Friday, February 25, 2011

Eastern Boundary Quartet Melds Amerfree Improv with Hungarian Strains

The Eastern Boundary Quartet joins a freely inspired Michael Jeffry Stevens on piano and Joe Fonda on bass with two Hungarian practitioners of the jazz arts: Mihaly Borbely on sax and tarogato; Balazs Bagyi on the drums. The group recorded Icicles (Konnex 5258) in Budapest at the end of 2009 and it is a widely encompassing set of band originals, freely stated.

Michael Jeffry Stevens is one of the more accomplished and distinctive of the not-yet-household-name improvisatory pianists out there today and there is ample room on this set for his soaring harmonic-melodic lyricism (hear the title cut, for example); but there is also the harder-edged rocking free propulsion side here as well. Joe Fonda exemplifies the accomplished musical force that combines technique with discernment. Balazs Bagyi drums solidly and musically. Mihaly Borbely has a gorgeous tone and shows a fleet inventiveness throughout.

Every piece on this date shows another side of the band and the compositional ingenuity of each bandmember. Bagyi's "Soft Balkan Wind" brings in the more traditional Hungarian element with minor-mode tarogato brilliantly shining forth to a tom-driven drumming that suggests an indigenous dance. "Borders" goes even further in that direction, but also interjects driving afro-rhythms and dissonant splashes.

In the end it is the meeting of the Eastern European with the pan-national modern-jazz sensibility that makes this album a great listen.

Everyone contributes to this effort. And a fine effort it is.

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