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’Don’t Call Me an Artist’ // Tony Lakatos presented by the Hesse Jazz Award

2020. október 12.

Frankfurt-based Hungarian saxophonist Tony Lakatos was recently awarded the prestigious Jazz Award of the Hesse Ministry of Science and the Arts. As this year’s recipient, he was presented the prize at a concert in Frankfurt at the end of September.

You might have already come across the interview Tony Lakatos gave us after the news of the prize had been broken (https://magyarjazz.hu/component/k2/594-gratulalunk-tony-lakatosnak-aki-a-hesseni-jazz-dijat-kapta-iden). Now, with the award ceremony behind us, it is worth to look into how the Hungarian-born saxophonist was celebrated in the German press.
 
In case you would not know, 62-year-old saxophonist Tony Lakatos hails from one of the most famous Gypsy musician dynasties („devil’s violinist” and bandleader Roby Lakatos is his younger brother). No wonder that he started out on the violin, too, but was allowed by his parents to switch to the saxophone. He graduated from the jazz faculty of the Bartók Conservatory in Budapest, and quickly made a name for himself in various groups, became a bandleader and started touring abroad. After having resided in Germany for a longer period, he joined the Big Band of the Hessen Radio in 1993 full time, a position he is going to retire from next year. As a leader he played regularly in Germany, Hungary and a number of other countries, including the US, aligning great stars in his bands such as the pianists Jasper Van’t Hoff, Kirk Lightsey, Joanne Brackeen, Dave Kikoski, Roberto Di Gioia, the late singer Kevin Mahogany, bass player Anthony Jackson, drummers Al Foster, Wolfgang Haffner, Terri Lynne Carrington, and fellow sax player Rick Margitza, just to name a few. Lately his recordings were issued on the German Skip label, e.g.: Porgy and Bess, 2009 (awarded the German Record Prize); The Coltrane-Hartman Fantasy vol. 1, 2010; HomeTone, 2011; Standard Time, 2012; and Gypsy Tenors, 2017.

The doyen of German saxophonists, Emil Mangelsdorff is quoted on the occasion saying „Tony is one of my favourite players among the many guests that I invited to join me on stage in concert. He is one of the ambassadors of the high music culture of the Sinti and the Roma.” 

The occasion was also marked by the publication of the first monograph about Tony Lakatos, written by Rainer Erd, and entitled „Tony Lakatos. Sagt nur nicht Künstler zu mir“ (’Don’t Call Me an Artist’). Anyone who has met the soft-spoken Hungarian musician is not surprised by the title of the book: always the humble person he is, he told the author first that he had not thought that he had been significant to become the topic of a book. 

The prize-winning recording of the Gershwin opera was re-arranged for orchestra by the former director and conductor of the Hessen big band, Jörg Achim Keller, and was recorded with Lakatos as the prime instrumental soloist. Keller told author Rainer Erd that as a conductor he had rarely experienced the perfect harmony with a soloist in an ensemble as with Lakatos as a soloist during his years conducting the Hessen big band.

Another daily, Frankfurter Rundschau wrote in praise of Lakatos on the occasion: „He is the most competent soloist, blessed with a well-crafted, full-blooded and warm sound, presented leisurely something only those musicians can do, who are not busy displaying their statues as grand master of the instrument”.

One of the most prestigious German dailies, Frankfurter Allgemeine reviewed the concert at which the prize was awarded to the saxophonist who played with his quintet there. Journalist Norbert Krampf praised his velvet tone which is able to oscillate between leisure and elegance, adding that in the up-tempo pieces he really put on the pressure in his improvisations. He reported that at the end of the concert the enchanted audience had celebrated the awardee loudly.

Fotó: Norbert Krampf