Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Janusz Szrom – Janusz Szrom (2020)

Janusz Szrom

Janusz Szrom - vocals

Janusz Szrom

PRIVATE EDITION






By Adam Baruch

This is a brilliant album by veteran Polish Jazz vocalist/composer Janusz Szrom, performed using only multi-tracked vocals and no instrumental backing whatsoever. The album presents twenty-one relatively concise tracks, mostly originals, composed by Szrom (eight tracks) and Pawel Betley (also eight tracks) and a few others. Only two tracks are songs including lyrics, all the rest are pure vocalese.

Although the concept of unaccompanied solo vocal albums is not new as such - see the phenomenal and revolutionary "The Voice" by Bobby McFerrin from 1984 - but those are very rare indeed. It takes not only skill and talent, but first of all also courage and imagination to undertake such a demanding task and it's great to see Szrom fearlessly and proudly facing the immensely difficult challenge and successfully create a beautiful piece of music.

The music offers a diverse collection of musical themes, which mix Jazz with World Music, Pop and other genres. The performances utilize a plethora of vocal techniques, including a cappella, imitation of instruments, rhythmic phrasing, scat, complex harmonies and so on. Szrom's impressive vocal range manages to produce an imitation of vocal groups, like the legendary Polish NOVI vocal ensemble, or other ensembles like Les Double Six or Swingle Singers, all created in this case by the voice of a single person. It doesn't really make sense to say much more about this music, as nothing is able to replace the actual experience of listening to it of course.

Overall this is a stunning, unique, and completely overwhelming album, which should astonish the connoisseurs of vocal Jazz, or in fact all lovers of the human voice, knocking them out of their socks. I can't imagine any true music lover not falling in love with this gem immediately and I hope it gets to be heard by as many music lovers around the world as possible. Hats off my Friend! Chapeau bas, etc.!

Monday, April 6, 2020

Joachim Kühn/Mateusz Smoczyński - Speaking Sound (2020)

Joachim Kühn/Mateusz Smoczyński

Joachim Kühn - piano
Mateusz Smoczyński - violin

Speaking Sound

ACT 9630-2




By Krzysztof Komorek

Cztery dekady dzielą daty urodzenia Joachima Kühna i Mateusza Smoczyńskiego. Jednak życiorysy i kariery obydwu muzyków mają wiele punktów wspólnych. Połączyła ich przede wszystkim osoba Zbigniewa Seiferta. Kühn przyjaźnił się z Seifertem, można go usłyszeć na kultowym albumie skrzypka zatytułowanym "Man Of The Light". Z kolei Seifert pojawił się na kilku płytach pianisty.

Mateusz Smoczyński jest laureatem pierwszej nagrody odbywającego się w Krakowie międzynarodowego konkursu wiolinistycznego, którego patronem jest Zbigniew Seifert. Oczywistym dla fanów jazzu jest jego udział w Atom String Quartet, który to zespół poświęcił jeden z albumów muzyce Seiferta. Pierwszy wspólny występ Kühna i Smoczyńskiego również związany był z legendarnym polskim skrzypkiem i miał miejsce podczas polskiej premiery Koncertu Skrzypcowego Seiferta w roku 2009. 

Kolejne spotkanie nastąpiło niemal dziesięć lat później i zaowocowało zaproszeniem Mateusza Smoczyńskiego do domowego studia Kühna na Ibizie, gdzie kilkugodzinne wspólne muzykowanie zostało zarejestrowane. Na "Speaking Sound" możemy posłuchać najbardziej ekscytujących fragmentów z czterech i pół godziny nagrań. Większość repertuaru - pięć kompozycji - jest dziełem pianisty, jeden utwór podpisali wspólnie obaj muzycy. Całość dopełniają "Schubertauster" Vincenta Peiraniego - francuskiego akordeonisty, jednego z gwiazdorów ACT Music, oraz dwa nagrania o orientalnym posmaku: "No. 40" wzięty z cyklu "Asian Songs And Rhythms" Georgija Gurdżijewa, ormiańskiego filozofa, mistyka, pisarza i kompozytora, a także "I’m Better Off Without You” Rabiha Abou-Khalila, libańskiego mistrza oudu. 

