Biographies generally bear lots of dates and place names. The things that have had a major effect on my life are less informative, yet more significant. I grew up in a very good place among good people, and I have had many funny and adventurous experiences among them. In the past years I have learned that one of the most important recipes for life is a sense of humor. My strength has come from my faith in God, and from the love I received from my Mother and Father. Since I was a lively child, I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps and play the drum, but my father didn’t approve, and so I started to play the piano. Since I was still a child and I was repeatedly called upon to perform in kindergarten, and since I was too young to understand the relationship between things, I soon grew tired of the piano and opted for the violin instead. For one thing, it was closer to my size. Later, of course, I realized that the violin is the world’s most difficult but also the most beautiful musical instrument. I remained faithful to my violin during elementary school and during my adventurous high school years as well. But after a while I realized that musical composition was closest to my heart – creating something new, creating a new style – in short, innovation. During my high school years and studies at the music academy, I came closer and closer to realizing my dream. I came to know many outstanding musicians, and I worked together both as a composer and as a musician with countless highly gifted people. These were my first thirty years.
Without any attempt at drawing up a full list, I would like to mention the names of some of the musicians from whom I learned a great deal, with whom I worked, and whom I owe a debt a gratitude. They were Vilmos Szabadi, László Koté, Katalin Janko, László Nógrádi, Sándor Kovács, János Fogarasi, Ferenc Tornoczki, Péter Sárik, Róbert and Béla Szakcsi Lakatos, Richard Révész, György Czutor, Chris Robinson, Nina Pastori, Collado Hessus, and Collado Manuel Sanchez. What I have learned from them and from many other musicians – in short, their influence on me – is evident in my own works
IN MEMORIAM VILMOS JÁVORI
“While playing the drum, Vilmos Jávori’s lips speak volumes,” Iringó Martin wrote after a concert in Pécs. This sentence sums up the way Jávori made music. He played with his whole body and soul; one moment he’d beat the drum with all his might, while a couple of second later he’d brush with such sensuous gentleness that few others could manage.
Vilmos Jávori was a born musician in the literal sense of the word. In his last interview with László Halper, he talked about his past as follows: “I had an easy time of it because both my father and mother were musicians, and what is more, though a woman, my mother played the drums. I grew up drumming even inside my mother’s belly. There was the drum always by mother’s side, and I had to go skip round it ever since I can remember. I learned the most from my mother. She taught me to read at the age of 4 or 5, when I was still in kindergarten, and she gave me great books to read. I could also more or less read scores by then. It never even entered my mind to chose another career or play any other instrument. Even now, I can’t think of a better alternative.”
Jávori also studied classical music with Oszkár Schwarz at the music conservatory (Béla Bartók Secondary School of Music), but he was most devoted to jazz. He spoke about this as follows: “I began trying myself out with jazz, which I loved from the beginning. It’s an incurable illness that makes no sense at all, because if you insist on playing jazz night and day, you starve to death. I was stubborn and pig-headed. I always went my own way. This way I persisted as a drummer and tried to do my very best.”
He began playing with Attila Garai and later played in bands with János Fogarasi, György Vukán, Rudolf Tomsits, Béla Szakcsi Lakatos, andGyörgy Szabados. In 1972 he co-founded the legendary Rákfogó Band with, among others, Béla Szakcsi Lakatos, Mihály Ráduly,and Béla “Gadfly” Lakatos. In his own words, “Actually, Béla and I founded the Rákfogó on the plane flying back from the States. Szakcsi had bought a Fender piano and a Hammond organ. They were the first of their kind in Hungary. I bought a fantastic stage sound system, which was also a curiosity, and needless to say, a great set of drums. There were a lot of jazz clubs back then, especially out of town, in colleges and academies, where concerts were held every week. We played regularly at the Architects Club in Petőfi Sándor utca in Pest. Basically, we lived in our cars, because we regularly played in Debrecen, Miskolc, Nyíregyháza, and Szombathely.” (It is part of the overall picture that at the time there were more than 30 jazz clubs around the country, and nearly 20 more in Budapest.)
