Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Iiro Rantala String Trio - Anyone With A Heart (2014) ***1/2

Iiro Rantala String Trio

Iiro Rantala - piano
Adam Bałdych - violin
Asja Valcic - cello

Anyone With A Heart (2014)






By Adrian Pallant

The classical form of piano trio is unfamiliar in jazz spheres – but, for Finnish pianist/composer Iiro Rantala, Polish violinist Adam Baldych and Austrian cellist Asja Valcic (all classically trained), it seems the perfect grouping to animate these jazz originals from Rantala.

The compositional approach stems from a desire to champion melodies – as Rantala says:“…in today’s jazz, most people try to get by without them… and if they don’t, they play standards.” And much of the sequence is tightly arranged in three parts, beautifully balanced with the freedom to improvise, frequently sailing close to ‘light music’. But it also has a depth of integrity which is both charming and inviting, due in part to the multifarious timbres the ‘string trio’ members achieve between them, as well as their undoubted shared discipline and musicianship. The music feels close and personal, conveying a variety of emotions – from heart-rending romanticism, through gritty chasing momentum or devotional simplicity, to unalloyed and overflowing joy.

Iiro Rantala’s pianistic style is noteable for its precision and clarity, but also for its ‘prepared/muted’ technique which complements the strings of violin and cello, used to great effect in "Freedom" (at times, its bounciness mimics a synthesised approach reminiscent of Vangelis). In contrast, there are echoes of Asja Valcic’s own Radio String Quartet Vienna in the pulsating "Hard Score", driven by cello and violin, Rantala’s piano running with the heightened intensity and contributing muted bass, whilst the gypsy-jazz violin is phenomenal both in raciness and fluidity. "A Gift" is easy-going and entirely accessible, Baldych’s agile plucked melody preceding a lush, homely trio arrangement which glistens with top-end piano runs; and the delicate musical box introduction to Prayerbuilds into an impassioned love song, with the individual violin and cello melodies so yearningly lyrical.

Title track "Anyone With A Heart" expresses all the warm affection of a Sunday evening’s soft TV drama, its bright, memorable melodies evoking rolling "Yorkshire Dales" landscapes or stately country houses. And, just as irresistible, is "A Little Jazz Tune" which, as its name implies, provides a jaunty ‘life’s good’ interlude with Grappelli-style portamento fiddle improvisations over Rantala’s unashamedly cheerful piano. "Alone" switches to a minor key of sorrowful longing, Valcic’s cello singing so eloquently and movingly; and Rantala’s brief, gentle arrangement of Harold Arlen’s "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" offers the subtlest of silver linings, before heading into the convivial, showy curtain call, er… "Happy Hippo"!

Those looking for hard-edged, challenging jazz are likely to find this release a touch too light. But it exudes a warmth and a sincerity which is difficult to ignore, such is the charm and openness of Iiro Rantala’s writing and the conviction of his players. It’s certainly been a popular choice in this household.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Violinists of the Jazz World !!!

Artists from all over the world competing for the much coveted prizes, and giants of international jazz in the jury: the 1st International Zbigniew Seifert Jazz Violin Competition, commemorating the work and figure of a jazz violin genius from Poland - starts on 16th July.

“Seifert is our national treasure,” says the jazz trumpeter Tomasz Stańko, who many years ago played with Zbigniew Seifert in a phenomenal band taking the European stages by storm. And there is no exaggeration in this claim. Zbigniew Seifert was a unique phenomenon in the world of jazz – a genius, even a visionary of the jazz violin. Even though his meteoric international career was cut short by an untimely death, his music has played an enormous role in the development of the generations of musicians that came after him.

Seifert’s output is still held in very high regard. It acts as a magnet and an inspiration, a fountainhead of powerful emotions. This continued impact has been confirmed by the jazz giants who once had the opportunity to work closely with Seifert (such as Jack DeJohnette, John Scofield and Nana Vasconcelos). It is also corroborated by the enormous interest with which the first edition of our International Zbigniew Seifert Jazz Violin Competition has met among young instrumentalists from all over the world. Their response proves that the Competition fills a major gap on the international music market. It also remains an unprecedented event on a global scale, as, remarkably, there has so far been no other prestigious competition dedicated to the jazz violin. 

