Thursday, July 16, 2015

Szilard Mezei International Improvisers Ensemble, Karszt

Once again we encounter jazz composer-instrumentalist Szilard Mezei with an ambitious recent two-CD set of his music for the International Improvisers Ensemble, Karszt (Slam 550). This is a large group with a rather unique instrumentation. Szilard leads the ensemble on viola. The rest of the band consists of some 22 mostly European improviser-players, including a saxophone quartet, trumpet, two trombones, three flautists covering piccolo, standard flute, alto flute and bass flute, piano, acoustic guitar, violin, cello, four double basses, marimba, vibes and two drummers!

What could be in other hands a rather cumbersome totality breathes and freely levitates thanks to Mezei's compositional and orchestrational sensibilities. He handles it all so that both the overall and sectional colorations come to the forefront in ever varying possibilities. The melodic lines have a long-form variability that may well be one of the more distinctive approaches out there in the large-band free avant jazz zone. Those melodic sequences allow for improvisational statements both inside their sounding and between, or alternately serve as ostinatos underpinning the improvisations or counter-lines.

Eight compositions fill the two disks, some quite lengthy, some shorter, but all of definite interest. Mezei is a very respectable free-form violist but there are many other improvisors featured here as well and they certainly come through with appropriate lines, individually and collectively.

First and foremost, though, this is a very worthy example of Mezei the sound innovator, the creator of original big band music that has the free avant elements but are put to use to realize Mezei's special vision.

Karszt shows Szilard Mezei at his best, progressing forward, creating his own momentum with a stylistic clarity and singularity. I very much recommend you listen. As you need to begin somewhere in exploring Mezei's way, this is a great place to start!

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