acoustic guitar artist, composer
Reviews of Parabola
Sándor Szabó/Kevin Kastning: Parabola
"The album "Parabola" is an album that will be a delight to lovers of music composed to be played on a guitar. With admirable virtuosity, Sándor Szabó and Kevin Kastning are two musicians with great professionalism when playing the guitar and that is perfectly reflected in an album like this destined be the delight of discerning music lovers. "Parabola" is a walk through the sensitivity in the interpretation of compositions designed to keep them alive only through different types of guitars with which these two artists are recreated in the musical atmosphere designed to stimulate the imagination. Sándor Szabó, with his 12-string baritone guitar, and Kevin Kastning with low baritone guitar with 6 strings, guitar, baritone 12-string and extended high 12-string guitar, makes this album sound a complete deployment where notes float in the air with harmony and beauty unsurpassed. The magic touch of these instruments makes each composition, an experience that will take us into states of emotional balance and inner peace through music.
Listen to this stunning album and peace takes hold of one, making the sensitivity to music is increasing as we move through these beautiful compositions. The serenity is owner of our senses to sensitize subtle enough to be able to hook permanently into melodies decorated with fleeting notes that lend it such a special point to each composition. A constantly evolving sonic detail, as the main body of each song, which gives us that look so mystical and relaxing as few instruments able to inspire us when we listen. For this reason, I find it very hard to stay with one of these wonderful items because I conceive this album as a whole more than the union of very different parts, with the hearing of all that makes the album "Parabola" is so complete, rich and exquisite. A music for music lovers who truly love music for its beauty and color your message as authentic. "Parabola", when music is art and the guitar becomes an instrument of worship for their sound so warm and unique. Enjoy it!"
- Lux Atenea webzine; Spain (March 2010)
The darkly abstract, acoustic, baritone guitar duo is back
with its latest and best, a difficult claim to make, given the excellences
of their past releases. Parabola is a haunting brocade of the far reaches
of moody pointillism, a mode immediately intoned in an opening cut, Hyperbola,
sounding like an unused track from the masterful Towner / Abercrombie
LPs for ECM, treasures we lovers of the six strings hold in highest esteem
(and which I, lucky bastard that I am, had a chance to see done live,
a pairing never to be outdone). The song typifies the entire attitude
of a duet forever reaching for more bizarre and compelling instrumental
stylings in this mode, eventide melodic while atonal. Manfred Eicher gave
up on the eerily delightful phase long ago, so thank God Szabo & Kastning
I have been very furtunate when recently I could hear the Sandor Szabo/Kevin
Kastning guitar duo in live in Szeged/Hungary. The concert in Szeged was
a station of a Hungarian tour where we could hear the american composer/baritone
guitar player Kevin Kastning as the guest of Sandor Szabo in duo.
Features: Szabó Sándor / 6 és 12 tring baritone guitars, Kevin Kastning
/ 6 és 12 string baritone guitars
Sándor Szabó & Kevin Kastning
And if a bird can speak, who once was a dinosaur,
Out of the earth to rest or range
That those who follow feel behind
It's not that easy to describe music in words, so I sometimes hang close to the words that get attached to it. Parabola is a great word. The image of DaVinci's drawing of a parabola is magical to me, and isn't it just too cool that parabolic can refer to the geometry of a thing created by slicing a cone, or the completely unrelated thought of a parable? I can learn the meaning of that drawing and know how to use the invention it describes, but I prefer to see it as art and magic. The same is true of the music on this album. There is math involved in all music, but that's not why we listen to it. These two guys from Massachusetts, USA and far off Hungary are playing guitar together in some strange and wonderful way. At first I want to call it jazz, but that's a little dumb. Here's a magic incantation to change the world: Everybody everywhere has been improvising all the time in everything. Jazz didn't invent improvisation. This album is something else. All those stock phrases, trills, chords, riffs, and scales we know and love in that same new thing we call pop, rock, blues, jazz or folk are seldom heard at all in this Parabola. Imagine that!
Improvisers have a bag of tricks without doubt, but Kevin and Sándor are like Santa Claus with a big bag of joy for all the boys and girls from another part of the galaxy. Hey Billy, here's a melody. Jimmy gets a lullaby. Jen and Mei get some sparkling thing I don't know what it is. I am falling for this album pretty hard, but the Peter, Paul and Mary Christmas tune still circles in my head like a joke at the party: "I never knew just what it was and I guess I never will." Bullwinkle ends the cycle of thought in that big moose voice: "Just listen!"
Alright! Alright! I sit back and take the journey. I just woke up and the coffee is just starting to work, but my feet aren't quite touching the ground. Maybe I'm not floating in space past icy Pluto, but I have no sensation of linoleum on my bare feet. What focused light has so changed my perception? Isn't that what Wikipedia tells me a parabola is all about? These guys are tour guides through rhythms and tonalities from another part of the system. I've been here in a way on the Sargasso Sea of John Abercrombie and Ralph Towner, but that's probably no more of an analogy than a brush with the comfortable unfamiliar.
