This performance is a second coming together of a rather unusual but wonderful pair; Dame Evelyn Glennie, a household name in percussion, and Szilárd Mezei, a prolific free improviser, multi-instrumentalist, and composer. In 2018, these two artists came together in the Core-tet Project, one of Dame Evelyn’s significant forays into free improvisation. Since then, she also worked with TRIO HLK, but this live performance with Mezei and his quartet is a much different kind of performing for her. While many of Dame Evelyn’s audiences flock to listen to her play as well as establish canon as the most preeminent soloist in her field, this recording demonstrates something altogether different. These two impromptu creations present her as an excellent collaborator in real time. Not that audiences need it, but we are also reminded yet again of just how amazing of a listener she is. Despite her image as an iconic soloist, Dame Evelyn knows when to jump in, layout, and communicate with the other players throughout the performance. The ebb and flow of the music is natural. Textures are blended. Players are supported throughout both performances. Mezei’s quartet is comprised of some of his closest collaborators and it is easy to hear how comfortably they communicate with each other on stage. Dame Evelyn’s musical chemistry with percussionist Ivan Burka at times makes the percussionists indistinguishable from one another. Some listeners might expect this recording to sound like Evelyn Glennie and the Mezei quartet as being separate entities, but every player pulls their own weight and the sounding result becomes that of a quintet rather than a soloist and a quartet.
Projects like this one are unique and perhaps do not happen as much as they should. Evelyn Glennie has always been a trailblazer in the percussion community and the world of classical music but is not often discussed as an improviser. Szilard Mezei and his team of regular performers, despite being as prolific with their output as they have been for decades, do not receive as much attention or credit as is merited, but this is also true of other significant improvisers (György Szabados, Derek Bailey, Albert Ayler, and others being in a similar category). However, as this album demonstrates, free improvisers and prominent mainstream soloists can easily and effectively occupy the same spaces and create incredible musical experiences. This performance, as well as Core-tet, can bring different kinds of listeners together. Dame Evelyn, Mezei, Ranković, Burka, and Malina have given listeners a collaboration that provides a bridge between two types of musicians, showing that perhaps the distances between them are not so great.
Ross Aftel, percussionist/educator