Some years ago a statement was made in the TV and written press: Hungarian jazz has actually been existing since the 1950s. The very few artists considered jazz pioneers of the 1920s and 1930s have politely protested, however, it could not even happen that any of our jazz relics could be issued on a record. Thus, the listener of this record is hilding in his hands an "unmapped blank ares" selected from rare and old recordings. Though, those interested in jazz history, could find a few publications on Hungarian jazz (the English "Harlequin" or the German "Black Jack" records), however, whereas they are a part of universal jazz history, practically are not accessible at home. Our main target at this collection was to avoid overlappings with the already existing issues striving at the same time to present as many bands and solists as possible.
An important help to end is rendered by the discography containing the musicians names and record data. Yet, numerous excellent musicians had to be lef out due to lack of space, since the material traced so far is tremendously rich. the old records and curiosities can be considered curios of technical history, too, notably the first two ones were made in 1912.
The first pieces represent the prehistory of jazz. "Medvetánc" (Alexander's Ragtime Band) is performed by two very popular artists, Hermin Solti and Ernő Király. The band consisting mainly of winds is conducted presumably by the young, later famous composer, Alfred Márkus (Fred Markush). Some further 10-11 versions of that year are known, which if we consider that Irving Berlin composed his hit in America one year before, in 1911, refers to the up-to-date information of Hungarian manufacturers.
The next piece of prehistory is a ragtime performed by a gipsy band. The artist is probably Béla Berkes, Jr. since a number of his ratime recordings made in Berlin and his contacts to the USA and his performances there are wellknow.
The spreading of jazz can be owed to the travelling foreign acrobats, dancers and their foreign accompanions. First the popular songs of the amusement places start to tend the ragtine style, then in the 1910s, quite a generation of rag appears, like Sándor Rozsnyai, pianist, later the owner of the famous Arizona night-club, Alfréd Márkus, pianist and composer, Aladár Székely who later moved to America and released real, memorable rags with Leo Feist, the American publisher.
Prehistory was continued by the reshuffle of the bands. The program and the composition of instruments in the gipsy bands have also suddenly changed. An early recording "Rózsa-bokorban terem a nő" is an adaptation of Gershwin's "Somebody Loves Me" to a gipsy band. Feri Vörös made his record "Mississippi Rag" in Berlin and the bar of Hotel József Főherceg announces in 1920 as follows: "Have you already heart the latest ragtime melodies of the gipsy band of Gyula Csorba?"
The light music orchestras of the amusement places, too go through great changes. The first saxes and banjos and thus the mixed bands appear. First, by outward appearance (cumbersome drums, bell-violins), later with jazz-like elements in their music. "Színházi Élet" (Theatre Life) is boosting the "City Jazz Band" in 1920 and Simi Steiner's Jazz Band in 1921. Famous foreign bands come, one after the other, to us and not only in Budapest: Murray Spiegel's white American band. Billy Arnold, Edgar Adeler, Paul von Bolly, the Odette- H. Wellmann black dancing duet, the Savoy Hotel Orchestra. In the dark house of the Academy of Music Jenő Hubay and Ernő Dohnányi looked at and listed to Teddy Sinclair conducting by a pocket torch.
The temporary period is represented by two pieces.
That time "The Jolly Boys" has already been making a tour in West Europa for years, had regular broadcastings by the the great radio stations. The recording of the band made in Copenhagen, 1929 desreves attention from several points of view. The arrangement and saxophone choir - considering the date of the recording - sounds surprisingly modern.
the band has been strengthened by two jazz solist (Miklós Kálmán, piano and Filu, tenorsaxophone). They use the then rather rare baritone saxophone, the sax-choir completed by the drummer Bechtold, often change over to violin.
The secong example of that temporary period is represented by, "Oh Monah" of the Mocsányi-Lakos duet. By that time the singing-instrumental duet was far over its hundredth recording. László Mocsányi plays the piano, Tibor Lakatos the banjo and violin, if neceassary in the form of a duet only, however, most frequently accompanied by the acknowledge big bands of Europe. In 1928 they transferred their seat to Berlin - the contenporary capital of ligh music - where besides making countless records, they are featuring in one of the first sound-films.
It is a typical stage-show what they create - their popularity was only increased over sight the funny lyrics performed in Hungarian, German and English by the instrument imitations, the excellent orchestras and their scatting trials.
The third separable part of the collection consists of big band selections.