I was at a Toru Takamitsu concert in Los Angeles one fine evening when I got a tap on the shoulder from composer Daniel Lentz. "What is the most important thing to know about any composer? he asked. I didn't even try, but treated the question like a knock knock joke: "Who's there?" Daniel had a very good answer: "How do they repeat musical ideas." Wow! That defines a great deal! A blues or a sonata are defined by the repetition. Here's the paradox to this Parabola: There really isn't much in the way of repetition to hold onto for long. Melodies bubble up and burst the way they do in Takamitsu's music, and in Debussey. Szabo may be playing a folk tune one moment only to stop and take another road altogether after a little caesura. Kevin sometimes plays a bass line on the baritone guitar only to turn his ax into a harpsichord of a thing as he slips forward to take the lead. None of it sounds like the usually noodling jam band guitar work I can trance to at a rave. I can't zone out under these conditions. This music is a little like meditating in a Zen temple where the master walks the room with a stick to keep the devotees from nodding off. By God, this is some sort of deeper form of improvisation. I don't know how they do it, but this music takes me someplace full of promise just this side of a druggy dream at a party populated by themes and counter-themes, contrapuntal dances, sweet folk melodies, and extended tonality where composers hang out to find something lost and something new.
This here Parabola is music that doesn't make me feel smart or dumb or anything of the sort. It's full of stars like the phrase from 2010. It may move in fits and starts like the rickety cart of pop band Primus, but I think those guys stole that from composers hither and thither. I've always wanted to know what goes on behind the eyes of serious music, but never felt I had the chops to see the imagination behind the finished work. This slice of the cone called Parabola provides my best window into that alternate reality. What goes on behind that curtain? Here in this time/space continuum of improvisation between two serious and joyous musicians is a key: They are at play in the world of extended sound. I might have thought there need be a controlling musical diagram written precisely in some late night back room somewhere to get where they get to, but they seem to be playing free. I guess it's possible to be so full of new music, it can seep out fully formed in a passing collaborative moment. It's the damnedest thing! What might it be like to think a song together and have it take form right there in the studio? There is a state of consciousness possible from listening to this album seldom available from cogitating solo. Here's the kicker: There is joy in the journey accessible and interesting right here in my stereo from this album. I don't enjoy feeling impressed and prefer to be moved.
Wild thing, I think you move me
When I first met Kevin Kastning, I felt that he is first of all a brilliant
musician, an improviser who was able to make me forget what instruments
he plays. He instinctively avoided the usual way of musical solutions
on his guitars. It was as if he was from another solar system. When we
finished our first recordings, I felt that we were both elevated to a
different level of playing music. We mutually fertilized each other's
soul. Being supported on this recognition, we decided to record more music
in duo. One year later, we met again and in the same way we recorded two
more albums using the same approach. It seemed that no matter which tunings
we used, we just played and it sounded as if it were composed. The music
we played had a consciousness and an instinctive side. As we both played
baritone guitars, we had the possibility to consciously shape the voicing
of the different music layers, and as a result it was like a two-member
string quartet. This instinctively played music showed an incredibly strong
structure, never before heard chords with mysterious inner logic. This
was the point when I could formulate to myself that the music just happens.
We are a psycho-somatic interface to manifest the music. The composed
or improvised music shows only one thing for me: where the soul is just
wandering. The music sometimes seems to me as a result living resonant
entity that comes, touches, and washes through our soul; then vanishes.
One of the definitions of a parabola is that of a parabolic reflector,
which is a curved mirror or similar device which concentrates various
reflected light sources into a common focal point. Using a parabola of
this configuration, sunlight may be captured and focused into a burning
light. In July 2008, Sándor Szabó and I again met in the recording studio.
In the year which had passed since we recorded the albums "Resonance"
and "Parallel Crossings,"we had both been experimenting with
new tunings for the extended 12-string baritone. Though each of us were
exploring unknown territory, we simultaneously arrived at divergent locations
with different tunings. We blended the new intervallic tunings, and these
previously unheard and undiscovered harmonic environments and textural
atmospheres impacted our new compositions. The compositions on this album
were strongly influenced by these experimental tunings; the shape, the
form, the textures, the content; all unique. This parabola blended both
our instrumental voices, along with the discoveries of new tunings, into
sharply focused new compositions.
"I have been very fortunate when recently I could hear the Sandor Szabo/Kevin Kastning guitar duo in live in Szeged, Hungary. The concert in Szeged was a stop on a Hungarian tour, where we could hear the American composer/baritone guitar player Kevin Kastning as the guest of Sandor Szabo in duo.
It is important to know that Kevin Kastning used to study with Pat Metheny and he is a great fan of Bela Bartok. I think it is needless to introduce the Hungarian Sandor Szabo the great master of multi-string guitars. He was one of the charter member of the SzaMaBa Trio in the middle of the ’80s. He was always for the high quality compromiseless music . Kevin Kastning is a new figure of the American guitar scene; it is not an exaggeration that he is the most modern guitar player now in the US. It is not accidental that they met in 2005 and now they have three albums with their duo. Their recent album is the Parabola. Their albums are not kind of consuming products, they are very refined art of today’s guitar music. This is not surprising knowing Sandor Szabo who never compromised the music he created and played. He always pointed out that making art in a commercial way is very far from him. Instead of that, he put the bar very high both musically, artistically, and in sound quality.
The album contains 11 pieces; all of them are Szabo/Kastning compositions. The titles (Trilateration, Cartesian Other, Third Plerochorism) immediately indicate that we cannot count on easy pieces. The music much rather can be described as philosophy formulated on the language of music notes. Sometimes we do not always understand what goes on but we never doubt in its justice. It is like a mathematical formula (equation) for which we cannot evidence, but it works. No doubt this music widely extends our multi-dimensional perception. We can have a glance into such worlds that is possible to create only by the greatest artists, composers, musicians, painters, poets."
Features: Szabó Sándor / 6 & 12 string baritone guitars, Kevin Kastning / 6 & 12 string extended baritone guitars
- Czékus Mihály