The initial impetus for Close Connection
, as Laszlo Gardony explains it, resulted from his personal pent-up demand for in-the-flesh creative collaboration after two years or so of pandemic-driven physical separation from musicians. The Hungarian-born pianist, a longtime Berklee College of Music prof, had tired of performing solo concerts remotely, via video. So Gardony, bassist John Lockwood and drummer Yoron Israel, bandmates dating back at least to 2003’s Ever Before Ever After
album, descended on the WGBH-FM studio in Boston to record original compositions and collective improvisations.
Befitting the project’s title, the three connect fluently as one, enlivening pieces drawing from multiple influences and approaching jazz-adjacent instrumental music in a manner that might remind some listeners of the likes of The Bad Plus and E.S.T. “Irrepressible” opens the album with punching, dissonant acoustic power chords, alternating with quick piano-and-bass unison lines, followed by a section featuring an urgent groove topped with a folkish melody. The pulsing rhythm and searching theme of “Strong Minds” hints at the pianist’s early interest in prog rock à la King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and the gently waltzing “Sweet Thoughts” has the group back on more familiar piano trio terrain.
The three travel attractively varied soundscapes. Gardony’s bouncy piano figures on “Cedar Tree Dance” hint at New Orleans colors, and the chiming kalimba and playful melodica-driven tune of the hypnotic “Savanna Sunrise” point to meditative Gnawa music. Half of these dozen tracks are fully improvised, beginning with the chattering, inquisitive piano and bass exchanges of “All That Remains” and continuing with the moody, prayerful conversations of “Walking in Silence” and the African-inspired groove and gospel-tinged piano comping of “Everybody Needs a Home.” And the hard-swinging improvisation “Night Run” is spiked with quick quotes of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Salt Peanuts,” the standard “I Remember April” and Monk’s “Rhythm-a-Ning.” — Philip Booth