Monday, December 12, 2011

Szilard Mezel Wind Quartet, "Innen:" More Chamber Jazz From an Innovative Ensemble

The Szilard Mezel Wind Quartet have made a number of very interesting albums over the last several years. The latest is Innen (Ayler 122) and it is one of their very best. The somewhat unusual instrumentation of viola (Szilard Mezel), alto sax, bass clarient, clarinet (Bogdan Rankovic), trombone (Branislav Aksin), and tuba (Kornel Papista) gives the group an unusual sound. As in previous outings the compositions are by Mezel. Some of the earlier releases tended to have a dark sound color, partly because the instrumentation lends itself to this, partly because of the tenor of Mezel's compositions during that period. There was some excellent music but some of it was an acquired taste.

For the new album the sound palette is a bit brighter, but no less distinctive for that. All four artists interpret and phrase the pre-planned passages with a very worthy attention to ensemble blend and they can and do improvise in ways that extend and enhance the feel and mood of the composition at hand. There are seemingly totally free improvisational sections too which are handled well and offset the written sections nicely.

This is chamber jazz of a high order with inventive writing and an almost art-deco-for-today stance. The music can be ornate at times, straightforwardly plain other times, but all with a kind of modern timelessness. It is music of our era but resonates with the last 100 years and the sort of innovative ensemble writing of Milhaud and Weill without the timeworn period jazz flavor. But one would not mistake Mezel's writing for those earlier composers because it has its unique sound and very contemporary flavor. The improvisations are somewhat free-avant as well and that brings the music squarely into the new jazz camp.

This is one of those recordings that needs to be heard several times before the memory of recognition and familiarity assures the listener that there is a great deal to this music. Mezel does important work and he seems to be growing in his handling of the flow of ideas and their meaningful quality. The ensemble is one-of-a-kind as well.

I've read criticisms of critics who seem to like everything they review. Is it disingenuous? In my case at any rate I tend to review what I like. Who wants to read that a CD by someone you don't know is not that great? Well now, did you have any intention of getting it? Probably not. So I'll cover music/artists in my reviews that may not be perfect but have something or many things about them that seem worth experiencing, or they may raise issues about the music scene today and how it is evolving. Or they may simply be great.

Innen may not be quite in the "great" category. The Szilard Mezel Wind Quartet is making music that is provocative and memorable, however. And that's a great thing. This one will get you thinking and listening.

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