Djabe and Steve Hackett at the Budapest Jazz Club – Critiqe by Zenész Magazin

Critiqe by Zenész Magazin

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As one of the most prominent fusion jazz band of Hungary, Djabe performs more often abroad than at home. To strengthen the latter, the band gave a double gig at the Budapest Jazz Club.

Originally only one gig was organized but due to the large number of ticket orders another performance was scheduled after the one at 7 PM. Zenész Magazin attended the first concert, our impressions are about that one – I only mention this because some hardcore first line Djabe fans read the setlist for the 2nd gig and started to sound some concern about a few pieces being only played at that one. Djabe was appraised many times (with good reason), so I’ll only tell you about our impressions of the gig.

I’ve seen many Djabe live video records, mostly from the previous line-up. You should know that 2 of the founders (the 3rd one, András Sipos, sadly passed away in 2007), namely Attila Égerházi (guitar) and Tamás Barabás (bass guitar) had the courage to completely re-organize the band in 2016. Long-time members Ferenc Kovács (violin, trumpet), Zoltán Kovács (keyboards) and Szilárd Banai (drums) left and came the new guys: János Nagy (keyboards), Áron Koós-Hutás (trumpet) and Péter Kaszás (drums). These are not some unknown musicians: János Nagy is one of the greats of Hungarian Jazz with awards like Artisjus, eMeRTon and Erkel prizes, Áron Koós-Hutás also is an awarded trumpeter (he performed with Djabe before, in 2009 and 2010), and Péter Kaszás is an internationally well-known drummer nominated for Artisjus and Grammy, and the permanent member of the band of Al Di Meola.

The ‘guest star’ was Steve Hackett, guitarist for Genesis. He is more like a 6th member than a guest as he performs with Djabe for more than 10 years now and features on many of the band’s releases. I was curious how his progressive rock roots can fit into Djabe’s music, which started as a fusion genre with world music elements.

I don’t think the quality of the performance comes as a surprise. The reason for mentioning it is simply that sometimes local gigs can be somewhat unpleasant, technically speaking. Well, no such issue here. In the first third of the concert we listened to compositions from previous albums, including Steve Hackett and Genesis ones (In the Quiet Earth), then a track by Attila Égerházi (Reflection on Thiérache – made as a memoir for his father, the painter Imre Égerházi) was heard.

Going forward, the band played tracks from the album Life Is A Journey, co-created by Steve Hackett, with some extras by Steve, such as Fly On The Windshield and Firth of Fifth. The titular Life Is A Journey piece’s first few minutes was dominated by beautifully full surround choir bass, reciting vocal and a sordino trumpet, then we arrive at Hackett’s atmospheric sounds with some interesting effects and flow right to his great solo.

For a counterpoint, we follow with Buzzy Island, a more dynamic piece from the same album where after the trumpet improv of Áron Koós-Hutás we are teased by Hackett’s technique, then János Nagy makes the composition absolutely sweeping by a brilliant piano solo, launching the audience into a storm of applause. I must mention Castelsardo At Night, made unforgettable by Tamás Barabás’ bass play; I suspect he composed it too because of the characteristic and technical bass solo at the beginning built up the piece’s structure and floating atmosphere.

Two pieces composed by Steve Hackett (summoning the 70s) was performed together, and after a brief transition the exotic bamboo instruments ‘angklung’ came forward. Originated from Indonesia, these instruments need to be shaken to produce and have very different toning, so all the musicians need to be in sync with the rhythm and sounds to give an enjoyable performance; successfully, evidenced by the following applause. The night continued with two legendary Genesis pieces (Hairless Heart, Firth of Fifth) and with a real curiosity: composed by Tamás Barabás, lyrics written by Steve’s wife Jo, the Tears For Peace, vocalized by Hackett, bringing real magic on the narrow stage of BJC.

The closer, titled Los Endos, is a symphonic prog-rock chamber music version of the original Genesis piece, with brilliant trumpet and guitar play. There was no time for encore, the band needed to prepare for the next gig.

I felt the audience got what was expected. Although the music of Djabe and Hackett (and Genesis) are a bit far apart, with good instrumentalization and some genius solos all was pulled together.

The tasteful play of Steve Hackett should be mandatory material. He also fit right in to Djabe compositions with his adornments, riffs or background completing those. When it was time for a solo his Fernandez Gold Top Burny guitar (with a Floyd Rose tremolo) produced almost unearthly sounds and always played only as much was needed.

All musicians were equal to Steve Hackett as a partner, but I liked Tamás Barabás the most, who I think of as an exceptional bass player and artist good in any genre like classical, slap or hard rock. There was a perfect equilibrium of solos, background and ostinato themes and effects. I could feel that the full house of BJC wanted to listen some more Djabe; perfectly understandable after such great gig.

Those who go down memory lane to the progressive rock of the 70s were satisfied too with elements rearranged and filled with more modern sounding. I’m sure this setlist was hard to organize as it was a cornucopia of material; I think it was more about what to cut, not what to include. To be honest I feel most close to Djabe’s spacious, levitating pieces like Life Is A Journey and Castelsardo At Night and would enjoy much more like these. Good thing we have a Hungarian fusion jazz-rock band of this quality and musical level, making priceless music for years and, as I can tell, have a fine audience. It’s a thing to aspire for.


More photos on  Facebook page of Zenész Magazin

Photos: Gábor Sós

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