Kevin Kastning/Sándor Szabó/Balazs Major: Concert review from the 2012 European Tour: Budapest concert, 24 March 2012

Szabó Sándor - Kevin Kastning - Major Balázs: Kontaktus concert, Imladris Kulturális Központ, 24. March 2012
"When I read the poster of the concert held on 24th March in the Imladris Kulturális Központban (Budapest, V. ker. Váci utca 65.) I already knew that something very special happens on that night. Before the concert our guitar player Sándor Szabó and his musician partners Kevin Kastning – guitars and Balázs Major -percussions, told me the following about the upcoming concert: „ When a music leaves its traditional function and transcends it, then it becomes a sound-poetry. In this case this can be heard in the reach and exotic instrumentation, in the audible effects that we captured from the nature and the life. We created an organic texture which affects the imagination of the listener. To make it even more exciting and complex we have two so called contact- dancers who improvise together with us and they will visually complement the music experience.

The music material of the concert has been recently released on an album called Triptych in the USA. The musical thoughts due to the contact-dancers Györke Tímea and Szamosi Judit has been manifested in the visual world. During the performance a Korean dancer Bari Kim joined the group. Though Bari’s name was not included on the concert program, but somehow the info got her since she previously worked with the two dancers so her addition was a very interesting and nice surprise on that night.
Before I speak about the performance it is important to introduce the contact dance a little. It is necessary because this style is quite young and it is not known widely. The tradition of the contact –dance goes back to 40 years when the basys of the improvised dance style was established by Steve Paxton in the ’70s. Paxton’s were looking for a new form of dance which provides bigger freedom for the dancers. The new dance style was born where two dancers are contact with each other and they stimulate each other to continuously build up a continuous motion. The contact-dancing is improvisation, the experience of exploring, relaxation, philosophy, and a public activity.

Let’s return to the performance. The trio used special guitars and a Chinese zither called guzheng and exotic African percussion instruments on the concert. The concert was based in the interaction of musicians and dancers. Everything was influenced by everything in a realtime process. The artists improvised everything from the first moment to the last one, and after all I never felt that it is an improvidósation in a usual way. Every moments I had the feeling that everything is composed because the artists created so high level that they make the illusion of a composed performance. In a traditional sense in the moment of birth of music in the improvisation turns the attention to the past but this production moved the attention of the audience to the near future in a freedom, where you can still feel and hear the traditions but you are out of that. The mood of the concert recalled the past and showed us the ancient source. It was a special moment when Sándor Szabó started to play the 21 string guzheng, for a moment we could feel in the ancient East where all the cultures origin. Kevin Kastning spoiled us with his soulful modern acoustic guitar playing that we get used to from him in the last few years. Balázs Major had very important part in the performance because his playing shaped the mood of the whole concert and helped to „travel to the ancient roots.”

The dancers Tímea, Judit and Bari – who created contionously changing pairs – were very conscious but in the meantime very spontaneous, sensitive and open letting the partner to freely create. It turned out that the contact-dancing is the model of being throwing back to each other. For the audience the dancers viewed inside waiting and seeking for the next motion in this continuous process. The source of the motions was the creative power where the dancers tried to throw the partner off her instantaneous balance. While watching their dance we could understand how their conscience manifests in their motions. As for me Tímea’s production influenced me best: her finest thought came through in her actions in a deep empathy. Judit’s and Bari’s convincing power was laudable and they acted an important part to keep the audience’s attention in focus.

In my opinion the production fulfilled its goal which was suggested in its title Kontaktus. In this performance there were contacts between dancers, musicians, instruments and visual and audio, spiritual and physical achieved by an intense communication between the artists and the audience.
I think it was brilliant idea from Sándor to bring the improvised music closer to improvised dance. They worked together perfectly and they elevated each other to a higher level of experience."

- Ekultura Magazine (HUNGARY)


Sándor Szabó/Kevin Kastning Duo, Dominic Miller solo concert  (Basszus Magazine; Hungary Dec.2009)

The Millenaris Teatrum dedicated a night for the acoustic guitar and celebrating this event we had almost a two hour long concert.

Sándor Szabó, the organizer of the night opens the concert with his baritone guitar. Its range is somewhere between the bass and normal guitar. He started with an enjoyable composition which was a little abstract but definitely interesting.

A short introduction and announcement and the American Kevin Kastning arrived at the stage. Kevin has released three duo albums so far with Sandor. They recalled some pieces of these albums tonight.

The audience could fill the Millenaris Teatrum, though they were a perfect audience, silent space, careful attention. This was necessary because the concert was not loud. It was possible to hear when Sandor stomped the rhythm with his foot, not to mention the noise of the cameras.

We could hear modern contemporary guitar music written to two baritone guitars. Sometimes a little dissonant, difficult to listen pieces which seemed to me like melody and idea streams.

The cleanness of the pieces was enhanced by the custom made rich guitars which were supported by a very professional sound reinforcement.

The played pieces were in tight relationship with each other, but were recalled ideas and examples of the albums, but these pieces described well the world of this guitar duo.

There is not a sharp boundary line between the two players, they perfectly fused in the music. Sometimes a little faster rhythmically, sometimes a darker part followed each other.

After 4 pieces Sándor remains alone on the stage and he played an easier piece, theme, variation and theme again, the music is flowing freely. The time is running very fast. Dominic Miller arrives at the stage. Many people know him only from the Sting Band.