The 1st International Zbigniew Seifert Jazz Violin Competition is being held in the year of its eminent patron’s 35th death anniversary. What adds splendour to the event is the presence of Seifert’s musical friends. The already mentioned Tomasz Stańko has agreed to accept the Honorary Presidency of the Competition Board, and he has been joined by artists, journalists and jazz activists supporting the competition: Urszula Dudziak, Dave Liebman, Chris Hinze, Paweł Brodowski, and Bert Noglik. Seifert’s one-time musical companions also serve on the Competition jury: Glen Moore (an outstanding double bassist and co-founder of the legendary band Oregon), Janusz Stefański (a percussionist and member of Seifert’s ensembles) as well as Mark Feldman (one of the greatest contemporary jazz violinists, fascinated with the work and figure of Zbigniew Seifert).

The preliminary stage of the Competition was completed a couple of weeks ago. From among the 63 submitted applications, the jury has selected the recordings of 10 violinists: eight male and two female (!). The semi-finalists are: Jason Anick, Klemens Bittmann, Apel-les Carod Requesens, Bartosz Dworak, Łukasz Górewicz, Roman Janoska, Dawid Lubowicz, Tomoko Omura, Eva Slongo, and Stanisław Słowiński. 

The ten young jazz violinists will compete during open auditions held in the Krzysztof Penderecki European Centre for Music in Lusławice (16th -18th July 2014). We are bound to see some exciting artistic competition: after all, the prizes total 17,000 Euro.

The gala concert and award ceremony have been scheduled for 19th July. The performers of the gala concert in the Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology in Cracow will include not only the Competition winners, but also the jurors, who, having accepted the invitation to this special concert, have formed a unique band which will pay musical homage to their late friend and phenomenal artist – Zbigniew Seifert.

Both the auditions and the concert will be streamed online on RadioJazz.fm.

Other Polish cities are also joining us for the celebration of this great feast of Seifert’s music. The 7th Summer Jazz Academy held in July and August in Łódź will be accompanied by a series of concerts dedicated to the memory of the eminent Polish jazz violinist, while the programme of the 19th Summer Jazz Festival at Piwnica Pod Baranami features several violin-centred programmes: Mateusz Smoczyński with Paweł Kaczmarczyk’s band (11.07), Maciej Strzelczyk (16.07), Adam Bałdych and Piotr Orzechowski “Pianohooligan” in their project entitled “Mirrors. Tribute to Zbigniew Seifert” (17.07), as well as Krzesimir Dębski (18.07). On 11th July, almost directly before the semifinals, a collection of Zbigniew Seifert mementoes, posters, photos and manuscripts will be officially presented to the Polish Jazz Archive in the National Library of Poland.

The organiser of the 1st International Zbigniew Seifert Jazz Violin Competition is the Zbigniew Seifert Foundation.

The event has been organised in co-operation with the Summer Jazz Festival at Piwnica pod Baranami. 

The project has received the financial support of: The Ministry of Culture and Cultural Heritage of the Republic of Poland, the Małopolskie Province and the Municipal Council of Kraków.

COMPETITION PATRONS: STOART Union of Performing Artists, ZAiKS Polish Society of Authors and Composers, ZEW Niedzica, MARR.

COMPETITION PARTNERS: The Summer Jazz Festival at Piwnica pod Baranami, Krakow Festival Office, the European Krzysztof Penderecki Center for Music in Lusławice, the National Audiovisual Institute, Adam Mickiewicz Institute, the Academy of Music in Cracow, the National Library of Poland, Jazzinstitut Darmstadt, Era Jazzu, The International Contest of Young Jazz Bands “Jazz Juniors”, Hotel PTTK Wyspiański, Donimirski Boutique Hotels.

