About Aldár Pege 

 

Pege was born in Budapest, the latest of four generations of double-bassists; his father (also Aladar Pege) helped pioneer the expansion of Hungarian jazz and swing in the 1940s. Aladar Jr studied at the Bela Bartok Musical Training College, worked in dance bands and in 1963 formed a jazz quartet that played in Yugoslavia and at the Bled jazz festival. As Stalinist strictures about the decadence of jazz eased during the 1960s, he performed more widely, playing festivals in West Germany and across the eastern bloc. His remarkable facility brought him extensive studio work, but he also pursued classical bass studies, graduating in 1969 from the Franz Liszt Academy, Budapest, where he also taught.

From 1975 and 1978, he lived in Berlin, taking advantage of the city's more open scene to play conventional bebop and free jazz, and studying with Rainer Zappernitz, then a principal bassist with Herbert von Karajan's Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. But though he returned to the commercial and academic work that supported him in Budapest, Pege's fruitful relationship with American pianist Walter Norris (a former Mingus sideman who had moved to Europe) brought duo opportunities across the continent between 1978 and 1980.

The famous Jazz Yatra performance followed, but Pege was reluctant to pull up his roots and embrace the opportunities the international jazz scene would undoubtedly have offered him. Walter Norris maintained that Pege could turn the bass "into an entire orchestra", and that his seamless integration of classical, Hungarian Gypsy and jazz music made him unique. The evidence is plain from the duets with Norris (Synchronicity, 1978, and Winter Rose, 1980) recorded for the enja label.

But Pege always believed that the ability to bring out the best of the eclectic musical culture he grew up in was dependent on a classical player's technical discipline and rigour. He would play a dozen or more classical pieces as part of his exercise regime every day, frequently transcribe and perform pieces written for other instruments to expand the classical bass's limited repertoire, and regularly present variations on Hungarian folk music as part of his repertoire.