Hungarian Jazz Association celebrates with national stars Charlie and Tamás Berki

Hungarian musicians Charlie, Tamás Berki, Attila László, Mihály Borbély, János Ávéd, Kornél Fekete-Kovács among almost twenty renowned names. The cream of Hungarian jazz creates a one and only big band to give a celebration concert in the Müpa drive-in cinema.

“The 30. anniversary of the Hungarian Jazz Association, founded by János Gonda, is an important date for fans. This is the only professional association of the country in this field. I wanted to organise something monumental, worthy of the importance of the day and the role of Hungarian jazz in the world. It will be a one-time wonder, as a big band will play together that has never existed in this form. I have been active for fifty years, and this collection will also show my musical development. These are my fellow musicians with whom I have been working with for decades. The other important angle is that these people played an important role in the Association within the last 30 years. The most fantastic part is the list of 22 musicians and 2 singers, and that these artists, regardless of which generation they belong to, said yes to the concert without hesitation”

– Béla Zsoldos, artistic director of the show and vice president of the HJA, explains. He will play vibraphone at the concert.

(c) Gábor Kotschy

The concept is that every active jazz musician will be on stage who has shaped Hungarian jazz life during the last decades. Some of them, like Balázs Berkes, Béla Szakcsi Lakatos, Imre Kőszegi, Tamás Berki or Károly Friedrich, were there at the very beginning of the genre in the country. With their instrumental and performance skills, innovative bands, composer qualities, ongoing presence in the international scene and successes also helped Hungarian jazz to gain character and become distinctive. They also supported new generations to launch their careers, and some of the younger musicians will be also present in this one-time big band.

János Gonda, founder of jazz institutions in Hungary

“The jazz music school started 55 years ago in Hungary, also founded by János Gonda. Jazz education is that old! Would you believe that, despite the socialist system that banned jazz? Still, the Béla Bartók Music School could launch jazz studies. This is where the current Department for Jazz at the Liszt Ferenc University of Music come from in 1990, and younger musicians can thank their great and internationally acknowledged skills to the education they received there. They are not only talented who love this genre, but with their diploma they can be part of musical life. We have many high-skilled musicians who do a great job in any genre. Younger students are there behind Gigi Radics and Caramel (popular Hungarian singers of Roma origin – translator’s note), in many pop bands, in the Studio 11 (formerly a radio band, now works individually – translator’s note), and in the two big bands: Modern Art Orchestra and Budapest Jazz Orchestra. This is also a sign of the openness of jazz musicians for everything, from contemporary music to more popular genres. There are wonderful jazz soloists in the orchestras behind world stars as well. I think we are world leaders now, which is shown by many victories at competitions and Montreux Jazz Festivals. The Hungarian Jazz Orchestra is different from its beginnings, though. Back then it provided the professional background for the genre. These days it organises such events where hundreds of jazz musicians can enter the stage, and invites international stars for workshops and subsequent concerts with Hungarian colleagues. These events and their feedbacks show that we are in the frontline of this genre even worldwide

– highlights Béla Zsoldos.

The 30 years of Jazz – Hungarian All Star Big Band concert has a repertoire of Hungarian standards, pieces by Kornél Fekete-Kovács, Attila László and Béla Zsoldos, as well as songs by the two singers. One specialty of the show is that Charlie’s hits will be accompanied by the big band as well. Instead of sitting in the Festival Theatre, audience will sit in the parking lot in cars and follow the concert on screen. Béla Zsoldos thinks this is as if one of the band members would follow the concert from far away, as reactions of the audience are truly shaping parts of jazz music.

“This show was planned for the International Jazz Day, 30th April, but had to postpone it due to the pandemic. We believed that it might have to wait for a year, but then this opportunity came, having a concert like a drive-in cinema. Playing without an audience present is not ideal, but this is how it should be now. I told everyone that they have to play very well, as there will be no feedback from outside. No clapping after solos, which is very hard to imagine in case of a jazz concert. But if they give their hearts and souls, then it will be visible even in the cars outside, and people can go home with an unforgettable experience.”


Singing: Tamás Berki, Charlie
Piano: Béla Szakcsi Lakatos,
Guitar: Attila László
Bass guitar: Béla Lattmann
Contrabass: Balázs Berkes
Drums: Imre Kőszegi, Balázs Bágyi, László Csízi
Vibraphone: Béla Zsoldos
Alto saxophone: Mihály Borbély, Kristóf Bacsó
Tenor saxophone: János Ávéd, Ákos Csejtei
Alto and baritone saxophone: István Elek
Trumpets: Kornél Fekete-Kovács, Áron Koós-Hutás, István Fekete, Dávid Csizmadia
Trombone: Károly Friedrich, Ferenc Schreck, Béla Szalóky, Gábor Barbinek.

Article: Anikó Magócsi

Translation: Zsófia Hacsek