Bloody brilliant. That’s it. Can’t think of anything that describes last night any better than that. Bloody brilliant.
Booking tickets for a gig online is quite the challenge when your Hungarian is a good as mine. I never quite know what I’m getting so I hazard a guess. I booked platinum passes for this weekend’s Get Closer jazz festival figuring they were mid-range price-wise and should be okay. I was sure we’d be standing by the stage. Instead we were upstairs, second row balcony.
We went to the wrong venue (my bad) but had plenty of time in hand to find the right one (my good). A first time for me to be in the lovely mOmKult. We were in the first twenty or so to arrive shortly after 6 pm and when the first of four groups lined up took to the stage, I was a little dubious about how long I’d last before falling asleep. I’m not all that into improvisation and it seemed to my uneducated ear that the drummer in the Chris Devil Trio was just a tad too into what he was doing and the other two lads weren’t getting a look-in at all. Add that to the rig-out the guitarist was wearing… talk about a distraction! But hey, others were clapping so it was obviously just me.
Second up, after some delay, was Csaba Tóth Bagi and the Balkan Union. The crowd had gotten a little bigger and the atmosphere was starting to warm up. Csaba was born in Serbia and looks a little Hawaiian. He has a voice that belongs to an old soul. Amazing. Reading up on him, it seems as if the world has been watching him for years. His name is bandied about in the same sentences as the likes of Ennio Morricone, Al Di Meola, and Butch Thomas. An impressive performance and one I’d happily see again, and again. Together, the four lads looked more like a country and western band than a jazz quartet – so much for appearances. Each one of them was as talented as the next. A stunning performance. Will definitely be keeping an eye out for them.
I commented to BF that if the line-up kept improving exponentially, we were in for a treat. We were running about 45 minutes late at this stage. Band No. 3 never appeared. But the place was filling up – still nowhere near full – but filling. It was later still before the headline trio made their appearance, the ones I’d come to see. The GFS Trio.
With Indian Trilok Gurtu on percussion, Italian Paolo Fresu on trumpet and flugelhorn, and Cuban Omar Sosa on piano – it was gobsmackingly brilliant to watch. Gurtu is simply amazing on percussion – what he does with a tin bucket of water defies belief. Fresu, looking like a cross between Ireland’s Eamon Dunphy and Seinfeld’s Cosmo, ties himself into fantastic contortions as he becomes one with his horns. And Sosa takes playing the piano to a whole new level – he had four keyboards in front of him and was playing two together most of the time. They seem to play Budapest every year so next year is already in the diary.
This gig is the first of what promises to be a summer of gigs. Next up is a broadway celebration on Friday. Then May starts with Manhattan Transfer at Mupa and ends with the musical Cabaret. June is US jazz great Stacey Kent playing outdoors down on Margit Sziget (Margaret Island). July is VeszprémFest with Lisa Stansfield on Friday and Jamie Cullum on Saturday, both outdoor gigs. Am also hoping we get to see Les Miserables down in Szeged. And then there’s Roisin Murphy and Kodaline playing Sziget on 13 August. I’ve never before been so organised.
After last night’s performance, I’m grateful that Budapest attracts so many good musicians and that their gigs are affordable and often in spectacular settings. Roll on the summer – this time, I’m ready.