Levitation I :: Reviews and Quotes

Levitation I
by Kevin Kastning & Laszlo Gardony
Release date: June 28, 2022
Label: Greydisc
by Zachary Nathanson | August 6, 2022 |

"Laszlo Gardony is a Hungarian-American composer who is considered one of the most incredible pianist in the jazz community. He has released 13 studio albums from 1988’s The Secret to his upcoming 14th release with drummer Yoron Israel and bassist John Lockwood this coming December called, Close Connection.

He’s won the greatest jazz piano competition and championed by the late, great Dave Brubeck. Not only that but a professor and teacher from Berklee College of Music and Harvard University’s Jazz Combo Initiative, Gardony is like a breath of fresh air when it comes to recording, composing, teaching, and staying true to his life in music.

His collaboration with Kevin Kastning makes it a combination on their first time together with Levitation I. This 6-part suite creates true mystery, cavernous structures, and eerie qualities to have something crept up your spine.

Recorded at The Studio in Portland, Maine on August 20, 2021, Kastning and Gardony have brought in the tremors to add the sacred touches by being creative and taking over the entire ship. When you put Levitation I on, you get a sense on what was going on during the two-year ride during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are moments where Kastning uses his instrument to go from Steve Howe’s arrangements on Yes’ Close to the Edge to King Crimson’s Larks Tongues-era, you get a sense of this cat-and-mouse chase that the duo would go by going from corner of the house to another. And it’s quite a hay-wiring affect at times.

But what Kastning and Gardony do is adding more hot temperatures rising during the alarm sequences that have a climatic twist. You can hear elements of Stravinsky, Ligeti, excerpts of Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’, and Keith Tippett’s Blueprint-era.

I felt some tugs of a lost recording session that could’ve been made in 1998 in a parallel universe where the duo were offered the job to write the music for Stanley Kubrick’s 1999 swan-song and often misunderstood gem, Eyes Wide Shut. And you can imagine that this was an offer they couldn’t refuse.

Kevin’s music may not be everyone’s cup of tea per se, but it’s always a challenge when he puts out a new release on the Greydisc label. Whether its collaborating with Mark Wingfield, Balazs Major, Carl Clements, or Sandor Szabo, he always wants to go as far as he can go.

With Levitation I, he has finally reached the mountain top and showing where the next adventure he and Laszlo will come in another chapter of their stories together."

- Echoes and Dust (US)
  August 2022

Kevin Kastning & Laszlo Gardony: Levitation I (2022)
by Kev Rowland

"On Kevin Kastning’s latest release we find him on his favoured 36-string Double Contraguitar, and he has been joined this time by Internationally acclaimed Boston-based jazz pianist and composer Laszlo Gardony who is Professor of Piano at Berklee College of Music and also teaches at Harvard University’s Jazz Combo Initiative. I think this is the first time I have heard Kevin working with a pianist, and he has found a perfect foil in Laszlo who is very much in tune with the guitarist, as they inspire each other to create something which can be as delicate as raindrops or as powerful as a storm.

Recorded in a single day in a Maine summer last year, the six pieces have been culled from the improvisation which took place in the studio that day, and given the name of the album I am sure there is more to follow. I have always found Kevin’s guitarwork to be fascinating due not only to the breadth of sounds at his disposal, but also in the way he brings them to life. This is not someone randomly picking at 36 strings to create something which may or may not be musical, but an artist who knows exactly what he wants to achieve and has the skills to do just that. Gardony is also not one to sit back, and while he can create swathes of sounds for Kastning to pitch against, he is also more than prepared to take the lead, adding flourishes here and there as he challenges the other to respond in kind. As with many of Kastning’s works, it is the second playthrough where the beauty really begins to shine, as it takes a while to reset the brain and get inside the head of the players, but once in tune this is an album which is an absolute delight.

I have heard quite a few of Kastning’s albums in recent years, and this is probably the most enjoyable to date as not only is it highly musical, but there is plenty of space while the two musicians often seem almost as one, as if this had been highly scored as opposed to coming out of the ether. If you have yet to hear music from either, then this is a great place to start."

Rating: 8/10

- House of Prog Magazine/Radio (ENGLAND)
  July 2022

Kevin Kastning / Laszlo Gardony — Levitation I
(Greydisc GDR 3568, 2022, CD)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2022-07-18

"Laszlo Gardony is a Hungarian-born American jazz pianist who performs solo as well as with his jazz trio. After graduating from the Béla Bartók Conservatory in Budapest in 1979, he moved to the United States in the early 80s with a scholarship to study at Berklee College in Boston, and he was the first student in that school's history to be offered a teaching position immediately upon graduation. Kevin Kastning is also a Berklee grad, and a former private guitar student of the legendary Pat Metheny; he has composed hundreds of pieces for various solo and chamber groupings, and may be best known for performances on his numerous exotic custom designed guitars, as well as over forty album releases, both solo and in collaboration with other like-minded travelers.

