Primary Instrument: Piano
Laszlo Gardony is a critically acclaimed artist who has brought his soulful improvisations and compositions to audiences in 24 countries. Winner of the Great American Jazz Piano Competition, Gardony has been called “a pianist worthy of praise within the highest pantheon of performers” by JazzReview.com and “a great pianist” by Dave Brubeck.
He has released ten albums, leading groups that included Dave Holland, Miroslav Vitous, Mick Goodrick, Yoron Israel, John Lockwood, Jamey Haddad and Stan Strickland among others.
His new CD, “Clarity” - an inspired solo piano recording - was released on May 7, 2013
Gardony has been praised for his “fluid pianism” by The New York Times and for his “uniformly high quality of compositions” by All About Jazz Magazine. JazzTimes has called him “one of contemporary music’s truly original voices.” and “a formidable soloist who lives in the moment.”
As a sideman, Gardony recorded and toured extensively with Yoron Israel's High Standards Quartet and with Matt Glaser's Wayfaring Strangers. He has performed with the David “Fathead” Newman Quintet at numerous jazz festivals. Randy Brecker, Dave Liebman and John Blake appeared as guest soloists with his group.
Gardony has been featured with the Boston Pops, the Utah Symphony and The Smithsonian Institute’s “Beyond Category” Traveling Duke Ellington Exhibit.
He appeared live and on record with vocalist, Shelley Neill's group and with guitarist, Garrison Fewell's quartet. He has performed with the Eddie Gomez Quintet and the Marco Pignataro Jazzet. Gardony was also commissioned to arrange his original compositions for The Danish Radio Big Band.
Laszlo has been living in Boston for the past twenty five years, where he is a Professor of Piano at Berklee College of Music.
Sunnyside Records' press release introduces Laszlo Gardony’s new CD Clarity as follows:
Pianist Laszlo Gardony Takes An Enthralling Journey with Clarity, An Emotionally Taut Solo Album Recorded In One Continuous, Inspired Session
Great improvisers combine probing intellect with keen emotional sensitivity. Boston pianist Laszlo Gardony displays the head and heart of a jazz master on his breathtaking new solo recital Clarity, a soul-bearing album full of rhythmic variety, melodic discovery and an abundance of grace. Slated for release on May 7, 2013 by Sunnyside, the CD arrives two decades after Gardony’s acclaimed Sunnyside debut Changing Standards, the album that established him as one of jazz’s foremost practitioners of the solo piano format.
More than a gifted improviser, Gardony is a cagey musical architect who understands that “shape is paramount. Without shape, regardless of what you create in your solo piano playing, it’s not going to connect. On Clarity I created these 10 short stories building on each other and I naturally pause between them. The idea is to transcend the sense that here is a pianist and here is a listener. It’s more of a joint journey.”
A longtime professor at Berklee College of Music, Gardony has spent much of his career in the company of jazz’s most formidable artists, including his long running band with John Lockwood and Yoron Israel, and entrancing trio sessions with Dave Holland, Bob Moses, and Miroslav Vitous. Always open to exploring new musical territory, he’s also performed and recorded widely with the Wayfaring Strangers, violinist Matt Glaser’s ingenious old-time jazz project. But Gardony is at his most unfettered alone at the piano, where he often records long sessions of spontaneous composition for his own edification.
On a brisk fall morning in 2012, feeling inspired and brimming with inchoate emotions over the recent passing of his parents, he started a digital recorder, sat at the bench and promptly lost himself in an extended session of searching improvisation. Afterwards, suspecting that he had reached some new place, he set the music aside to give himself some perspective. When he listened to the session several months later he found that he had indeed captured a powerfully coherent, deeply personal and startlingly beautiful cathartic journey. He retrospectively titled the 10 pieces to offer signposts to listeners, as in a guided meditation, but the music’s wondrously balanced ebb and flow speaks for itself, singing a song of bountiful life.
“I always find a title that feels poetic or playfully alludes to the mood or meaning of the tune.” Gardony says. “In this case I felt it would be more appropriate to describe what was happening in my system, going through these stages after losing my parents. None of this came to me when I was playing. It was a very joyful, expansive but introspective session. I sat down, felt really inspired, and one tune led to another.”
