Gramy 2013 / Esoteric 2017
Freedom that knows no border: two musical institutions take a trip into the uknown and report from the road.
DJABE should be considered a national treasure in Hungary, but global community noticed the band after their appearance on a second volume of Steve Hackett‘s “Genesis Revisited” extravaganza. Those who paid attention, though, know that this association was a decade-long and would continue well into the future: the guitarist’s commitment to any other group has never been so long-term. It didn’t seem strange, really, because a discerning fan could find a common denominator for the world music collective with experimental streak and the prog paragon whose “The Steppes” wove puszta perception in its original fabric, which is being brought home here, on a live album recorded in Bratislava in July 2011.
As much as this audio-video package describes real-life events which Hackett and his European friends endured on the road – reflected in a tour documentary – it’s the fierce adventurousness of their music that’s the focus of the package. With some tracks available only on CD and some only on DVD, one has to take an immersive trip into the artists’ space to experience the possibilities they explore together, and when the entire ensemble whip up percussive wonders on “Rocking Rivers” or construct a choir on “Last Train To Istanbul” something truly transcendental is happening. More so, the two entities bring out the best in each other. Even the quietest pieces such as “Distant Dance” or “City Of Habi” give the Englishman an opportunity to demonstrate a wild streak – kept in check at his own shows – while the Hungarians paint a finely textured picture for Hackett’s lines to blend in.
Unlike other bands who pander to their guests, Attila Égerházi and his combo accommodate Steve’s sound into an idiom of DJABE and refract the guitarist’s classics – like “Ace Of Wands” where Ferenc Kovacs’s trumpet is soaring gloriously to celestial heights to highlight the track’s spiritual core – through jazz and folk prisms. There’s vigorous improvisation going on in “Rush For Menes” and light fusion in “Butterfly” allowing each instrumentalist to strut his stuff after Barabas Tamas bass has stolen the scene with an exquisite solo as it also does on “Flowers Stillness” where fragility and robustness come together. Although the veteran’s acoustic set, with “Blood On The Rooftops” for a pivot, is a transparent relief from the intensity of these performances, an eye of the storm, and “Firth Of Fifth” isn’t taken to a new level despite being partially passed to violin, the band’s touch adds another dimension to “…In That Quiet Earth” and magnifies its coda immensely.
There’s natural freedom in this cross-pollination of styles, and magic, too, to make the unexpected collaboration special.