Desert Island Jazz
George Mesterhazy (2011)

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Like so many of those who are both his compatriots and of his generation, George Mesterhazy left his native Hungary as a child in the late 1950s. Growing up in Schenectady, New York, he was surrounded by music, and by it must have seemed only natural that he acquired at least some familiarity, albeit mostly self-taught, with a long series of instruments: accordion and violin (both Hungarian staples), trumpet, organ, guitar …

Following his family's move to Atlantic City, New Jersey, George took every opportunity to check out visiting musicians, be they vocalists such as Billy Eckstine or instrumentalists (George himself lists "Wild Bill Davis, Richard Groove Holmes, Gene Ammons, Pat Martino").

In pursuit of something more from music than he was able to obtain in an Atlantic City that was reinventing itself as the Las Vegas of the East, George relocated to Los Angeles. To say that that was less than successful would be an understatement: as he himself puts it, "Between '89 and '91 I got every $35 gig that existed in LA". Just as he was ready to leave, Fate intervened in the person of vocalist Rebecca Parris. He arranged for her a show dedicated to the memory of the then recently deceased Sarah Vaughan, who had been a huge influence on and later friend of Rebecca.

One thing led to another: the show's success led to a recording date, and Rebecca led to another great jazz vocalist, Shirley Horn, for whom George arranged the Grammy-nominated "Loving You". Shirley's diabetes led to the amputation of a foot, rendering her unable any longer to accompany herself on piano, and it was George she chose to fulfill that role. Anyone who knows Shirley's oeuvre knows that the dead-slow tempos were in time to her own idiosyncratic internal clock, one which it took an exceptionally sympathetic accompanist to accommodate.

Currently George divides his time between working—running a restaurant back home in New Jersey—and, both metaphorically and literally, playing, most notably as accompanist and arrange for San Francisco vocalist Paula West: together they play from coast to coast, from the Algonquin and Feinstein's at Loews Regency in New York City, to Herbst Theatre and the Rrazz Room in San Francisco.
Pick Artist Album Song Label
# 1 João Gilberto Amaroso/Brazil Besame Mucho Warner Bros
# 2 George Shearing and Carmen McRae Two for the Road My Gentleman Friend Concord
# 3 Tony Bennett Movie Songs Emily Columbia
# 4 Miles Davis Porgy and Bess Here Come de Honey Man/I Loves You, Porgy Columbia
# 5 Ella Fitzgerald The George and Ira Gershwin Songbook Embraceable You Verve
# 6 Ella Fitzgerald The George and Ira Gershwin Songbook Love Is Here to Stay Verve
# 7 Frank Sinatra Only the Lonely Only the Lonely Capitol
# 8 Shirley Horn Here's to Life Here's to Life Verve
# 9 Rosa Passos Besame Mucho Amorosa Sony
         
Book Jiddu Krishnamurti, "Think on These Things"
         
Luxury Item The score to Brahms' "Requiem"
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