The album flows with an internal emotional logic, opening with the stately, gently insistent “Settling of a Racing Mind.” “Working Through” sounds like a lost treasure from the Lennon/McCartney songbook, circa Abbey Road, while the ethereally winsome “Opened Window (Hopeful Horizon)” feels laden with promise. “Resilient Joy,” an expansive, ebullient dance in a green field, displays Gardony’s gift for sturdy, folk-like melodies. Clarity closes with “Resolution (Perfect Place),” beatific melody suffused with a well-earned sense of peace.
Born in Hungary, Gardony showed an early aptitude on the piano (the cover photo captures him at three years old, already looking intent and rhapsodic). He wasn’t much older when he started improvising, devising little tunes inspired by the blues, pop and classical music he heard around the house. Immersed in the European classical tradition while growing up, he was drawn to progressive rock as a teenager, and spent countless hours improvising blues-based music at the piano. He investigated gospel and studied jazz, a passion that soon overshadowed his classical pursuits. “We had jazz and African music classes at the Conservatory,” Gardony recalls. “There were some very knowledgeable people and a lot of records. When it came to jazz it was a tiny community, but very inspiring.”
After graduating from the Bela Bartok Conservatory and the Science University of Budapest, he became one of Europe’s most sought after accompanists, and released his first albums as a leader. Possessing a powerful sense of swing, a strong feel for the blues and a firm command of post-bop vocabulary, he gained invaluable insight by sharing festival stages with acts like Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and Abdullah Ibrahim. After several years on the road, Gardony decided he needed to deepen his knowledge of jazz.
A full scholarship to Berklee brought him to America in 1983, and a faculty position at the school upon graduation kept him stateside. He made his US recording debut with the acclaimed 1988 album The Secret (Antilles) featuring Czech bass great Miroslav Vitous and drummer Ian Froman, but it was his 1st place win the following year at the Great American Jazz Piano Competition that catapulted him into the national spotlight.
He seized the moment with 1989’s brilliant release The Legend of Tsumi (Antilles), a trio session with bassist Dave Holland and drummer Bob Moses focusing on Gardony’s finely wrought original compositions. The album earned rave reviews. Scott Yanow wrote in the All Music Guide, “the most impressive aspect of this performance is how the pianist totally integrates his playing with that of his sidemen…so they speak in one unified voice.”
He’s collaborated with saxophone greats like David “Fathead” Newman and Dave Liebman, but his subtle and rhythmically intricate pianism has meshed particularly well with jazz’s most inventive guitarists. Over the years he’s performed with Mick Goodrick, John Abercrombie, John Scofield, Mike Stern and Garrison Fewell. “Being with Dave and Miroslav was such an education,” Gardony says. “If you really immerse yourself in those moments, it can change you, whether it’s one concert or a week-long gig. If you’re really present, amazing transferences and exchanges can happen.”
His primary vehicle for the past decade has been his state-of-the-art trio with bassist John Lockwood and drummer Yoron Israel, an ensemble first documented on the 2003 Sunnyside release Ever Before Ever After. One of the finest working bands in jazz, the group performs and records regularly, exploring Gardony’s extensive book of original pieces as well as the occasional standard and jazz classics by the likes of Horace Silver and Billy Strayhorn. Gardony augments the trio’s latest release, 2011’s beautifully textured tribute to jazz’s African roots Signature Time (Sunnyside), with Stan Strickland on saxophone.
“It’s heaven playing with such great musicians,” Gardony says. “John and Yoron hear the music around them so well. If I give them charts they immediately understand what I’m trying to do. People think it’s a great career move to do projects. You do something and then you move on. But all of my heroes in rock or jazz, Coltrane or Pink Floyd, created in the context of a great band.”
No band has stretched Gardony more than The Wayfaring Strangers. A long-time fan of Gardony’s who credits the pianist’s first solo album Changing Standards with opening his ears to modern jazz, violinist Matt Glaser initially recruited him to perform on one track of 2001’s Shifting Sands of Time (Rounder), contributing a haunting solo to Ralph Stanley’s elemental rendition of “Man of Constant Sorrow.” By the release the project’s second album, 2003’s This Train (Rounder), Gardony was an essential member of the ensemble. The group continues to perform, exploring its singular synthesis of bluegrass, Appalachian roots music, and jazz. Like every other profound musical experience under his belt, some of the Wayfaring Strangers has shaped Gardony’s expression in straight ahead contexts.
