Thursday, September 24, 2020

Joachim Kuhn / Mateusz Smoczynski – Speaking Sound (2020)

Joachim Kuhn / Mateusz Smoczyński

Joachim Kuhn - piano
Mateusz Smoczynski - violin

Speaking Sound

ACT 9630


By Adam Baruch

This is another wonderful duo album by German pianist / composer Joachim Kuhn this time which brilliant young Polish violinist Mateusz Smoczynski. The album was released as part of the "Duo Art" series by the German ACT label, which cultivates the "Art of the Duo" Jazz tradition. The album presents nine pieces, five of which were composed by Kuhn, one co-composed by him and Smoczynski, one is an adaptation of Classical composition by George Gurdjieff, one by French accordionist / composer Vincent Peirani and finally one by Rabih Abou-Khalil.

The music makes it immediately apparent that although obviously improvised, it is first and foremost chamber in character and heavily laden with Classical Music influences. The emerging Jazz-Classical Fusion is one of the finest examples of the idiom, completely unique and aesthetically innovative. Although followers of Smoczynski's career will not be surprised by this deep relationship with Classical Music, for Kuhn's followers this is indeed a great surprise, as his ties with Avant-Garde / Improvised Music are way more "natural" that those with Classical Music exposed on this album. Surprisingly Kuhn's chameleonic ability to fit in every situation works here as well and one might be easily fooled into thinking that he is a veteran Classical pianist, which by the way is exactly what his career was supposed to be in his early days before he discovered Jazz. 

The age difference between Kuhn (born 1944) and Smoczynski (born 1984) is similarly completely insignificant as well, and both players perform in perfect musical and spiritual unity, as expected from such distinguished Artists. They both toy lovingly with the compositions, taking them often quite far-off from their origins at times and staying close to the notes on other occasions. Kuhn sprinkles the proceedings with brilliant but brief Free Jazz arpeggios, and Smoczynski inserts some Polish Folklore fragments, which makes the music a great fun to listen to.

But as usual in the intimate duo setting, the music is first and foremost about the dialogue these two Artists are able to create while performing. As someone who happens to know them both in person, the magic that does take place here is completely natural, as they are both as sweet and loving as they sound. The wonderful photograph included on the album's artwork says it all – Mateusz is looking with obvious respect and admiration at the Master and Joachim smiles kindly in return, like a grandfather proud of his grandchild.

As I have stated so many times, the duo is the ideal musical unit; it is the minimal environment which produces interplay and telepathic communication between the musicians, which is the essence of collective performance. On the other hands it is free of the limitations imposed by performing in a larger environment, which a priori limit the level of the intimacy. This album is such a beautiful expression of the power of a duo that I can hardly think of a better one.

I have been lucky to follow closely the career of Mateusz Smoczynski since his early steps on the musical scene and feel a great pride in his success. Obviously seeing Joachim Kuhn, who has been a part of the Soundtrack Of My Life since forever, being active and productive today is a no lesser joy. Bless you both for this sublime music!

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Zbigniew Lewandowski - Zbigniew Lewandowski (2020)

Zbigniew Lewandowski

Zbigniew Lewandowski - drums
Piotr Baron - saxophone
Andrzej Przybielski - trumpet
Paweł Ścierański - guitar
Krzysztof Ścierański - bass guitar
Andrzej Olejniczak - saxophone
Mieczysław Jurecki - bass guitar
Jose Torres - percussion

Zbigniew Lewandowski

GAD 121

By Adam Baruch

This is a reissue of the debut album by Polish Jazz drummer / composer / bandleader Zbigniew Lewandowski, originally released on the legendary Poljazz label. The music was recorded in 1983 during two sessions separated by several months, with two lineups. The first lineup was a quintet which included alongside Lewandowski also iconic trumpeter Andrzej Przybielski, saxophonist Piotr Baron, guitarist Pawel Scieranski and bass guitarist Krzysztof Scieranski. The second lineup was extended to an octet and included also saxophonist Andrzej Olejniczak, second bass guitarist Mieczyslaw Jurecki and percussionist Jose Torres. The original LP presented six tracks but this remastered edition was expanded by two additional tracks from the first session, previously unissued. All the compositions were by the musicians participating in the recording except for one standard.

