A few weeks after Irving Berlin's melody "Alexander's Ragtime Band" had become a hit in Budapest, Lajos Martiny was born on June 11, 1912.
The family had a feeling for music. His father played the flute, his mother the zymbalum. Lajos started to play the violin and when he was 10, he played the first melodies on a Petroff-piano. At the age of 16 he attended a high-school in the morning and the academy of music in the afternoon. Besides, in the evenings he played the piano in a dancing school. Having finished secondary education, he established the "Blue Boys" band playing in Hungary and abroad for two years.
From 1932 Lajos Martiny was a member of violinist Béla Zöldessy's 6-piece star band in Copenhagen, Danzig (now Gdansk), Dortmund and Düsseldorf. The six musicians used some two dozen instruments. Arrangements were written by Martiny.
February 9, 1934 was a day of major importance in the young pianist's life. As a soloist of the the very popular Fejes-Damith Jazzband, Lajos Martiny was introduced to the listeners of the Hungarian rRadio for the first time. In the program broadcasted from the Café "Ostende" he played a piano solo of George Gershwin's "The Man I Love".
Martiny formed his new own band, the "Smiling Boys" in 1936. His drummer was "Bubi" Beamter, and one of the famous violinists of that period, Lexi Rácz, too played in the band. The latter played not only violin but saxophone and trombone as well. The 6-piece combo, which used to change many instruments while playing performed jazz arrangements and a lively, really swinging hot dance music.
On a tour through Switzerland that band came to Lugano and Bern. After their return to Budapest they were playing at the Hotel Royal, which that time was one of the most important places besides the Hotel Gellért and the New York Café, where the well-known Hungarian and foreign bands playing jazz-like dance music and jazz used to appear.
Lajos Martiny's first jazz recordings were made by the Radiola Gramophone Company in Budapest. In his studio band he had 7-15 musicians, among them drummer Jenő "Bubi" Beamter, bassist/singer Károly Kurcz and Sándor Horváth callade "Nagy Patkány" ("Big Rat"), who by the way, is the uncle of Lajos Kathy-Horváth, the excellent and modern violinist. Girl-Singer of the combo was Miss Anita Best, a vocalist from Great Britain, who had an engagement with the Martiny band for long years. They recorded such well-known jazz standards like "Solitude", "Blue Skies" and "Begin The Beguine". A special recording was "Mama Don't Allow" when Anita Best introduced the instruments of the band one by one.
In the forties Martiny's old dreams came true: he was lucky to write compositions and arrangements for a symphony jazz orchestra. The orchestra, backed up by Siemens/Polydor, made many dozens of recordings in the occasional studios formed in the Erkel Theatre of today. When the recordings were released, a big gala concert was given by the participating artists. The concert orchestra, a big band augmented by 32 strings, was conducted by Martiny, as well as the piano solos, similarly to the recordings, were played by him. Military service folowed by US captivity kept Lajos Martiny aloof from Hungarian music life for a year. Back home again he immediately gathered a big band and made sensational recordings for the Odeon representation in Budapest. The recordings of his sextet ("Avalon", "Sing Sing", "Skála" etc.) found favourable response among professional circles and jazz friends.
In 1948 Martiny became the arranger-Conductor of the radio jazz-orchestra organized by Sándor Pál for a one-year-period. This year meant the highlight in the career of the band.
When he left the radio orchestra, Martiny formed his legendary quintet with György Várady, saxophone, clarinet and voval, Andor Kovács, guitar and violin,, Jenő Kratochwill, bass and Gyula Kovács, drums. As special guests "bubi" Beamter sang and played the vibraphone, and Ferenc Aszódy played the trumpet. For one and half decades the Hotel Gellért had been haunt of the band. From there they departed to their inland and foreign tours, among others to the Federal Republic of Germany, Poland, and to the memorable tour to the Soviet Union in 1956. There they got acquainted with Laci Oláh of Hungarian origin, one of the best-known Soviet jazz band leaders. Radio Moscow made modern jazz recordings with the quintet for its English language program broadcasting them regularly for a long time.
This excellent quintet unfortunately made only a limited number of recordings. (We should not forget that playing jazz was generally prohibited in Hungary in those years. It was possible only in certain special played of entertainment.) The 1957 "Air Mail Special" was one of the first Hungarian microgroove recordings. "Perzs vásár" ("On A Persian Market") recorded in 1960, is a milestone in the history of Hungarian jazz. That time Martiny was not only the pianist but also played the organ and harpsichord. Besides, the combo was augmented by some flutes. On this occasion Gyula Kovács proved to be a first-class drummer, whereas the tenor-sax solo of György Várady is rather strange if not even mysterious: more than one and a half decade earlier he sounded just like the young David Murray in the mid-seventies.
In the following two and a half decades only a few recordings made by Martiny for record labels and in broadcasts. The majority of these recordings was symphonic light music of high quality. In the last years of his life Martiny worked for the Hungarian Television on jazz-like tunes.
Memorable were his concerts in the eighties with the reorganized Martiny-Beamter combo. After the death of Jenő "Bubi" Beamter he gave solo concerts for two pianos. His partner was János Orosz.
For one year and a half he went on performing though being seriously ill. On September 14, 1985 Lajos Martiny closed his eyes for ever. The last radio program he listened to was about his career.
Cover text to the LP Lajos Martiny: It's A Hap-Hap-Happy Day. Recordings From The 40's. Black Jack LP 3017 (1986)