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Free It: Újbuda Jazz Festival 2014


  • Kollár Bálint

02/09/2014 2.00am

Soaring sounds blast unpredictably sonorously during the tenth-annual Újbuda Jazz Festival, starting this week as a coproduction of MU Theatre and the A38 Ship. Special jubilee concerts are happening at these two offbeat locales between September 2-7, representing some of the very best, most original, intriguing, and stunning acts of contemporary improvised jazz. Here is our guide to highlights of the forthcoming five days, along with an interview with festival organizer Sándor Kozlov.

When it comes to avant-garde or free jazz and live improvised music, the Újbuda Jazz Festival is something that fans shouldn't miss. The jubilee program focuses on female instrumentalists – including Reut Regev, Susana Santos Silva, and Sophie Agnel – but also represents the cream of the jazz scene in Hungary and Eastern Europe. Before we jump to the concerts, we sit down for a quick chat with Sándor Kozlov, one of the festival's organisers.

The Újbuda Jazz Festival turns ten this year – how did it evolve over the years?

Sándor Kozlov:

The Újbuda Jazz Festival started as an international jazz festival with a strong focus on improvised music, avant-garde, and free jazz. We still think that we have to represent the more experimental and free scene in jazz, rather than the mainstream. In Austria there are many festivals like Újbuda, such as the Konfrontationen in Nickelsdorf or the one in Saalfelden, but in Hungary Újbuda is almost the only internationally acclaimed free-jazz festival. One of the best free-jazz blogs ( has listed Újbuda as the only related event in Hungary. There are a few recurring acts, but also many new names coming to the festival, and the variety is very large. Just this year we have musicians from Sweden, Israel, Turkey, Russia, Poland, Austria, France, Portugal, and the United States. The aim of the festival is to keep being current, and not be influenced by short-term false trends.
What do you think about the Hungarian jazz scene?
Sándor Kozlov: I think there are Hungarian musicians playing jazz, and some of them are good, some are not as good, but we can't talk about a scene, like it is in Poland for example, at least internationally. There are some really good musicians from the older generation, like István Grencsó, Mihály Dresch, or the late György Szabados, and there is a great new generation of musicians like Lőrinc Barabás, Ernő Hock, Hunor G. Szabó, Mátyás Premecz, Máté Pozsár, or Péter Ajtai. The bands like Jü or 12z are representing the new wave of Hungarian experimental music, while the guys from the Wednesday Jazzaj nights are creating really important things in the scene. The trio Jü, for example, comprising Ernő Hock, András Halmos, and Adam Meszaros are to release their first record with Norwegian sax monster Kjetil Moster at RareNoise Records with the legendary Bill Laswell behind the mixing desk. Internationally, I think the most accomplished Hungarian musician is Balázs Pándi. He is at home not only in the free-jazz scene, playing with musicians like Mikolaj Trzaska, Mats Gustafsson, or Ivo Perelman, but he is also into noise, breakcore and doom jazz.

Photo: Sándor Kozlov

Were there any festivals you tried to emulate, like the jazz festival in Nickelsdorf?

Sándor Kozlov:

Konfrontationen in Nickelsdorf is a festival with a 35-year history and very sympathetic philosophy, but our aims are different. Konfrontationen is a festival with a strong Western-oriented lineup and almost no acts from Eastern Europe, like bordering Hungary, or a jazz heavyweight country like Poland. I think that it is very important to represent musicians from East as well, even if they are not so well known to the public. I like Konfrontationen, it is one of my favorite festivals in the region, but we want to be different.
What did you want to achieve while you were booking the lineup?

Sándor Kozlov:

The most important part was to create a lineup for different audiences. Unfortunately it is hard to target the attention of Hungarian jazz fans for all five days, so we had to diversify the program. We want to offer a very diverse and exciting lineup, and I think that we succeeded. I am really happy that each year we have more and more female musicians, a very rare attribute of this scene.

This year's lineup seems to be centered around female instrumentalists was this intentional?

Sándor Kozlov:

Well, partly yes and partly no. There is a tendency that more and more female musicians appear on the free-jazz scene, and not only as instrumentalists, but as leaders. And the most important thing is that they are really really good. Last year we had the all-girl band Selvhenter from Denmark, and they were the strongest act at the festival; they blew people’s heads off. I am sure that this year Susana Santos Silva, Reut Regev, Joelle Leandre, or Sophie Agnel will be the highlights of the festival.Program:09.02: Random Trip - Újbuda Jazz Festival Special @ A38 Ship, 20:00.
Free improvisation from some of the most talented Hungarian musicians. This time, the "band" will be fronted by Zita Gereben, an outstanding jazz vocalist.

