October 28, 2021
Szilárd Mezei Tubass Quintet
NoBusiness NBCD 142
Szilárd Mezei has rarely sunk lower in his composing and playing. That’s because here the Serbian violist has dedicated all of Rested Turquoise to melding textures from one tuba player (Kornél Pápista) and Ernő Hock, Zoltán Csányi, Ervin Malina and himself playing double basses. The idea isn’t new. Bill Lee had his New York Bass Violin Choir in the 1970s and Howard Johnson’s his tuba ensemble Gravity. But this particular configuration is unique.
In order to overcome subterranean glut, Mezei, who usually organizes orchestral and combo configuration and plays with the likes of István Grencsó, subdivides the bassists into duos. During the seven selections two focus on higher pitches and two on lower ones. Arco and pizzicato tropes help as well, with pairs or single players frequently concentrated in one direction and others going in different directions. Meanwhile Pápista’s burnished tones create mellow timbres that glue together the string parts as well as operating as a burbled continuum beneath the strings
“Hep 31½” is the most lyrical application of this. Mixing repeated tuba blowing and furious string twanging, a stacked call and response is soon set up among the five. Contrasting col legno slaps and string harmonies the pulsations are sutured and completed by brass bluster. In spite of similar titles suggesting the tracks are parts of a suite or continuation of ideas expressed on one track and elaborated somewhere else, deep-toned variety is still available. With the string players approximating mandolin or violin-like spiccato barbs, track such as “Hep 26” manages to mingle intermittent and aviary kinetics in higher frequencies with ariso concentration from foundation tones. Wrapping up the narrative includes string slides up and down the scale to a chromatic whole. Taken andante, as are most of the tracks, these dynamics are best expressed on “Hep 33”, with its multiple changes in pacing. Ambulatory even as the concentrated basement tones tremble and rumble, an interlude past the half-way mark finds pointed dynamics in near violin-pitches descend to col legno thumping against wood and strings. Rhythmically obtuse and finally ascending to allegro tempo, sharp single-string emphasis maintains linear modernity.
Rested Turquoise suggests that Mezei has take on another musical challenge to construe it in a profound and uncommon manner.
Track Listing: 1. Hep 34 2. Hep 26 3. Hep 33 4. Osaka Blues 5. Pihent Türkiz/Rested Turquoise 6. Hep 31½ 7. Simfle Sonk
Personnel: Kornél Pápista (tuba); Ernő Hock (bass [left]) Zoltán Csányi (bass [left middle]; Szilárd Mezei (bass [right middle]); Ervin Malina (bass [right])