Djabe and Steve Hackett – When The Sound Turns Sweet – Thomas Jesse kritikája aól

Djabe, what a mysterious name… but it just means freedom. The jazz fusion band from Hungary, founded in 1995, took it from the African language family Akan, which is spoken in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. *1
The name says it all, because the Hungarians never wanted to set themselves narrow musical boundaries. Instead, they combine elements of jazz with prog, rock, pop and world music. This is where they meet the restless Steve Hackett, who also likes to be influenced by other cultures when composing his music. Steve’s extremely fruitful collaboration with Djabe came about in 1999 when founding band member Attila Egerhazi became responsible for the distribution of Steve’s albums in Hungary. *2
He organised Steve’s acoustic show in Budapest in 2002, which was released on DVD / CD under the title Hungarian Horizons. *3 A year later, Steve made his debut with Djabe on the album Tancolnak a Kazlak. The collaboration with Steve intensified in 2007 with a benefit concert, which was followed by an album with live recordings of the show. Since then, Steve has been touring with the band every summer, mainly through cities of the former Austro-Hungarian monarchy. In recent years, he has again taken the time to contribute to studio albums, sometimes on a few songs, sometimes on entire albums. Steve is even involved in every single released by the band. *4

Background / Album title / Design
It has now become a tradition that one recording from each Djabe & Steve Hackett tour is released on physical media. In this case, it is the show from the Filarmonica Banatul in Timisoara, Romania, from 20 June 2023 as part of The Journey Continues tour. *5
The songs played were mainly from the then current album Before. *6 These were combined with some solo pieces by Steve and Genesis classics.
The two CDs follow the dramaturgy of the show, which takes a break after around an hour. They are hidden in a cardboard sleeve containing photos of the concert, the musicians and short liner notes (including lines from Steve). The title of the album probably alludes to a song by the very young Genesis (when Steve was not yet a member of the band!). *7

The Band:
Steve Hackett: Guitars, Vocals, Harmonica
Tamas Barabas: Bass, Vocals, Guitars
Attila Egerhazi: Guitars, Vocals, Percussion
Peter Kaszas: Vocals, Drums
Aron Koos-Hutas: Flugelhorn, Trumpet
Zoltan Bubenyak: Keys

CD 1
Could Have Been, 7:48
The concert begins with hovering, hazy keyboard sounds as the band enters the stage. Drums, bass and solo trumpet immediately cast a spell over the listener with this funky, jazzy number from the album Before. The piece is crowned by a wonderful guitar solo by, no, Steve is not on stage yet, it’s Attila Egerhazi. Al di Meola, Eric Clapton, Weather Report and Brand X send their regards. Right from the start, it is clear that the trumpet is in charge. Before it gets too shrill, however, the band delights us with a marvellous jazz fiddle, in which the bass and keyboard stand out. After the chaos, we return to the melody warbled by the trumpet.

Before, 4:58
The title track of the current album delights us with vocals. An announcement by Tamas Barabas is followed by gentle sounds led by a warm bass. Peter Kaszas sings of beautiful days gone by and caresses his drums at the same time. He is accompanied by a delicate, restrained flugelhorn and smooth piano sounds. Zoltan Bubenyak’s short synth solo deserves a mention. It creates a Mediterranean feeling with a bar jazz touch that lets us take a deep breath.

Camino Royale, 10:02
There he comes on stage, Steve, while the band begins to play the familiar sounds of the song from Highly Strung. What else can the reviewer say about this live classic? It’s amazing how harmoniously the band plays, Steve shares his solos with Aron (who now plays a trumpet with a mute) *8 and Tamas supports Steve’s vocals with a slap-bass interlude. *9
Oh, that chorus! It’s amazing how clearly and distinctly Steve sings. He picks up the harmonica and the sound is now walking on jazz – blues – paths. What strange sounds does Aron play on his trumpet? The piece is a firework of musical ideas and interaction between the musicians. It shouldn’t really end. Unfortunately, it does after a breathtaking 10 minutes. Great!

Horizons, 3:15
Now it’s time to take a breath and listen to Steve Horizons celebrate. After a lengthy announcement from him, the show begins. This time he plays what feels like the 1099th version on the electric guitar. Light and easy, it sounds a little harder.

Buzzy Islands, 11:29
Steve’s favourite piece from Life Is A Journey is introduced by him. He talks about the creation process in Sardinia, which was like a holiday for him. Drums, percussion and slap bass encourage you to tap along. The trumpet solos. After what feels like an eternity, finally Steve’s solo. Wonderfully jazzy – light and a little quirky, it winds its way into the heights of the Sardinian mountains, getting faster and faster. Finally, Steve is replaced by Attila. His solo is in no way inferior to Steve’s. Keyboard and bass have another interlude. Yes, this is freedom, freedom to let the music develop and play, play. The Mahavishnu Orchestra greets us. Weather Report peeks round the corner. An absolute highlight of the album.

Ace Of Wands, 6:23
Wow, what do we have here? A fast number, the opener from Voyage oft the Acolyte, which Djabe really wanted to play. Aron picks up the flugelhorn and plays a duet with Steve, who lets his guitar sing. A wonderfully airy, detached version, which is very close to the original apart from the jazzy ending and trumpet excursions and only lacks the flute a little.

Franciska 5:39
This is followed by another, this time quiet piece by Before. Acoustic guitar and flugelhorn play a soft, soulful melody until Peter and Tamas begin to sing longingly as a duet. The drums are stroked with a broom. Finally, Steve’s guitar sobs, while Attila elicits sparkling arpeggios from his acoustic. The dreamlike love song is dedicated to Toma’s young daughter.

