Internationally-acclaimed Hungarian ensemble Jazzical Trio to perform in Ottawa

ABOVE: Jazzical Trio is composed of (listed from left to right) Péter Oláh, Norbert Káel, and András Lakatos. Photo: Ádám Pintér

On July 1, Hungary will take over the rotating Presidency of the European Union for the second time from Belgium; a position it will hold for the next six months. In an effort to celebrate this momentous occasion and the strategic partnership between Canada and the European Union, as well as the longstanding friendship between Hungary and Canada, the Embassy of Hungary will hold an opening event in Ottawa on June 27 at the Ottawa Art Gallery. The event will be hosted by H.E. Mária Vass-Salazar, Ambassador of Hungary to Canada, in collaboration with H.E. Melita Gabrič, Ambassador of the European Union to Canada and H.E. Patrick Van Gheel, Ambassador of Belgium to Canada. With about 300 guests expected to attend, including prominent representatives of the Canadian political, cultural, academic and business sectors, the diplomatic corps, civil society and the Canadian-Hungarian community, the event promises to be an enriching cultural and public diplomacy experience, providing invitees with the opportunity to foster and engage in constructive dialogue and innovative and fruitful collaboration.

The private event will also feature a concert by an internationally-acclaimed Hungarian jazz band, Jazzical Trio. Led by piano virtuoso, Norbert Káel, the Jazzical Trio also includes double bass jazz bassist, Péter Oláh and drummer, András Lakatos. Known for their unique blend of crossover classical jazz music, they have been specially invited to perform at this event to reflect the wide variety of musical talent from Hungary, following the earlier performances of Hungarian piano prodigy Misi Boros, Hungarian-Canadian legendary organ virtuoso Xaver Varnus and The Kelemen Quartet led by award-winning Hungarian violinists Barnabás Kelemen and his wife Katalin Kokas in Ottawa. Ottawa Art Gallery was the chosen venue for this event owing to its modern architecture that provides the perfect ambiance for jazz music. The event is being sponsored by Rheinmetall Canada, Westjet and Steinway.

ABOVE: Embassy of Hungary in Ottawa with the Hungarian and EU flags raised. Photo: Mária Vass-Salazar, Ambassador Of Hungary to Canada

A jazzical evening to remember

This will be the Jazzical Trio’s first official performance in Canada. Keeping the theme of the event in mind, the band plans to open the concert with Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ which is sort of a European Union anthem, according to Káel. The line-up will also include jazz arrangements inspired by the symphonies of legendary European composers such as Bach and will include Hungarian folk songs by prominent Hungarian composers like Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály. “Our program includes four Hungarian traditional folk songs to showcase Hungarian music values and traditions and their modern original interpretation through jazz arrangements. The audience will enjoy the combination of classical and jazz music, whether or not they are jazz or classical music aficionados because the combination of piano, bass and drums provides a very unique and melodious ‘jazzical sound’ that makes for easy listening. For those who appreciate jazz or classical music, they will be able to recognize the original piece, while hearing our creative rendition of them,” Káel elaborates.

On June 26th, the Jazzical Trio will also be performing at the 90th birthday celebration of prominent Canadian architect Douglas Cardinal at the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa, where they will be playing three Blues songs and a traditional Hungarian folk song, rearranged to jazz. Cardinal has a special connection to Hungary, taking inspiration from Hungarian architect Imre Makovecz.

Later this month, the band will be representing Hungary for the first time at the 2024 TD JazzYYC Summer Festival on June 29th and at the TD Edmonton International Jazz Festival on June 30th. At both festivals, Jazzical Trio will again be performing a mix of European classical compositions and Hungarian folk songs representative of their musical heritage, which they hope Canadian audiences will enjoy.

Getting to know the Jazzical trio

Prominent Hungarian piano virtuoso and composer, Norbert Káel began his musical career as a pianist at the age of seven. At 14, he was accepted to Béla Bartók Music High School, a mecca for talented young musicians. He then received his degree at the prestigious Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, before gaining a scholarship to Berklee College of Music in Boston, USA where he studied jazz music. In 2020, he received his doctorate diploma in music. With 40 original compositions under his belt, Kael has also performed solo across Europe, the US and Asia. Explaining the choice of jazz classical fusion as his preferred genre, Káel says, “At the age of 11, I had this dilemma about what music style I wanted to study – classical or jazz music, because I loved both equally. However, after listening to American pianist and composer, Keith Jarrett, who is renowned for his classical-jazz fusion, I realized I didn’t have to make a choice; I could combine both classical and jazz music and create a unique fusion of my own.”

After being a solo artist and performing with other musicians for several years, Káel finally decided to start the Jazzical Trio in 2015. “I had this idea for classical and jazz fusion and I wanted to find somebody who could understand and play classical music just as well as jazz music, so that together we could create this very special sound. I was thinking about this for 10 years until finally, I decided to take the leap. I first approached András Lakatos whom I had been playing with for over 20 years at various jazz festivals and jazz clubs and then he suggested Péter Oláh, whom he had played with separately. Since they are both trained in classical and jazz music and are seasoned professionals having performed numerous concerts with a wide range of bands and musicians in different setups, we were a great fit right from our first rehearsal together. We decided to call ourselves ‘Jazzical Trio’, because the name is a combination of jazz and classical music, which is exactly what our style is,” Káel explains.

The musical partnership of the trio aligns seamlessly because they complement each other’s ideas and in that way help each other become better players. While Káel composes and arranges the songs, Lakatos and Oláh help with ideation and suggest different playing styles, so that the trio jointly contribute to every song. The band have played across Europe, US, China, India, Egypt, Mexico, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. They released an album called ‘Duality’ two years ago, referencing the classical and jazz combination, and later this year, they plan to release a second album called ‘Stories’, based on the premise that every musical composition or tune is a different story from different worlds and musical styles.

After Canada, the Jazzical Trio will next be performing at the Liszt Fest in Budapest in October, followed by a Baltic tour covering Estonia, Latvia, Helsinki and Lithuania towards the end of this year.

The band will also be in Canada during the Ottawa Jazz Festival scheduled to take place this month from June 21-30 and are keen to attend it for a chance to listen to other jazz musicians. “We love the Canadian jazz scene which is highly influenced by the US – the true home of jazz. While we enjoy playing at jazz festivals to an audience that really appreciates jazz, we are also thrilled to have an opportunity to listen to other jazz musicians and soak in the special atmosphere,” Káel concludes.