MEDIA PATRONS: TVP Kraków, Polish Radio Channel Two, Radio Kraków, RadioJazz.fm, AMS, Jazz Forum, JazzPress, Karnet, Tygodnik Powszechny, Gazeta Wyborcza, culture.pl, www.Krakow.pl, www.etherjazzu.pl, polish-jazz.blogspot.com, JazzSoul.pl.

COMPETITION SCHEDULE

16th July 2014 
7 pm 

– The European Krzysztof Penderecki Center for Music in Lusławice 
– semi-final auditions 

17th July 2014 
7 pm 

– The European Krzysztof Penderecki Center for Music in Lusławice 
– semi-final auditions 

18h July 2014 
7 pm 

– The European Krzysztof Penderecki Center for Music in Lusławice 
– final auditions 

19th July 2014 
7 pm 

– Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology in Cracow
– gala concert 

Admission to the auditions in Lusławice between 16th and 18th July is free!

Free entrance tickets can be collected as of 14th July from the following venues:

Lusławice – The European Krzysztof Penderecki Center for Music 

Tarnów – Tarnów Information Centre, 7, Rynek (Main Square) 

Cracow – InfoKrakow, 2, Św. Jana St.

Tickets for the 19th July gala concert (price: 40 PLN) can be purchased as of 1st July 2014 from the InfoKraków urban information network:

- InfoKraków information point: 2, Św. Jana St., phone: (+ 48) 12 421 77 87;

- The Wyspiański Pavilion: 2, Wszystkich Świętych Square, phone: (+ 48) 12 616 18 86;

- as well as at the concert venue, where ticket sale will start one hour before the concert.

Those unable to come to the auditions and the gala concert can listen to all these events streamed online on www.radiojazz.fm

Between 16th and 18th July, our audience can vote for their favourites at: www.seifertcompetition.com

Vote and decide which competitor wins the Audience Award! 

For further information, visit www.seifertcompetition.com and our profile “Seifert-Competition” on Facebook.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Festiwal Sanatorium Dźwięku 2014


Fundacja Sztuki Współczesnej „In Situ” zaprasza na pierwszą edycję Festiwalu Sanatorium Dźwięku, prezentującego najciekawsze i najważniejsze propozycje polskiej i europejskiej sceny muzyki niezależnej oraz cykl wydarzeń interdyscyplinarnych, których wspólnym mianownikiem jest dźwięk.

Otwarcie festiwalu nastąpi 8 sierpnia 2014 o godz. 18:30 i rozpocznie 3 dni niezwykłych wydarzeń muzycznych i interdyscyplinarnych. Na dwóch scenach – Kinoteatr „Zdrowie” oraz outdoorowej Skarpie, zobaczymy takich artystów jak: Ola Bilińska (zespół Babadag), Piotr Damasiewicz i Gerard Lebik (projekt VeNN Circles), Pawła Szamburskiego i Patryka Zakrockiego jako SzaZa w projekcie z tancerzami łódzkiej Pracowni Fizycznej, Piotra Bukowskiego, Pawła Górskiego i Kubę w projekcie Xenony, Pictorial Candi (Marcin Masecki, Candelaria Saenz Valiente, Tom Pop, Małgorzata Pękałła, ), duet Daniel Pigoński/Sebastian Pawlak jako Nic Dla Mnie, zespół Slalom czyli Hubert Zemler, Bartek Tyciński i Bartek Weber, Mikołaja Trzaskę wraz z Maciem Morettim i Raphaelem Rogińskim jako Shofar, Michał Górczyński ze swoim performatywnym wykładem „Partytury Codzienności” wrocławski duet Artur Majewski/Kuba Suchar czyli Mikrokolektyw, spektakl założyciela gdańskiego Tetru Dada von Bzdulow Leszka Bzdyla oraz członka zespołu Teatru Cinema z Jeleniej Góry – Jana Kochanowskiego, pt. „Baśni z mchu i liszajca” wg. opowiadania Italo Calvino i innych.

