Crazy About Jazz – Erika Náray and her special guests

The Müpa Budapest Crazy About Jazz series continues with its sixth season, in which a selection of Hungarian cultural figures confess their passion for jazz, with a musical twist. The hostess of the evenings, Erika Náray, a wonderful actress and singer, has previously been the host of a series of discussions with such distinguished artists as György Dragomán, Miklós Szinetár, Pál Sándor, Péter Scherer, Krisztián Nyáry, or Anna Szabó T., who once compared her children’s poems to jazz, but of course the enthusiastic audience has also met “professionals” ( musicians) on more than one occasion.

When the idea of Crazy About Jazz was born in the autumn of 2016, the organisers set themselves the goal of bringing this genre, wrongly categorised as ” layer music”, closer to the public through conversations with their favourite musicians from different areas of intellectual life, and to dispel the myth of its inaccessibility and “difficult to understand”. During the breaks between the talks, Erika Náray, leading her excellent orchestra (pianist Attila Juhász, bassist György Frey and drummer Tamás Berdisz, artistic director), occasionally with the involvement of the people concerned, presents exciting selections of her guests’ favourite jazz pieces:

“To me, jazz is the most exciting genre of music, and as all my musicians are wonderful musicians, I am in the lucky position to experience the most beautiful moments of freedom, liberation and creativity at every performance.”

The aforementioned line of musicians will be reinforced by Ági Szalóki, who will perform on 24 February. The popular singer is known mainly for her folk music and children’s performances, but it is worth remembering that she worked with (jazz) musicians such as Béla Szakcsi Lakatos, László Dés and Kornél Horváth as a teenager.

In addition to her Transylvanian Roma roots, the Liszt Prize-winning singer, who also became acquainted with classical music at an early age, achieved her initial success in the Ökrös ensemble and in the Besh o droM, a group playing Carpathian and Balkan world music, and for two decades she has been enriching the values of Hungarian culture independently, leading her own orchestra. Ági has also recently exerienced the joys of motherhood, and it is no coincidence that her current plans include a prominent role for arts education for the youngest generations.

“I see a great potential in combining music and poetry, and learning about the past and history, and how to make children love it.”

– she says. But this evening, jazz will clearly take the lead, and we can be sure that the singer, whose album A vágy muzsikál (Passion Makes Music), which includes transcriptions of Katalin Karády, is the most successful album of the last 15 years, will not only speak, but will also help to enhance the musical experience as Erika Náray’s partner.

One month to the day after Ági szalóki, Miklós Lukács on cimbalom will be the guest of the Crazy About Jazz series. Although his instrument is far from being a standard in a jazz orchestra, the Prima Prize-winning musician can safely claim to be (at least partly) a jazz musician, having played with such giants of the genre as Charles Lloyd, Archie Shepp, Steve Coleman, Bill Frisell, Chris Potter, Uri Caine and Frank London over the course of his decades-long career.

On 28 April, a very special guest will take to the stage at the Bohemian Venue. In the company of Ildikó Boldizsár, a storyteller and storytelling therapist who was awarded the Attila József Prize in 2006 for her work as a writer, we can also wonder whether there is a connection between the constantly evolving folk tales and the jazz tunes that are set in motion by the improvisations of musicians.

The final chord of the series in spring will once again be given by an outstanding musician, Dániel Gryllus, who, as one of the founders of the legendary Kaláka ensemble, has a deep knowledge of the universal folk and classical music traditions and has also taken an oath to write poetry. And where does jazz come into the equation? On 26 May, we will hear the stories of the cellist and composer who has passed on the artistic tradition to the next generation – his son Samu, also a musician, and his daughter Dorka, an actress.

Article: Győző Nagy

Translation: Nóra Fehér