Laszlo Gardony, 'Life In Real Time,' Sunnyside Records (REVIEW)
Hungarian pianist/composer Laszlo Gardony, known for 25 years as a solo and a trio leader, has raised his own bar by raiding Boston's Berklee College Of Music where he teaches for some fellow faculty members to make Life In Real Time his first sextet session (to which, all I can say is, wow). Adding three wildman sax blowers as a frontline to his cherished trio with bassist John Lockwood and drummer Yoron Israel has resulted in a party so intense, you have to step back and marvel when silence greets you at CD's end. Until then, though, the listener is so busy with the non-stop action on display, there's no time for cognitive analysis.
The three newcomers? Bill Pierce's real education was as sax man in Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers. Blakey, whose band has been a training ground for three generations of stars, once called Pierce "my best tenor player since Wayne Shorter." High praise, indeed. Stan Strickland is known around Berklee as an actor, singer, art therapist and, oh yeah, sax man. He suggested #3, Don Braden, who proved himself on sax in the bands of Wynton Marsalis, Freddie Hubbard and Tony Williams. You don't blow sax with those three legends unless you're close to genius.
Six Gardony originals span the gamut of emotion from the Louisiana-inspired "Bourbon Street Boogie" to the West African-derived "New Song" featuring Strickland's bass clarinet. Two covers, though, prove to be the highlights due to what the sextet does to their inner workings. Gardony had the Richie Havens 1969 Woodstock performance of the traditional "Motherless Child" in mind when he arranged this beauty. George Shearing is smiling out there somewhere at his "Lullaby Of Birdland" being turned inside-out before, as Gardony says, "the melody crystallizes at the end." (You might hear it five or six times, though, before recognizing it.)
Gardony graduated from the Bela Bartok Conservatory and the Science University of Budapest before being granted a full scholarship to Berklee where he promptly graduated and became a professor. The Legend of Tsumi on Antilles Records-with bassist Dave Holland and drummer Bob Moses-brought him national recognition in 1989. He's been with his current trio since 2003. An ardent exemplar of academia, the only question is whether Gardony would even consider taking this six-spot of excitement on the road.