Pianist Laszlo Gardony thinks he began playing the piano when he was about 3, and began formal lessons at 7. He was a rising jazz star in his native Hungary, with a degree from the Bela Bartok Conservatory and one recording, when he first heard about Berklee College of Music. Written correspondence led to a partial scholarship, but a visit to Boston — and a knock on the school’s door — led to a full one, with housing. That was in 1983. Now, with nine more albums as a leader under his belt — his newest, Signature Time, came out in spring, 2011 — he’s a Professor of Piano at Berklee.
Though he’s worked with jazz masters including Dave Holland, Miroslav Vitous, David Fathead Newman, and Bob Moses, Gardony has become best known for the trio he formed with bassist John Lockwood and drummer Yoron Israel. Gardony refers to the experience of playing with them as “almost telepathic.”
A prolific composer, his albums and live shows are filled with originals. But there’s always been room for covers of songs that have moved him and provided ground for improvisation, from “Satin Doll” to “Caravan” to, on the newest recording, the Beatles’ “Lady Madonna” and “Eleanor Rigby.”
Speaking about his choice of those two, he said, “It was always enjoyable to play them and they always fit in with my original ideas. I love the Beatles, and this is a wonderful way to connect those tunes to some African and gospel elements that they already drew upon, but I could give it a different angle.”
Of his decision to stick mostly with trio playing, he said, “You can really be there in the moment with three people.”
He laughed and added, “If it’s working, it’s the best possible thing, if it’s not then you wish you had a big band.”