Monday, December 13, 2021

Viktor Haraszti / EQUANIMITY: A Futuristic Jazz Tale (December 2021 VIO music)

Viktor Haraszti is a Hungarian-born, Holland-based musician, sax player, multi- instrumentalist, producer, and sound engineer. Hitting his first notes behind the piano as a seven-year-old, he later picked up the clarinet at age 11. Seven years later, he got his first diploma at the famous Bela Bartok Conservatory in Budapest.

Influenced by a visit to Fats Domino's Budapest concert in the late '80s, the Rock & Roll set off his passion and inspired him to pick up the saxophone right after graduation. Learning the traditions of Rhythm & Blues and playing with different local bands helped him to develop his interest in jazz. Discovering Parker, Miles, and Coltrane's works while he was working at the music library made him set his direction in music. Fast forward to 2005 when he graduates cum laude at Utrecht Conservatory, the Netherlands. Traveling and working with international acts in Africa, Portugal, and Brazil, helped him to combine his roots and develop a multicultural insight into his works as a musician and composer.

In the latest years, Viktor created ViOmusic, his creative platform, and a future record label. In 2018, as a musician bandleader of ViO, he released four singles (EP) that were internationally well recognized as an innovative project. The EP was recorded live in virtual reality, ViO 360° LIVE, was a collaboration with renowned Dutch musicians, Remco van der Sluis (Jan Akkerman band) - drums, Taco Nieuwnhuizen - bass, Edgaar van Asselt (Jorge Vistel) - Key's. The project acclaimed 3rd place on the 7 Virtual Jazz Club Contest's social media round and received good international reviews.

Equanimity is a one-man project. Viktor took care of the compositions, performance, and production. The album transcends the experimental approach and conveys the repertory toward the electronic and futuristic style, with deep melodies combined with sonic elements, and progressive fusion of rhythms.

With renowned drummer Dave King (The Bad Plus) on board and the lyricist, singer/ songwriter Lisa Mari Simmons, Equanimity expresses the duality (chaos/surviving) in disordered times and unfolds a personal journey (chapter by chapter), to reach the climax and finally an enigmatic conclusion.

''Equanimity expresses my duality (chaos/surviving) in disordered times and unfolds a personal journey (chapter by chapter), to reach the climax and finally an enigmatic conclusion.'' (Viktor Haraszti)

Equanimity started as a feeling, not a song or an album concept. The year was 2019, away before the pandemic, and Viktor had a kind of vision of a man who was facing an extreme, catastrophic circumstance, without losing his mind, that feeling of being in balance caught him. He got fascinated by the question: How do we keep peace of mind when the world around us seems to be turned upside down? What kind of state of mind helps people to not give up (and go further)? Viktor thought that there was something to be discovered behind that vision, that feeling. His intuition told him: “it worth to investigate musically and visually your emotions around this view”.
Following his intuition, Viktor ended up in Belgium, precisely in Doel, a "lost" city. The feeling of a catastrophic circumstance led him to that empty city. Abandoned streets, ruins, and graffiti, a kind of apocalyptic atmosphere that translated his view into reality. That experience sounds to him like writing a book because he was exploring the location where he would place his plot. Every single detail in that city gave him the inputs to develop his research. However, the atmosphere was not captured by the words, but through the lens of the photo camera and the photoshoots done there. In this case, the photoshoot was the research. Those pictures turned into the CD cover, before even having one single song written. Then, the project starts from the end.

During his composition process, the world slowly changed. That catastrophic view in his mind became in some way real and then Equanimity was shaped through a mix of intuition and a lack of perspective about the future. He decided to turn the feeling experienced into music, having the lost city view (the end of the world) as a background. Viktor was isolated, then the project became a one-man project (without a fixed band). Meeting online was common, then the guests collaborated also online. The beauty was out of the news, then mixing poetry and jazz seemed to be appropriate.

The concept of Equanimity was built as a storytelling book, where the feeling (and view) was developed via an uncertain approach. Therefore, all kinds of unconventional instrumentations were set as a challenging puzzle. That was a way to figure out how to deal with the unexpected context and the outcome is not one (or a couple of) songs, instead, it was created a Jazz Tale, in musical terms. This is not an easy concept to develop an album, but what is Equanimity if not our daily challenge to keeping our balance in adverse situations.

Innovation is part of Viktor and the whole ViO project, and since jazz music has always been stretching boundaries, Viktor wanted to extend his performance and soundscape in the best possible way. In Equanimity, he used VST synthesizer, instrument setups in multitrack mode, layering a lot of sounds and playing them all, simultaneously. He also performed on his beloved EWI 4000s, which he thinks is a hugely underrated and often wrongly interpreted instrument. These instruments combined with traditional acoustic instruments (saxophone, clarinet, flute, bansuri) are all present in Equanimity.

