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Eastern Boundary Quartet

[founded in 2008/9, collective]

For more information check the following links:
www.balazsbagyi.com - Balazs Bagyi
www.mihalyborbely.hu - Mihaly Borbely

  • Mihaly Borbely- Saxophone and Tarogato
  • Michael Jefry Stevens -Piano
  • Balazas Bagyi -Drums
  • Joe Fonda- Bass

Eastern Boundary Quartet - Icicles on Konnex Records

Bassist/composer Joe Fonda continues to enjoy a most eclectic career. Whether in collaboration with saxophonist Anthony Braxton, or leading an international group comprised of musicians from Europe and China, Fonda is never far from the bleeding edge of creative improvisation. In its second outing, the Eastern Boundary Quartet continues to connect musical worlds and styles. Frequent colleague Michael Jefry Stevens (piano), and two exceedingly skilled Hungarians, Balazs Bagyi (drums) and Mihaly Borbely (saxophones), are onboard with Fonda, with Borbely's tarogato (a Hungarian woodwind) adding much of the ethnic color to this collection. Though not without its free aspects, Icicles is one of the most accessible and creative collections in Fonda's discology.

Fonda's “Fish Soup” opens the set and is its most overtly free piece, beginning with a brief rhythmic duet between the bassist and Bagyi. Borbely and Stevens enter, pushing the pace up to a near-feverish level, before each player gets some upfront time. Fonda shines in his two-minute solo, slowing the tempo and segueing nicely into the title track. The ten-minute, down-tempo title track features some beautiful work from Stevens, augmented soulfully by Borbely. “Soft Balkan Wind” follows and is the first piece to be distinctly flavored by Eastern Europe's traditional sound, yet still incorporating free improvisation before it closes. Similarly, “Borders” begins with ethnic influences out in front, before becoming something of a free jazz clinic, slightly dissonant but pleasing as well.

The remaining three compositions are more focused on harmony, though they are intricate in structure. “China” has stylistic elements of its namesake culture, and Stevens creates a mysterious, elegiac atmosphere that recalls pianist Keith Jarrett's “A Pagan Hymn,” from In the Light (ECM, 1974). A cover of Hungarian-born guitarist Attila Zoller's “Hungarian Jazz Rhapsody” is another exceptional example of the successful merging of influences, ending with Borbely's Romani-like flair. The mid-tempo closer, “Transylvania Blue,” is the collection's most straight-out melodic piece; despite being a Borbely composition, Fonda and Stevens make it theirs, each demonstrating a controlled intensity that simmers just below the surface.

Cross-cultural referencing is certainly not new to jazz, but, nevertheless, each expedition represents a journey into uncharted terrain. Simply incorporating native instruments can be an obvious placeholder, but often serves as only a token of thematic intention. Combined with the premise of improvisation, the integration of ethnic or folkloric themes can be a more thorny issue, as it's easier to lose the thread in the complex goings-on. Icicles represents a brilliant foray into a unique area. The compositions, with the exception of the Zoller piece, are all written by group members, and are open and adventurous--just what would be hoped for--in a musical travelogue containing some of these musicians' finest playing.

~ By Karl Ackermann "All about Jazz"

Eastern Boundary Quartet "Icicles" on Konnex Records
The Eastern Boundary Quartet consists of Mihály Borbély, Michel Jefry Stevens, Joe Fonda, and Balázs Bágyi, and together they unite in sound with a Middle Eastern tone in their style of jazz, with the album Icicles (Konnex). Individually they create incredible music, and Stevens seems to never stop working (I continue to get new music from him on a regular basis, and here’s yet another one, which I’m more than happy to listen to) so by this being a continuation of their individual work, they’ve managed to meet at this crossroads to create a moving album.

It’s moving musically, in that they speak to each other musically and culturally. Recorded live in Budapest, Hungary, you hear a meeting of the minds, one that you may never see or hear politically but should. It’s music without borders, but in many ways most music is borderless, but they express their stories and experiences through songs like “Hungarian Jazz Rhapsody”, “Soft Balkan Wind”, “Fish Soup”, and the appropriately titled “Borders”. Some of the stories may be those told in code, in the form of the music. There’s a bit of sorrow here and there, but the optimism is in the way they play and how they get from one point of the song to the other. You almost don’t want to reach the destination, but that can be considered a way to regroup and start a new story.

~ John Book - This is Book's Music

Eastern Boundary Quartet "Icicles" on Konnex Records
This exciting international quartet consists of bassist Joe Fonda and his frequent collaborator — pianist Michael Jefry Stevens, in conjunction with Hungarians jazzers Mihaly Borbely on soprano sax and Balazs Begyi on drums, while this recording was recorded live in Budapest. Fonda's "Fish Soup" is a great starting off point — its driving pulse bass riff (in 11/4?) &8212 pushed by Begyi's aggressive drumming — allows for enthusiastic free form improvisation by pianist Stevens and saxophonist Borbely. Fonda takes an energetic solo before the band goes into the Stevens-penned title track — a 10:05 showcase for this stunning keyboard player to show his melodic side after the wild angular cascades of the first tune. Borbely's sax here caresses Stevens' melody leading into the pianists' creative and heartfelt solo. The Hungarian contigent also brings their own compositions to the proceedings: Bagyi's "Soft Balkan Wind" is a nice Eastern-tinged duet between the drummer and saxophonist, while Borbely's "Borders" goes even further into Eastern modality, with Stevens adding choice chord clusters. Fonda's "China" does indeed echo misty images of that nation in its deliberate pace and angular melodies. The band covers Hungarian jazz guitar great Atilla Zoller's vibrant "Hungarian Jazz Rhapsody" with zeal. The group ends the recording with Borbely's "Transylvania Blues," which seamlessly merges North American blues with the sounds of the Black Sea region. An exceptional release replete with excellent musical collaboration between the east and west.
~ Brad Walseth - Jazz Chicago.net

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