Knutdut Men

BMC CD 236

Perhaps there was an unknown tributary of the Mississippi river which linked to the Danube when Jazz purportedly made its journey from New Orleans to St. Louis, Memphis and beyond. Certainly the playing of the saxophonists in the Budapest-based Knutdut Men quartet come across as if they’re background was Southern American not Hungarian. During the course of six originals, all composed by tenor saxophonist Béla Ágoston, the in-the-pocket reed harmonies created by him and alto saxophonist Ákos Murányi could be coming from Hank Crawford and Don Wilkerson in Ray Charles band of the late-1950s.

Interestingly enough, Ágoston, who also plays in saxophone ensembles as well as traditional Hungarian and Klezmer bands, cites John Coltrane and Africa as influences rather than Blues or R&B. With most of the tracks dominated by expected call-and-response choruses from the reedists, who have the ability to improvise a half-step apart from one another therefore creating the effect of a single giant saxophone, the results are as bouncy, bully and boisterous as you would expect from a similarly constituted sessions from bands put together in the United States. Maybe there is a sort of doppelganger effect between the Magyar plain and the Delta… and elsewhere. With bassist Csaba Pengő and drummer Péter Hárságyi also open to many influences, tracks such as “Tanga” swing with a Kwela-like South African Township feeling. While Ágoston never abandons Coleman Hawkins-like deep-toned reed majesty, the joyous theme negotiates the distance between an African birthplace and primal Jump R&B.

The unforced sonic storytelling advances without letup throughout the CD’s seven tracks with “Water Divining B” even including space for Pengő’s slaps bass and Hárságyi’s ticking rim shots. Moving along at a semi-martial beat drum and bugle corps echoes, this final track intriguingly mixes some traditional Austro-Hungarian tropes as part of the theme.

Overall this upstanding CD may also reflect the futility of or difficulty in creating titles. It seems that the proper response when asked if the Knutdut Men can be ranked as high-quality improvisers, isn’t “dunno” but “yes”, or perhaps more appropriately “igen”.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Kukoté 2. The Depths of the Soul 3. Tanga 4. Dogmatics 5. Old Yoruba 6. Water Divining A 7. Water Divining B

Personnel: Ákos Murányi (alto saxophone); Béla Ágoston (tenor saxophone); Csaba Pengő (bass) and Péter Hárságyi (drums)