The music, influenced by the revolutionary work of Miles Davis, has a distinct Fusion tinge, but is very far from an attempt to copy the great Master. Przybielski, aged thirty-nine at the time of the recording, was already Poland's most idiosyncratic Jazz musician and trumpet Genius. He displays the full range of his abilities, and the fact that the music is Fusion oriented, offers a rare opportunity to hear him in that specific idiom, rather than within his "usual" Avant-Garde environment. His performances on this album are amongst the most extensive documents of his playing, including his weird sense of humor. In retrospect this album emphasizes the devastating loss Polish Jazz suffered with his untimely death in 2011. I had the immense luck and pleasure to produce the album "The Book Of Job", just a couple of years after this recording was made, which also featured Przybielski at his absolute best.

Baron, only twenty-two years old at the time, also contributes wonderfully to the album's overall ambience, offering his compositions, most of the arrangements and excellent soloing. The rest of the players were already more experienced and their professionalism and obvious talents are clearly evident in the resulting music. Overall this is a momentous recording, perhaps one of the most important Polish Jazz albums from the 1980s, and beyond. Polish Jazz/Fusion fans should be grateful to GAD Records for resurrecting this gem and saving it from oblivion. Brilliant stuff!

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Lonker See - Hamza (2020)

Lonker See

Joanna Kucharska - vocals / bass
Bartosz Borowski - guitar
Michal Gos - drums
Tomasz Gadecki - saxophone



By Adam Baruch

This is the fourth album by Polish quartet Lonker See, which comprises of vocalist / bassist Joanna Kucharska, guitarist Bartosz Borowski, drummer Michal Gos and saxophonist Tomasz Gadecki. The album presents seven original compositions, not credited on the album's artwork and assumed to be co-composed by the quartet members, with all lyrics by Kucharska.

The music is a mixture of Psychedelic Rock. Progressive Rock, Trance and Free Jazz, which although hardly innovative (I mean five decades ago this was a highly fashionable music), has a unique character. The meeting between Rock musicians and the Avant-Garde saxophonist works very well and the fact that they are able to find a common language is of course commendable.

However, music that is based on drone-like, repetitive simplistic melody lines, even when spiced by fiery improvisations, eventually becomes somewhat boring. It may be hype for the young listeners, who are exposed to it for the first time and ignorant of musical legacy, but for listeners familiar with this formula since decades it might be less enthusiastic. In spite of the obvious superb playing by Gadecki, the overall result leaves me cold.

It also appears that in the last couple of years or so more and more European ensembles are drown into this specific creative formula, which personally quite puzzles me, especially in view of the limitations this specific approach presents. There is only place in such narrow idiom for the absolutely best. In short this album has a very specific character, but fails to evoke neither emotional nor intellectual excitement as far as I am concerned. But this is only me of course.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Przemysław Chmiel Quartet - Witchcraft - premiera nowej płyty w Fundacji Słuchaj

Przemysław Chmiel - saksofon tenorowy i sopranowy, klarnet
Mateusz Gramburg - fortepian
Piotr Narajowski - kontrabas
Michał Szeligowski - perkusja

Kwartet Przemysława Chmiela to zespół, który złożony jest ze studentów Wydziałów Jazzu katowickiej oraz krakowskiej Akademii Muzycznej. Formacja wykonuje kompozycje lidera będące z jednej strony utworami zawierającymi fragmenty skomponowane i zaaranżowane, z drugiej silnie odwołujące się do estetyki otwartej, spontanicznej improwizacji. W swojej sztuce muzycy z równą atencją pochylają się nad tym, co w jazzie należy do jego wielkiej historii, jak również nad tym wszystkim, co niesie ze sobą nieskrępowana ograniczeniami stylów sztuka improwizacji.

Debiutancka płyta kwartetu, zatytułowana "Witchcraft" ukaże się nakładem Fundacji Słuchaj - premiera zaplanowana jest na 30 września 2020 roku. Patronatem medialnym objęły ją: portal Jazzarium, TVP Kultura oraz blog Polish-Jazz.blogspot.