Część wydarzeń zostanie przygotowana i dostosowana przez artystów specjalnie na potrzeby tego festiwalu i wyjątkowego miejsca, jakim jest Sokołowsko. Projekty takie jak SzaZa+ Pracownia Fizyczna, veNN Circles czy „Baśnie z mchu i liszajca”, prowadzić będą dialog z ideą festiwalu, przestrzenią do działań twórczych, zagadnieniem interdyscyplinarności i dźwięku oraz z innymi twórcami. Oprócz wydarzeń artystycznych w ramach festiwalu odbędzie się prezentacja polskich niezależnych wytwórni fonograficznych, zarówno poprzez sprzedaż płyt jak i w formie paneli dyskusyjnych i wykładów, na których pojawią się przedstawiciele min. Kilogram Records, Lado ABC czy Bocian Records.

Festiwal Sanatorium Dźwięku to wyjątkowe święto muzyki, gdzie w niezwykłej atmosferze, w jednym miejscu spotykają się muzycy, aktorzy, tancerze, filmowcy, dziennikarze, przedstawiciele niezależnych wytwórni fonograficznych oraz publiczność – wszyscy zgromadzeni wokół dźwięku, będącego wspólnym mianownikiem działań twórczych.

Organizatorzy: Fundacja Sztuki Współczesnej In Situ oraz Laboratorium Kultury Sokolovsko.org.

Partnerzy festiwalu & Patronat medialny: PopUp Magasine, Radio Jazz FM, Polish-Jazz BlogPortale i serwisy internetowe: WP.pl, O.pl, Independent.pl.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Intuition Orchestra - To The Inside (2014) ****

The Intuition Orchestra

Ryszard Wojciul - alto & soprano saxophones, clarinet, EWI, voice
Bolesław Błaszczyk - piano, keyboards
Marcin Olak - guitars, voice
Jacek Malicki - guitar
Wojciech Szewko - bass guitar
Maciej Szczyciński - double bass
Monika Szulińska - percussion
Jacek Alka - drums

To The Inside (2014)

By Stefan Wood

The Polish group The Intuition Orchestra, is actually a trio, fronted by Ryszard Wojciul, with Boleslaw Błaszczyk and Jacek Alka. Having played in the politically charged underground Polish rock scene in the late 80's, and studying music at the Warsaw Music Academy, Wojciul was exposed to jazz and modern classical, and grew interested in improvised music. When the economy collapsed, he worked for a corporate radio station, and after a decade, returned to playing music, with the emphasis on total improvisation. As a result, no two concerts or albums are alike. On this album, To the Inside, they are accompanied by several musicians, Marcin Olak, Wojciech Szewko, and Jacek Malicki on guitars, Monika Szulińska on percussion, and Maciej Szczyciński on double bass. 

The opening track, "Czas Bylo Ruszac," is short but very atmospheric, emphasis on the guitar with a little electronics from Blaszczyk. Delicate but with a flurry of notes, it remindes this listened of early Pink Floyd. The following track, "Transuranowce," has Wojciul playing this sax over a funky percussive Gamelan influenced beat, with a heavy bottom edge provided again by Blaszczyk's electronics. It is an outstanding tune. The group is at their most playful when they let things loose, as in the aforementioned track and in "Zeriba, Zeriba," another wild percussive heavy track, breaking halfway in with a Wojciul solo, then moving back towards a slower but still percussive led beat. An Asian influence is definitely felt, merging with a European stum und drang sensibility; a light exotic flavor tempered by free form unpredictably and drama. "Stolon" is more contemplative, the guitar providing a gentle yet unpredictable solo path, with electronics and a tabla like percussion providing a little tension and spatial flavor. "Transsylwania" is another percussive led track, with piano doing a long solo, sometimes melodic, other times percussive. "Do Wewnatrz," is a guitar led improvised tune with a pseudo flamenco beat. Only occasionally does it feel that the improvising leads to nowhere, as in the anemic "Dziwactwa Zabobon," where there are a lot of things happening -- percussion, sax, electonics, providing a mood, but not leading anywhere, but it is rare. 