…In That Quiet Earth, 5:59
The Wind & Wuthering instrumental ends the first part of the show. There are countless (live) versions of this piece. Now another one by Djabe and Steve. Is it really needed? Well, that’s up to the listener to decide. Steve plucks a few notes on the guitar before the marvellous melody kicks in. Steve solos along to it, it’s a real joy. He probably couldn’t, wasn’t allowed to do it with Genesis. Of course, a trumpet solo, which allows the music to drift into jazz realms, is a must. It is taken over by the keyboard. It leads us back to the familiar melody. The pleasantness ends abruptly with light thunder.

CD 2
Central European Time, 7:25
The second part opens with a song from Before. We hear a relaxed, funky jazzy (oh, I’ve said that before…) number that the band plays without Steve. The wonderful bass work should be emphasised. The trumpet is only allowed to play with a mute, the keyboard is completely let loose. Finally, we hear a bass solo accompanied by a bubbling keyboard. Tamas shows us how well he masters the slap technique, Attila what a good guitarist he is. A great start to the second half of the concert.

Tale, 6:42
Steve enters the stage to give us a moment of peace. He and Attila greet us with gentle guitar arpeggios. Attila plays a beautiful, dreamy solo. It’s reminiscent of Steve’s work with Gandalf. *10 It’s so nice to hear Steve let Attila take the stage and stay in the background in a songful way. Again there is a remarkable solo on the bass. We drift along in the warm sun on the sea. The whole band tells us a story full of harmony and joy that slowly floats away. A dream of music.

Stars And Moonbeams, 7:38
A gentle keyboard picks up the harmonious calm of Tale. Peter’s melancholic vocals begin. The track from Before is reminiscent of Camel in the early days. A marvellous chorus, beautiful melodies, Steve’s guitar vocals and the flugelhorn create a Canterbury atmosphere. A song that is definitely suitable for the radio, which drifts slightly into proggy realms towards the end and is very enjoyable.

Hairless Heart, 2:32
Hairless Heart now opens the Genesis / Hackett excursion, which comprises five tracks. The music is close to the original. We hear the keyboard sounds accompanied by Steve’s soloing guitar. The drums pick up, the trumpet plays the melody, accompanied by an acoustic guitar. Steve leads the way with guitar scratching to …

Firth Of Fifth, 4:24
… The instrumental part with its cosmic solo is played as usual. If you’re not blown away now…

Carpet Crawlers, 5:12
The track was released as a single by Djabe and Steve Hackett. *11 It remains close to the original. You probably can’t add much to it either. Peter sings in a restrained, somewhat strained manner without any rough edges. A version that you honestly don’t need.

Last Train To Istanbul, 6:44
Far Eastern sounds thunder through the hall, Steve’s guitar sobs, his singing begins and we find ourselves on a train to Istanbul. The piece by Out Of The Tunnel’s Mouth is made for the musical quality of Djabe. This is where world music really meets jazz. Trumpet and guitar throw the balls at each other. Drums and bass underpin them with jazz escapades, accelerate the playing and let it end with a bang. The piece seems much more detached live than the studio version. It is the discovery of the album.

Los Endos, 9:26
A short pause, enjoy the applause and then play the finale. It is performed as usual from Steve’s live shows. The beginning with Steve’s escapades on the guitar, which then segues into the piece. The Steppes sound up and transform into instrumental chaos, stripped of trumpet and guitar and returning to the original Los Endos. A beautiful version that is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but makes this reviewer take off. Great.

Misty Blues, 7:57
A blues as an encore? Well, it starts with harmonica playing, which is picked up by a distorted guitar, until it really rocks to the blues rhythm. Steve masters the harmonica amazingly well. Even the trumpet remains in the shadows. But only until it screeches, whimpers and pleads with the audience. Well done, Aron! Steve finally lets his guitar follow. Tama’s bass is also allowed to solo once more, until the band comes to a jazzy, bluesy end with a few interludes. A relaxed, improvised rock number.

Bonus Tracks
The following two pieces were recorded on 19 June 2023 in the Richter Concert Hall in Györ. Special guests are Tibor Karvaly, violin and Csaaba Andras Dr Deszi, guitar.

Deja Vu, 4:43
An acoustic guitar opens, drums and bass join in, the trumpet sounds. The electric guitar takes over. A violin swirls for the last two minutes. A light, cheerful jazz rock song for a summer evening with wine, which is typical of Djabe.
The bass displaces the music and leads us to the finale:

Distant Dance, 1:40
A short treat that ties in seamlessly with Deja Vu. The bass leads into the song. Here the jazz really gets going again. A successful conclusion.

All in all
This live album is a well-done set. You get to hear beautiful songs between rock, jazz, prog and world music played wonderfully. In addition, well-known Genesis or Steve Hackett solo pieces sound in a fresh guise. Steve plays together with the fantastic musicians from Hungary in a relaxed, inspired and seemingly liberated manner. It seems as if he is on holiday from his duties as a former Genesis member. The album is recommended to all those who are not put off by jazzy excursions and trumpet solos. Steve Hackett enthusiasts will go for it. Genesis fans are advised to think, er, listen outside the box. They will discover a new star in the great Genesis universe, which incidentally shines with a well-balanced, beautiful sound.
One shortcoming is the choice of songs. The band delves into a worthwhile interpretation of the songs from Before, which are mixed with standards that have already been played and recorded in previous shows. If you own recordings of the previous live albums, you won’t necessarily need this album. But maybe the listeners will feel like Steve:
„It’s always fun to play with Djabe and great to see the guys again. Their hot playing this week in a giddy heatwave with excitable crowds made for a bunch of fantastic shows…” *12

Post script:
Anyone who is on holiday in Austria, Hungary or the Czech Republic this summer should keep an eye out for live dates with Djabe (with or without Steve). A visit to one of the concerts by the likeable Hungarians is highly recommended.

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