His relatively young age notwithstanding, Szilard Mezei’s sonic art demonstrates the maturity of an elderly composer whose life has seen adventure and reflection in equal doses. Gifted with precious attributes — sense of humor, reminiscence, consistency, intelligibility — permeated by an evident practical training, the work of this violist of Serbian descent is rapidly and deservedly becoming an object of interest for various observers of the scenes related to the territories which extend from the outermost fringes of that which we refer to as “jazz” to new examples of writing for chamber ensemble
Accordingly, We Were Watching The Rain is an authoritative assertion. Mezei’s Wind Quartet — which comprises Bogdan Rankovic on clarinets and alto sax, Branislav Aksin on trombone and Kornél Papista on tuba besides the leader — is the type of undersized orchestra you could fall in love with right away, the musicians’ intent residing halfway through the ideal elucidation of the composer’s purpose and the will of exchanging small improvisational messages imbued with inquisitive idiosyncrasy. These people know the value of a notated page but are also ready to rip the paper into shreds, introducing an instantly recognizable condition of innocence, the kind of unassailable incorruptibility which allows the music to flow ravishingly between passion, coherence and mathematic precision.
In “Hep 8”, for example, a funny tuba vamp alternatively hosts oblique thematic expositions and sudden dissonant counterpoints, the whole executed with awesome perfection — every note, even the instinctive ones, placed exactly where expected. Still, a “black circus” atmosphere pervades the air, and it’s just great to perceive it. The (apparently) amusing bits and pieces of scrambled phrasing that the Quartet throws in amidst the compelling progressions dictated by the score contribute to our bewildered enthusiasm: no one knows where the process is going to lead, yet there’s always something in the performance that offers a handgrip, letting us remain attuned with the piece’s mood.
Irony is detectable throughout the album but the comrades do not exaggerate in that direction, remaining committed to a creditable rendition of the material despite the liberties. When they decide to outfox the listener via tangential mediations filled with monstrous technical difficulties, the result remains completely enjoyable and ear-gratifying. Without excessive bragging, ever faithful to their wonderful synthesis of certitude, tribulation and controlled excitement, four men from Eastern Europe teach a lesson of restrained brilliance.