Péter Bede writes the following on the history of the Rákfogó band: “The first and to this day legendary group of Hungarian jazz-rock, the Rákfogó, was playing parallel to the Syrius group from the early ‘70s. Though the band was together for nearly three years, and despite the outstanding musicians in the group, only a couple of radio performances have remained to posterity. The new musical trends of the time had an appreciable influence on them, among them the Mahavishnu Orchestra, the Weather Report – this is when fusion music came into vogue. Szakcsi brought with him a Fender piano, a novelty in Hungary at the time. The first Rákfogó concert took place in late 1971 with Béla Szakcsi Lakatos, Béla “Gadfly”” Lakatos, Gyula Babos, and Vilmos Jávori. They were later joined by János Németh on the saxophone. They had many appearances at the time – at the Architects Club in Petőfi Sándor utca as well as colleges and vocational schools around the country. János Németh was later replaced by the young violinist Lajos Kathy Horváth, who also appeared regularly with Syrius and Szabados’s group. The music that the Rákfogó played can best be described as progressive jazz-rock, but since they combined it with avantgarde elements, it was closed to contemporary classical music. Rákfogó’s music was somewhat freer and closer to jazz than the music Syrius played. In 1972 the group, which had been joined by Lajos Kathy Horváth by then, recorded one of their best known pieces for Hungarian Radio, Béla Szakcsi Lakatos’s suite in four movements, entitled “Four Journeys on the What’s New, Mr. Wagner Battle Ship”.
Vilmos Jávori was soon one of the best Hungarian jazz musicians, lauded by music critics alongside György Szabados, Béla Szakcsi Lakatos, Gusztáv Csík, andGyörgy Vukán. The Top Jazz Hungary ’77 votes named him the most popular jazz percussionist, ahead of Imre Kőszegi and Gyula Kovács.
From the mid-70s Jávoriplayed with the Csík-Fogarasi-Jávori trio. In the 1980s he founded the Jávori Quartet whose other members were Ferenc Snétberger, Rudolf Torma, and Péter Csiszár. In 1990 he started the Shabu-Shabu Band whose members were, besides himself, Tamás Berki, Attila László, János Fogarasi, and Béla Lattmann. With the participation of gifted young musicians, in 2003 he founded Jávori Sound Machine, which included his son David alongside his own pupils. Together they soon cut the album Snow-Capped Mountain, Rainbow, based on adaptations of popular Hungarian folk songs. The world famous saxophonist Tony Lakatos also participated in the making of the CD.
Vilmos Jávori’s first major concert abroad was at the Stockholm Jazz Festival in 1966, followed by the Warsaw Jazz Jamboree. (At the time, Polish jazz was esteemed throughout Europe.) From 1969 onward, he gave concerts worldwide with the famous whistling artist Tamás Hacki’s group. In 1971 he spent six months in the United States, where he was a student of Elvin Jones. Meanwhile, he gave almost nightly concerts with Béla Szakcsi Lakatos, and he also played withJan Hammer. He recalled this period of his life in these words: “We had Mondays off, when we’d visit all the jazz clubs. Almost immediately we made a bunch of friends.” In 1980 he played at the Jazz Yatra Festival in India.
Music was his life, and he was glad to sit behind the drums wherever he was. He was invited to all the Hungarian jazz festivals (Dzsessztergom, Dzsesszmélyl, etc.) He played with as much joy and enthusiasm in his hometown of Soroksár as in New York. From his earliest years until his death he served the music loving public with humility. Once he said that when he lived in Sweden, he had to pinch his pennies, and for weeks he lived on oily fish. And he remained just as open, humorous and down to earth when, still before the change in regime – a curiosity under socialism – he drove his huge Mercedes on the streets of Budapest, smoked expensive cigars, and drank fine wines. His son David laughs when he recalls that his father “”was invisible behind the wheel” of that big car.
Besides giving live concerts, Jávorialso helped cut albums with countless Hungarian and foreign musicians. He also provided the music for the recordings of such outstanding actors such as Iván Darvas, Gyula Bodrogi, László Csákányi, Mari Törőcsik, Erzsi Galambos, Judit Hernádi, Dorottya Udvaros, Péter Haumann, András Kern, and István Mikó. Of his full recordings, perhaps the best known are the Modern Jazz VII. Anthology ’68 (1968), Grey Földvári: Touch Wood (1993), Frigyes Pleszkán: Fingerprints(1995), Jávori Sound Machine: Snow-Capped Mountain, Rainbow (2003), and Sztereó Magyar Jazz No. 18. – Jávori Vilmos (2005). He also composed scores for films by directors István Szabó, Miklós Jancsó, Péter Bacsó and Károly Makk, among others. Still, he is perhaps best known for the drum solo he played in Szabó’s Oscar winning film, Mephisto. “I loved to play the drums. I played in operettas, for all the New Year’s Eve specials on TV, and in cabarets. I also played the drums in all the films of the time.” The 38 minute long concert film, Cserfő Jazzland – Jávori Sound Machine, also preserves his memory. Directed by István Seregély, it also featuresDavid Javori (violin), László Nagy (guitar), Péter Sárik(piano), and József “Pluto” Horváth (bass guitar).
