Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Gábor Gadó – Laurent Blondiau: Veil and Quintessence (BMC RECORDS 2018)

When we met Gábor Gadó at the turn of the century, we were delighted by the profound musicality apparent in his quartet at the time, and in his collaborations with the singer Gábor Winand, as well as by the prospect of exploring the treasures welling up time and again, in a sustained rhythm initially on the BMC label. In addition, despite the brief parenthesis of a concert recorded in a quartet with David Liebman (Ungrund, 2011), when, ten years ago this phonographic spring seemed to dry up, listeners whose only access to Gábor Gadó’s work was via discs may have believed his activity had ceased.

Yet, in the quasi penumbra of these years without releases, Gábor Gadó has been working on an intense deepening of his language on stage, and also over a series of unpublished recordings. And while the last to appear, Byzantium (2007) and Lung-Gom-Pa (2008), suggested growing abstraction, the first lines of Weltraum on ‘Ungrund’ testify to a return to the fundamentals of Baroque music in the constant company of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. The pull of this aesthetic, made concrete in recent years in his collaboration with the composer and pianist Barnabás Dukay, has its resolution (not its dissolution) in this phonographic resurgence under the title ‘Veil and Quintessence’, another episode in the frenzied quest which is the source of Gábor Gadó’s music.

As he specifies in the explanatory notes, for him creation is not a voluntary act, but it begins in a state of trance, the music is not born ‘of music’ but ‘of an inner state, intimate, and flowing from a “root” idea, from a principle.’ Back in 2002, he declared: ‘My music is not narrative. It expresses abstractions and the structure comes to me before the melody.’ He then explained that he felt ‘physically invaded’ by the music. This is how the current album’s opening piece, Ombra adorata, was born: ‘This beautiful expression from the Spanish Basque thinker Miguel de Unamuno triggered the initial idea: the acceptance of the dark side of things, the duality between dark and light that merges into a single superior entity.’

This duality is incarnate in Laurent Blondiau (encountered Gábor Gadó as part of the group Unit in 2004), whose tone is at times very pure, almost celestial, evoking Kenny Wheeler, and at times ‘besmirched’ with jungle mute effects, recalling the trumpeting style of Ellington. Born in 1968, and trained at the Royal Conservatory in Brussels, he has had a wealth of experience ranging from modern jazz (at the desks of the Brussels Jazz Orchestra) to the legacy of Steve Coleman (transcended within the changing line-up of the group Octurn), passing to encounters with Gnawa musicians (leading Maäk’s Spirit) and the collaboration with Andy Emler’s MegaOctet which in France in 2009 brought him the European Prize from the Jazz Academy, previously awarded to Gábor Gadó in 2003.

Gadó, eleven years his senior, was trained in a school of choral singing and in the Kodály method, playing the guitar in popular dances, and went on to the study jazz at the Béla Bartók Conservatoire in Budapest. Though his guitar style, recognisable since the 1990s, has its roots in his listening to the Abercrombie-Metheny-Frisell generation, he has personalized it with a subtle, highly intimate relationship with modal traditions and tonal harmony, and more generally with the great artistic and spiritual traditions of Mitteleuropa and oriental mysticism.

Over the years, the importance of Bach has grown in his interior world of his imagination, where chromaticisms inherited from polytonal jazz of the 1970s ‘add spice to the Baroque severity.’ From one piece to another, or within one and the same piece, he appears to move with great stylistic unity from a folk, modal idiom to the harmonization of a Protestant chorale and to the fluid voice-leading typical of writing for the string quartet, in a symbiosis of the horizontal and the vertical, of the contradictory enticements of the ostinato and modulating harmony. In contrast to the clear lines of the trumpet is his way of dimming the apparent attack of his guitar to the sound of a chorale or a church organ. Because everything here is a prayer, a meditation, a vigil and contemplation in a sense the West has forgotten, a sense which its poets and thinkers have gone to seek in oriental mysticism, to throw off the veil covering the quintessence of existence and to reconcile shadow and light.

Franck Bergerot

01. Ombra adorata
02. Kenpo
03. Bunan-Icon
04. Veil and Quintessence
05. Ebène
06. Mahler – Strauss Memorial
07. Little Protestant Jazz Song
08. Sacre (short version)
09. Chanson
10. Anywhere out of the world – Conclusion Trinité (short version)