EASTERN BOUNDARY QUARTET – Icicles

Konnex

The document of a 2009 studio session in Budapest, Icicles showcases the eagerness of a quartet comprising the Hungarian pair of Mihály Borbély (sax and tarogato) and Balász Bágyi (drums) in addition to the well-known combination of pianist Michael Jefry Stevens and bassist Joe Fonda. This listener never manages to be entirely involved with the straighter varieties of contemporary jazz, yet there are several episodes here where the lyricism of a theme – especially those influenced by East European accents, as in Borbély’s gorgeous “Transylvania Blues” – or the sheer chirpiness shown by the players are worthy of an affirmative nod. A track like Fonda’s “China” immediately establishes a mood of profoundness, speaking very directly to receptive ears whatever the derivation of its melodic material; other tunes are riff-centred to start with, yet they develop intuitions and interlocking parts in a way that transforms a normal notion into something still pleasing to hear. The technical nimbleness is incontestable, the music flowing and breathing without uselessly virtuosic aggravations. A sober balance maintained throughout, no popup heads shouting “look at me”, a stability that prevents a cohesive group from derailing into inadequacy.

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