Levitation I represents the first collaboration between Kastning (on 36-string double contra-guitar) and Gardony (on piano), hopefully the first of many. The six pieces at hand, simply titled “Levitation Opus I to VI,” are pure collaborations between the two, from the compositions right out to the final recorded performances. For those already familiar with Kastning’s previous solo and collaborative works, you have a head start on what to expect here — a gentle, soft and dreamy acoustic approach that wanders through numerous portals as the two players contribute to the sum in real time, often sounding something like an improvisation, but in reality the results are too perfect and polished to not be composed. Each of the six pieces, ranging from six minutes to over eleven, take the listener on an intimate journey, wandering through mysterious landscapes, from curious mathematical elements to flourishes of pure sonic beauty; sometimes the piano leads the way, at other times it’s the guitar, and often the two coexist in a perfect balancing act. While Gardony’s piano stylings here incorporate elements of jazz and classical, and Kastning’s style could be informed more by chamber and avant-garde, the combination of the two gives the listener something that is well beyond any convenient classification, something truly unique."

- Exposé Magazine (US)
  July 2022



Kevin Kastning & Laszlo Gardony: Levitation I (2022)

"Over the past years, I have written several times on our website about the projects of the American guitarist, composer and designer of new types of guitars Kevin Kastning, which allows us to notice some patterns. Obviously, Kevin loves chamber formats - trios, and even more - duets. Jokingly, we can say that he also loves to work with the Hungarians: his frequent partner is guitarist Sandor Sabo, and there is also drummer Balázs Mayor. And if we talk about the new album Levitation I, then in some ways it is traditional, but on the other hand, this has never been seen in the work of Kevin Kastning.

The format is traditional here - this is again a duet, the partner is traditional - although he has long been an American, he was still born in Hungary. But the duet with the pianist Kastning plays for the first time in his practice. However, let's leave the floor to him (this is a quote from the liner notes for the album): “For many years I dreamed of a duet album project with a pianist. For many years I listened to pianist after pianist and never found anyone with whom such a partnership could work. At times I wondered if I was looking in vain and that the pianist I was looking for simply didn't exist. And then one day, in 2021, I listened to one of Laszlo's solo albums, and then his other works. I contacted him and asked if he would like to do a joint project, to which he agreed." Well, it's time to finally introduce Kevin's new partner.

Laszlo Gardony began his career as a pianist in his homeland, where he graduated from the Béla Bartók Conservatory (and at the same time, by the way, the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics at the University of Budapest). Excellent in a variety of styles, from blues to post-bop, he performed at various festivals, for example, with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers or with Abdullah Ibrahim. In 1983, with a scholarship to Berklee, he continued his jazz career in the United States. Here, Laszlo released his first album already in 1988, and in the future his career was on the rise. Gardony has won a jazz pianist competition, his solo albums have been praised by the stern critics at DownBeat, and at Berklee he now teaches the art of playing the piano.

Kevin and Laszlo conceived a two-album series, which is why Levitation also bears the designation 1, hinting at a sequel. Six joint compositions made up the program of this album, where Laszlo played the piano, and Kevin played the 36-string counter-guitar of his own invention. Stylistically, the music of the album fits into the usual for Kastning field between ambient and academic music, but I would call this album multi-level: it all depends on the level of perception. For some, the music of Levitation I may seem like just background music, but with a closer listening, you will feel how deep the level of creativity both masters demonstrate, how interesting their ideas are, and how flawlessly they are embodied. Levitation, as you know, is floating in the air, overcoming gravity without the use of technical means. Fiction? Strictly scientific, it seems to be so. But at times it seemed to me that the sound of the album helps the duo really soar above everything earthly, that the musicians become like Herman Hesse's bead players from Castalia. At the same time, Levitation I is a duet of equals, there is no leader and follower, the partners are worth each other. Having played with a pianist for the first time, Kevin Kastning, in my opinion, recorded the best of his duet projects."

- Jazz Quad Magazine (RUSSIA)
  July 2022


"Levitation I has become my morning music. It starts my day off open to the unexpected magic and humanity in every breath. This collaboration is a forging together of two distinct languages with subtle tonal variations and tendencies combined into one new voice — and that voice is chock full of hope and humanity. This is not an oil and water combination. This metamorphosis of two into one reminds me of the title of Raymond Carver’s book of poems: “Where Water Comes Together with Other Water.” There is melody everywhere in this doubly improvised ascension. I am quite sure neither of these artists are creating these songs, but rather both composers are following the song as it is revealed to each. Same as it ever was. I hear a line of Theodore Roethke’s “The Waking: “Learn by going where I need to go.” I feel this album as a duet between precise, sparse and practical magic, as though the meticulous language of Raymond Carver and the hothouse flowers of Theodore Roethke’s deeply moving praise for life had been pranked into metamorphosis by impish Ovid into the story we all need to hear right now around a camp fire. If asked for a comparison of these artists, I would say they can be compared to sparse Raymond Carver and transcendent Theodore Roethke combined and reborn by mischievous Ovid into temporary song. Since those three have yet to put out an album of their own, I can recommend Levitation I as the next best thing.

I love this album. I think the combination is amazing. Gardony may hem Kastning in a bit, in that he may have a greater tendency to keep hold onto a key signature more than Kastning might unfettered, but that tension is glorious.