To the Inside is a strong album of improvisation that harnesses a global range of sounds, fusing them with their Polish sensibilities, and creating a strong work of sonic art. Recommended.

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Monday, July 7, 2014

B.J. Jansen - Ronin, The Masterless Samurai (2014) **1/2

B.J. Jansen

B.J. Jansen - baritone saxophone
Mamiko Watanabe - piano
Mike Boone - bass
Amanda Ruzza - bass
Chris Beck - drums
Dorota Piotrowska - drums

Ronin, The Masterless Samurai (2014)

By Mark S. Tucker

Well, as any who have taken in the exquisite Zatoichi and other Eastern films know, a ronin is a samurai no longer employed but honor-chained and oathbound to take no other line of work, waiting on the sidelines until another master might amble along and toss out a few ryo (man, the feudal Japanese were just as much under capitalistic sadism as we are now!). This made for a good deal of monetary anxiety for the sword-wielding bad boys as life wended its way. B.J. Jansen hefts the leviathan baritone saxophone—the only sax even bigger than that monster is the bass sax, now all but extinct—and looks at his craft in the same fashion. Well, the honor part anyway, as he's no more fond of being without a means of putting dinner on the table than any of us. Still, as he notes, "revenue streams have become increasingly scarce…[for] drifters, ousiders, masterless and seeking the truth of who we are as artists and people". Amen, brother, I hear you loud and clear.

A baritone's sound is inevitably more tart than its smaller brother and sister, just as earthy but with a twist and deeper resonance, of course. Grittier, too, as The Cost amply demonstrates, a mixture of the wild and the traditional, a cut that would've been right at home in the old Blue Note days. In fact, the entirety of Ronin, every cut of it written by Jansen, has that classic feel of be-boppers and unorthodox balladeers in their element, here in trio settings leaving the field wide open for tons of Jansen's chops. He's not a Hamiet Bluiett nor a Gerry Mulligan, that is: not that far out on the periphery nor that much inside norms, though, given the right frame of mind, he could be either…and I'd much favor the Bluiett side were that to eventuate.

For the moment at least, Jansen's residing in the kind of funky back-alley milieu you'd expect to run across when looking for a night-club on the other side of the bourgeois, a place where you could let your hair down, open your ears up, knock back a few drinks, and talk jazz with fellow night owls who know their stuff. Even if you listen to Ronin in broad daylight, you're going to feel like the sun just notched itself down and cigarette smoke wafted in clouds from nowhere, with glasses tinkling all around, magically arising from the ground. I pictured the "Round Midnight" film noir atmosphere and just kicked back, smiling slit-eyed. Have a glass of wine handy or a shot or two of whiskey—maybe even, considering the metaphor to the CD, sake and a dog-eared copy of the Dhammapada—'cause this is adult music for hedonists, not a field of folky flowers or rattlecage rock 'n roll but instead tonic for wordly, weary, workaday folk with a few brain cells to rub together.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Innercity Ensemble – II (2014) ****

Innercity Ensemble - II (2014)

Radek Dziubek - electronics, bells, pads, tom toms
Rafał Iwański - gongs, cymbals, bells, rattles, granite blocks, darabukka, pipes
Wojtek Jachna - trumpet, flugelhorn, cornet, effects
Rafał Kołacki - gongs, bells, rattles, darabukka, flute, horn, pipes
Artur Maćkowiak - electric guitar, synthesizer, effects
Tomek Popowski - drums, percussion, bells, darabukka
Kuba Ziołek - electric guitar, bass guitar, voice, samples, effects
Witold Bargiel - gongs, percussion

By Richard Allen

Innercity Ensemble‘s "II" is a study in black and white, but in these improvisations the colors are not always what one might expect. Each entry comes across as a riff on a theme. The contrast yields to synthesis, much in the same way as a yin-yang symbol swirls opposing forces until they seem complimentary. White is all colors together in light. White symbolizes purity, faith, redemption, transformation. The white dove, the white horse, the stars and the moon: all as white as a bride’s dress. But white can also connote blindness (white-out conditions), surrender (the white flag) and death (the pale rider).