Equanimity brings collaboration with some special musicians, the social distance was not a hurdle, the online solutions created space for creativity. Equanimity brought to Viktor the chance to collaborate with Dave King, as a big fan of The Bad Plus, that was a special moment in the album: “Dave is an amazing drummer and having him improvising and grooving with me was a kind of magical moment.” (Viktor Haraszti).

Besides the groove added by Dave, Lisa Marie Simmons shared her powerful voice and deep thoughts with Viktor. She brought poetry and mystery to the composition, besides a Shakespearean touch to the chapters. Last, but not least, Marshall Curtley played finger drums, completely ahead of his time, Marshall’s collaboration is avant-garde and the duet between finger drums and EWI is just unique.

The album holds no individual track titles. It is composed in a very organic way. The idea was never to write separate songs but more like one tale composition. To give a clear idea that all tracks are connected, then it was decided to use the terms from the literature.
Following the literature style, the Intro sets the tone and the mood of the recording, it is a kind of ''once upon a time'' translate into a song. The string arrangements can make a deep impression in a second, and a synthesizer pad is an emulation to create the vibe.

Chapter One presents the first performance of Lisa Marie Simmons as setting the main quote of the whole recording. ''everything comes, everything goes''. In this arrangement, the saxophone plays against the odds of sonic elements and a backing section. It is just like in the fairy tales when in disorienting times, the Hero arrives, and “he” needs to find his way out to deal with the first challenge.

Chapter Two is a continuation with more intriguing instruments: drums and clarinet are looking for connection in the peace. The track holds a duet with Dave King, renewed drummer of The Bad Plus. Viktor Haraszti on the clarinet and the TC-performer - a touch-sensitive synthesizer without keys on the iPad.

Chapter Three is a turning point in the arrangement and, new electric instruments are introduced, especially the EWI (electric wind instrument). The EWI collaborates with the finger drum pad, played by Marshall Curtly. The track has yet Lisa Marie Simmons's performance. Lisa wrote a poem that mainly addresses the current worldwide happenings, and it has a deep meaning with a Shakespearian hook.

Chapter Four holds Lisa Marie Simmons's second poem, Equanimity. Performed by her accompanied by Viktor Haraszti on the bansuri flute and the synthesizers. ''Everything comes, everything goes''. This quote is the main subject of the poem. The arrangement tries to refer to eastern philosophy and spirituality. This chapter creates the foreplay to Chapter Five.
Chapter Five is a continuation of the previous track, the saxophone and EWI play's a duet. Marshall Curtly plays on electric drums and shakers. The melody has a bit of an eastern vibe but rhythmically is very compact and more western. Both instruments have a solo moment, the EWI in the middle and the saxophone towards the end. That is the music turning point, and the band fades out to give space to the acoustic instruments.

Chapter Six is a sonic composition, and it has no form or melody. It is an improvisation with both, saxophone and keys, they play on top of the backing section of the horns. Accompanied by the TC-Performer's ambiance. It glues together Chapters Five and Seven.

Chapter Seven is where all comes. Voice and instruments. The music builds up and reaches the highest peak of the album that resolute towards the Epilogue, the classic end in the literature.

Epilogue (for Blue) is a short improvisation set, the final tone. The song is played on a loop machine and saxophone, a small composition that is practically impossible to play in the same way again. It symbolizes our uniqueness as living beings. The song, or the improvisation, came up after a tragic loss experience and the melody is a way to honor that circumstance, unfortunately, many people for different reasons faced tough moments over 2020/21. The Epilogue is special because is based on personal moments, and it gives Equanimity a real-life experience perspective.

In the end, Equanimity has an autobiographical touch and plays around finding out peace of mind in our chaotic and hard world. Like life, this album is unpredictable, mystery and difficult to classify or define in a music style. The best way to figure the CD out is through listening to it chapter by chapter.

Viktor Haraszti (ViO) - Tenor Saxophone, EWI, Clarinet, Flute, Bansuri, Key's, TC- Performer, Vocal

Dave King - drums, on Chapter Two
Marshall Curtly - finger drums, on Chapter Three & Chapter Four, electric drums & shakers, on Chapter Five
Lisa Marie Simmons - spoken word, on Chapter One, Three & Four

All compositions written and produced by Viktor Haraszti

©Lyrics written by Lisa Marie Simmons

Recorded, Mixed & Mastered @ ViOmusic by Viktor Haraszti Cover Photo by Balazs Szucs

Cover Photo by Balazs Szucs ©

The album comes out on December 12th, 2021 (worldwide available)