INDEPENDENT MUSIC AWARD WINNER DAZZLES A PACKED HOUSE AT NYC’S ZINC BAR
By Rory Winston
“A slow afternoon brings a thousand memories.” The words wafted through the Zinc Bar, caroming from ear to ear before gently settling on the nape of each listener’s neck like a fading embrace. It was an ethereal voice that surfed the edgy melody – one that effortlessly rode complex progressions as if they were no more than naturally altering moods. There was something real in the stylized phrases, something that lent legitimacy to even the soapiest of sentiments, something that transformed banality into a plaintive cry. Here, longing could exist without an object, nostalgia without any past on which to build, and an utterly artificial language could express the most genuine of emotions. In this hothouse wrought of passion and technique, it was Budapest’s very own Bossa Nova baby, Rozina Pátkai, who reigned supreme.
Like hip-hop, Bossa Nova had evolved both beyond its country of origin and its original form. For every late great Elis Regina, there was a highly versatile Ana Laan creating fusions in English, Spanish and Swedish. For every Bebel Gilberto, there was an equally gifted Mônica da Silva injecting the form with indie-pop. Employing some of the finest Jazz musicians in Budapest, including Mátyás Tóth (composer and guitarist) and Norbert Farkas (double bass), the classically trained Hungarian singer of Italian extraction, Rozina Pátkai, came up with her own take on the genre; the result being: winning the Independent Music Awards for two consecutive years with Best vocal Jazz song in 2014 and Best Latin Song in 2015.
As vocalists go, Rozina’s vocals are less ‘courtesan by way of convent’ than classically educated ‘socialite slumming.’ Traipsing through her understated runs, Rozina stops in odd clearings to give vent to a more feral form. There is a slightly fetishy feel to her emotive moments, almost like watching a bride double-checking the recherché interior design of her honeymoon suit while in the throes of rapture. It is a distinct sound that shares little in common with the thicker brazen world of Claudia Acuña, the leaking tone of Céu or even the chatty vernacular of Ana Laan. In Rozina, girlish ebullience and seasoned insouciance are on equal footing. While there may be a form of studied innocence which surfaces at odd intervals of the performance, there is nothing laborious to any of the sophistication – a virtue that seems as emblematic of the original songs as it is of Rozina’s approach. Boasting lyrics by the respected Hungarian academic, author and literary aesthete Zsófia Bán, the songs allow for gushing Latin sentiment as interpreted by a sardonic Central European point of view. Having been brought up in both Rio and Budapest, Professor Bán teeters along the very same multicultural wire as the band itself. While such balancing acts are a marvel to behold, it is the spills (in either direction) which prove to be absolutely splendid.
A choreographer friend of mine once said that classical ballet was a perfect base for anything in dance – whether hip hop, contemporary or Jazz. ‘So long as you know how to build on it and know which elements need to be abandoned,’ he stressed, ‘there was no telling how far you could go.’ Rozina makes an equally good case for classical singing. Her sensibility elicits precision and improvisational abandon all in one go. Listening to Rozina and her band being accompanied by the renowned virtuoso percussionist Alex Kautz and the inimitable Wayne Tucker, one gets the sense that Rozina is all copper – soft, malleable, and electrically conductive. Like the element itself, she is able to transform New York’s Zinc Bar into something wholly (and at times, holy) brass. It’s transformations such as these that remind us all that certain Bossa Nova bands have ‘a chemistry all their own.’ Given time, patience and a bit of music industry alchemy, brass of this caliber may just end up turning to gold.