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September 2003

Laszlo Gardony
Ever Before Ever After
Sunnyside

Don't try these changes at home. On Laszlo Gardony's Ever Before Ever After (Sunnyside) we're dealing with some intellectual approaches to jazz that sound like the pianist (who went from the Bela Bartok Conservatory, in his native Budapest, to Berklee) had enrolled in Coltrane Meets Bartok 101. Those parameters essentially cover Gardony's background: a jazz natural steeped in classical music, very much at home in both music worlds, which translates to incredible technique spread over a highly personal harmonic language.

It can be heard immediately as Gardony's two-minute introduction, hinting at "Jeannine," evolves into "Satin Doll," which gives you insight into his reharmonizing talents, as well as the nonstop drive of drummer Yoron Israel and the Eddie Gomez-influenced bassist John Lockwood. On "Stella by Starlight" Gardony becomes increasingly complex with each chorus, as Israel and Lockwood anticipate and match every dynamic rise and fall of Gardony. So does the pianist's near-constant humming.

Not surprisingly, Coltrane's "Giant Steps" allows Gardony to wrap himself in the predictable "sheets of sound" at supersonic speed, but, surprisingly, as he builds toward the mother of all climactic choruses, he yields to Israel, who responds with his most intense drum solo. Gardony stays "outside" for "Mockingbird," which builds beautifully and allows Lockwood his finest moments.

Paradoxically, the easier-to-understand numbers, "Come With Me" and the title tune, are less interesting, due in part to Gardony's unexpected detours into the milieu of funk and gospel. How strange: when he doesn't intimidate, Gardony tends to sedate.

Originally published in September 2003
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