Gardony Makes the “Marseillaise” Jump!

Gardony La Marseillaise Cover

De LISLE-GARDONY: Revolution. Di CAPUA: O Sole Mio. GARDONY: Four Notes Given. On the Spot. Mockingbird. Bourdon Street Boogie. GARNER: Misty. ZEITLIN: Quiet Now / Laszlo Gardony, pno / Sunnyside SSC 4034 (live: Berklee College, Boston, March 12, 2019)

Pianist Laszlo Gardony, who also leads his own jazz group, has issued two solo CDs in the past seven years. This disc, Revolution, is his third such outing.

I was immediately taken by his rewriting of Roger de Lisle’s La Marsaillaise, the French national anthem, as a sort of a gospel blues-cum-boogie piece. I only hope that the French don’t take offense to it, as they did of Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt’s swing version of their anthem recorded in 1945 after VE day. There’s a lot of Errol Garner in this performance, including a whimsical sense of humor, which I liked. Reading the publicity sheet accompanying this album, however, I was a  bit shocked to read that Gardony apparently took this performance more seriously and less lightly than it sounds. He sees the Marseillaise as “a very serious piece of music, about standing up to tyranny and against various abuses of human rights.” Hmmm, I wonder if that includes the bloody reign of terror headed by Robespierre that followed the French revolution, or the even bloodier wars then fought by Napoleon? (You’ve got to take the consequences along with the initial action, folks.)

This is followed by his rewriting of yet another old piece, Ernesto di Capua’s O Sole Mio, taking it uptempo and driving it downtown. In this case I don’t think that the hipper Italians will take any offense to it at all, but I know a classical vocal record collector who would think it a desecration. (I can never get the point across to him that a lot of these Italian songs of the late 19th-earyl 20th century were actually a slightly more highbrow form of pop music.) In this piece, Gardony lets his imagination run freely, throwing in a plethora of blues licks along with some very advanced harmonies for spice.

Next up is a piece improvised on a four-note sequence, thus titled Four Notes Given. This almost has a quasi-Latin beat to it, and is a lot of fun to listen to. Not surprisingly, Errol Garner’s Misty is then played, with great affection and an almost out-of-tempo feel to it. I’ve always felt badly that Misty became such an iconic “bar song,” since it really is a good piece of music. Gardony throws in some single-note lines in his improvisation, sort of Bud Powell in reductio, as well as a few more blues chords.

By the time one reaches Denny Zeitlin’s Quiet Now, you realize that Gardony loves the blues and a simpler approach to jazz piano than is currently in fashion. I found it refreshing, however; there’s only so much of the far-out stuff one can take, and I particularly liked the fact that Gardony’s left hand provides a consistently driving rhythm to his playing that makes you not really miss no bass and drums behind him.

On the Spot is another improvisation, here using a simple little motif, not even really a theme, yet getting the most out of it. With Mockingbird, Gardony is back to the blues, but in this one piece I felt as if he rambled a bit too much. We finish up with Bourbon Street Boogie, a piece that recalls Dr. John or even Allen Toussaint, a fun, rolling-rhythm sort of piece with good variations on the middle.

If you want a fun CD of good old-fashioned barroom boogie-blues jazz piano, this CD is for you. I enjoyed it thoroughly!

—© 2019 Lynn René Bayley

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