Czterdziestopięciominutowa płyta jest dość spokojna. Zdarzają się i momenty nieco gwałtowniejsze, czego najlepszy przykładem jest kapitalna, improwizowana "Maria" czy też środkowa część "Love And Peace". Na ogół mamy jednak do czynienia bądź z piękną melodią - jak w otwierającym album "Epilog Der Hoffnung" - bądź z nastrojami z lekka elegijnymi, a nawet mrocznymi. Na pierwszym planie wyraźniej słuchać skrzypce. Steinway Kühna przejmuje inicjatywę rzadziej, proponując krótkie, acz niezwykle smakowite solowe "perełki". Śmiało można stwierdzić, że z sesji na Ibizie narodził się świetny album, który bez zastanowienia zaliczyć można do klasyki duetowych, mistrzowskich spotkań.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Two I Am – Land Art (2019)

Two I Am

Barbara Błaszczyk - vocals
Przemysław Pankiewicz - keys

Land Art

PRIVATE EDITION 5908252860807




By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by Polish duo called Two I Am, which consists of vocalist/songwriter Barbara Błaszczyk and keyboardist Przemysław Pankiewicz. Cajon player Wojciech Lubertowicz guests on one track. The album presents seven tracks, six of which are original compositions by Błaszczyk and one is a standard. Four of the tracks feature lyrics, one in Polish and three in English. The music was arranged and produced by Pankiewicz.

The music absolutely escapes classification, and for lack of a better option I see it as a Jazz-World Fusion, as it amalgamates Jazzy moods and improvisations with strong Polish Folklore inspirations. But regardless of which definition one wants to apply here, the music is absolutely brilliant from start to finish.

The intimate vocal/keyboards setting is perfect in this case and lacks absolutely nothing to make this music work. Błaszczyk offers beautiful voice parts in a wide palette of vocalese and singing, while Pankiewicz provides sensitive and imaginative accompaniment, delicately emphasizing the vocal parts and managing to work out some impressive solo parts as well.

The music is like a breath of fresh air, deeply melancholic and highly melodic but at the same time spacey and open enough to include improvisation and leave something for the listener's imagination. Personally I prefer when Błaszczyk uses vocalese and honestly think that using lyrics, especially those in English, degrades the result on the whole, but it certainly is not fatal.

Overall this is an exceptional debut effort, which leaves the listener wishing for more, which hopefully will arrive soon. It proves that the young generation of Polish Jazz musicians is open to explore and bravely take the path less travelled. Congratulations are in order!

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Marek Napiórkowski – Hipokamp (2019)

Marek Napiórkowski

Marek Napiórkowski - guitar
Jan Smoczyński - keyboards
Paweł Dobrowolski - drums
Luis Ribeiro - percussion
Adam Pierończyk - soprano saxophone (1,2)

Hipokamp



AGORA 5903111493905

By Adam Baruch

This is an album by Polish guitarist/composer Marek Napiórkowski, recorded in a quartet setting with keyboardist Jan Smoczyński, drummer Paweł Dobrowolski and Brazilian percussionist Luis Ribeiro. Veteran saxophonist Adam Pierończyk guests on two tracks. The album presents nine tracks, six of which are original compositions by Napiórkowski, two are arrangements of songs by David Bowie and one is by the great Brazilian composer Egberto Gismonti.

It is enormously satisfying to see an Artist achieving a status of stability and security, where his authority / ability / talent are not repeatedly questioned and where he does not have to prove anything any more, all this as a result of consistent hard work and good judgment as to the consecutive steps of his vocation. Napiórkowski is a prime example of such an Artist, enjoying a carefully weaved career built step by step, always surrounded by first class musicians and never resting comfortably on his laurels.

This album is full of surprises, starting with the very unusual lineup: basically a duo of guitar and keyboards supported by a rhythmic backbone. The wonderfully multi-talented Smoczyński is able to display the entire palette of his keyboard wizardry, including the beautiful Hammond Organ parts and of course supplying the bass lines in this bass-less setting. Dobrowolski is right on the money with his dynamic and beautifully tasteful drumming and Ribeiro ornaments the proceedings with stylish percussion parts. Pierończyk does not disappoint either, and his elegant lyrical saxophone parts suit the music ideally.

The original compositions by Napiórkowski offer wonderfully coherent melody lines, which are expanded into non-trivial improvisations, at times touching upon imaginative Free Form sections. The two Bowie songs receive unique arrangements, taking the original melody contents into unexpected territory. The Gismonti piece, although very brief, expresses Napiórkowski's admiration of the Brazilian Genius and fellow guitarist. The entire album offers a wonderful flow and continuity, which turns it into a superb listening experience.