Przemysław Chmiel - saksofonista grający na saksofonie sopranowym i tenorowym. Absolwent ZPSM im. Fryderyka Chopina w Warszawie (",Bednarskiej") w klasie saksofonu Łukasza Poprawskiego. Obecnie student Akademii Muzycznej im. Karola Szymanowskiego w Katowicach w klasie Marcina Kaletki.

Zdobywca II Miejsca na IX Międzynarodowym Konkursie Improwizacji Jazzowej w Katowicach w 2019 roku. Laureat Pierwszej Nagrody w kategorii Solo na Tarnów Jazz Contest 2018. W tymże roku roku, wraz z autorskim Przemysław Chmiel Quartet, zdobył II Miejsce na 2018 Blue Note Poznań Competition. Z zespołem Natalii Kordiak natomiast, zdobył II miejsce na Tarnów Jazz Contest 2017.

W 2019 roku ukazały się dwa albumy z udziałem Przemysława Chmiela. Pierwszy z nich to "Bajka" formacji Natalia Kordiak Quintet. Premiera albumu - wydanego w słowackiej wytwórni HevHetia - odbyła się w czeskiej Pradze w ramach festiwalu Voicingers on Tour. "Bajka" zebrała świetne recenzje, znalazła się w wielu zestawieniach najlepszych płyt 2019 roku oraz została nominowana do nagrody Fryderyk w kategorii "Fonograficzny debiut roku - jazz". Drugą z płyt jest ,"Słowo na T." zespołu Sabina Meck Sextet (SJ Records). Album także zebrał świetne recenzje i uznany został za jedną z najlepszych wokalnych płyt 2019 roku.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Joachim Mencel - Brooklyn Eye (2020)

Joachim Mencel

Joachim Mencel - piano, hurdy-gurdy
Steve Cardenas - guitar
Scott Colley - bass
Rudy Royston - drums

Brooklyn Eye

ORIGIN 82806 

By Adam Baruch

This is an album by Polish Jazz pianist/composer Joachim Mencel, recorded in US with three American musicians: guitarist Steve Cardenas, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Rudy Royston. The album presents ten original compositions, all by Mencel. In addition to the piano, Mencel also plays the hurdy-gurdy, which is usually associated with Folk music in many European Cultures, and is very rarely used in Jazz, but not entirely unheard off.

On the album's lines notes Mencel describes the making of this album and the fact that it was recorded in America with American musicians as "the fulfillment of his long-standing dream" and "his dream come true". He also describes childhood memories and feelings about America and "American way of life", which of course are shared by many Poles who grew up behind the Iron Curtain during the Socialist regime (yours truly included), for whom America was a symbol of Freedom and prosperity. Some of us did grow up in the years that followed to witness that dream being shattered.

The music is in part pretty straightforward mainstream Jazz, as appropriate for a Polish version of "American Jazz". Mencel writes nice, solid melodies, which serve as vehicles for the quartet's performances. The musicians are all seasoned veterans and do everything that is expected of them. Mencel plays nice melodic piano phrases, as does Cardenas, and the music flows pretty uneventfully, with the rhythm sections counting the time.

Some other pieces are however distinctly different, more open and less constrained by melodic continuity, which allows the musicians to stretch out and include some breathing space between the notes. In other cases the melodies include more Polish lyricism and even melancholy, taking the music into a more ambitious direction, both harmonically and rhythmically.

The truly unusual moments arrive when Mencel switches to play the hurdy-gurdy, which sounds for a less trained ear like a violin or viola. He uses the instrument to improvise and play solo parts, which of course is, as already mentioned, pretty unique. As a result the music becomes much closer to the European aesthetics, with shades of folkloristic nuances. The delicate hurdy-gurdy/guitar duo piece is a wonderful example of a moment when the magic indeed happens.

Overall this is a mixed bag with some wonderful moments and some less exciting ones, but all obviously very professionally performed and to some degree innovative, as far as the use of the hurdy-gurdy is concerned. Therefore if the mainstream pieces were replaced by more of the hurdy-gurdy/World Music explorations, the album would have been much more coherent and rewarding, as well as less "American".