Innercity Ensemble’s lovely video for “White 1″ (seen below) grows out of light and develops into a meditation on color. Light and shade shift and mutate, focus and blur, like a stained glass forest. A bird cries among the trees; ritual chimes are struck. A lonely saxophone attempts to cut the fog; faces appear in the leaves. Ironically, the viewer begins to appreciate the black of outline: rose, stem, vein. The music exists in controlled chaos, waiting to burst forth. At the end, the instruments are drowned in a low drone, only to re-emerge from ripples on the subsequent track.

The White disc is the more active of the two discs, with wild percussion and unbridled horns. “White 2″ is alive with synth squall and Morricone guitar, while “White 3″ jumps head-first into melody and crunch. Each of the performers is given space to explore, the result of mutual respect between the participants. Innercity Ensemble is in fact billed as an “improvisational Polish supergroup”, and includes members of Stara Rzeka, HATI, Contemporary Jazz Quintet and Dwutysięczny. We would expect no less than total devotion. But to call this music jazz would be to short-change it; II is just as much post-rock or freeform rock improvisation, in its best moments creating a wall of sound akin to the extended live sets of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. As the songs grow longer, so do the ethnic and trancelike elements; “White 4″ sounds more like a Turkish bazaar than a Polish nightclub.

The choice to begin with white is noteworthy because it represents creation from chaos, the stars in the night sky, the ink on the page. As the band turns to black on the transition piece “White 5″, the sound grows measured and introspective. At first, this results in an energy dip, but after a few minutes the contrast seems wise. Traditionally, black has been associated with darkness, death and depression, as well as with evil and sin. But it is also the color of repentance (priests’ robes) germination (the dark night of the soul) and the afterlife (Anubis). In clothing, black is slimming; in painting, black is strong. For an extensive study of the color black in art, we recommend John Harvey’s excellent 2013 study, The Story of Black. 

The black disc takes up where the white disc left off: quiet, pensive, moody. A single strike of a bell sounds like a call to prayer. The early black tracks sound like night, mysterious and inviting, alluring yet not dangerous. Wordless chants inhabit the back end of “Black 1″ like the introits of a choir. As the disc continues, it grows progressively more percussive, transforming the venue from smoky back room to crowded dance floor. This brings up one of the most intriguing associations of black as it pertains to darkness and inhibition; while people do dance in the light, they are more accustomed to doing so in the dark. And while one might pin associations of drunkenness and depravity on such proceedings, none of those are present here: instead, this is the revelry of friendship, the promise of romance, and the healthy imbibing that allows one to be one’s self. This impression is modeled first by the musicians, whose individual natures are celebrated throughout the recording. By the end, there is no more black and white, but nor is there grey; instead, there is (watch the hyphens) black-and-white, a single entity that protects individuality while cherishing the whole.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

New Bone – Follow Me (2014) ***

Tomasz Kudyk - trumpet & flugelhorn
Bartlomiej Prucnal - alto saxophone
Dominik Wania - piano
Maciej Adamczak - double bass
Dawid Fortuna - drums

CM 1023



By Adam Baruch

This is the fourth album by Polish Jazz ensemble New Bone, led by trumpeter Tomasz Kudyk and also including bassist Maciej Adamczak, who has been with the ensemble from day one, excellent young drummer Dawid Fortuna, who played also on their previous album and two new members: saxophonist Bartlomiej Prucnal (Prucnal and Fortuna are also members of the NSI Quartet) and the fabulous pianist Dominik Wania, one of the biggest stars on the polish scene at the moment.

