I can think of no better preparation for a Jazz pianist than the study of Drums, after all piano is a percussion instrument. Drummer Jeno Somlai began seriously studying the piano 4 years ago and says, " I do not consider myself a pianist, rather a percussionist who is studying an instrument that has opened my ears to an entirely new path." He shares his discoveries with us in his first independent release. "Let it Go"
Everything about this CD is striking; from the tasteful cover art, to the arrangements which are sharp and on the money. It also brings us to another of Jeno Somlai’s artistic pillars- the study of Meditation, a gift of his Hungarian parents who became Buddhists at a young age and raised Jeno in a household where present moment and awareness were valued. What could be more important for an improviser than the ability to focus, to let go of thoughts and everything that interferes with the flow of creative passion?
Jeno received a drum set when he was 2 years old, which started the first leg of his journey. Later a hearing of Coltrane’s " A Love Supreme" made him a devotee of a churchless sect, those who upon hearing the message of Ondaneruth realized there was a whole undiscovered world of meaning and mystery to be explored and understood. After receiving his first degree in percussion his next discovery was Latin Jazz and the complexities of African based rhythms. This door was opened by Puerto Rican Percussionist Luis Diaz and by Jeno’s other great influence- El Maestro Eddie Palmieri who plays the piano within a definite percussive matrix. And then came Somlai’s next enlightenment- that the harmonic and melodic possibilities of the piano could more fully express his true voice and thus he began 4 years ago to study piano and to create the vital and necessary music of "Let It Go".
He attributes the title to being both about meditation and an experience with Luis Diaz, in which he was advised when soloing to "Let It Go", to play from his heart without mental analysis. His working sextet includes Doug Ebert on bass, Robert Figueroa on congas, Dave Bayles on drums, Jamie Breiwick on trumpet and Scott Van Domelen on tenor sax all of which are playing at a very high level. Jeno performs on both piano and drums and includes many guest musicians all from the Milwaukee area. The material includes Jeno’s originals and creative arrangements of Stevie Wonder’s " Golden Lady", Wayne Shorter’s " One by One", the classic "Have You Met Miss Jones" and " Se La Ve" by Angel Maldonado. The musical grooves range from burning Samba to Afro-Cuban to swinging Straight Ahead- East Coast Style. It is beautifully recorded and is a CD you can hang out with and groove with. How he managed this while being a stay at home Dad with three young children, continuing his Buddhist studies and going to University for yet another musical degree is a testament to the solid foundation he has based his life on. After all we can only play what we are. In the music of Jeno Somlai you hear a strong soul, a burgeoning talent and basic goodness and love of life. You also hear, skill, study, discipline and high standards. All from a guy who can " Let it Go".
This CD is available on CD Baby and is highly recommended for Jazz and Latin fans alike. Check out what’s cooking in Milwaukee, you will be surprised.