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Jerzy Milian - Cutting (2020)

Jerzy Milian

Jerzy Milian - composer/arranger


GAD 123

By Adam Baruch

This is the ninth installment of the archival series released by GAD Records, which presents the work of Polish Jazz vibraphonist / composer / bandleader Jerzy Milian. This chapter is dedicated to Milian's recordings from 1970s, done in East Berlin (then DDR) with the Rundfunk Tanzorchester Berlin, conducted by Gunter Gollasch, which included the best East German musicians, such as saxophonist Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky, trumpeter Joachim Grasswurm, trombonist Hubert Katzenbeisser, saxophonist / clarinetist Werner Schmidt, pianist Horst Pawliczak, bassist Klaus Koch, drummer Wolfgang Winkler and others. The orchestra performs sixteen compositions by Milian, also arranged by him.

The music is typical orchestral Jazz, based on the wonderful compositions and brilliant arrangements by Milian, which offer a mixture of relatively easier pieces with some Funk, Swing and even Big Beat inclinations, but also more advanced ones bordering on Anat-Garde, altogether a wonderful example of modern European Jazz, reflecting Milian's fascination with the Third Stream idiom. These orchestral pieces are obviously more "well behaved" in comparison to the music Milian composed for small combos, but still complex enough to rise a brow fifty years later. The orchestra included many excellent instrumentalists (Petrowsky among them), who performed the difficult music without a hitch, and therefore the result is still awe inspiring

Milian's compositions are absolutely brilliant and remain completely valid, often sounding as if composed today. Sophisticated, elegant, clever and beautifully structured, this music is alive and kicking as it was at the time it was created. Overall this is an incredible piece of Polish/European Jazz history, which absolutely deserves to be heard and studied. With Milian's passing it is even more important to document his work and bring it to the public. For orchestral Jazz and East European Jazz enthusiasts this album and all the albums released in this archival series are an absolute must!

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Marcin Olak - Music From Non​-​Existent Movies (2020)

Marcin Olak

Marcin Olak - guitars, loops

Music From Non-Existent Movies


By Jędrzej Janicki

Lata temu Karin Stanek radośnie wyśpiewywała, że chłopiec z gitarą byłby dla niej parą. Pierwszym skojarzeniem przy tej piosence jest jakiś radosny jegomość podgrywający akordy przy ognisku. Widoczek taki rzecz jasna niewątpliwie byłby jak najbardziej urokliwy, jednak relacja muzyka z gitarą może wyglądać również w zgoła odmienny sposób. Przybierać może ona również formę technicznej perfekcji (z doświadczenia wiem, jak dalekiej wszelkim domorosłym gitarzystom) oraz zatopienia się w każdym dźwięku. Właśnie taką ścieżką podąża gitarzysta i kompozytor Marcin Olak. Jego ostatnia solowa płyta o wdzięcznym tytule "Music From Non-Existent Movies" to znakomite ukazanie tego, jak wiele wydobyć można z tego pozornie skromnego instrumentu.

Uczciwie stwierdzić trzeba, że jest to specyficzna płyta wydana w bardzo specyficznym czasie. Jeszcze nigdy granie w pojedynkę nie brzmiało tak dojmująco aktualnie jak w czasach izolacji związanej z pandemią. Oprócz wszelkich negatywów związanych z tą sytuacją wskazać można jeden jej pozytyw - okoliczności te dają każdemu muzykowi więcej czasu na prywatne i intymne obcowanie ze swoim instrumentem w zaciszu domowym. Właśnie trochę takie uczucie podglądania mistrza ze swoim ukochanym obiektem mam podczas słuchania albumu Olaka. 

Gitarzysta absolutnie niczego nie udowadnia i nie szafuje swoimi niemałymi możliwościami technicznymi. Z mniej lub bardziej oczywistych dźwięków buduje intrygujące i niejednoznaczne struktury. Niespotykaną wartość tej płyty stanowią jednak pewne momenty nietypowego zawahania. Te krótkie chwile napięcia nie wynikają rzecz jasna z wątpliwości Olaka co do tego, jaki zagrać kolejny dźwięk, lecz raczej z kontemplowania i zachwytu nad pojedynczą frazą. Marcin gra jakiś fragment, a potem do niego wraca, delikatnie go zmieniając i czasami poruszając się w obszarze eksperymentu i zabawy z instrumentem. Muzyk przepięknie usuwa się w cień, zostawiając wiele przestrzeni, by w pełni wybrzmiewała sama gitara.   