In the 30s a lot of Hungarian record factories could choose from among big bands, many of them had their own studio bands. There was a period of time when some 10-12 big bands were playing in Budapest. Most of them deliverately used jazz elements and tried to engage improvizing jazz musicians.
We have chosen six recordings to present the big bands for at least in outline.
The Radiola factory most intesively supported two formations. Ede Buttola and Len Hughes played together, then they organized their own bands separately. First they followed the Raymond Scott style (Twilight in Turkey), later gradually created their own sounding.
Special individual arrangement characterizes Lajos Martiny, who in his countless records has always going his own way. He has excellent solists, later some of them formed own bands.
Chappy (Jenő Orlay) led one of the best and most popular orchestras of the 40s. He started his career as an actor, dancer and continued as a drummer. In the 20s he played in the orchesra of the black American trumpeter, Arthur Briggs, then besides Europe, he made trips in the Far East as bandleader and drummer, by turns.
After a few years he appears again in Budapest, but already as conductor and composer. His name is connected with the popularization of the most different drum-duels and some excellent recordings with 9 years old wonder drummer, the later famous Tommy Víg.
In Chappy's big band we to listed to the drum solos of Api Weisz. The recordings is all the most important as there are only a few documents left about the playing of tragic-fated musician.
The big band selection is closed by the Durium Swingband and the orchestra of Filu.
Schlotthauer is well-known bassist and arranger but perhaps this is the first time he presents himself as band leader.
Fülöp Schenkelbach (Filu), on his own, led mostly combos, he rarely extended his band. Excellent solist can be heard in his band, too just like in the combo selection to be handled as the fourth part of this collection.
The Martiny and Herrer combos recall the atmosphere of the old hot clubs. It is an impotant event in the Hungarian jazz history that in the 30s - not quite without antecedents - a self-taught but rather virtousic violin-guitar player generation appeared. The French-Belgian hot traditions (Stephane Grapelly and Django Reinhardt) can be traced in many respects and maybe it is no exaggeration to say that they would deserve more attention at abroad, too.
A few names from among the violin players: Lexi Rácz, László Radics, Gábor Radics, Elemér Kiss, Sándor Szabó, Mátyás Csányi. The list of guitar players is not shorter either: Gábor Sárközi, Sándor Horváth ("Big Rat"), Andor Kovács and the later starts: Elek Bacsik, Attila Zoller, Gábor Szabó.
Unfortunately, from among the solo records of one of the most active guitar player, Sándor Horváth, only a few are existing. However, as accompanist we often meet him. Thus we hear him the today old-fashioned, then popular style called "piano solo with rhythm accompaniment" by the radio and record factories.
The piano solo of Antal G. Górody is a typical illustration of that style. The technically highly-qualified musician is a singer by main profession, just like the bassist Károly Kurz. Both of them considered the intsumental rerordings as an excursion beside their countless recordings as singers.
Another piano solo with rhyhm section is played by Ernő Vécsey, a composer, arranger and band leader. He too is a many-sided, wellqualified pianist who over the concert presentations of the Rhapsody in Blue, and Warsaw Concerto undertook, for instance, to play with Wichary's Dixieland Band at their first appearance in the Academy of Music without rehearsal.
Pál Herrer is playing accordion on "Deepsy Doodle". During his long career he studied composing in Paris at Darius Milhaud, he was saxophone player in Eddie South's band, he acted as pianist, bandleader, later as teacher.
Still another accordion performance is presented in our anthology.
We can listed to "Japanese Sandman" by Mihály Tabányi. A lot of records were made by the Tabányi combo. Only a few know of the virtuosic musician that he started his career as bassist, notably as accompanist of the Mocsányi-Lakos duet playing at the forepart of this record. He has made with his combo dance music, swing jazz recordings, modern ones in west coast and cool style. Finally, there is an improvizing orchestra, tending sometimes to bebop: the band of Fülöp Schenkelbach. Almost 20 years after his Jolly Boys recording in Copenhagen, Filu has his own band for a long time. Just like in the Martiny combo, most of his band members are individually wellqualified inventive jazz soloists.
The Hungarian jazz 1912-1948 anthology can probably give a brief account on Hungarian jazz music. If we could make that "blank area" just a bit smaller we have hit the target.
Cover text to the Hungarian Jazz 1912 - 1948 LP (Pannonton PJ 104) (1989)