Featuring the best local musicians from today’s vibrant Hungarian hip-hop/nu jazz/dub/d’n’b/rock scene, Random Trip is the perfect meeting point for all who love free, experimental music. It's not only about seeing your favorite guitarist or trumpeter playing something different, but also about discovering a new kind of joy, the happiness of not knowing what you will hear next. This time, they are cooking up something jazzier, adding an up-and-coming jazz vocalist, Zita Gereben, a talented trumpeter, Koós-Hutás Áron, and the MC of Irie Maffia, MC Kemon.09.03:

Mats Gustafsson & Didi Kern duo, Susana Santos Silva & Torbjörn Zetterberg duo, Soyut Boyut @ A38 Ship, 19:30.

Mats Gustafsson is one of the biggest names in free jazz, as he is the leader of bands like The Thing or Fire! Orchestra. He and his fellow partners will set the ship on fire with their burning, energetic take on jazz, progressive rock, and pop.

With his innovative saxophone playing, Gustafsson is constantly bursting the limits of the musical genres that we need to assign to music we have not encountered before.

Mats does not just renew saxophone expression, he reinvents it and creates new worlds of music between the tones and behind the noise. No matter where or with whom he plays, he always performs with a striking energy. This time, he will be performing with Didi Kern,

the human rhythm machine of Bulbul, Broken Heart Collector, Fuckhead, Wipeout, and Die Mäuse. Susana Santos Silva and Torbjörn Zetterberg already worked together on the CD, "Almost Tomorrow" – which is "highly recommended for fans of intimate avant-jazz dialogues", according to Free Jazz. We can expect nothing less than a deeply emotional and atmospheric concert from them.09.04: Grencsó Kollektíva feat. Lewis Jordan & Barabás Lőrinc, Reut Regev's R Time, Modal Jazz 5 @ A38 Ship, 19:30.
The doyen of the Hungarian avant-garde jazz scene, István Grencsó will play with his formation on this night along with alto saxophone master Lewis Jordan and trumpeter Lőrinc Barabás. The surprise of this night will be definitely a stunning female trombone-player and her trio, Reut Regev's R Time.

István Grencsó's free-music spirituality, his way of thinking independently of styles and fashions, his original way of composing, and his special attitude to his instruments make him one of the most important in his field in Hungary. Some of his most remarkable works are his compositions in which he reinterpreted the chansons, waltzes, and songs of the sixties. Reut Regev is one of Israel’s most creatively improvisational musicians, and the first Hungarian concert of her band will surely take your breath away.09.05:

Sophie Agnel & John Butcher & Albert Márkos trio, Franz Hautzinger & Julo Fujak & Zsolt Sőrés trio, Joelle Leandre @ MU Theatre, 19:00.
Fresh, but with a history, you could say, because the two trios already performed together – but the chemistry between them guarantees a memorable night.

John Butcher, Sophie Agnel, and Albert Márkos already worked together on the film score of I Am The Same, I Am Another, but this will be the first concert when they just improvise freely. The same can be said about the concert of the Julo Fujak-Zsolt Sőrés-Franz Hautzinger trio, aside from the fact that they have recorded a live album, four years ago. Highly original, poetic sound-based free improvisation.

Joëlle Léandre is one of the dominant figures of new European music – what he can do with his double bass will surely make your head spin.09.06: Orange The Juice, 1/2 Orchestra @ A38 Ship, 19:00.
"Like Fantomas playing jazz standards!" – said a critic about Orange The Juice, and if Mike Patton will ever form a jazz band from the ashes of Tomahawk, well, that would sound like they do.

1/2 Orchestra is a brass project from Moscow, Russia.

1/2 Orchestra plays 'new age brass' – an eclectic mix of jazz, techno, afrobeat, hip-hop, drum 'n' bass and funk. Aside from acoustic instruments, the musicians use analog stuff, effects and processors. Orange the Juice is a Polish band repeatedly awarded at national music contests, mainly for the ingenuity and creative originality of their iconoclastic sound.

AMP Trio, Róbert Benkő – Tamás Geröly – István Grencsó trio feat. Johannes Bauer @ MU Theatre, 20:00.
A relatively new trio, consisting of the members of the youngest generation of Hungarian jazz, and a special tribute to the memory of György Szabados, the greatest figure of the Hungarian free-jazz scene during the eighties and nineties.

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