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Jazz from Socialist Realism to Postmodernism

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Edited By Yvetta Kajanová, Gertrud Pickhan and Rüdiger Ritter

In the 20th century, jazz was an important artistic form. Depending on the particular European country, jazz music carried different social, political and aesthetic meanings. It brought challenges in the areas of racial issues, the politics of the Cold War between East and West, and in the exploration of boundaries of artistic freedom. In socialist Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Hungary and Poland, the situation began to change after 1956 and then 1968, when the ideologists shifted from the aesthetics of socialist realism to postmodernism. In Western countries such as France and Italy, jazz transformed from a modern to a postmodern period. This volume deals with the impact of these changes on the career development of jazz musicians – even beyond 1989 – in terms of various phenomena such as emigration, child prodigies, multiculturalism, multi-genre approaches, or female jazz musicians.

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Hungarian Free Jazz: Compositional and Improvisational Structures in the Music of György Szabados, as Exemplified in “The Wedding”

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Abstract: The pianist and composer György Szabados (1939–2011) is one of the most significant figures in Hungarian avant-garde jazz; he was instrumental both in establishing freely improvised music in his homeland and in the development of a typically Hungarian style of this music.

Musical Biography

As a boy, Szabados was influenced both by classical music and jazz, initially bebop and cool jazz. In 1962 and 1963, he regularly performed in Hungary’s first jazz club Dália in Budapest. Even in his early years, Szabados’s unorthodox compositional approach to jazz was apparent both in his original Bartók-flavoured compositions and in his improvisations on Bartók’s pieces.2

The birth of free jazz in Hungary dates to 1963, when Szabados and the bassist Endre Publik improvised in Dália for about 30 minutes without previous or predetermined structures or without a previous discussion.3 This event is believed to be–with the exception of Joe Harriott’s work–one of the very first experiments with free jazz, not only in the Eastern bloc countries but all of Europe.4 Since the music of Ornette Coleman and Cecil ← 83 | 84 → Taylor had not yet reached Hungary, this can be considered an independent development parallel with the free jazz tendency in the United States (US) and, by no means, an imitation of its Western counterpart.5

Despite negative reviews in jazz circles,6 a trio recording led by Szabados entitled B-A-C-H élmények (B-A-C-H Impressions) appeared...

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