Double Moon Records
21 April 2023
When you hear the fluid lines with the concise swing attacks of pianist Alan Bartus, you can hardly believe that the man is only 21 years old. Bartus was born on February 22, 2001 in Slovakia, and he was already captivated by music as a small child. “When I was four years old, I tried different instruments,” he says, “double bass, guitar, but I liked piano the most. I just felt connected to the instrument.” When Bartus was nine years old, the family moved to Neusiedl am See in Austria; his father is the bassist Stefan Bartus, who has already performed with greats such as Peter Erskine and Benny Golson. “Since my father is a jazz musician, I have been familiar with the music since childhood,” his son said. “My father listened to a lot of jazz records and practiced double bass at home. When I was fifteen, I passed the entrance examination at a music school.” At the time, Bartus was already hopelessly hooked on jazz. “When I was thirteen, Oscar Peterson was my big favorite,” he recalled. “Later I also discovered Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea. But my biggest role model is Kenny Kirkland." After studying in Bratislava and Vienna, the pianist quickly made a name for himself, won prizes – including the Majestic Excellence Award and the Ö1 Jazz Scholarship – and founded his own trio. This can now be heard on "Born in Millennium", on which his father plays bass alongside the pianist (“it's quite convenient to have great double bass player at home”) and the drummer David Hodek, at least on the fast-paced opener "Option" and two other songs. “David Hodek is an established drummer in Slovakia,” Bartus knows, “who has also played internationally and currently plays a lot in Los Angeles.”
On four of the eight songs, composed by the band leader except for the Irving Berlin standard "How Deep is the Ocean”, a much more prominent man sits behind the drums. It is the American Gregory Hutchinson, who has already been heard with jazz giants such as Joe Henderson, Wynton Marsalis, Joshua Redman and John Scofield. “I met Gregory at a workshop in Slovenia,” Alan Bartus said. “I thought that it would be great if he played for my album and just asked him. He is one of the best sidemen in the world and we interact very well. I just like how he interprets my songs.” Kornel Fekete Kovacs also plays the flugelhorn on three of the eight songs, which gives the music an additional, more melancholic tone quality. Bartus’ pieces are characterized by a sparkling inventiveness ("Movements"), which live from the joy of playing and the virtuosity of the musicians involved. It is obvious to whom the Latin rhythm playing “4Chick 2Corea” is dedicated; the mercurial flowing flugelhorn solo of Kovacs is constantly recharged with energy by the whipping interjections of Hutchinson. Alan Bartus, whose playing has an immense wealth of sound, takes back seat again and again to give his musicians room for dramaturgically coherent solos. “How Deep is the Ocean” shows that Alan Bartus and his band are also committed to tradition and take the necessary time to show their respect for a classic from the “Great American Songbook”; you can hear blues and classical sounds in Bartus’ playing there. And we finally hear Alan Bartus, who will attend the Manhattan School of Music in New York starting in September, all alone in the touching ballad “Lydia”. There too, he uses the whole range of his instrument: from powerfully formulated chords to vanishingly quiet tones.