Ferenc Snétberger: Titok (ECM 2468)

Titok

Ferenc Snétberger
Titok

Ferenc Snétberger guitar
Anders Jormin double bass
Joey Baron drums
Recorded May 2015 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: April 21, 2017

Hungarian guitarist Ferenc Snétberger returns to ECM after an enchanting solo concert debut, now exploring 13 originals with an expansive trio. In that sense, bassist Anders Jormin and drummer Joey Baron are more than mere allies called upon to flesh out skeletal tunes, but musicians whom Snétberger has clearly admired from afar and who now mesh seamlessly with his acoustic nexus. The centering of a nylon-string classical guitar where normally an electric might be creates conversational sonorities with Jormin, while Baron acts as interpreter for their linguistically variant modes of expression.

The album opens and closes with a total of five spontaneous tracks, each exploring a unique plane of the trio’s many-sided synergy. The last of these ends with the bandleader by his lonesome, slinking off into the night with great expectations in tow. Between those exes on the map, the listener is treated to a dotted line winding along superbly thought-out terrain. Both “Kék Kerék” and “Rambling” reveal an artist who lives by that frequent traveler’s credo: anything goes. That said, their paths are anchored by wholesome melodies that feel predictive of their course.

From here, the set develops in stages, moving from the intimacy of “Orange Tango” (noteworthy for Jormin’s song-like bassing) and “Fairytale,” through the sun-kissed foliage of “Álom” and the lullaby of “Leolo” (dedicated to Snétberger’s grandson), and on to the jauntier “Ease,” in which the trio moves so effortlessly as to seem blood-related. All of these gestures come together in the dance that is “Renaissance,” wherein ancient and future impulses find common ground.

Titok is yet another of those albums that would never have existed without the faith of producer Manfred Eicher, whose choice of musicians, sequencing of tunes, and encouragement of freedom are felt from start to finish, making it one of the most indispensable releases of 2017.

Ferenc Snétberger: In Concert (ECM 2458)

Ferenc Snétberger In Concert

Ferenc Snétberger
In Concert

Ferenc Snétberger guitar
Concert recording December 2013, Liszt Academy, Grand Hall, Budapest
Engineers: Stefano Amerio, Giulio Gallo
Mixed at Artesuono Recording Studios, Udine by Stefano Amerio, Manfred Eicher, and Ferenc Snétberger
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: March 11, 2016

Recorded live in December of 2013 at Budapest’s Franz Liszt Academy of Music, In Concert archives a deeply personal performance by Hungarian guitarist Ferenc Snétberger. As his ECM debut, it instantly calls to mind Ralph Towner’s Solo Concert in format, sharing further affinity with Keith Jarrett for including “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” as encore. The ECM comparisons are more than cursory, as Snétberger grew up inspired by the label’s stalwarts, including Egberto Gismonti and Johann Sebastian Bach.

Much of the eight-part suite, entitled “Budapest,” that comprises the program is improvised, though built around heartfelt melodies of Snétberger’s design. Amid a spiraling association of history and spontaneous creation, an original voice emerges. “Part 1,” for instance, builds its castle on a faraway hill yet makes it feel as if it overlooks our own back yard. The cleanliness of tone, coated in just the right amount of varnish, resonates with a depth matched only by the recording. “Part 2” is meant to evoke Bach’s tonal voicings, and beyond that embraces a certain intimacy unique to the German composer. With a lyrical assurance that’s never cloying, Snétberger taps into something essential, as also in the Astor Piazzolla-inspired “Part 3,” wherein every sway of the curtain reveals a biographical whiff of the breeze that moved it. The samba sandwich of “Part 4” contains a monophonous passage of astonishingly vocal quality. The freely improvised “Part 5” serves as a virtuosic segue into “Part 6,” which treats the surface tension of a pond as canvas for photorealistic sound painting. If “Part 7” is the sunlight, then “Part 8” is the tree intercepting it for shade: an ideal vantage point from which to ponder the concluding rainbow in all its quiet glory.

Ferenc Snétberger

Having mentioned Towner and Jarrett at the start, it’s only fitting to end with them in mind, as much to say that Snétberger’s ECM debut belongs rightly alongside those giants of solo improvisation.