The Hungarian Jazz Federation has announced that Béla Szakcsi Lakatos, Kossuth Prize-winning pianist, composer, national artist and outstanding figure of Hungarian jazz, passed away at dawn on Sunday at the age of 79. His person is intertwined with the development and expansion of Hungarian jazz, and his passing is an irreplaceable loss, they wrote.
Béla Szakcsi Lakatos was born on July 8, 1943 in Budapest. He started playing the piano at the age of nine, only then did his family have enough money to buy him an instrument. He was introduced to jazz as a student at the Béla Bartók Music School and his interest turned to improvisation, a more informal genre.
From 1957, he was a member of Andor Kovács's guitar ensemble, and ten years later he was already performing with his own band on a compilation album. In the mid-sixties, he returned from the West with a record player on which he alternated between the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, electronic music, Stravinsky and the most modern jazz.
In 1970, he was a member of Aladár Pege's double bass quartet, which won second prize at the Montreux Jazz Festival. He worked for six months in a Hungarian restaurant in New York, went to jazz clubs in his spare time and returned home with a cheap Fender piano, it was him who used this instrument first in Hungary. As a member of Rákfogó from 1972-76, Saturnus with Gyula Babos from 1980, and then the Hungarian Jazz Quartet, he made an unparalleled contribution to the rise of fusion jazz in Hungary. He taught jazz piano at the Béla Bartók Secondary School of Music and gave a master class at the Liszt Academy.
Like his idol Leonard Bernstein, he was also a highly versatile musician, having played in ensembles and solo, composed his own music and jazz standards, performed classical concertos with large orchestras, with young jazz talents and with the 100-member Gypsy Orchestra, recorded four-hand pieces with György Vukán and released a world music album of folk song arrangements. He has performed at the most prestigious festivals and has often joined foreign musicians in occasional ensembles. As a member of the Special EFX, formed by George Jinda and Chieli Minucci, he has been featured on dozens of discs as composer and performer.
He has also collected gypsy folklore and transformed it into stage works, combining jazz with classical, folk and gypsy music to create the genre of gypsy jazz. He has also written musicals, rock operas and a ballet.
Over the last decade and a half, he studied the work of György Kurtág, György Ligeti, Péter Eötvös and Pierre Boulez, and his interest has increasingly turned to fusion jazz and the fusion of contemporary classical music and jazz. His artistic venture, Climate Change, launched in 2010, explored more seriously than any previous attempt how to capture and carry forward the Hungarian musical heritage of previous centuries as a contemporary improvisational musician and composer, the legacy of the Carpathian Basin instrumental folk music.
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