BAR HARBOR — Pianist Laszlo Gardony is to perform here on Saturday, Aug. 19, at The Criterion Theatre for the Bar Harbor Jazz Festival.
Gardony is performing with bassist Sean Farias and drummer Yoron Israel. The concert begins at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $20 and $25 and are available online at criteriontheatre.org or by calling 288-0229.
This is Gardony’s third appearance at the Criterion, and it comes on the heels of the release his latest CD, “Serious Play.” The CD is a collection of 10 solo piano pieces. All but three – the standards “Georgia on My Mind” and “Over the Rainbow” and John Coltrane’s “Naima” – are original compositions. “Serious Play” is his third album of solo piano.
“It was a little different of a session,” Gardony said in a recent phone interview. The seven originals on the CD were spontaneously composed in the studio, he explained.
The longest of them is the title cut, which clocks in at less than four minutes. Gardony has done his share of stretching out on tunes, but the intent here was to make a concise musical statement.
“A lot of this music is focused on the short form,” he said.
The music on “Serious Play” is in response to current events and the state of the world.
“The purpose of this album is to strengthen us,” Gardony said. “In a sense, every album is a story that goes from one chapter to the next.”
Born in Hungary, Gardony graduated from the Bela Bartok Conservatory in Budapest and performed around Europe before moving to the United States in 1983 to attend the Berklee College of Music in Boston on a full scholarship. He began teaching at the school shortly after graduation and today is a professor of piano.
Along with jazz greats, his influences include Bach, Chopin and Bartok as well as rock groups like Pink Floyd and Deep Purple.
Gardony released his first album, “The Secret,” in 1988. The bassist on the trio session was Miroslav Vitous, who probably is best known as one of the founders of the seminal jazz fusion group Weather Report. His 2015 release “Life in Real Time” features Bill Pierce, Dan Braden and Stan Strickland on saxophones, John Lockwood on bass and Israel on drums. The album, his 11th as a leader, received four out of five stars in DownBeat review and was named one of the 10 best jazz albums of the year by the Boston Globe.
In 1989, Gardony took top honors at the Great American Jazz Piano Competition. The competition traditionally marks the beginning of the Jacksonville Jazz Festival in Florida and now is called the Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition. He since has gone on to record as a sideman and perform with the likes of saxophonists David “Fathead” Newman and Dave Liebman, guitarists John Scofield and John Abercrombie, bassist Dave Holland, drummer Bob Moses and others.
Gardony also has recorded with The Wayfaring Strangers, a group that mixes bluegrass and other folk styles with jazz. He solos on a cut from the group’s “Shifting Sands of Time” CD, Ralph Stanley’s “Man of Constant Sorrow,” and plays a greater role on the group’s second album, “This Train.”
Gardony has for several years worked in a trio with Israel and bassist John Lockwood. Farias was “a natural choice” to fill in for Lockwood at the Criterion, he said. Israel is “an amazing musician” who is assistant chairman of the percussion department at Berklee. The two have played together in several settings, including in Israel’s group, High Standards.
“He really understands this music is created on the stage,” Gardony said of Israel.
The audience at the Criterion can expect to hear Gardony’s original compositions and as well as standards. However, the pianist insists it’s the unexpected that makes jazz so rewarding for musicians and listeners. It’s “music happening in the moment,” he said.
For more information about Gardony, visit his website lgjazz.com.