The Berklee College of Music in Boston is a prestigious institution, well known in jazz circles. Many artists have been there as students or instructors. It’s also a venue for live music. Laszlo Gardony’s Life in Real Time (Sunnyside Records, 2015) was recorded in September 2014 at the Berklee Performance Center.
Gardony, a pianist, is accompanied by drummer Yoron Israel, bassist John Lockwood, and a trio of saxophonists: Stan Strickland, Don Braden and Bill Pierce.
“Bourbon Street Boogie” is aptly named. The song has a brassy, New Orleans vibe. The saxophones lead the melody, with two harmonizing and a third offering fills to give it a hint of Dixieland. Pierce and Braden stretch out plenty, each putting his instrument through some frantic paces. Gardony gets a turn as well. From start to finish, the band gets the listener engaged, playing with an attitude of, “Let’s just get out there and enjoy ourselves.”
Gardony and company do a fine update of “Lullaby of Birdland.” After the saxes carry the melody, the song shifts to a long interlude. Braden takes off. At times, he hints at the main theme, but mostly he plays freely. Some notes are smooth, while others are delivered with a throaty growl. Gardony’s solo is brief by comparison.
The band mellows out for the traditional piece, “Motherless Child.” Strickland plays bass clarinet for this one, giving the sound more depth. Rather than play as a unit, the reed musicians go in different directions, with one sax carrying the lead, another playing background and Strickland with fills. Pierce adds some intensity during his solo, but Gardony brings it back down when it’s his turn. Israel’s cymbal splashes add a nice touch.
Life in Real Time is Gardony’s first sextet session, although he has performed and recorded previously in smaller formats. Born in Hungary, he developed aptitude for piano as a child. At the age of 5, he began improvising tunes that were inspired by blues, pop and classical music he had heard at home. Over the years, he would be influenced by progressive rock, classical, gospel and eventually jazz. After graduating from the Bela Bartok Conservatory and the Science University of Budapest, Gardony became one of Europe’s most sought-after pianists. A full scholarship to Berklee brought him to the United States in 1983, and a faculty position there kept him stateside.
Gardony composed all but two tracks of Life in Real Time.