The new CD from Tibor Debreceni is a grand little self-produced package that displays a mastery of many instruments plus a hardcore ability to swing from the highest places. The track “Peace Within” ambles along with a bluesy feel, taking its time and breaking for a lovely muted trumpet solo that causes instant comfort followed by the keyboard taking its turn at some playful improv. A funky set-up in “Think Again” jumps right into blues and pulls in the easy feel of electric guitar riffing on the theme. No end to happy sunshine in “Morning Whistle” with its subtle chord changes and swingin’ mood. “Blue Waltz” is a speedy 1-2-3 with a tight groove whose hook is impossible to ignore. When it slows to catch its breath, the solos start to fly. This is a smart and accessible album that brims with a positive glow.
What was the first instrument you learned and what was your early music education like in Hungary?
I have memories from my childhood about a friend of my parents who regularly played some Hungarian folk and blues on an acoustic guitar to me. From that time, I was always wishing for new toy instruments. Later, I listened to radio and cassettes a lot. But when I was 13, it became more serious and I started learning guitar. I had to decide whether I wanted to go to music school or learn from one teacher.
Now I’m really glad that I chose the latter. Later on, I continued learning from others and by being in bands rather than in music schools. I remember many stories of when someone dropped an instrument because they hated learning theory as a child instead of learning by doing and enjoying what they do.
Why did you decide to learn multiple instruments?
It’s not easy to answer, because we usually think if someone plays more instruments, then they cannot master one. There was a time I wanted to master only the guitar, but my love of composing was stronger. In order to compose music that represents all the feelings inside, I have to be familiar with more instruments.
What was your first exposure to jazz?
I was very much into Jimi Hendrix for a long time, and I think that helped me a lot to step out from the well-known and closed sounds of blues and rock (no judgment at all, I still love that music). With that I started to look for a more playful and diverse sound and I heard Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and after that many Gershwin pieces, and I felt like I discovered a new world. Then I was listening to a lot of swing, traditional jazz and improvisational sounds from Charlie Parker, but the next milestone was Miles Davis with the very well-known album “Kind of Blue.” I really loved the modal jazz concept, because I could bond it to my blues roots, but with a new perspective and more freedom.
Who are some of the players that you have admired?
I try not to forget any of my favorites, so here are the great ones: Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Kenny Burrell, Charles Mingus, Paul Desmond, Stan Getz and Oscar Peterson.
How long have you been writing music?
I’ve always felt an inner tense in a good sense, a need to create something new. I’ve also had the same feeling as all musicians: “Oh, I really want to play this tune right now.” But while listening to those compositions I felt inspiration to create. I was around 15 when I first felt this significantly, but I could compose any music that represented my deeper feelings only at age of 18. So it’s been 14 years I’m writing music.
What inspired your new album “Blue Waltz”?
I decided to record a new album when I first played the theme of the first track called “Alone.” Since the lockdown in March of 2020 in Hungary, I’ve been through many phases in terms of how I lived it. Sometimes alone even if there were others around me, it was like I had more free time to re-evaluate my values, and sometimes a whistling-kind. I wanted to collect these moods and feelings into an album, this is how the album was born.
You wrote, arranged and play all the parts. How long did production take?
I have started composing the first track in 2020, but the recordings started in May 2021, the album release date was September11th of 2021. I always work track by track including mixing and mastering, and then I do more mixing and mastering for the uniform sound of the album.
What was the most challenging and what was the most fun part of the process?
For me, composing is the most interesting, the recording is great, the most fun is in recording the solos as I always improvise, but the mixing and mastering phase is the most challenging. It took more time than composing and recording together. It is simply due to the fact that I am not a mixing and mastering engineer, so I learn continuously during the work and try to pick up new techniques as I go.
What is your favorite track?
I cannot answer simply. If I need to remember where my inner peace can be found, then I listen to “Peace Within.” The best track to connection a modern sound and jazz-blues would be “Blue Waltz.” If I want to get that “swing jazz sound” then I go for “Morning Whistle.” Right now I’m in the mood that I’d select “Peace Within.”
What do you hope to convey with your music?
Music and composing for me is a way of understanding myself. Either I compose to represent my feeling or I compose something happy to get out from the blues. I hope my music can help others either push their swinging happy mood or to help them getting drawn in a melancholic, blue mood if that is needed to heal themselves.
How does whistling figure into one of your songs?
It’s only in the name of the track (“Morning Whistle.”) The Harmon mute trumpet, soprano sax and alto sax play melodies that sound like someone whistles in a morning mood. I very often do whistle to start the day with smile. That day cannot be wrong with that melody in my mind. But actually, you inspired me now to compose a song where the melody is actually whistled and maybe also some solos.
Which musicians would you like to collaborate with?
Kenny Burrell comes to mind. We have many things in common in our guitar playing, like using lots of blues phrases and building on them to create more jazzy licks than the usual sound. The other thing is that Kenny really liked was making very slight changes in typical jazz-blues chord progressions and making it much more interesting and more open to solo to. I think we could play some tunes on the border of jazz-blues and modal jazz with a little bit of modern swing beats. I would love it and I hope Kenny would as well!
How would you like to develop or grow more as a musician over the next year?
I’m rarely able to keep my calm and stay at my actual playing style. I always look forward to finding a unique sound which I can almost hear in my mind. Also, I’m really thinking of making a band and playing my music at live concerts and gigs or to create solo concerts with backing tracks. I used to play in a lot of bands, and I miss it very much. But now I wanted to focus more on composing music and finding new styles and unique sounds.
Where will you perform next and do you feel more opportunities will start to come now as the lockdown is over?
I think I’ll prepare some backing tracks from my own music and play one or two instruments live. I see many rising musicians do these kind of concerts with a lot of success. I think, or at least I hope, that’s because the music industry, the musicians and the audience became more open to it. Someone plays alone live, but the backing track has been recorded by them as well, and the music one can hear is joyful. So, why not?! However, I see more openness in the U.S. than in Hungary for this.
I definitely see many opportunities now after lockdown. In Hungary, a lot of jam sessions started to open and the musicians can find each other to form a new band with, so probably this is what I’ll do.
Let me finish with a message to the listeners and jazzers: please be open not just to new jazz music, but also to new forms of how it’s been recorded or played. Don’t forget, Herbie Hancock also used plug-ins to come up with new sounds, even Miles Davis has put reverb effects to his play or to a full track in many cases.
I think the only important thing is to enjoy what you listen to. And as far as you like what you hear, it doesn’t matter if it is from Blue Note records or from an independent artist with home recordings that use plug-ins.
For more information visit https://www.tibordebreceni.com.
Photos courtesy of and with permission of the artist.
© 2021 Debbie Burke