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Full Focus

Little Prayer

from the album Discovery

by Marton Juhasz

 

'Full Focus' is a series where musicians and others discuss a jazz track or tracks in detail. The idea is that you are able to listen to the track that is discussed as you read about it. If you have a track on an album that you have released you might like to share the ideas behind it and talk about how it developed - if so please contact us.

This month, drummer, composer and bandleader Marton Juhasz writes about the track Little Prayer from his album Discovery that was released in January 2019.

 

Marton Juhasz

Marton Juhasz

 

Marton Juhasz’s career began in 2005 when he won national first prize for solo percussion in Hungary. In 2006 he studied at Drumtech, London where he was awarded the prize for top overall student. In 2007 he was accepted at Berklee College of Music, Boston and graduated summa cum laude in 2011. In 2010 he was the recipient of the Foundation for Hungarian Percussion Culture’s yearly award. After returning from the United States in 2012 Marton has been active in Europe and has had the opportunity to work with musicians such as Lionel Loueke, Wolfgang Muthspiel, Byron Wallen, Peter King, Mike Gotthard, Rob Luft, and Alan Benzie amongst many others. In 2014 and 2015 Marton was voted ‘Drummer of the Year’in the JazzMa online readers’ poll. In 2017 Pannon Blue featuring Lionel Loueke won ‘Best Hungarian Jazz Album’ in the Gramofon Awards. In 2017 Marton became the first person to hold the drum chair of the prestigious Focusyear Ensemble directed by Wolfgang Muthspiel. During the one year program the band received intensive coaching from some of the most respected names in contemporary jazz. In 2018 the Alan Benzie Trio’s second album Little Mysteries won the ‘Best Album’ prize at the Scottish Jazz Awards. Starting in 2019 Marton will perform with Christian Muthspiel’s Orjazztra Project.

Marton Juhasz's debut album Discovery was released in January 2019 with Marton Juhasz (drums, composition); Yumi Ito (vocals); Sergio Wagner (trumpet, flugelhorn); Paco Andreo (valve trombone); Enrique Oliver (tenor saxophone); Szymon Mika (guitar); Olga Konkova (piano) and Danny Ziemann (upright bass).

...... Marton writes about the background to the recording and the track Little Prayer from the album. Play the track as Marton describes and discusses it below:

 

 

 

In September 2017 I moved to Basel, Switzerland to take part in a newly created artistic diploma programme called 'Focusyear'. The idea behind the programme was to create an ensemble of international musicians who would then rehearse and perform together for a year under the tutelage of about a dozen of visiting artists, an incredible opportunity to develop musically and artistically. The final octet chosen for the program was truly international, featuring musicians from the USA, Argentina, Spain, France, Hungary, Switzerland, Poland and Norway.

Typically we would learn a new concert repertoire every two weeks and then perform the music with the visiting coaches at the hosting school's club at Jazzcampus, Basel. Since we were rehearsing and performing almost every day, the connection within the ensemble was developing very fast. I’ve played in many bands before, but I’ve never had luxury of getting to know the other musicians on such a deep level. I saw that this would be probably a once in a lifetime opportunity to record with such a tightly knit group.

A couple of months into the programme I decided to go for it and asked my bandmates to play my music. This recording became ‘Discovery’, my debut as a composer and the track I choose for this article is called ‘Little Prayer’.

I wrote the original sketch of this song back in 2011, just after I finished my Bachelor studies, so this gives you an idea of how long I dwell on pieces before I’m comfortable releasing them. The idea for the piece came to me as I found myself stuck in a traffic jam and becoming increasingly frustrated. At one point I thought to myself: “I should perhaps consider some of the beauty around me and try to acknowledge the Mystical - that would surely put my situation into context.” I thought this was a worthwhile idea so I went about creating some kind of musical expression of it.

During that time I was listening to a lot of music from Africa, and the opening motif of the tune is definitely directly inspired by kora music, especially this beautiful father and son recording by Toumani Diabaté & Sidiki Diabaté which you can listen to at the end of this article.

One of the aspects of African music that I really enjoy is a kind of harmonic ambiguity where you can never be quite sure if a bass note is a tonic or subdominant function, both interpretations could be correct. This duality gives the music a characteristic floating feeling. I tried to replicate this in Little Prayer. The repeating motif could be analysed in the key of A minor but by repeatedly placing a different bass note at an accented place in the bar I also get a sense of a modal F lydian harmony.

The first melodic statement is at 0:13. I wanted to write something that a small child would sing, something fragile and vulnerable. This melodic fragment is quite short, then we are back with the opening riff. I intentionally used four repetitions here to establish the pacing for the song - some patience is required (alluding to the traffic jam situation).

After a repeat of the first melody we hear the counter-melody at 0:49. This is written in a way to obscure the time signature of the piece (7/4) and introduce the tonality of the upcoming chorus at 1:00. The texture of the chorus is slightly different: Danny's bass is playing double stops for added weight and I switch to a more active double time beat on the drums. Again the melody is written to counter the rhythm of the accompaniment.

At 1:24 there is a shift in tonality - we arrive in an open space in B minor for a freely improvised vocal and bass duo from Yumi and Danny. Over the months we were playing together with the octet I had a lot of chances to hear the individual musicians in different contexts and get a good idea of their character. So when it came time to write and arrange the music for the album I was trying my best to make sure that everyone would be comfortable with their roles and that the end recording would sound as natural as possible. The vocal and bass improvisation that happens here came out of these observations - I was sure that it would work very well for the song.

After the duo comes to a rest, the opening riff is reintroduced with a saxophone solo on top. Olga's piano comping only starts at 3:11 to lift the energy in the middle of the solo. 

At 4:08 we have the recap of the melody but this time when we return to the opening riff it is reinforced by Paco's trombone and Enrique's tenor saxophone. The last chorus at 4:56 is repeated and Szymon's guitar takes a solo over the last section. Interestingly Szymon chooses to play most of his phrases in a triplet rhythm, which gives another layer of rhythmic counterpoint to the finale.

It is so gratifying to hear my musical ideas performed by these wonderful musicians. I’m very happy to have had the chance to record the beautiful interplay that we developed over the months and to be able to share it with the world.

...............................

Each track from the Marton Jahusz's Discovery album is available to hear online click here and although you can listen to individual tracks as we have here, there are benefits from listening to the creative way this album has been produced and arranged as a complete work. The tracks are of very different length, some of the shorter tracks crafting atmospheric soundscapes - for example the opening Sea Of Uncertainty where bell-like voice notes introduce the album, or the final track Run which builds around a repeated theme. There is variety here too, try Industry where the music clearly reflects the title, or the gentle Spellbound. I really enjoy this album, its arrangements, the solos and in particular the way that Yumi Ito's voice is used in conjunction with other instruments - try the track Stino.

Here is the recording by Toumani Diabaté and Sidiki Diabaté mentioned above where Marton tells how he was listening to a lot of music from Africa, and the opening motif of Little Prayer is directly inspired by their kora music.

 

 


Click here for purchase details and samples for Discovery.


Marton Juhasz

 

© Sandy Brown Jazz 2019

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Visit some of our other Full Focus pages:

Alan Benzie Trio - Sunken Ruins
Gebhard Ullman - Ta Lam
Henry Spencer - The Reasons Don't Change
Alastair Penman - Sandbox

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