Gabor ‘Gabs’ Dornyei is one of the hottest players – and nicest guys – to emerge out of Europe in recent years. Possibly you heard about him sharing the stage with the likes of Jojo Mayer, Billy Cobham, Gavin Harrison, Ian Paice, Steve Smith or Chris Coleman? Or maybe you caught his wicked ‘Alexander Hedgehog’ solo on Drum-Channel? He’s been on the cover of several European drum magazines and had major features in various others. Then there was his 2007 DVD, Gabor Dornyei – Drums, Music and Friends, and in 2011 the DVD Thunder Duo – Kornel Horvath & Gabor Dornyei – with Dom Famularo – which has proven so popular that it has been rereleased in a second-edition pressing. Meanwhile, those connoisseurs and communicators of fine drumming, Hudson Music, liked the DVD so much, they offer it as a download on their site.
Here’s the scoop: The idea of packing up his drums and dreams for a move from his Hungarian homeland to pursue a new life in London, England may have been the most daunting thing he ever considered, but that move is exactly what Gabor Dornyei did at the age of 29. Having grown up on a musical diet of Billy Cobham, Peter Erskine, Terry Bozzio and Horacio ‘El Negro’ Hernandez, and after playing just about every major gig – from pop and jazz to rock to far-out fusion and even traditional styles – plus winning virtually all the awards a drummer could win in Hungary, Gabs opted for a new life. “For me, it was the only way forward,” he reflects, running his fingers along a battered pair of Jack DeJohnette Signature sticks.
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PERFORMANCE SPOTLIGHT GABOR DORNYEI
GABOR'S STICK OF CHOICE:
Jack DeJohnette (SJD) A stretch 5A for extra reach. Great for jazz and fusion. Available in wood or nylon tip. L = 16 5/16" | Dia. = .565"[enlarge photo]
And London proved to be a smart choice, because he soon nabbed the drum chair for the Michael Jackson - Thriller musical production, which for almost three years saw him playing some of the funkiest grooves with a super-tight band before sold-out stadium audiences around the world, from China and Australia, to South Africa and across Europe. That helped put Gabor in touch with some of the industry’s leading players. “The next thing I know, I’m playing on Rock Of Ages, the hit musical based on those great 80s American rock hits.” With credibility accumulating and more performances happening, becoming a faculty member at the London’s Institute of Contemporary Music Performance (ICMP) is the latest addition to Gabor’s portfolio.
Another ace for the permanently energized drummer is Thunder Duo, which sees Gabor teamed up with renowned multi-percussionist Kornel Horvath. “It’s drums and percussion like you have never heard before,” he says, his hands flailing, as if playing both simultaneously. “Kornel is amazing…just fantastic.” And as their concert DVD Thunder Duo – Kornel Horvath & Gabor Dornyei – with Dom Famularo confirms, that description is absolutely accurate. With Gabs’ funky-fusiony feel and fiery fills underpinning Kornel’s furious handwork, Thunder Duo is excitingly unique. Not surprisingly, the pair plays to sold-out audiences all over Europe and the UK, where their reputation is stellar.
“But the most amazing thing of late,” recalls Gabs, “was a call from Don Lombardi, the founder of DW drums, who invited me to appear on DrumChannel, which happens way over in California. I had seen everyone from Neil Peart to Terry Bozzio on DrumChannel, but now it was my turn.” He recorded his program and also did a masterclass at the Los Angeles Music Academy while attending the massive NAMM Show of music instruments in nearby Anaheim. The airing of Gabs’ segment attracted even more attention to him. “It’s great to get noticed, but I know my place in the bigger picture.“
If you’re noticing that Gabs is rather humble, well, he is. Oh, he’s confident enough, but like he says, he knows his place. “I’m the student to the masters,” is something he blurts out in response to all the compliments. That may be true, but this young drummer who can lay down the funkiest grooves, solo through odd times and swing, rock or play virtually anything you throw at him has studied and worked his way to the point of deserving the sort of big break his heroes had when they were on their way up.
Yes, Gabor Dornyei is a serious player. As the Thunder Duo DVD booklet notes: Packed with slick syncopations and deep funky grooves punctuated by wicked chops, Gabor Dornyei’s intense playing seduces crowds in clubs and brings arenas packed with thousands to their feet. With Thunder Duo, he turns grooves inside out and around the percussion forays of his percussionist partner, Kornel Horvath. Together they launch rhythms like rockets, discovering more convoluted patterns and even odder time signatures during their musical adventures into time and space.
Gabor Dornyei endorses SONOR Drums, SABIAN Cymbals, VIC FIRTH Sticks, REMO Drumheads, ROLAND V-Drums, TYCOON Percussion, HARDCASE and KICKPORT.