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Laszlo Gardony: La Marseillaise (Sunnyside)

A review of the Hungarian pianist's fourth album for Sunnyside

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Laszlo Gardony, La Marseillaise
The cover of La Marseillaise by Laszlo Gardony

The title of Laszlo Gardony’s second consecutive solo piano album and fourth overall for Sunnyside bears the same name as that of the French national anthem, the 18th-century call to revolution. Although the Hungarian musician—who has lived in the U.S. for more than three decades—doesn’t perform a straight reading of that familiar melody, which has found its way into dozens of other songs (including the opening bars of the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love”), it does form the basis of “Revolution,” his bold but markedly non-martial leadoff number on La Marseillaise.

Still, if the tune’s historical connections to war suggest that the whole of this record must be inspired by anger or upheaval or discontent, sorry, false alarm: La Marseillaise is just as often pastoral and fanciful. There’s even a cover of Erroll Garner’s “Misty,” hardly a song that suggests an imminent uprising. As he did on 2017’s Serious Play, Gardony relishes variety and thrives on a skillful navigation of dynamics.

The music here was recorded live at Berklee’s 2019 Keys Festival in Boston, where Gardony slid between moods and styles; from “Revolution” he moves seamlessly to a tender, cinematic take on the Neapolitan standard “O Sole Mio” that at times drifts so far from the core theme it verges on the blues. He touches on that genre again in Denny Zeitlin’s “Quiet Now” and, more directly, the original, set-closing “Bourbon Street Boogie.” But again he doesn’t stay in one place very long: The improvised “Four Notes Given” (the audience suggested which four notes, Gardony took it from there) and “On the Spot” are bright and majestic examples of on-the-fly creativity at its most developed.

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Jeff Tamarkin

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Jeff Tamarkin is the former editor of Goldmine, CMJ, Relix, and Global Rhythm. As a writer he has contributed to the New York Daily News, JazzTimes, Boston Phoenix, Harp, Mojo, Newsday, Billboard, and many other publications. He is the author of the book Got a Revolution: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane and has contributed to The Guinness Companion to Popular Music, All Music Guide, and several other encyclopedias. He has also served as a consultant to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, NARAS, National Geographic Online, and Music Club Records.