There is a little bit of a Lennon and McCartney type struggle. “It’s getting better all the time.” It’s just wonderful. Of course, I don’t give a damn what is intended, and as with Kastning's other work, there is little time for intention to raise its ugly little head. Something new is created in this collaboration and it isn’t under control at all.  Damn fine album!

I fantasize that both artists were experiencing the album as it happened much as I am feeling when I listen to it. Kastning must have had an underlying joy in the discovery that this music had taken over and didn’t need any help along the way! A good collaboration commandeers intension into an uncontrollable metamorphosis. I love describing that. The power of Kevin Kastning’s music is that it can be moving, dazzling, and entertaining while calling into question everything I had known about the source of creativity and moment-to-moment experience of creation itself.

Here’s a revelation: The silence after Levitation I is poignant and electric with possibilities. That bird singing over there, the backfire of a truck on the highway, the subtle sound of wind through the trees, all sound and silence, at this moment support the soloist of that Magpie nearby. I dare say I would not have heard or understood this natural and man-made symphony unaided by the music that came before."

- Billy's Music Without Borders webzine (MEXICO)
  June 2022



"The flavor we get from Kastning this time out is his first face off with pianist Gardony in which they redefine the ECM cool school sound. With a strong classical/improv feel, these two masters of their crafts are on the money throughout---as usual. Deep listening that will pay dividends and rewards."

- Midwest Record Magazine (US)
  June 2022

Title - Levitation I
Artist - Kevin Kastning / Laszlo Gardony

"For those not in the know, Greydisc Records have just released the new album from Kevin Kastning and Laszlo Gardony entitled Levitation I.

Furthermore, this is the first of a two-album series. This blend of instruments provides a unique palette for the six new compositions on this record; in fact, it is the first time 36-string Double Contraguitar has been paired with Piano.

Kevin Kastning is an American guitarist, composer and musical instrument inventor who along with playing the aforementioned 36-string Double Contraguitar, also plays the 30-string Contra-Alto guitar, 17-string Hybrid Extended Classical guitar, 15-string Extended Classical guitar, twelve-string guitar, six-string guitar, fretless guitar, 12-string extended baritone guitar, 6-string bass-baritone guitar, alto guitar, the 14-string Contraguitar, the 16-string Contraguitar, the 17-string Contraguitar, 12-string soprano guitar, mandolin, piano, and, phew ... bass!

Internationally acclaimed Boston-based jazz pianist and composer Laszlo Gardony is one of the most expressive and technically skilled pianists working in jazz today.

“A formidable improviser who lives in the moment” (JazzTimes), Laszlo Gardony has performed in 27 countries and released 14 albums on the Sunnyside, Antilles, and Avenue Jazz labels during his distinguished decades long career.

1. Levitation Opus I (7:48)
2. Levitation Opus II (6:32)
3. Levitation Opus III (7:27)
4. Levitation Opus IV (10:48)
5. Levitation Opus 5 (5:45)
6. Levitation Opus 6 (11:21)

On a recording that clearly shows us that both Kevin and Laszlo have a deep and immediate artistic connection, of which can be heard in each of these advanced and intricate compositions, they open with the low ebbed, scratchy at times, piercingly angular at others, notes and melodies within Levitation Opus I and back that up with the quieter, more methodical works within both Opus II and Opus III.

Opus IV is one of my own personal favorites, for the ten minute oeuvre is a veritable smorgasbord of astute, organically-charged, at times insular, other times methodically disjointed, yet at all times melodically fascinating rhythms, whilst Opus V brings forth a thematic approach to their work, with the recording coming to a close on the excitedly jaunty, experimental yet cultured, and wholly ambient eleven minute Opus VI."

- Exclusive Magazine (US)
  June 2022


"Kevin Kastning and Laszlo Gardony spontaneously generate proto-post-classical music that is simultaneously ahead of and beyond its spacetime."

- Barry Cleveland (US)

"Hey Kevin,
I finally got a chance to listen to Levitation I. It is truly a unique and stunning piece of work. Congratulations to you and Laszlo. "

- Greg Scelsa (US)

"Hello Kevin,

Congratulations on this new album, which is really admirable.

I take great pleasure in listening to Levitation I because it is so alive, full of creativity and passion. This is really my favorite of your work.  The duo you form with Laszlo evolves in a kind of fusion in which the 2 instruments end up making only one. Your level of musical communication is very high.

So both of you take us on a journey inside ourselves. You take us to a world without words in which sounds become colors and sensations; rhythms are impulses and joy; themes become passion and flight away. This music leaves no room for the intellect, it is purely to be received. We must not try to understand it, we must just let it take us.

Bravo for the sound, for the mix, for everything. This album is just passion and love. Excellent my friend, beautiful."

- Philippe Fouquet (FRANCE)
  June 2022

Hi Kevin,
I just finished listening to Levitation I. Very nice album - you two seem to have a strong rapport right off the bat. I hear the density you were talking about, but it's effective, and there are still breathing spaces. Looking forward to hearing your next one.

- Carl Clements (US)
  July 2022












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