The album presents seven new arrangements of film music written by two Polish (of Jewish origin) and later American composers: Henryk Wars and Bronislaw Kaper. The arrangements are all kept in the middle of the road mainstream Jazz, making sure nobody is offended but also providing very little intellectual or aesthetic reward to the listener. Although pleasant on the ear and sweetly melodic, this music is simply forgotten as soon as it stops playing.

Of course there are some excellent players involved in making this music, so it has its moments. Wania couldn't be boring even if he tried very hard and his contributions are splendid, but by far not enough to save this album from its blunders. Prucnal doesn't get an opportunity to show his chops until the fifth track, by which time I was already yawning. Hiring great musicians to play on an album always presents the problem that their performances stand out even more dramatically. Definitely not my cup of tea…

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Darek Dobroszczyk Trio – Simple Delights (2014) ***

Darek Dobroszczyk - piano
Jakub Mielcarek - double bass
Grzegorz Maslowski - drums
Przemysław Hanaj - guitar

PRIVATE EDITION





By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by Polish Jazz trio led by pianist / composer Darek Dobroszczyk, which also includes bassist Jakub Mielcarek (who also plays in a free form atmosphere with trumpeter Piotr Damasiewicz and the Erase quartet) and drummer Grzegorz Maslowski (who is also a member of the Bartosz Pernal / Michal Szkil quintet). Guitarist Przemyslaw Hanaj guests on one track. The album includes eight tracks, four of which are original compositions by Dobroszczyk, one is by Krzysztof Komeda, one by Sting and two are standards.

The album is kept well within the modern piano trio idiom, as established by such luminaries as the Keith Jarrett trio or Esbjorn Svensson trio, which are listed among the trio's influences. The music is mostly very melodic and shows melancholic influence popular with Scandinavian modern Jazz composers. But considering the crystal-clear sound and the obvious talents displayed by these young players, one can hope that this is not an attempt to imitate but just a starting point of their venture together.

The original compositions are all interesting and well suited for the piano trio format, although it is yet early to determine if they will be unique enough to become the composer's trademark. The overall aesthetics and atmosphere of the album certainly points out a path, which the trio intends to follow. Considering that this is their debut recording, they certainly show a lot of hope and potential.

Although perhaps not very innovative or groundbreaking, this is nevertheless a very well played and beautifully recorded pleasing listening experience, which Jazz enthusiast should enjoy without reservation. It is also a remarkable debut effort and therefore worthy of well deserved praise.

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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Pulsarus - Bee Itch (2014) ****

Pulsarus

Dominik Strycharski - soprano, alto & tenor blockflutes
Tomasz Dąbrowski - trumpet, balkan horn
Aleksander Papierz - alto saxophone
Ray Dickaty - tenor saxophone
Stefan Orins - electric piano
Jacek Mazurkiewicz - double bass
Jakub Rutkowski - drums

Bee Itch (2014)

By Dirk Blasejezak

When I received this record, I was immeditely reminded of the last album by Pulsarus, "FAQ", that they released quite a while ago, and that I actually liked, but that still did not fully convince me. Nevertheless, the music with it's combination of electronic sounds and jazz instruments went exactly in the direction that I like, so I had to give this album a try ... And it blew me away!

With this album, the musicians around the trio Strycharski / Papierz / Rutkowski walk on on their path. Hard-line. On a first listening the music seems to be quite composed, but it's actually just a framework, no rigid skeleton though, around which the musician very freely mold their sounds. At the end there are 11 sculptures standing in the room that we, the listener, can enjoy devotedly. On the face of it, they look very angular, almost geometric - a feeling which arises from the high repetitiveness of the underlying compositions. However, it is clear that there is more than a sequence of rhythmic patterns. In fact, for me the repetitions, that were so obvious at the first listening, lose weight after some time. They take a back seat and create the canvas on which a plethora of nuances appear, that employ the ear and the mind likewise. The sometimes ostinato, yet grooving rhythms are much fun to listen to. And in most tracks very catchy melodies, or rather short chord progressions entwine around those rhythms, that you want to hum along immediately and that make the whole album so memorable.