Besides playing the drum, Jávorialso laid great emphasis on nurturing a new generation of musicians – nurturing, and not teaching them. In 1990 he co-founded the Kőbánya Music Studio, of which he served as vice-principal until his death. He felt that “people grow up hearing horrible music of all kinds, without getting any information about good music. This is going to be tragic for those who are studying music today, because there won’t be anyone for whom to play proper music. This problem is close to my heart because I have been teaching for a long time, and I am even heading a school.” He was proud of his students. “The young people who study with me are in the vanguard. Five out of the seven contestants of the Gyula Kovács Drum Competition were students of mine, as were the first three prize winners.”
He received a number of prizes in recognition of his performance: the special prize of the journalists at Montreaux in 1968, First Prize, with György Szabados, who later received the Liszt Prize, in the free category in San Sebastian in 1972, and the special journalists’ prize with the Mr. Szextett Band (with Szakcsi, Vukán, Berkes, Tomsits, and Ráduly) at the same festival.
He was married several times and had four children – Andrea, who lives in New York, his son Gyuri, who died and was percussionist for the world famous Joan Baez, his son David, who studied the violin and became a jazz violinist and composer, and who works mostly in Spain, and his daughter Fanni, who was only three years old at the time of her father’s death.
Vilmos Jávori died in February 2007, at the age of 62. A concert was held in his honor the same year at the Stefánia Palace. The participants included musicians he had played with and his students, among them the Shabu-Shabu Band, the Jávori Band, Charlie, Nikolas Takács, the chorus of the Kőbánya Music Studio, the Berkesi Trio, Gusztáv Csík, Joan Faulkner, the Wine and Soda Band, and the Jávori Sound Machine. Concurrently, a photo exhibition was also opened in his honor, and a CD by the Hungarian Jazz Quartet was published.
Many miss his sharp humor, and his clever remarks – the observations of a man of experience who has seen much of the world. After his death, many necrologs were published on him in the daily papers as well as the Internet.
Vilmos Jávori Bibliography
We’d like to call the attention of all those interested to the following information on Vilmos Jávori:
- János Gonda: Jazz. Történet, elmélet, gyakorlat (Budapest, 1979)
- János Gonda: Jazzvilág (Budapest, 2004)
- György Illanicz: Találkozásaim. Emlékek, művészportrék, dokumentumok a zene, a jazz világából (Cegléd, 1999)
- Attila Malecz: A jazz Magyarországon (Budapest, 1981)
- Katalin Marczell (ed.): Verőfogás. Interjúk magyar dobosokkal: Nesztor Iván, Martonosi György, Jávori Vilmos, Kőszegi Imre, Pusztai Csaba, Berdisz Tamás, Kisvári Ferenc, Mareczky István, Szentmihályi Gábor, Mády Kálmán, Mohay András, Borlai Gergő, Marczell Katalin (Budapest, 2008)
- András Pernye: A jazz (Budapest, 2007)
- Géza Gábor Simon: A magyar jazz 1945-1990. Történeti vázlat (Budapest, 1990)
- Géza Gábor Simon: Magyar jazztörténet (Budapest, 1999)
- Géza Gábor Simon: The Book of Hungarian Jazz (Budapest, 1992)
- Gábor Turi: Azt mondom. Interjúk magyar jazzmuzsikusokkal (Budapest, 1983)
- In memoriam Jávori Vilmos. Portrait. MR2 Petőfi Radio, March 12, 2007, 44 min.
- Vilmos Jávori. Broadcast on Kultúrház, Hungarian Television 2, March 4, 2007, 30 min.
- Vilmos Jávori memorial concert at the Stefánia Cultural Center. Broadcast on Hungarian Television 1, November 26, 2007, 10 min.