Sándor Szabó


acoustic guitar artist, composer

Reviews of Parallel Crossings

Sandor Szabo & Kevin Kastning,
Parallel Crossings
(Greydisc, 2008)



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Parallel Crossings has 13 duets by Sandor Szabo and Kevin Kastning, both of whom play 6- and 12-string baritone guitars. Kastning developed the instrument with Santa Cruz Guitars.
These ambient duets are difficult to classify. They do not fit easily into either folk or jazz. They have an ethereal, avant-garde feel. The titles of the pieces indicate this. They include "Cartesian Vector," "First Pleochroism" and "Aeshna Cyanea." The improvisations are not completely "free." Each piece has melodies, but it is as if they are crossing over from a parallel universe.
Sometimes there is a sense of foreboding, since you cannot pin down where the music is coming from, or where it is going. On the other hand, it is sometimes soothing, since Szabo and Kastning perfectly complement each other, and the playing is always on an even keel. There are also moments of otherworldly beauty on this CD that lasts nearly an hour.
This is highly recommended for those who like acoustic guitar music that is far from ordinary.


Sándor Szabó/Kevin Kastning: Resonance (2007) and Parallel Crossings (2008)


"These are two collections of duos featuring New England based Kevin Kastning and Hungarian born Sándor Szabó. The two play a variety of acoustic baritone guitars, including a 12-string extended baritone guitar invented by Kastning, in a wide variety of tunings and stringings. In a nutshell, what they do on Resonance and Parallel Crossings could be thought of as loosely composed improvisations, constantly changing directions and style, although nothing here is beholden to any identifiable style other than that which suits each of the players at any particular moment in time. The overall impression is of one guitarist with four hands rather than two individual players, so empathic is the cooperation between them. Moments of frenetic activity are balanced with periods of sublime calm; off-hand bits of technical flash are spelled by passages of simple beauty. These improvisations (13 on each CD) might be classified in some sort of acoustic free-jazz idiom; way too avant-garde and captivating for ECM, and way too adventurous for Windham Hill. And adventurous it most certainly is, for after at least a dozen spins of these discs, the listener is still met with new surprises at every turn that hadn't been noticed on previous listens. There are so many moments of
brilliance here to absorb, and with very little repetition and predictability, one can be sure that the surprises will continue well into the future. Surprisingly, for what is essentially atonal music, it is relatively accessible, perhaps because neither performer indulges in the acoustic-guitar equivalent of saxophone screeches. So long as a listener is into this general style of improvised composition and playing, these are albums that will keep giving as far as you want to take them."
Exposé Magazine, Fall 2008 (USA)
- Peter Thelen & Jon Davis
*****
Sandor Szabo & Kevin Kastning, Parallel Crossings (Greydisc, 2008)


"Parallel Crossings has 13 duets by Sandor Szabo and Kevin Kastning, both of whom play 6- and 12-string baritone guitars. Kastning developed the instrument with Santa Cruz Guitars. These ambient duets are difficult to classify. They do not fit easily into either folk or jazz. They have an ethereal, avant-garde feel. The titles of the pieces indicate this. They include "Cartesian Vector," "First Pleochroism" and "Aeshna Cyanea." The improvisations are not completely "free." Each piece has melodies, but it is as if they are crossing over from a parallel universe. Sometimes there is a sense of foreboding, since you cannot pin down where the music is coming from, or where it is going. On the other hand, it is sometimes soothing, since Szabo and Kastning perfectly complement each other, and the playing is always on an even keel. There are also moments of
otherworldly beauty on this CD that lasts nearly an hour. This is highly recommended for those who like acoustic guitar music that is far from ordinary."
- Rambles.net (USA)
January 2009

