News Farewell to Mátyás Szandai

Farewell to Mátyás Szandai

With the untimely death of Mátyás Szandai, the Hungarian and European jazz world suffered a huge loss. The 46-year-old bassist was a true master of his instrument, which is vividly illustrated by the fact that he played on 23 BMC Records albums, and with this number he is absolutely on the podium among the label's most involved musicians.

Our professional relationship and friendship began around 2001, when we first enjoyed Mátyás's playing on Gábor Gadó's album Homeward. Unforgettable productions followed with the most important players of Hungarian jazz as well as international stars. The extremely impressive list is by no means exhaustive: Elemér Balázs Group, Mihály Dresch Quartet, Viktor Tóth's Trio and Quartet, Kristóf Bacsó Quartet, Dániel Szabó Trio, the bands of Kálmán Oláh and Miklós Lukács; and artists from the international scene such as Archie Shepp, Charlie Mariano, Chris Potter, Hamid Drake, Perico Sambeat, Christophe Monniot, Manu Codjia, Michael Schiefel, Mathias Lévy or Nelson Veras.

Two of his records won the Jazz Album of the Year Award from the Hungarian magazine Gramofon: first as a member of the Mihály Dresch Quartet (Egyenes zene, 2004), then the second time as a partner of Viktor Tóth and Hamid Drake (Climbing with Mountains, 2007).

And these are "only" our CD releases – Mátyás has also contributed to countless other great albums released by various labels, and has performed with such icons as David Murray, Pat Metheny, Herbie Mann, Chico Freeman, Rosario Giuliani, William Parker, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Gerard Presencer , Flavio Boltro, Zbigniew Namysłowski, and in the last decade, during his stay in France, Michel Portal, Daniel Humair, François Jeanneau, Paul Lay and Naïssam Jalal.

Mátyás left Paris a few years ago and moved to the French shores of Lake Geneva, where he played music with his old musician friend Emil Spányi and developed his plans as a teacher. There, at the Haute École de Musique in Lausanne, he obtained a master's degree in pedagogy after a master's degree in performance. "He had an excellent teacher's vein, he delivered the curriculum with great sensitivity. In Paris, he only accepted a small conservatory job in order to gain teaching experience," says Csaba Palotai, a guitarist living in the French capital. "He visited me often in the last period, and we talked all night long about the music of Schönberg or Bach. He planned to do the classical bass section as well.”

"He always wanted to know more and wanted to make use of every moment. During our tours, everyone sat back on the bus, but Mátyás kept asking fellow musicians who had great knowledge about something, be it Messiaen's work or the rhythmic world of South Indian music. He wanted to understand everything about music. I have never known a person like him who was so driven by a thirst for knowledge," recalls musician friend András Dés.

Previous interviews with Mátyás also tell the story of a musician for whom life was about continuous learning, and that the most important thing for a musician is "openness, honesty and curiosity".

“He played in many projects and illustrious places. He was loved and respected in France as he had been at home. Then he received more and more session invitations from other countries in Europe," continues Csaba Palotai. "There was never a task that he could not solve, no difficulty deterred him, his career here developed very nicely and continued to rise. It was a well-known fact for example that Archie Shepp called him regularly as Mátyás was his number one bass player."

Due to Mátyás living abroad, the close relationship with BMC has loosened somewhat in recent years, but two important records were still produced, one of which is our personal favorite of 2018, Bartók Impressions, a best seller recorded with Miklós Lukács and Matthias Lévy, which received serious accolades (Choc de Classica ). We started planning to record the sequel to this album with Mátyás just in the recent weeks.

In 2019 we released Mátyás Szandai's first album containing his own compositions, performed by his international quartet. Regarding the title of the album (SĀDHANA), Emese Szász wrote in the booklet text of the CD: "Taken literally, its meaning is: sa = infinite, dha = meditate, na = negation, death. In other words, in meditation the ego dies. It sounds dramatic, but this Sanskrit expression means no more than that whatever action we perform, be it celebrating mass or hoeing the earth, if we do it with a spiritual tendency, it will bring us closer to our goal, which ultimately is to be at home in our own selves."

Our true hope is that Mátyás will do the same now.

Written by Tamás Bognár on behalf of Budapest Music Center