Category Archives: Guitarist

Guitar players only, the exclusive club of instrumentalists

Oláh Szabolcs Quintet – Crystal Brook

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A brand new album from Hungary found it’s way to my mailbox.
Jazz guitarist, composer and arranger Szabolcs Oláh released his latest album “Crystal Brook” on September 6.

Szabolcs Oláh started his first quartet in 2002, which won awards in Hungary and Italy and he is one of the founding members of the Modern Art Orchestra. He leads his own quintet since 2012. The current line-up of the quintet is:

Szabolcs Oláh – guitar
János Ávéd – saxophone
Gábor Cseke – piano
Ádám Bögöthy – double bass
László Csízi – drums

The album was recorded in April 2019 and contains 10 original songs all composed by Szabolcs. He says about this album: “My intention for the compositions was to keep it simple, smooth and crystal clear, yet dynamic, like a japanese calligraphy”.

He also told me how he wrote the songs:  “My method for composing for this album was quite simple. I sat down in the morning at the piano and I improvised. Sometimes these improvisations became songs that I wrote down and started to collect.”

The first song is called “Pearls” which has an energetic intro and a beautiful melody played unison by sax and guitar (a characteristic which we will hear in many other songs on this album). Dynamics are reduced at the beginning of Szabolcs’ solo, but increase throughout his solo. The second solo goes to János Ávéd on saxophone, followed by a piano solo. Bass and drums support the soloists perfectly, this song is great opener for the album.

“The Last Teardrop” is a melancholic tune, again with a lovely melody and a superb piano solo by Gábor Cseke.

“Return to the Park” is the next song and Szabolcs has some background information: “It’s about the joy of returning to play music with my friends, like a child that enjoys to play in the park. Between 2010 and 2012 I was ill and I rarely played live, so this song is also about the recovery”. A song that has a lot of positive vibrations and became one of my highlights on the album.

“Never Again” is a soft song with many modulations, quite complex harmonic structures. Szabolcs’ solo however floats easily over these harmonies.

“Dawn Rider” comes next. Szabolcs has more details: “The song is about a motorcyclist, driving fast into the dawn after breaking up with his love”. A song that is sad and happy at the same time. The band has produced a nice video from the recoding session of this song:

“Runaway” is my second highlight on this album. It starts with a great guitar intro, it has an incredible melody and fantastic solos by guitar, soprano saxophone, bass and piano.

“Crystal Brook” the title song is like a romantic painting. Szabolcs explains: “This song reminds me of moonlight gleaming on a crystal clear mountain brook.”

The next tune is called “Good Boy” and it’s about the young Szabolcs, “a well-behaved and dutiful child”, as he told me. The melody sounds like nursery rhyme but opens nicely for the solos.

“Unfolding Life” is much softer and slower but still has its pace and allows for brillant solos.

The album ends with the ballad “Lunar Muse”. The melody has some “tension and release” as Szabolcs told me. Gábor Cseke plays another excellent piano solo and the album ends in deep melancholy. Very impressive.

Szabolcs Oláh has played some concerts in the last few weeks with his quintet and he said “the feedback on the new album was very positive and inspiring”. There are more concerts to come so if you plan to visit Budapest, check for the local jazz scene because it has some great musicians including Szabolcs and his quintet or the Modern Art Orchestra. Please check for dates on his website:
https://www.szabolcsolahmusic.com/

The album is available on Spotify:

 

Q Morrow: There Are Stars In Brooklyn

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Today I would like to present another guitar player from New York City, his name is Q Morrow, and he grew up in Idaho before studying classical and jazz guitar in California and Texas. He also spent a year studying Carnatic music in Bangalore and has settled now in Brooklyn, NY where he is an active part of the music scene.

He plays (as you can see) a classical guitar with nylon strings and that characterizes his music and the sound on his new release “There Are Stars in Brooklyn”.