“Playing with Matt and people like Tony Trischka you learn so much about American folk and Appalachian music,” Gardony says. “I’ve developed such reverence and love for it. There’s an immediacy, intimacy and intensity when you hear folk musicians playing for each other. It’s definitely influenced my music making.”
There’s no mistaking the music on Clarity for anything but 21st century jazz, but the frank immediacy of Gardony’s solo playing brings to mind that Thelonious Monk once told Bob Dylan, “we all play folk music.”
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Laszlo continues to tour and record, attracting new fans and earning critical acclaim for his synthesis of many musical sources and for creating a joyous, humorous, insightful, and open spirited music.
Laszlo Gardony is a New England Foundation for the Arts Touring Roster artist. NEFA provides up to 50% of musician fees when his trio is presented by a non-profit organization in five New England states (not in MA) . For more information please visit Laszlo Gardony’s page at NEFA’s Matchbook.org
Awards:First Prize, Great American Jazz Piano Competition
LASZLO GARDONY: SIGNATURE TIME (Sunnyside)
According to his liner notes, pianist Laszlo Gardony'sSignature Time is a tribute to all African-inspired sound. It's a tribute that recognizes the centrality of African music in so many contemporary genres, showing this recognition in the creation of some fine original music and the reworking of some classic songs.
Gardony was born in Hungary but has been resident in the USA for some years. He's a professor of piano at Berklee and has worked with Dave Holland, Randy Brecker and Miroslav Vitous, among others. The core trio of Gardony, bassist John Lockwood and drummer Yoron Israel has been together for almost a decade. Tenor saxophonistStan Strickland, Gardony's old friend and collaborator, adds some tellingly effective horn playing as well as an evocative wordless vocal on Spirit Dance.
The band is at its most upbeat on Bourbon Street Boogie, a 20-bar blues that gives Strickland some space to blow, but it's the two most laidback tunes that show the musicians' talents off to best effect. Silent Words is a wonderfully gentle piece of music. The trio is controlled, concise, economical, yet manages to invest the seemingly simple and repetitive tune with great humanity and beauty. Under The Sky combines Gardony's piano with Israel's vibraharp to create another placid, reflective and beautiful tune.
Gardony also has an imaginative way with cover versions. Billy Strayhorn's Johnny Come Lately gets a bop-flavored treatment with Lockwood's solid pulse and Israel's swinging percussion giving Gardony and Strickland a strong center around which they create flowing and lyrical lines. Lennon and McCartney's Lady Madonna sounds rather unimaginative by comparison - in stark contrast to the band's reinterpretation of Eleanor Rigby. Gardony keeps this song's melody at the center of his arrangement, but Lockwood and Gardony's bass line gives the tune a hypnotic and dark pulse while Israel's jagged, funky drumming could almost be classed as a second lead line. Sir George Shearing's Lullaby Of Birdland gets a similarly creative reworking - Lockwood's bass riff once again at the heart of the music as Gardony and Israel set up a slinky and relaxed groove.
Signature Time has style, imagination and beauty, both on Gardony's original compositions and on his imaginatively reworked versions of standards. The album enhances the reputation of every one of the musicians and re-affirms the talents of Gardony himself. - BRUCE LINDSAY
BUFFALO NEWS June 3, 2011
LASZLO GARDONY: SIGNATURE TIME Gardony is a pianist from Hungary who came to America uncertain of his jazz future, made a trio disc with Jack DeJohnette and never looked back. On this deceptively idiosyncratic disc, which Gardony says, is an acknowledgment of how many genres ... draw upon the African musical heritage, you might well wonder, without hearing it, what the devil the Beatles' Lady Madonna and Eleanor Rigby and Shearing's Lullaby of Birdland are doing on a disc with such a program? The only solution is to listen and find out. What Gardony is doing here is finding a full, rich, explosive and wild life for his left hand to exult rhythmically in riffs, while his right hand dances in melodic rituals and improvises joyously. Imagine those great old Ramsey Lewis hits turned into something vastly more inventive and celebratory of music itself and you've got some idea of what's so good about most of this. Stan Strickland joins Gardony's long-tenured trio (with bassist John Lockwood and drummer Yoron Israel) on tenor on some tunes. It's Gardony's simplicity, though, here which makes this such a commanding trio disc by one of our most interesting pianists. (JEFF SIMON)
