SogoRock, 24 January 2020

Ferenc Lakatos, synthesiser
Krzysztof Urbanski, saxophone
Nik Svarc, guitar
Bela Horvath, keyboards
Alexander Miller, bass
Joshua Gumbs, drums

‘Difficult to resist’ might be the most succinct way of describing this band; and ‘’Why would I?’ a fair summary of the audience reaction.

The music of SogoRock is not rock music—the name denotes the brother-in-law status of the two Hungarian leaders; and as their website proudly declares, ‘Only jazz, nothing else.’ Still, like all jazz worthy of the name, there were musical antecedents, influences and stylistic borrowings from far and near, late and recent. One didn’t need to strain to hear the propulsiveness of rock, but that has featured in mainstream jazz for so long that it can practically be counted as one of its traditions. Hip Hop is the new kid on the block. Long may porous boundaries, dedicated learning and unashamed appropriation continue—all grist to the creative mill.

The band had two distinct features which shape its musical approach. The first is that it featured two synthesisers. The second is that the band and its arrangements were configured to present a single ‘front line’—that is, although there were solo turns, the ensemble sound was the priority—and that gave nearly all of the numbers their very considerable force. But of course, true musical power is never blunt, or merely a function of volume. What we had instead was a complex and potent blend of harmonic and rhythmic invention. One of the unique pleasures of the music was that because synthesisers have a remarkable span of tonal variation, both the harmonic and melodic possibilities are extensive—and Ferenc and Bela were happy to exploit them.

Chamber music it wasn’t—the entire evening was, as they say, a blast. But there were also musical delights aplenty, particularly in the second set when the band assumed a less blended, more spacious approach which allowed each of the individual members a chance to shine in more familiar modes, although Alexander Miller’s bass was a standout from the start. It was pleasing to hear Krzysztof Urbanski cut loose with his long, sinuous tenor lines; and Nik Svarc demonstrate his expressive range on the guitar. Joshua Gumbs’ drumming scarcely seemed possible—jazz, funk, rock: there isn’t a name that captures the magic he conjured up, but ‘phenomenal’ was invoked by several.

This was strong medicine, certainly—and utterly enjoyable, delivered by a band of musicians who appeared to be enjoying the party as much as delivering it. If you missed this one, make a beeline next time they are within striking distance.

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