Ferenc Snétberger ‘Titok’ (ECM) 4/5

Hungarian guitarist Ferenc Snétberger will be a new name to most, but his ‘In concert’, debut album for ECM was critically acclaimed, not least among guitar specialists, and this collective all original new recording of compositions, which actually dates from 2015, builds upon the first offering and beautifully combines folk and jazz elements. Snétberger has a love of Latin American music and this does come through as a secondary influence, though to these ears it is the central European folk influence that is strongest of all. What really impresses is the lovely balance struck between, on the one hand, the natural empathy between the leader and his fellow trio members, double bassist, Anders Jormin, and drummer Joey Baron, and, on the other, the ever melodic spontaneous conversations that the trio enter into. On the title track, the bass-led intro results in some improvised exchanges and Snétberger sounds not dissimilar to Egberto Gismonti here. Delicate melodicism is the order of the day on, ‘Kék Kerék’, where there is a greater sense of urgency, with leader and double bassist playing off one another in some gorgeous passages. The ballads are specially strong, with, ‘Renaissance’, the prettiest of numbers while, elsewhere’ the numbers have a Middle Age classical guitar influence. In contrast, ‘Cou cou’, has a semi-improvisational feel and is at once relaxed and informal in character.

Classically trained with Julian Bream one possible influence, Snétberger has clearly soaked up the playing of fellow Hungarian Gábor Szabó, Pat Metheny and Jim Hall, while the national composer Béla Bartók is surely a figure whose music the guitarist has called upon for inspiration. Quietly, this album gently gets under the skin and slowly, but surely, occupies the soul. There is nothing overtly flashy about Ferenc Snétberger’s style of playing. Just an overriding feeling of deep musicality.

ECM seem to be in a rich vein of guitar albums at present with the recent sets by Ralph Towner and Bill Frisell, and this new album certainly deserves to be considered within the same esteemed company. A warm recording sound quality, as might be expected from the Rainbow studio in Oslo, permeates the pieces.

Tim Stenhouse