GLOBAL RHYTHM MAGAZINE November 2006 Laszlo Gardony Trio “Natural Instinct” (Sunnyside 4003)
Joined by drummer Yoron Israel and bassist John Lockwood, Hungarian-born pianist/composer Gardony performs original compositions and arrangements on this intimate, jazz piano trio album. If jazz piano recordings make your world go around, this will be spinning in your player for quite some time. Gardony's resume precedes him: He's Professor of Piano at Berklee College of Music, has released over a half dozen albums as a bandleader, and has performed in 22 countries. He's also won numerous awards and worked with Dave Liebman, John Abercrombie, David Fathead Newman, Freddie Hubbard, John Blake Jr., Joe Lovano, Randy Brecker and many others. The tight interplay amongst Gardony, Lockwood and Israel is impressive, and careful listening reveals numerous subtleties of rhythm and arrangement. There's hardly an iota of ”world music here as most would understand that phrase, but it is a great American-derived jazz trio outing. - ROBERT KAYE
ALL ABOUT JAZZ, December, 2006 Laszlo Gardony : Natural Instinct (Sunnyside)
Who said those who can't do teach? It's not necessarily true, as some of the best jazz musicians can be found hiding out in institutions of higher learning. Laszlo Gardony is a case in point: Hungarian-born and Boston-bred (he attended Berklee School of Music), the classically trained pianist/composer has been nurturing the creative talents of jazz' next generation for some years now. His latest release, Natural Instinct, features drummer Yoron Israel and fellow Beantowner John Lockwood, a bassist best known for his work with The Fringe (one of free jazz' best kept secrets). The disc contains a mix of original tunes and covers, the latter rendered with Gardony's subtle yet signature reharmonizations and melodic embellishments. The pianist's chops are flawless, making his complex rhythmic permutations and fleet lyricism sound effortless and off-the-cuff. Never overplaying, Gardony offers up short and succinctly constructed solos that serve the tunes. Drummer Israel is the consummate accompanist, generously supporting the pianist with an understated eloquence that, ironically, makes it easy to understand why he may be one of the most underrated drummers in the biz. Lockwood, too, says more with less; subtle and supple, he steps out briefly for a few moments, particularly on Thinking of Stella, where his counterpoint is uncannily empathetic. Without forcing the issue, Gardony and cohorts have allowed a wonderful collaboration to take place, like a conversation between old friends who are not in a hurry to talk each other's ears off. Let's hope his students are listening too. - TOM GREENLAND
HOT HOUSE MAGAZINE Spotlight December 2006
Hungarian by birth, Gardony is a distinctive improviser who infuses his post-bop pianistics with references to his Hungarian folk roots. A grad of Budapest's Bela Bartok Conservatory, he emigrated to the US four years later to study at Berklee, where he is now a faculty member mentoring the most promising students. Bassist John Lockwood and drummer Yoron Israel - who add to the manifold delights of Laszlo's most recent Sunnyside CD, Natural Instinct - will also play with him. While the album may remind some of Keith Jarrett's output, it's full of deft percussive touches and an abiding romanticism that marks Gardony an original - PAUL BLAIR
MIDWEST RECORD.COM May 19, 2008 CD review: Laszlo Gardony, Dig Deep (Sunnyside 4008)
It’s one thing to say you were influenced by… but to actually work with Dave Holland, Fathead Newman, Randy Brecker and many more gives it a new level of veracity. Gardony has moved into the realm of the greats he has aspired to with this driving set that finds him taking off the gloves and giving the classic jazz piano trio a run for it’s money. A piano man for these times, he marries the future with tradition and sprinkles his own flavor on the proceedings for a killer set that’s sure to impress. This is the place to stop for genre fans looking for something new to blow their ears wide open.