Overall this is another excellent step in Napiórkowski's well paved career, finding him searching and exploring, which of course is commendable. For the lack of a better definition, this is a beautiful example of intelligent and innovative Fusion, which points out that the idiom is far from being stale, when in great hands. Respect Maestro!

Friday, April 3, 2020

Jazzpospolita – Przypływ (2020)

Jazzpospolita

Łukasz Borowicki - guitar, prophet
Michał Załęski - piano, fender rhodes, prophet
Stefan Nowakowski - bass
Karol Domański - drums

Przypływ

AUDIO CAVE 2020/001


By Adam Baruch

This is the seventh album by Polish ensemble Jazzpospolita, led by bassist Stefan Nowakowski, which also includes keyboardist Michał Załęski, guitarist Łukasz Borowicki and drummer Karol Domański. The album, recorded following a period of hiatus, personnel changes and inactivity, seems to find the ensemble back in full form. It presents eight original compositions, four composed by Nowakowski, three by Borowicki and one by Załęski, which is a change as on the earlier albums the music was always co-credited to the entire lineup.

The album is dominated by the beautiful sound of Borowicki's guitar, who recorded four splendid albums as a leader before joining Jazzpospolita. Stylistically the music is somewhat more Jazz oriented than the earlier albums by the ensemble, but preserves both the Rock and Ambient subtext, which dominated the early releases and which brought them the popularity they enjoyed for an entire decade. Załęski provides a rich harmonic background for the guitar front lines and the rhythm section keeps the music flowing steadily.

The music is difficult to classify, as it easily belongs to a wide range of sub-styles of Fusion and even Progressive Rock on one hand and at the same time is pretty unique. Beautiful melodic riffs repeated over energetic rhythmic patterns are hypnotic enough to engulf the listener and keep him enchanted as long as the music is playing and leaves him wishing for more.

It is great to see Jazzpospolita back on the scene and I hope to catch them live again soon, as their live shows are always a remarkable experience. For their many fans this album is a solid continuation of their earlier efforts, but it is also a great opportunity for new listeners to get exposed to their music, which never fails to satisfy.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Innercity Ensemble - IV (2019)

Innercity Ensemble

Jakub Ziołek - guitars, synth, piano, voice, beat programming
Artur Maćkowiak - guitars, synth
Wojciech Jachna - trumpet, electric organ
Rafał Iwański - darabukka, gongs, granite blocks, percussion
Radek Dziubek - electronics, bells, percussion
Rafał Kołacki - congas, bells, rattles, sampling pad, drums
Tomasz Popowski - drums, percussion, synth, beat programming
Jaśmina Polak - voice, electronics

IV

INSTANT CLASSIC 080

By Piotr Wojdat

Na potrzeby recenzji najnowszej płyty kolektywu Innercity Ensemble przygotowałem sobie listę skojarzeń, które wywołuje u mnie muzyka zespołu. Prawdopodobnie uległem w ten sposób zwyczajom panującym w rzeczywistości wirtualnej, a szczególnie w mediach społecznościowych, gdzie wszystko trzeba otagować wzdłuż i wszerz, a nawet w poprzek. Z tej chmury tagów, czy jak kto woli, skojarzeń muzycznych, wyszło mi, że Innercity Ensemble jest jednym z tych zespołów, które mogą się pochwalić naprawdę szeroką rozpiętością inspiracji. Na każdym z dotychczasowych wydawnictw kładli nacisk na inną formę ekspresji, a jednocześnie zachowywali swój charakterystyczny styl i brzmienie.

Podobnie jest i tym razem. Przy okazji panowie chyba już na dobre zadomowili się ze swoimi projektami (Kapital, Alameda i właśnie Innercity Ensemble) w krakowskiej wytwórni Instant Classic. Na "IV" wciąż podążają wytyczoną przez siebie drogą, a z listy skojarzeń, o której wspomniałem we wstępie, wyszło mi, że Innercity tym razem najchętniej sięgają po inspiracje progresywną elektroniką i tzw. szkołą berlińską spod znaku Klausa Schulze’a, Tangerine Dream czy Manuela Göttschinga.

