Mihaly Dresch / Archie Shepp: Hungarian Bebop
Saxophonist and composer Mihaly Dresch is one of the most influential nurturers of a fertile fusion between Hungarian folk music and jazz, and this attractive set features him in the company of that grizzled veteran of the 1960s American free-jazz avant-garde, Archie Shepp. There are strong contrasts between Dresch's clearer, more precise, yet Coltrane-pungent tenor lines and Shepp's raw and bleary smears and lurches, and they dance some ruggedly elegant improvised counterpoint together on soprano saxes too, as well as providing haunting textural blends with violinist Ferenc Kovacs' deliciously fluttering tone and sudden surges of intensity. Shepp's famous Steam (taken surprisingly slowly, and suggesting a dance in monochrome between a solitary couple in a vast, empty ballroom) is the only non-Dresch track, and most of the melodies mingle boppish lines with gracefully weaving Hungarian folk themes. Shepp sounds unusually engaged in the whole enterprise, and though there's a melancholy flavour to it, it's a very distinctive mix.
The Guardian, Friday 8 November 2002