The album features:

  • Q Morrow – Guitar
  • Will Vinson – Alto Sax
  • Evan Francis – Flute, Alto Sax
  • Sam Bevan – Bass
  • Raj Jayaweera – Drums

The line-up is special with two alto saxes and a flute, but my experience is that flute and alto sax fit perfectly together with a guitar, because the guitar frequencies are quite low and so there is not much of an overlap with the wind instruments.

The album starts with the title song “There Are Stars in Brooklyn”. Q plays a beautiful solo intro, the head is then played by Flute and Sax , the band grooves nicely. The melody and guitar solo is inspired by classical guitar music while Evan Francis on flute and Will Vinson on Alto Sax play their solo with much more modern jazz inspiration.

The beginning of the second song “The Do How” reminds me of Sylvain Luc (another master of the nylon guitar from France which I used to listen a lot to) but the song becomes rhythmically much more complex. Q explains: “One thing in the album that warrants explanation is the metric modulations on track 2. What I’m experimenting with there is the temporal reflections (interpreted with metric modulations) of the chord changes’ relationship to the tonic of the key. In other words the length of each chord change correlates to the length of the wavelength of the root note of the chord as it relates to the tonic (F# in this case). So a D chord will last for 5 beats, a C# for 4 1/3 beats, a B for 3 (or 6). And it gets more complicated from there. All of the changes fit within the framework of 5/4 time, based on the idea of Mora in Carnatic music where complex, over-the-barline rhythmic phrases fit into a larger beat cycle framework. The bass maintains a 5/4 ostinato figure throughout to illustrate the original tempo. The B section of the title track is also based on the Karnatic mora, but in 7/8 time. So those tracks are my attempt to unify harmony and rhythm in the spirit of experimentation, something I’ve been working on for a few years now and will continue to do in the next couple of years”.

A very interesting concept behind this song. The composition is done in a way that it returns back to 7/8 time intro which gives the listener a fixed point.

The next tune is called “Pupusa da Jamaica” and is based on the Cuban folkloric rhythm Guaguanco. Even if the tune is in straight 4/4 time the band enjoys a lot of rhythmic freedom here as well.

“Sueño de Miel” (which means Dreaming of Honey) is named after a dream Q Morrow had when he was gathering honey in the South American jungle with an indigenous tribe. It shows Q’s mastery of the classical guitar. The tune is written down like a classical composition ( Q was so kind to share the sheet music with me) and is inspired by Venezuelan Joropo dance music.

“Chinook Passing” comes next and this song is clearly inspired by Spanish flamenco and tango, sounds very European and reminds me again of Sylvain Luc and his style of Basque folklore and Jazz music.

“Inferno Astral” is another tune for classical solo guitar. The constant 32nd notes are meant to evoke pouring rain. There is a live version of this available on Youtube, so if you want to see the exact fingering of this tune, here is your chance:

The album continues with “Not Quite Sure Yet”, another experiment in rhythm/wavelength relationships as described above. Also an homage to Q Morrow’s early roots in the Northwestern US (Idaho) which he describes as grunge rock. A very interesting song with multiple changes in rhythm and feeling. Great solos by guitar and saxophone and my favorite song on the album.

The last tune is “Loose Ends” which Q Morrow describes as a Blues with a vamp section, rhythmically straight but with multiple harmonic centers. A straight modern jazz tune played very well.

The album is a eclectic compilation of Q Morrow’s compositions. It shows his versatility as composer, arranger and musician and includes all different aspects and influences that he was exposed to and which found their way into his work. He has surrounded himself with excellent musicians who are able to understand and realize his ideas. This release is another perfect example of today’s Jazz music that gets inspired by the individual path of each musician.

More information about Q Morrow is available on his website:
http://www.qmorrow.net/

The complete album is not available on Spotify but the two songs “There Are Stars in Brooklyn” and “The Do How” have been released as single songs and are included in my 2019 playlist.