"IV" jest najbardziej elektronicznym spośród dotychczasowych albumów zespołu, co przejawia się w tym, że często na pierwszy plan wysuwane są syntezatory oraz ambientowe pasaże. W muzyce jest też dużo swobody, ciekawych motywów melodycznych i wokali Kuby Ziołka. W "The Great Kuyavian Meadows" gościnnie śpiewa też Jaśmina Polak. Pojawiające się na płycie wokalizy sprawiają, że jest to chyba najbardziej przystępne wydawnictwo supergrupy. Z drugiej strony twierdzenie, że jest ono piosenkowe, byłoby jednak dużą przesadą.

Słuchacze jazzu zwrócą rzecz jasna uwagę na czyste i klarowne brzmienie trąbki Wojciecha Jachny, a zwolennicy przetworzonych i uwspółcześnionych afrykańskich rytmów też nie powinni narzekać. Zdecydowanie mniej tu jednak gitarowej psychodelii i jazzowej improwizacji. Nie wpływa to jednak znacząco na odbiór muzyki. Innercity Ensemble mogą pochwalić się kolejnym udanym albumem, ale moim ulubionym w ich dorobku wciąż pozostaje "II". 

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Awatair – Awatair Plays Coltrane (2019)

Awatair

Tomasz Gadecki - tenor & baritone saxophones
Mark Tokar - double bass
Michał Gos - drums

Awatair Plays Coltrane

FSR 2019/16



By Adam Baruch

This is a debut album by the Awatair jazz trio consisting of Polish saxophonist Tomasz Gadecki, Ukrainian bassist Mark Tokar and Polish drummer Michał Gos. The album, recorded live, presents four tracks, three of which are compositions by John Coltrane and one is an original improvisation credited to the trio members.

For most Jazz listeners the late John Coltrane period, when his music moved into "interstellar space", remains well beyond their grasp to this very day, over half a century later. Coltrane's visionary approach to music in general, and his output closely preceding his untimely death is even more unapproachable to musicians, trying to produce anything similar to his unearthly accomplishments.

In view of the above this album is threading a thin line between homage and a self parody, which characterizes most similar projects. Gadecki, who undoubtedly is one of the most interesting Jazz personalities on the Polish Jazz scene, has a fabulous record of creating some of the most ambitious and consistently excellent Polish Free Jazz projects, takes a great risk here, and I am relieved to say that he and his colleagues manage to produce a homage rather than a pastiche.

Gadecki's playing on this album is nothing short of phenomenal. He is able to produce a range of sounds from his instruments, which can be surprising even to veterans of the genre. His explorations are diverse, original and heartfelt all the way and his technique and stamina are extraordinary. He is amicably supported by the rhythm section, which is supportive and sensitive, but less impressive.

Overall this is a fascinating listening experience, which manages to keep the listener on his toes for the entire duration. Having said all that I still think Coltrane and his late period music is a holy grail that should rather be left alone as a symbol of human Genius.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Hanowska/Karnowski - Fika (2019)

Hanowska/Karnowski

Olga Hanowska - violin, flute, bells, kalimba, electronics, field recording
Marcin Karnowski - drums, percussion, handpan, kalimba, cymbals, shruti box, field recording

Fika


PRIVATE EDITION 2019

By Krzysztof Komorek

Zaledwie 38 minut trwa album „Fika” Duetu Olga Hanowska/Marcin Karnowski. Mieści za to w sobie aż czternaście utworów. W zdecydowanej większości - muzycznych miniatur. Zaledwie jedna przekracza cztery minuty, za to aż dziewięć nie trwa nawet trzy. Oryginalność album podkreśla bogate instrumentarium użyte przez artystów. 

Choć mówimy tu o dziele muzycznym, to nie użyłem określenia „muzycy” celowo, by uwydatnić uniwersalność artystycznych działań Olgi Hanowskiej i Marcina Karnowskiego. Ona skrzypaczka, improwizatorka, działająca na polu edukacyjnym, pisząca scenariusze. Jej muzyczne zainteresowania sięgają od muzyki ludowej, po transową. Ma także na koncie intrygujący, solowy album „Sny panny z wanny”. On zaangażowany w liczne kooperacje muzyczne, współpracujący z muzykami w wielu krajach - zarówno podczas koncertów, jak i w czasie sesji nagraniowych. Ma równie szerokie zainteresowania i pole działań, jak duetowa partnerka. Z jego nieoczywistych osiągnięć warto wspomnieć współtwórstwo historyczno-muzycznego słuchowiska „Mapy Czasu”. 

