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Consistency in Transformation

The Transform Quintet, which for all intents and purposes has an unchanged line-up, will stage a 20th anniversary grand concert with surprise guests and, in a gesture worthy of their name, perform new songs at the Budapest Jazz Club in the frame of CAFe Budapest Contemporary Arts Festival.

The Transform Quintet is a dynamic band with a twirling momentum that cannot be tied to the music from any one generation or decade. Their diverse styles can perhaps best be described as somewhere between modern jazz and melodic jazz-rock. Transform’s keyboardist Gábor “Tojás” Horváth, who writes most of their songs, believes in the power of a traditional melody and jazz’s bright and cheerful characteristics that have been present since the swing era. To these driving rhythms and storytelling melodies, the quintet adds improvisations and orchestrations with various tones to fully realise their captivating power. “In music and as people we are fortunate that we complete each other,” Dániel Redő, the band’s founding percussionist revealed.

In addition to Horváth and Redő, the core group has not changed, with Attila Gálfi drumming and Márton Eged playing bass guitar. What has changed is the person playing the lead melodic instrument, as Zoltán Dévényi originally played guitar, who was then followed by the saxophonists Péter Jelasity and János Ávéd. The saxophonists were in turn followed by the guitarist Bálint Gyémant, who has been with the group for some time, and who in addition to forming an internationally acclaimed group together with Veronika Harcsa, has also shown the exciting possibilities for experimentation at the edges of the jazz, rock and electronic genres with various formations.

As for what it takes to keep a band together for 20 years, all the while letting the band members venture out to sate their own ambitions? “Friendship, love, respect and musical fanaticism. Our careers launched at the same time, we experienced our first successes and failures together as a group and grew together”, Horváth responded. “Transform Quintet is a family, the origin to which we all gladly return”, he summarised. Dániel Redő’s memories are exactly the same. “We were together seemingly every day, attended concerts together, and introduced new music to each other. We tried a lot of things and spent a lot of time working with management. We prepared concerts and records, and bought each other instruments if someone needed to buy something but couldn’t afford it on their own”, he said of their early days.

It is difficult to extract a specific moment from the two decades, but what can certainly be considered the height of their careers was when the they recorded an album and performed together with Michael Brecker’s former pianist Joey Calderazzo, meaning that they did not simply meet on the stage for a few tunes. Transform released Another Child in 2010, and there was electricity in the air at the album’s debut performance at the Budapest Jazz Club. An earlier album’s title (Each Other’s Children) also refers to childhood. According to Redő, memories are always present in the band’s appearances, since they formed the group at such a young age. Their greatest virtue, which keeps not only the band but their fans together as well, is their commitment to the importance of music and their faith in the power of expressing clean and honest ideas through music.

This article by Kornél Zipernovszky first appeared in Budapest’s Finest Magazine.