strength for a hurricane, Pozsár clatters, jiggles, pumps and jumps all over the keyboard as the two basses move in spiccato concordance underneath and Miklós’ cymbal clashes provide weight multi-directional accents. Meanwhile leading to a sense of enlightened relief after the equivalent of massive exertion on an extended hike, Mahall (on clarinet) and Gresnscó (on tenor saxophone) batter contrapuntal vamps back-and-forth. The saxophonist’s tough Trane-ish multiphonics are easily met by the clarinetist’s squealing jitters. Neither tries to best the other and the resulting climax hits a dual relentless grove and is a definite statement of European-style Jazz.

At points in his travels Mahall may be like the Old West lawman brought in to bring order to a frontier community in Western movies. But as this session with an established band attests, like the townsfolk who rally around the new sheriff in those tales, he only succeeds through group cooperation.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Give as God! 2. From Beyond the Margins 3. Volatile Blue 4. Dewfall 5. Collective Ploughing 6. Take your Time 7. Volatile Yellow 8. John’s Memorial Volume 9. April 13 (In Memory of Laci).

Personnel:: Rudi Mahall (clarinet and bass clarinet); István Grencsó (soprano and tenor saxophones, bass clarinet and flute); Máté Pozsár (piano); Robert Benkő and Ernő Hock (bass) and Szilveszter Miklós (drums)