By „Fikę” dobrze poznać i zrozumieć, trzeba poświęcić jej te kilkadziesiąt minut bez żadnych przerw, bez rwania na kawałki. Potraktować ją jako ciągłą opowieść, a może raczej jako rozmowę dwojga osób. Dialog, któremu przysłuchujemy się z boku, niczym intruzi, choć za cichym przyzwoleniem jego uczestników. Dialog pełen emocji, zaskoczeń, zmian nastrojów.

Całość zaczyna się „Odliczaniem” z rzewnym brzmieniem skrzypiec i subtelnym podkładem kreowanym przez Marcina Karnowskiego. Podobne w nastroju jest następne nagranie „Raz dwa trzy”, a dwa kolejne - „…” i najdłuższe na albumie „Dziewczyna patrzy” - atakują elektroniką i akcentami ambientowymi. Ale już „Z zamkniętymi oczami” wraca ku początkowym klimatom. One właśnie dominują przez większość wydawnictwa i muszę przyznać, że takie oblicze duetu najbardziej mi się podoba. Fragmenty, które starają się w miarę równo wyważyć obecność obojga z Artystów. Kolejny raz gdzieś w meandrach muzycznego świata udało się odnaleźć cos wyjątkowego. „Fika” jest bowiem bez wątpienia jedną z najoryginalniejszych i najciekawszych produkcji roku 2019.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Immortal Onion – Ocelot Of Salvation. Live In Sopot (2019)

Immortal Onion

Tomir Śpiołek - piano, electric piano
Ziemowit Klimek - bass, moog
Wojciech Warmijak - drums

Ocelot Of Salvation. Live In Sopot

PRIVATE EDITION


By Adam Baruch

This is the second album by the young Polish Jazz piano trio called Immortal Onion, which consists of pianist Tomir Śpiołek, bassist Ziemowit Klimek and drummer Wojciech Warmijak. The album was recorded live and presents the same eight compositions that appeared on the debut album and one bonus composition, which was released as a single before the debut. All the music is uncredited and is therefore assumed to be co-composed by all three musicians.

These live renditions of the material from the debut album, which was recorded more than a year before this album was recorded; are basically quite similar to the original and therefore one can wander if they justify another release, but that is of course up to the musicians. The instrumentation on this album is expanded by the use of electric piano in addition to the acoustic piano and the use of Moog by the bassist, in addition to acoustic and electric basses, which basically means that the clean, purely acoustic sound of the debut was extended to include electronics, which more or less reflects the general trend among the new generation of young Jazz players these days.

The music is already discussed in my review of the debut and there is not much I can add except of course that the Fusion and even Prog undercurrents of the music are even stronger and more explicit here. Overall this is quite unique music, which surely appeals to the younger generation of Jazz/Fusion listeners, and which offers ambitious music that easily defends its qualities in the live version, and builds up interest in new material and next album by the group. Definitely worth investigating!

Friday, March 27, 2020

Alfons Slik – Nie Przejmuj Się (2019)

Alfons Slik

Grzegorz Tarwid - piano, voice
Szymon Gąsiorek - drums, voice

Nie Przejmuj Się

LOVE & BEAUTY 06





By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by Avant-Garde Polish Jazz duo Alfons Slik, consisting of pianist / composer Grzegorz Tarwid and drummer/composer Szymon Gąsiorek. The album presents nine original compositions, three composed by Tarwid, two by Gąsiorek and four co-composed by them both. In addition to the obvious piano and drums the duo utilizes some spoken word parts on three of the tracks, which are on the borderline of Jazz & Poetry/Rap.

The music is everything the listeners familiar with the work of these two brilliant young musicians (separately and collectively) might expect, and beyond. Although definitely unconventional and innovative, and therefore Avant-Garde, the music is not missing some melodic touches and coherent continuity. The total playing time of just under half an hour is a wise decision in this case as the intensity and diversity of the musical content is mercilessly multifarious and complex.

Piano and drums duet is surely not a typical musical setting, especially when both instruments receive a completely equally important role within the music. The dialogue the two partners are able to develop herein is truly spectacular and rarely present elsewhere.

Overall this is a fascinating musical adventure, which stands apart from most Avant-Garde projects in Polish/European Jazz. Paraphrasing on an old slogan, this is Avant-Garde with a human face, which rather than alienating the listener tries to bring him into the music and embrace it. This little gem is absolutely wholeheartedly recommended!

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