Gardony’s pianistic style is fantastic. Technically, he is far superior. Furthermore, as a Berklee graduate and European trained musician, he is aware of and able to combine many styles of music, from Classical to jazz to Afro-Latin to gospel.
The first three tunes on the album show us the full range of musical experience. "Satin Doll" starts with an Afro-Latin introduction, to a straight-ahead treatment of the head, then solos, then back to the Afro-Latin closure. "Ever Before, Ever After" is an original composition. Gardony’s piece is in a gospel feel, yet avoiding any clichés. Finally, he extends the form of "Stella by Starlight" to include a chorus that includes changes reminiscent of Bartok.
The rest of the album similarly shows off his brilliance. "Giant Steps" shows off his technical superiority. He gives us the same "sheets of sound" experience that Coltrane gave us in the original. His two other original pieces on the album give us a similar gospel treatment as the title piece. Gardony’s treatment of the melodies of these pieces is particularly moving. As so many technical pianists are wary of being exposed, Gardony is comfortable in the soft dynamic of these gospel-like hymns. Gardony also shows off his playful side on "Come With Me". Still gospel based, it also combines a Dixieland feel to give energy to the piece and offer an alternative to the traditional "hymn-like" melodies.
What adds particular resonance to this session is that it is a live performance. A certain palpable energy is evident. It is as intense an album as can be produced. At moments, Gardony and his drummer seem ready to burst through. Both are fierce and not afraid of giving all they have to the music. Furthermore, the live date offers an excellent repertoire. In incorporates half standards and originals, as well as a piece that appears on a previous Gardony album. All this allows the listener to experience song selections that the band has worked out on the road. Evidence of this is displayed by the comfortable interplay of the trio.
The only negative aspect of the performance is that Gardony rarely leaves us wanting more. For example, "Ever Before, Ever After" is eight minutes of basically the same treatment of a basic melody. It only begins to get fired up after the piece is almost finished. It simply was not enough creative material to keep us interested for the entire track.
Ever Before, Ever After is a wonderful album. Laszlo Gardony is a great pianist, and this is superb music. The album offers ballad, burner, hymn, and chant. Complexity and technicality are present but never overshadow musicality. Laszlo Gardony is a pianist worthy of praise within the highest pantheon of performers.