Review – Djabe & Steve Hackett – Live in Györ – by John Wenlock-Smith

I guess most musicians have the need for another outlet for their talents, whether that comes via guest appearances, collaborations or side projects. Think of projects like GTR or Squackett ,which both feature Steve Hackett in a role very different to his own solo career. Steve has always looked for such opportunities and, when he guested on an early album by the Hungarian jazz/rock band Djabe, ‘Sheafs Are Dancing’, in 2003, Steve enjoyed the experience so much that he was happy to appear with Djabe in 2004 in London. Their friendship continues to this day with both acts working together to create a whole raft of excellent releases, a lot of which are live sets captured in Djabe’s native Hungary and Sardinia, among others. This meeting of kindred spirits extends to Djabe band members appearing on Steve’s own albums regularly, with their own world jazz stylings helping Steve explore different sounds and textures.

Djabe are all very accomplished musicians in their own right and their work with Steve Hackett is certainly a symbiotic relationship with both parties benefiting. This new 2CD & Blu-Ray set ‘Live In Gyor’ certainly proves the point, containing, as it does, several tracks from the ‘Back To Sardinia’ and ‘The Magic Stag’ albums, alongside selected Genesis songs and Steve Hackett solo tracks. What is very apparent from the start is just how this outside role elevates Steve’s own playing, with some very tasty, expressive and fiery guitar on show, the band are on excellent form and all seem to be relishing the experience.

The album that accompanies the Blu-Ray is a very fine one too with three extra live tracks that round the set out. For me, the one noticeable difference is that, on this show, Steve is playing a Fernandes guitar with a floating bridge/tremolo so he can really hit the whammy bar vigorously, which he does to great effect throughout. Normally Steve uses his Gold Top, so this change is an interesting one, the sound is immaculate and enjoyable to hear and watch, the visuals being equally as strong. If you have ever wondered if Steve can repeat the epic solo on Firth of Fifth on a strategy style guitar the answer is here, you can watch him do it with style, alongside seeing his famous tapping style, a skill that Eddie Van Halen utilised and elevated to an art form.

Also worth of note is the extremely dextrous bass playing of Djabe’s Tamás Barabás, whose playing is the anchor on which everyone can pivot, along with Gabor Olah on drums. Together they hold everyone together and give them a perfect solid platform from which to soar and fly. Seldom have I witnessed such sheer joy like this excellent and skilled performance. It’s such a strong set with  chance for everyone to shine, the music is world jazz music with Hungarian touches and instrumentation. This excellent set offers lots of extra features and extra music and I can’t recommend it enough as it really is an excellent set of performances with songs played by musicians who are at the top of their game and not afraid to let the music do the talking. This music certainly talks loudly and demands your attention.

As with a lot of these Djabe/Hackett sets there is a degree of overlap but, even so, there is enough new stuff to make this an essential and worthy purchase. As always the packaging and attention to detail is very impressive as, of course, is the sound which is exemplary with great separation and clarity. The whole show is beautifully captured and must have been truly magnificent and unique.

No doubt there will be more to come from this union and I personally  am very hopeful for further magic from these hugely talented parties. So, my advice is to get a hold of this great set as soon as possible and appreciate seeing some masters at work. Play and enjoy it in the confines our your own home and let the music tell its own joyful story for you. This really is a most worthwhile album especially if you like world music, jazz/fusion, Steve Hackett or even all three!

Released 28th April, 2023.

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Djabe & Steve Hackett: Live In Gyor, 2CD & Blu-Ray Edition – Cherry Red Records

Reviews Esoteric Antenna – Steve Hackett and Djabe – Summer Storms and Rocking Rivers & Life is a Journey – The Sardinia Tapes – by James R. Turner

Summer Storms & Rocking Rivers

Hungary’s world-renowned Jazz Fusion/world music ensemble Djabe have been working with one of England’s finest guitarists, Steve Hackett, since 2003 when he guested on their album ‘Sharks are Dancing’, since then they have recorded and toured across the world together, improvising and freewheeling.

These two CD/DVD packages are taken from two different tours, with the first ‘Summer Storms and Rocking Rivers’ recorded in Hungary in 2011, the CD is the live document, while the DVD is a fleshed-out release with more songs than there was space for on the CD. This, with an additional documentary and a couple of bonus tracks, showcases what this whole tour was about.

This is all about 6 musicians, incredibly talented and versatile, getting into the groove and proving that music can cross borders, languages and transcend styles.

The concert is a case in point, as Djabe (Ferenc Kovacs – trumpet, violin, vocals, Zoltan Kovacs – keyboards, Attila Egerhazi – guitar, percussion, Tamas Barabas – bass & Szilard Banai – drums), along with Steve, play a wildly diverse musical mix of Steve Hackett songs (Ace of Wands, The Steppes, Horizons – all reinterpreted and improvised around) and Djabe material (City of Habi, Butterfly, Scenes – Above Poland, Scenes- Sunset at the Seaside), all mixed up and interpreted wonderfully here.

Djabe’s fluid and taut playing allows room within the songs for Steve to improvise and you get the impression that all 6 musicians are having a ball, there’s even room for radical interpretations of a few classic Genesis numbers (Firth of Fifth, Los Endos, In the Quiet Earth) all played around with, built upon and incredibly different from the source, making this fun and exciting. It captures what was a very special evening of music and of the joys of making music without boundaries, genres or people asking whether or not it’s ‘prog’.

You don’t need to pigeonhole it, just enjoy it.

Released 24th February 2017

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Life Is A Journey – The Sardinia Tapes

‘Life is a Journey – The Sardinia Tapes’ was recorded and improvised in Sardinia in 2016 by Steve and the Djabe line-up of Tamas Barabas, Attila Egerhazi, Guli Briem (drums, percussion) and Aron Koos-Hutas (trumpet) and was the first time the musicians had simply spent time in a room, improvising, jamming and writing new material, rather than just playing live on stage.

The double set here has the album on CD, and a bonus DVD of the album in stereo and surround mixes, 5 tracks recorded live in the Budapest Jazz Club in 2017 and a short documentary.

The album itself is one of those rare beasts, an album you know nothing about, and have no pre-conceptions about. Knowing how Steve Hackett mixes his music making up, flitting from classical, to progressive rock to revisiting his past, you’re never sure where he’s going next. Djabe are an impressive improvisational group and, working with Steve, you can tell from listening to this album, they have built up a brilliant working relationship and revel in each other’s musical company. This comes across the 72 plus minutes of this album.

It is a complete revelation, and whilst I can completely understand why Steve preforms and releases the ‘Genesis Revisite’ concerts, I much prefer this side of his musical coin. The improvisations here are fluid and free forming and come from the same musical space, a shared appreciation and mutual admiration of each other’s talents. The way that Aron Koos-Hutas’ trumpet weaves its way through tracks like Golden Sands or Wake Up is revelatory, while the work they put in to songs like Life is a Journey or Beams Over the Nulvi Mountains are sublime.

This mixes, matches and blends genres and styles seamlessly. The reason why the songs work so well is because each musician knows intimately what would work where, and why, and this freedom makes this album immersive and rewarding. With every listen something new is teased out, a motif here, a drum roll there. This is an album that rewards repeat listens, and with the way it ebbs, flows and builds, it doesn’t feel like it’s over an hour of music. It feels like it’s as long as it needs to be.

It’s albums like this that prove to me why Steve Hackett is still the most innovative and creative former member of Genesis out there, not content to rest on his laurels and still following his muse and, in Djabe, he has found fellow travellers more than happy to join him on his journey.

Released 6th October 2017

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