*****
"Last year, I was hugely gratified to find this pair's previous release (Resonance; Greydisc, 2007) as toothsome as it was, a moody set of improv tunes by two guitarists steeped in a mindset not often displayed nowadays, pensive, dark, and hypnotizing. The lead cut here, Preludium, only affirms my best hope: more of the same composes the new outing, and that's a very good thing indeed. Both musicians play the rarely seen baritone guitar, adding a richly resonant greymist to everything. As before, one can't help but return to ECM's moodier fusion days when guys like Ralph Towner and Bill Connors were composing for exactly this purview, a shadowland between darkness and light, the place where wandering souls pursue elusive thoughts and unsettling sentiments.
Preludium also pointed up a device I'd not as readily detected in last year's disc: the occasional use of the secondary guitar to match the lead in such a way that it can seem to be a drone synth, close attention paid to sonics and frequencies. Under an Evening Sky follows as one of their sparer cuts, more balladic, possessing a greater sky of negative space than is usual for the duo and with a much clearer top line, a story-telling aspect. Improfugue I speeds that process up but not to any degree of flashmanship. Even when this pair desires a brisker tempo, they never sacrifice a single note to achieve it, setting the pulse rate up only to contrast the underlying laconic atmospheres, often depositing mildly skewed confusions, hesitations, existential ruminations.
This is night music, what classicalists call 'nocturnes', and so aptly laid that it provides not only superb background and foreground material, as mood might dictate, but also perfect fall-asleep sounds, the listener drifting off to dreamland, giving way to a spell of interior complexities. Cordulia Aenea switches the norm, positing the secondary guitar's place into a bass-substitute not as a rhythm device but rather a second lead strictly kept to the bottom strings, thick notes rumbling off the prime position. The listener, before surrendering to lethean visions, utters a silent "Ahhhhh!" then sinks beneath consciousness. Only in such composers as Harold Budd, Roger Eno, and others will one locate such fare otherwise…though you won't find such marvelously agitated work as in Second Pleochroism there, here a jangly jarring affair strongly evoking Towner's Solstice period, as does Aeshna Cyanea, its connubial partner. Through everything, though, one
finds constant intrigue within a set of songs compelling revealed that, perhaps ironically, are strangely settling.
Maybe it's just the comfort one finds in knowing that two individuals can set the more unusual of our thought processes to music so perfectly. Therefore, investigate this work when you're athirst for maturer landscapes dotted with myriad sound sculpturing, philosophically more tantalizing than what 95% of the market could possibly offer."
- Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange (USA) by Mark S. Tucker
*****


Sándor Szabó & Kevin Kastning, "Parallel Crossings," (2008)


"The phrase "Parallel Crossings" poses a Zen-like conundrum, and foreshadows an equally enigmatic music. This is music which is freely improvised on two acoustic guitars, and though such a concept would likely produce senseless noodling in the hands of lesser guitarists, Kevin Kastning and Sándor Szabó have the requisite skill and telepathy to create musical magic in the moment. Ambient improvisation has been done before by the likes of Eno, Hassell, and Oregon, but a similar endeavor with this kind of minimalist instrumentation is beyond recollection... truly innovative. With no electronics or loops to bolster instantaneous compositional choices guided purely by chance, Kastning and Szabó demonstrate the kind of interplay and the confidence to delve into unknown territory which is usually associated with master jazz musicians. Many of the tracks are dreamlike and meditative, as on the opening track "Preludium" and "First Pleochroism." Others, such as "Improfugue I" and "Cordulia Aenea" might be called pleasantly meandering. "Cartesian Vector" is haunting, perhaps even disturbing. All, however, will challenge your musical preconceptions -- spin "Parallel Crossings" only with a very open mind." © Alan Fark
- Minor 7th Magazine; August 2008 (USA)


Ekultura Magazine (Hungary)
Sandor Szabo/Kevin Kastning: Parallel Crossings

"It is an interesting thing to write of a record when I heard its material first in a live concert. This happened now. The Sandor Szabo/Kevin Kastning baritone guitar duo has performed in Szeged recently. It is important to know of Kevin Kastning that he studied with Pat Metheny and he is a great fan of Bartok.
In that night, a third guitar player joined to the duo; Dominic Miller, the guitar player of the Sting Band. They played a fantastic concert together.
Kastning, the most modern guitar player in the US in these days, met Sandor Szabo in 2005 who is a great master of the multistring modern acoustic guitar. The evidence why they can play in so fluently and intuitive way is the three albums they recorded together.
I would like to point out in the beginning that the Parallel Crossings does not belong to the easy listening commercial albums. To meet this music demands open mind.
Concerning the deepness of the music, this album is about such a wisdom of life that only the greatest artists can create when they reach the age of their 70s. Though these musicians are far from that age but what they created and how they play it the listener can have no doubt of its deepness and credibility. The message of their wisdom says that the most difficult thing in life is to reach the clear serenity.
What they showed in these 13 pieces recreates the content of our existence: the vibrant oscillation between the constant changing, the cadence, the fantasy and structural order. The one who wants the regular will congeal, the one who wants the irregular will disintegrate. The task of our weekday life that demands a lot of braveness and stress is to be able to live and express the regular and irregular. On the one side of the river of the existence there are the intelligence and the law, on the other side all which stands above them. The struggle of these opposite tendencies often threaten as with disintegration, but these musicians disclose what the secret of this serenity is: to contemplate all from far like children.
Just like all the good movies and books this album has a promising introduction (Preludium) a meaty action and heavy ending (Postludium). I was very happy to receive this album, the conception of this album is far beyond the habitual themes we can hear in these days.
At last we have something else and valuable instead of the cheap commercial stuffs covering everything."

- Czékus Mihály

 

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