Monday, October 11, 2010

Stańko, Szukalski, Holland, Vesala - Balladyna (1976)

















My Stańko quest continues with Balladyna, his first CD for ECM, recorded with Tomasz Szukalski (saxophone), Dave Holland (bass) and Edward Vesala (drums). With this disc Stańko made farewell to his previous style dominated by Stańko's own, highly original version of Ornette Coleman's free jazz (as evidenced in Twet album which was recorded prior to this one). Step by step his music on this album changes by gaining more space, breath, gravitating towards silence and thoughtfulness so characteristic for all recordings made for Manfred Eicher. But this transformation is not complete yet and it still needed many years to finally take place. In meantime his cooperation with ECM ceased and his career took somewhat chaotic course over next couple of years. But this good beginning for ECM was never forgotten and made his great come back to this company possible many years later when he matured enough to get control over his doping habit.
Balladyna is certainly no easy-to-listen piece of music. I believe that for many mainstream jazz lovers it sounds repulsive or abhorrent. Stańko was of course fully aware of this effect. His choice of Balladyna as the title for this record is meaningful as Balladyna, the character created by XIX century poet Juliusz Słowacki, is as much violent, lustful and unpredictable as Shakespeare's Lady Makbet.  She murders her own sister, exiles her mother and plays her lovers against each other all in order to get power she is mad about. Eventually she goes unharmed by human justice or revenge.
Therefore I advise strongly to listen to this music remembering all these connotations because if there is any conventional beauty in it, it is the charm of crime, rape or tragedy, that is so attractive to flock of peaceful and well-fed citizens of great cities, since times of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides.
Finally it is necessary to recall that this recording was recently re-printed by ECM in Touchstones series at a bargain price which I invited with  gratitude as prices of ECM records remain, in my opinion, exorbitantly high. This reprint was accompanied by Stańko drafting musicians for what he called New Balladyna Project. He gave concert in Denmark accompanied by Tim Berne (saxophones), Anders Jormin (bass) and Stefan Passborg (drums) with material from this record. In Poland he did the same although with different cast including talented Maciej Obara on sax (http://kochamjazz.blogspot.com/2010/03/obara-alessi-waits-helias-four-2010.html). Although there were many hopes that new record may arise of collaboration of those renowned musicians unfortunately these expectations remain unfulfilled.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Mg6N4cWNco&feature=player_embedded

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