Każdy dźwięk na "Music From Non-Existent Movies" przepełniony jest elegancją i wysublimowanym, klasycyzującym, sznytem. Samotność człowieka z gitarą w tym konkretnym przypadku stanowi synonim bardzo przyjemnych (przyjemnością nie najprostszą) wrażeń po stronie odbiorcy. Nagranie to wymaga dużego skupienia, lecz w dobie szalejącej wciąż zarazy o dłuższe chyba nawet chwile zadumy o wiele łatwiej. Tak czy inaczej, "Music From Non-Existent Movies" to wyjątkowo ciekawa propozycja nie tylko dla gitarowych maniaków. 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Piotr Rodowicz i Przyjaciele - Razem Na Tej Ziemi (2020)

Piotr Rodowicz i Przyjaciele

Bogdan Hołownia - piano
Jarosław Bothur - saxophone
Ryszard Borowski - flute
Mark Waggoner - guitar
Piotr Rodowicz - bass
Kazimierz Jonkisz - drums
Wojciech Puszek - piano (3)
Pancho Campos - percussion (3)

Razem Na Tej Ziemi


By Adam Baruch

This is an album by veteran Polish Jazz bassist/composer Piotr Rodowicz recorded with a bunch of "friends" like pianist Bogdan Hołownia, flautist Ryszard Borowski, saxophonist Jarosław Bothur, guitarist Mark Waggoner and drummer Kazimierz Jonkisz. The album presents ten original pieces (one in two versions), seven composed by Rodowicz and three by Hołownia.

The music is all strictly melodic mainstream Jazz, on the lighter side of the idiom, but the compositions are solid and well crafted, and in the hands of these veteran performers they are all also splendidly executed.

Although this is not the kind of Jazz I tend to listen to on an everyday basis, I firmly believe that it is a legitimate part of the genre, especially since it is accessible to a much wider audience than just the hardcore Jazz buffs. As long as the music has an intrinsic artistic value, is honest and professionally executed, it is fine with me, regardless of what the Jazz snobs my say. Overall this is a lightweight, pleasant listening experience, with Jazzy flavor and a solid entertainment value. Recommended for listeners with such inclinations!

Friday, September 11, 2020

Tomasz Licak - Trouble Hunting (2012)

Tomasz Licak

Tomasz Licak - tenor saxophone, clarinet
Sven Dam Meinild - alto & tenor saxophones
Tomasz Dąbrowski - trumpet, balkan horn
Adi Zukanović - rhodes, keys
Richard Andersson - electric bass
Anders Provis - drums

Trouble Hunting


By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by the Polish/Danish ensemble Trouble Hunting led by Polish saxophonist/composer Tomasz Licak and including Polish trumpeter Tomasz Dąbrowski, Danish saxophonist Sven Dam Meinild, Bosnian keyboardist Adi Zukanovic, Danish bassist Richard Andersson and drummer Anders Provis. The album presents six original compositions, all by Licak.

The music is typical young European Jazz, which combines composed and freely improvised music, with an emphasis on group improvisation and freedom of expression. Despite the advanced explorations, the music manages to stay coherent and tamed, which allows to the inquisitive listener to hear every little nuance of the individual contributions by the musicians.

The ambience of the music combines the Polish melancholy with the Scandinavian minimalism, which works out splendidly. Despite the young age of these musicians, they all already show signs of their musical personality. Listening to this album almost a decade after it was recorded gives a wonderful perspective on the musical achievements of Licak, Dąbrowski and Meinild, who made numerous other recordings since and solidified their personas.

The album is also a document of the bond that was created between young Polish, Danish and other European musicians around the Odense Music Academy, which created an entire circle of musicians who cooperate actively since their meeting as students, being one of the creative foci of contemporary European Jazz.

This album withstands the test of time splendidly and sounds every bit as interesting as it did at the time of its release. It is definitely worth revisiting and European Free Jazz/Improvised Music connoisseurs should definitely try and get a copy before this album (like so many others) disappears into oblivion. Great stuff!