BUFFALO NEWS May 9, 2008 CD review: Laszlo Gardony, Dig Deep (Sunnyside 4008)
We knew something was happening with the Hungarian emigre's first American record a quarter of a century ago. It isn't every brand new jazz pianist arriving on our shores who gets to record with Dave Holland after all. Gardony's Jarrettesque brilliance was evident back then. What was far from evident, though, was that he'd ever make a disc as simple and irresistible as this. It's the best thing he's ever done in an American career that's been honorable but far more marginal than it needed to be. Gardony has simplified both his playing and writing over the years. Now in marrying odd meters/changing time signatures with the sound and the groove of gospel, funk, jazz and rock, he's made a jazz piano trio disc that part of you - guaranteed - is going to want to dance to. It might not be the ordinary danceworthy parts but that's how joyous and primordially infectious this disc is. His bassist is John Lockwood and his drummer is Yoron Israel. Who'd ever have thought that Laszlo Gardony would turn out to be the ultra-hip 21st century Ramsey Lewis? But listen to his version of Summertime. Review: 3 1/2 stars [out of four] - JEFF SIMON
Laszlo Gardony solo piano
with Stan Strickland, John Lockwood and Yoron Israel
with John Lockwood and Yoron Israel
with John Lockwood and Yoron Israel
EVER BEFORE EVER AFTER
with John Lockwood and Yoron Israel
Recorded live at WGBH radio
BEHIND OPEN DOORS
with Jamey Haddad and John Lockwood
with Mick Goodrick, George Jinda, Satoshi Takeishi, and Stomu Takeishi
Shifting Sands of Time
THE LEGEND OF TSUMI
with Dave Holland and Bob Moses
with Miroslav Vitous and Ian Froman
REGGAE FOR ZBIGGY
with Zbigniew Namyslowski
with Forward Motion (co-leader with Tommy Smith, Terje Gewelt and Ian Froman)
THE BERKLEE TAPES
with Forward Motion (co-leader with Tommy Smith, Terje Gewelt and Ian Froman)
SUNNYSIDE 25th ANNIVERSARY VOL 1
(other artists on CD include Lee Konitz, Fred Hersch, Rufus Reid,
Kenny Werner, James Williams and many more)
PIANISTS ON THE SUNNYSIDE
(complication CD of Sunnyside artists)
as a sideman:
with the Wayfaring Strangers:
Matt Glaser (leader), Tracy Bonham,
Tony Trischka, Jamey Haddad, Ruth Ungar,
Aoife O'Donovan, John McGann, JimWhitney
with the Steven Kirby Group
IRISH EYES GYPSY SOUL
(Cobalt Blue Music/Cadence)
with the Shelley Neill Group also featuring Yoron Israel and Ron Mahdi
(Cobalt Blue Music/Cadence)
with the Shelley Neill Group also featuring John Blake,
Yoron Israel, John Lockwood
THE WAYFARING STRANGERS
Shifting Sands of Time
with Matt Glaser, Ralph Stanley, Jamey Haddad
THE BLUES RUNS THROUGH IT
(Cobalt Blue Music / Cadence)
with the Shelley Neill Quintet: Shelley Neill voice,
John Blake violin, Yoron Israel drums, John Lockwood bass
ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK?
as a member of the Garrison Fewell Quartet with Cecil McBee and Matt Wilson
MUSIC SWEET MUSIC
(Cobalt Blue Music)
with Shelley Neill
recorded with Benni Chawes,
produced by and featuring Laszlo Gardony
REFLECTION OF A CLEAR MOON
with Garrison Fewell
THE AKADIMPEX CONCERTS
with George Haslam
IS THIS REALLY IT?
with the Ahmad Mansour Quartet
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Willing to teach:
Advanced students only.
A professor at Berklee College of Music, Laszlo is a master educator. He leads each of his clinics with skill, conviction, vision, and sensivity. Students come away inspired, creatively charged and with a deeper understanding of their music. In 2002 Laszlo was invited to perform with his trio at the International Association of Jazz Educators Conference. He gave clinics and performed during the 2002 Berklee Scholarship Tour in Ireland as well. Laszlo holds degrees from the Bela Bartok Conservatory and the Science University in Budapest, as well as the Professional Music Diploma from Berklee College of Music.
Laszlo’s clinics can be tailored to students of jazz, professional jazz musicians, or non-professional musicians. The clinics are designed to give the individual an overall understanding and appreciation of the elements of improvisation, contemporary harmony, and composition on the creation and performance of jazz. The Laszlo Gardony Trio is also available for educational opportunities and clinics. Laszlo has performed or given clinics at numerous colleges and universities including: Harvard University Hartt School of Music Rhode Island College University of Maine Bradford College Matrix Music Center in England Liszt Academy in Hungary Fullerton College in Los Angeles Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo Newpark School in Ireland SIberlius Academy in Finland Pop/Jazz Academy in Finand