“Play it loud!” is the entirety of the liner notes of this new collection from pianist Laszlo Gardony, the three words set in boldface type much larger than the credits that follow them. It’s an unusual command, to be sure, especially since Serious Play is a solo piano record. Why, the listener has to wonder, would the artist feel that cranking up the volume would allow us to better appreciate his musings on these seven original compositions and three covers, the first of which, “Georgia on My Mind,” is performed in a contemplative, rather subdued manner?
The request begins to make more sense as Serious Play unfolds. Gardony, the Hungarian-born pianist who’s resided in the United States for over three decades, revels in dynamics. Even on a song such as “Watchful Through the Night,” wistful and respectful of open spaces, the pianist enjoys juxtaposing the calm and the storm. The number exudes a semi-classical intricacy and intimacy, and Gardony relishes the control he can muster as sole musician by tagging its crescendos to well-placed lulls.