Hot Nights, Cool Jazz

In June I ended up in Budapest for a week working on a conference in one of the big 5 star hotels in the city centre.  I knew it was going to be a very busy week but in advance of going I thought I’d look into seeing if there were any gigs worth going to while I was there. I did a Google search and it turned up a couple….Sting, don’t think so!…..Duran Duran, oh my word it gets worse. Anyway I decided that these weren’t the sort of gigs I fancied anyway so I started looking for something a little less mainstream. What I was really hoping to find was some sort of underground avant garde club presenting an evening of impenetrable improvised music but nothing like that showed up on a search engine! So I decided to look for Jazz clubs and this was a little bit more fruitful.

There seemed to be a number of different places but the one that looked the most promising was the Budapest Jazz Club which was in Múzeum Ucta and was about a twenty minute walk from the hotel. I knew there was no chance of getting out on the Monday and Tuesday nights so I looked to see what was on on the other two nights I was there. As luck would have it both nights sounded interesting.

So on the Wednesday evening after we finished at around 6pm I went back to the hotel and changed. I decided to put shorts on despite the late hour as it was still warm outside but put a sweatshirt on as well. I had decided to head down to the river first to do a bit of sightseeing and then head over to the Jazz club. I knew it was a straight line to the river bu had printed out a Google map to find my way to the club later. I set off and had only been walking for about 10 minutes before I realised that he sweatshirt wasn’t really required! It took me about 25 minutes to reach the Danube and then another 15 or so to walk along the banks to reach the famous chain bridge. I was disappointed to find that the lights that illuminate it at night weren’t on yet but I spent a while taking pictures in the hope they would come on while I was there. I knew if I walked away I’d get halfway back and they’d come on but it got to the point where I was about to admit defeat and head off but I decided to cross the bridge and have a quick look up the river from the other side. Amazingly as I stood there the bridge suddenly came to life and I then spent another 5 minutes or so photographing this famous landmark.

As time was moving on I set off for the jazz club and decided rather than retrace my steps it would be quicker to cut across  through the backstreets at an angle to get there. It was only after I set off that I realised the combination of darkness, a google map, foreign street names and no glasses didn’t make for easy navigation. I did know however I that if I kept going in a certain direction I had to come to the road I’d walked down so that’s what I did. I eventually crossed it and headed further south until I came to a junction where a quick double back deposited me at the end of the road that the jazz club resided in.

The street had buildings down one side and a small park on the other side and as I wandered down the street looking for the club I could hear loud music blasting from a building further along. That building was the jazz club but the music definitely wasn’t jazz! I figured the club shared the venue with other establishments and hoped that the music wasn’t about to drown out the jazz being played elsewhere in the building. I walked up the steps and past a small sparsely populated bar area to a desk that had a sign saying Budapest Jazz Club above it. I asked the girl behind it if she spoke English and thankfully she did. I asked if it was ok to go in and she laughed and said of course. I handed over 1000 Huf (£2.78) and she gave me a ticket and pointed me towards a stone staircase.

As I walked up the stairs past jazz based murals I could tell that Marton Fenyvesi’s egotrip were already on stage but when I reached the top I entered into a bar. I could see that the performance area lay through some doors on my right but I thought I’d get a beer first. The barman wasn’t exactly over worked but he was bemused by my request for a receipt! I took my beer and went through the doors. The room was quite dark but I could make out down towards the stage there we tables set out cabaret style and then towards the back there were about 10 lines of chairs. I sat myself down in the front row and looked around. There were probably around 30 people in the room scatted widely between the tables and the seats. On the stage were the band, my internet investigation had led me to expect a trio but there were 4 of them possibly with the addition of a percussionist.

Marton Fenyvesi was  left of the stage playing guitar and across the back were a bassist and drummer with the percussionist on the right. I have no idea how far they were into their first set but they were certainly into their groove. Marton plays the guitar as if it’s alive and trying to get away from him and he keeps having to wrestle with it to bring it under control! They played a mixture of their own compositions and cover versions which included the Police’s Message in a bottle and Nirvana’s Come as you are. I had arrived just before the end of their first set and this gave me a chance to get another beer before their second set. I did feel that the second set ended rather abruptly but it had been an enjoyable evening anyway.

On the way out the loud music was still going strong downstairs, luckily it had only affected upstairs between songs as the band drowned it out for the rest of the time. I took a peek through the door which it was coming from and it seemed to be some sort of dance club or class going on. I headed back to the hotel but stopped outside a bar to watch the penalty shoot out that was going on in the world cup match taking place that evening. At the last minute I headed up to the bar we had drank in the previous two evenings and found some of the crew so I stopped for a beer (or two!)

Before I’d gone to Budapest I had found it easy to find information about Marton Fenyvesi but the only thing I had found out about the act the following night was that it was part of a series of collaborations between Hungarian and Rumanian musicians called Jazzmozdony and I had guessed that this was the 9th in the series as it was called Jazzmozdony9. I liked the idea of a collaboration so I had thought that if I could only go one night I’d go to this one but I was glad I’d gone the night before and having done so was keen to go back. I had hoped that as it was a collaboration it might be a bit avant-garde or experimental but this idea faded when I looked  in the brochure I’d been given the night before and saw that  (translated by Google)  the band consisted of drums, double bass, piano and a singer.

I set off later than I’d expected as I spent ages on the phone talking to Sarah so once again I arrived when the band were already on stage. This time entry was free so I just headed up the stairs to the club. Once again I paused at the bar for a drink but this time I headed towards the tables nearer the front that I had sat the night before. I grabbed one near the window because if anything tonight was even hotter than last night. On stage there were 3 musicians playing what I guessed was the opening number. There was a piano player sitting at a huge grand with his back to the audience, a bass player and a drummer. At the end of the song a singer came on stage and stayed for the rest of the evening.

The music was much more laid back than last nights manic guitar meanderings but the bass player was really good (actually they all were). The singer Gabriela Costa (who I presume was Romanian) introduced the songs and what she said was translated into Hungarian by a guy in the audience with a microphone. It was weird to have all of the announcements in two languages and one of them not being English! They played two sets of jazz standards like Favourite things, Funny Valentine and Fly me to the moon while the sounds of a hot Budapest evening drifted in through the open window. Oddly for the second night the show ended rather abruptly!

I decided not to go and see if any of the crew were drinking in the bar afterwards as I knew the following day was going to be a long one so I headed back to the hotel but not before I sampled one of the kebabs from the many Turkish kebab shops that line the streets around Budapest! I really enjoyed my time in Hungary and hope to return one day soon.

I note that the Jazz Club has since moved to another location in the city, not sure why but check out their website or Facebook page for their new address.