He sits down with his guitar and starts to play the seemingly simple, slow songs. We can hear a nice, refined playing with no any flowery. He created a special atmosphere on the stage, something special happens. His playing attracts the attention, he leads us to calm, peaceful worlds.

A part of the pieces are Dominic’s compositions, he plays two Bach pieces and some hits from Sting (Fields of Gold and the Shape of My Heat) and he recalled a Beatles song Day in a Life. Dominic seemed to be a modest person, he mentioned how much he likes to be in Hungary and is happy for the invitation from Sándor Szabó.

Sándor Szabó comes again to the stage and now they play an improvised piece duo.

In the encore they play in trio Dominic Miller compliments the other two players and expresses his joy to play with them. The last piece was the Blind Flying which was even more abstract and inward composition. By the middle of the piece it had a very high level of energy then gradually decayed and run out. This night was the fest of the acoustic guitar, exciting, a rarely heard specialty. It was not the easiest music but fitted well to these instruments.


27. September, Sunday, 20:00, Millenáris Teátrum

Szabó Sándor (gitár)
Kevin Kastning (gitár)
Dominic Miller (gitár)

- Basszus Kulcs magazine, Hungary




Concert Review of Sándor Szabó & Kevin Kastning Duo in Budapest  (Greg's Jazz Blog; Hungary)

Guitarist Sándor Szabó gave four concerts in four different venues along with two famous international musicians (Kevin Kastning and Dominic Miller) between 24th and 28th September 2009. The shows were held in Vác, Szeged, Budapest and Pécs with the aim to make modern acoustic guitar music more popular. The 53-year-old Hungarian artist has been a representative of this style for 30 years or so. His professionalism is proven by his albums released in Germany, United Kingdom and United States, his enthusiasm is marked by self organized concert tours and festivals. Four years ago when Sándor Szabó started to prepare for this particular event he made up his mind to invite two colleagues and friends, American Kevin Kastning and British Dominic Miller.

The overture of the first 45-minute long set was a beautiful and passionate song titled Broken Soul or Megtört lélek in Hungarian, performed by Szabó from his solo CD, Deeper Reality from 2007. Kevin Kastning is a really kind, 49-year-old composer who lives in Massachusetts. He writes choruses, chamber music and besides these he is also known for his unique guitar playing. He graduated in Berklee School of Music in Boston where he used to be a disciple of Pat Metheny among others. His and Szabó’s main instruments are 12-string baritone guitars and they released three albums together in the US so far. The baritone guitar is usually tuned a perfect fifth lower compared to the standard guitar: A D G C E A
*. After listening to the Beach Boys, Dave Matthews, John Petrucci and Pat Metheny (One Quiet Night) we had the chance to get closer to these wonderful instruments live.

The next part consisted four compositions by Sándor and Kevin. All of them were recorded recently for their upcoming fourth album which will be released next year. The first song played together was called Hermitage which was an interesting tune with a restless feeling. Kevin was playing in the background while Sándor was soloing confidently. According to Szabó, no music like this has ever been performed in our country before, not even a similar one. And he was right! Kevin played his 12-string Santa Cruz guitars during the show, but Sándor sometimes changed his 12-string to 6-string. While both musicians were on the stage we could see that they were holding their guitars and playing with their nails in a classical way. Improfugue V was a dissonant, hard stuff which was followed by the brand new Invocation. This bluesy song had a nice pulsation and was rich of fine and creative solutions. Improfugue VI started with a melody reminiscent of a medieval lute song then it collapsed and an alternative approach was followed by a striking ending. Sándor Szabó performed a solo tune again, a real shaman song, A varázslók tánca (Dance of the Wizards). After this enjoyable and country-like composition came to the stage Dominic Miller, the superstar of the night, who is nearly 50 and has been playing together with Sting for 20 years.

During the encore all three guitarists played together the song entitled Blind Flying, which was a very appropriate title according to Dom who had to absolutely improvise. Before this tune he also praised Kastning’s fantastic harmonies and compositional abilities. We sincerely hope that these kind of marvelous acoustic tours will be continued in the future to enrich and cheer up the small but nice audience.

- GregJazzBlog

*Note: Actually, the root strings of my 12-string baritone are tuned one octave lower than concert-pitch guitar.  On the 2009 tour, I employed my own intervallic tunings on both the 12-string baritone and the 12-string alto guitars.


Excerpt from an interview with Dominic Miller

Greg: "Let's turn into the present. How did you meet Sándor Szabó and Kevin Kastning?"

Dom: "I met Sándor in a guitar festival in Croatia 2 years ago. He heard my playing there and now he invited me here. I remember I received an e-mail from a Hungarian guitar player that I already knew from name, then he contacted my manager and he asked me if I wanted to play in Hungary. Of course I said yes to this possibility. I like to play in different countries not only in the States and Germany or Great Brittain. It is always interesting and exciting to travel to foreign places. Our first common concert was yesterday where we really heard and saw each other.

Kevin is also an amazing player. They play something absolutely different than I do and I never heard such music in my life before. It is very nice to meet new people to get new experiences so I am very happy that I can be part of that."



Kevin Kastning/Sándor Szabó + Dominic Miller Concert review at Zene Magazine (Hungary)

Concert review from Szeged Index Magazine


Concert review from Delmagyar Magazine



Concert review and photos from MIMK Magazine



A photo of me from the 2009 European tour.