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

The Owl feat. Pablo Held - Improcode - premiera nowej płyty w Fundacji Słuchaj

Marcin Hałat - skrzypce
Maciej Garbowski - kontrabas
Krzysztof Gradziuk - perkusja
Pablo Held - fortepian

Marcin Hałat, skrzypek i improwizator, prezentuje kolejny autorski album, który współtworzą czołowi muzycy europejskiej sceny jazzowej. Druga płyta tria The Owl z gościnnym udziałem niemieckiego pianisty Pablo Helda zawiera 9 utworów. Wydawnictwo zatytułowane "Improcode" tworzą: Marcin Hałat, Maciej Garbowski, Krzysztof Gradziuk oraz wspomniany znakomity pianista Pablo Held. Płyta wydana nakładem Fundacji Słuchaj, będzie miała swoją oficjalną premierę w dniu 15.09.2020 r.

"Improcode" to zaskakujący album, w którym splata się wizja muzyki współczesnej w odniesieniu do wysublimowanej formy wiolinistyki. Płyta zawiera wiele różnych koncepcji dialogu i czterostronnych rozmów w obrębie tej stylistyki. Dużo jest w niej wolności i przestrzeni, która charakteryzuje zarówno współczesne idiomy jazzowe, jak i klasyczne. Indywidualny kod The Owl odznacza się niekonwencjonalnym podejściem do muzyki improwizowanej, a kiedy Marcin Hałat staje naprzeciw współgrających indywidualności, muzyka nabiera wyjątkowego znaczenia.

Marcin Hałat - skrzypek, improwizator, poruszający się między muzyką klasyczną, jazzową i improwizowaną. Urodzony w Beskidzie Śląskim w 1981 r. w rodzinie o bogatych tradycjach muzycznych. Jako mały chłopiec dorasta w otoczeniu muzyki ludowej, muzyki Fryderyka Chopina i dobiegających z radia dźwięków amerykańskiego jazzu. W wieku siedmiu lat rozpoczyna naukę w Szkole Muzycznej w Katowicach. Jego talent improwizacyjny odkrywa i zaprasza do współpracy Adam Makowicz. Marcin Hałat wybiera studia na Wydziale Jazzu i Muzyki Rozrywkowej Akademii Muzycznej w Katowicach pod kierunkiem skrzypka Henryka Gembalskiego oraz na Wydziale Instrumentalnym Akademii Muzycznej w Krakowie w klasie Roberta Kabary. Nawiązuje współpracę z Orkiestrą Stołecznego Królewskiego Miasta Krakowa Sinfonietta Cracovia, z którą bierze udział w licznych krajowych i międzynarodowych nagraniach, koncertach i festiwalach.

Pracuje z najwybitniejszymi dyrygentami, są wśród nich: Krzysztof Penderecki, Jerzy Maksymiuk, Christoph Eschenbach, Lorin Maazel, Valery Gergiev, Lawrence Foster, John Axelrood, Rafael Payare i Jurjen Hempel, oraz nagrywa dla takich wytwórni jak Sony Classical, DUX i Tv Arte. Jednocześnie realizuje wiele własnych projektów muzycznych - od muzyki ludowej, przez muzykę kameralną i muzykę improwizowaną. Współpracował z takimi artystami, jak: Grażyna Auguścik, Dorota Miśkiewicz, Włodzimierz Nahorny, Pianohooligan Piotr Orzechowski, Dominik Wania, Pablo Held, Adzik Sandecki, Joszko Broda i Atom String Quartet.

Jest liderem tria The Owl, które tworzy wraz z Krzysztofem Gradziukiem i Maciejem Garbowskim. W 2017 roku ich debiutancki album "On The Way" został wydany przez Fundację Słuchaj i doceniony zarówno w Polsce, jak i za granicą. Marcin Hałat jest stypendystą Ministra Kultury i Marszałka Województwa Śląskiego. Obecnie pracuje na stanowisku adiunkta w Instytucie Muzyki w Cieszynie Uniwersytetu Śląskiego w Katowicach.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...