The very first piece, "Imagine", gives an excellent example for explaining jazz to friends and acquaintances. Starting from the well-known harmonies of John Lennon's song of the same name unravels almost the entire history of jazz. It is indeed incredible how confident the seven musicians walk through the different styles and yet always stay very close to each other. The track is also very suitable as the musical language reaches even non-jazz fans. And if your friends rather like rock music, I recommend "Bathetic" - the first bars could easily be the riff of a grunge song of the early 90's.

Regarding the musicians I don't want to get too much into detail, they are known from formations such as Nucleon, Tom Trio or Trifonidis. If find it in fact amazing, how those seven musicians - improvise - such a coherent piece of art. This is even more surprising as they do not walk on beaten tracks here but till new fields. Of course there have been others who tried to merge modern musical language and acoustic jazz, but far too often the attempt failed - on this album it is more than successful.

Honestly, I am absolutely thrilled by this album. The musicians of Pulsarus and their guests do not just talk about breaking new ground in jazz, but they deliver - loudly and vehemently. It remains but one wish though: that they do not again take five years to produce the next album.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Piotr Damasiewicz Quartet – Mnemotaksja (2014) *****


Piotr Damasiewicz - trumpet
Gerard Lebik - tenor saxophone, contralto clarinet
Maciej Garbowski - double bass
Wojciech Romanowski - drums

FOR TUNE 0028





By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by the Polish Jazz quartet led by trumpeter / composer Piotr Damasiewicz, which also includes saxophonist Gerard Lebik, bassist Maciej Garbowski and drummer Wojciech Romanowski. The music was conceived and created around 2008 / 2009, when the quartet played and rehearsed inside the Baptist Church in the center of Wroclaw, and where it was also eventually recorded live but without audience. It was available as an obscure private edition in a CD-R version and finally got its long overdue formal release, after a careful remix and sonic improvement by the excellent For Tune label. The album consists of ten original compositions, nine of which are by Damasiewicz and one by Garbowski.

There is no doubt that Damasiewicz manages to establish a well deserved position as one of the top young Polish Jazz trumpeters on the contemporary scene, which is not by any means self-understandable considering the truly fierce competition and incredible flow of talent in that area. It is worth to compare this album with the trio recording Garbowski and Damasiewicz made at about the same time, called "Elements", which to some extent has a similar atmosphere.

Stylistically the album sounds quite "retro", resembling the glorious moments when modern Polish Jazz was at the first peak of its aesthetic and artistic development, led by the Godfathers of the genre like Krzysztof Komeda, Tomasz Stanko and others. The compositions are very much in the same mood as the music played then: romantic, minimalistic, delicate and full of lyricism and intrinsic melancholy. The same elements that made that music created half a Century ago completely eternal and outside of the time scale, are at work here as well. This music might have been made any time between the 1960s and now and would have fitted perfectly, being simply aloof from fads and fashions.

The performances are also exceptional in every respect, both individually and collectively. Everything is kept in a relaxed, but disciplined mode, with conversation between the musicians being kept at the epicenter. The solos are inconspicuous, emerging slowly from the melodic heads, gently prompted by the superb rhythm section, which demonstrates an incredible affinity towards the music at all times, being as much creative as the two horns every step of the way. Garbowski has already an established record as one of the leading Polish Jazz bassists, but Romanowski, who also cooperates with another superb Polish Jazz trumpeter, Artur Majewski, is a true discovery herein.

Overall this is definitely one of the strongest and most significant statements on the Polish Jazz scene in the last decade, even though Damasiewicz has moved on in the meantime towards more improvised music beyond any stylistic conventions. Even if this album should remain as his only contribution to modern Polish Jazz in the true sense of the Jazz tradition, it will still be a remarkable achievement. This is also one of the most remarkable albums in the fast growing catalogue of the For Tune label, certainly from a historic perspective. Undoubtedly this is an album every true connoisseur of Jazz will cherish in his collection and return to repeatedly.
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