Thursday, June 24, 2010

New Trio - Simultaneous Abstractions (2010)

This album prolongates the streak of excellent new recordings of this year and to no surprise. Because 2/3 of New Trio that is Jan Smoczyński (Hammond) and Mateusz Smoczyński (violin) though still young are well known and active on Polish scene since years ago. This year only I noted their presence on Jerzy Malek "Bop Beat" and Jarosław Śmietana "Tribute to Zbigniew Seifert". They both distinguished themselves on these recordings and I waited impatiently for their project on their own and I am not disappointed at all. 
What strikes me in this album is that artists strived for perfection in every detail not only in music itself. The CD cover is real piece of art: simple, red lines, slightly protuberant, become curved, as become graphic representations of sound in amplifiers, and they form human profile. Stunning! As astonishing is level of recording though less surprising since album was recorded in Tokarnia Studio, located in Nieporęt close to Warsaw, which was created by Jan Smoczyński and which since 2006 earned in Poland the reputation somewhat similar to Blue Note's Van Gelder studio. 
As for music on this album it is also truly exceptional: unusual choice of instruments in this trio (Hammond-violin-drums) make it very unique and the level of musicianship is extraordinary. The credit for this success shall go not only to Smoczyński brothers but also to Alex Zinger - top young Russian percussionist - who secure exact and steady propulsion for this trio. The inspiration for these muscians is music of John Coltrane whose Naima is the only standard present on this album among nine originals. The compositions are very sophisticated, intellectual and intricate which paired with fusion-like style of hammond, violin and Coltrane's spirit of avan-garde make this CD a real vamp. 
From 9.04.2010 to 8.05.2010 musicians planned to give 20 concerts throughout Poland to promote this album. They intent to issue LIVE version of album after this extensive tour and what I want to tell is simple: this would be MUST HAVE record for me. While waiting impatiently for it let me present to you a sample of music from this band: 



Author: Maciej Nowotny
http://kochamjazz.blox.pl/html

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Stealpot - Mass Mess.AGE (2005)

When this record was issued in 2005 it made quite an impact on Polish scene because it was one of the most successful excursion in the field of nu jazz. It was also great surprise that it was created by 19 years old trumpeter Szymon Folwarczny from Katowice who was virtually unknown on Polish up-to-that-date. I think one of characteristics of Polish jazz is that it is either conservative or avant-garde inclined while it is relatively indigent in artists and bands exploring its modern and dance-oriented face. Although abroad we have hundreds or even thousands new recording venturing in territory of jazz, trip hop, ambient pop or down-tempo. I wish Polish jazz would show more inclination towards this kind of music because these are rhythms that are most popular among many listeners of jazz nowadays. To back my views I can call for Tomasz Stańko example who has fruitful collaboration with one of the most talented artist on this scene, DJ Smolik. Hoping that we shall listen to much more of such successful nu jazz recording coming from Polish artists let me invite you to see a video clip made by artist's friends to title track from this album. In film you may see pictures from Polish city of Katowice where Folwarczny lives:
OLD STUFF #4 - Stealpot - Mass Message (Unofficial Music Video) HD from Przemek Pyrek on Vimeo.




Thursday, June 17, 2010

Tomasz Stanko Quintet - Music For K (Polish Jazz Vol. 22, 1970)

Since I recently read the autobiography of Tomasz Stańko it seemed attractive to me to recall his discography as well, record after record. Some of them I possess and some of them I have to find so it looks like challenging task. Let me start with Music For K album recorded in January 1970 in Warsaw Philharmonia. It is first recording of Stańko famous quintet and his first as a leader as well because up to 1969 he was a member of legendary Komeda quartet and "felt no need to have his own band". But in 1968 Komeda left for Hollywood where he joined Polanski and hit the jackpot with music he composed for Polanski's  Rosemary's Baby. Unfortunately in 1969 Komeda died in result of the unfortunate accident and although he planned that Stanko should join him in the US nothing came out of those plans.

In such context in 1970 Stańko formed his first quintet and what often pass unnoticed that 3/5 of his quintet were previously part of Zbigniew Seifert Quartet. Seifert himself became a member of Stańko quintet and over the years he showed that he was one of few musicians in Polish jazz whose talent was of similar calibre to that of Stańko.

Beside Seifert, there were in quintet two more of his collaborators from abovementionaed quartet in persons of excellent drummer Janusz Stefański and bassist Jan Gonciarczyk. But Jan was soon to be replaced by Bronisław Suchanek, a very talented bassisst, around 20 at that time, who was rising star on Polish jazz scene and a member not only of Stanko group but also of very interesting Mieczysław Kosz Trio. The last member of the band was Janusz Muniak, tenor sax, another very significant and well recognized player on then Polish jazz scene. All this guys were extremely well educated, graduated from top Polish Music Academies and under the conscious and daring leadership it happened that they ventured in territory new not only in Polish but also in European jazz.

Here we come to music itself which this record contains and which still sounds fresh and is very inspiring. Though the album was dedicated to Komeda it has next to nothing in common with his musical idiom and is can be best described as free jazz. Keeping in mind how fresh phenomenon free jazz was at that time and especially in Europe one has to admire Stańko and his colleagues that despite the isolation imposed on them by communist goverment they were able not only to became part of European jazz avant-garde but in fact to be one of its leaders.

What is even more important but what became evident only in years to come, Stańko version of free jazz was very original because unlike many Amercican and European musicians he was always imposing some structure on his playing. His compositions though leaving a lot of space for improvisation still contained some simple tunes, sometimes simplified to maximum degree, but which constituted a thread for those less incilined toward free jazz that secured them from being lost in the maze of muscians' improvisations. This creative tension between form and formless is well known in Polish art and philosophy (see Polish philosopher Witkacy works to whom later Stańko referred directly on such disc as Peyotl for instance) and seems to me unique Stańko input into Polish jazz. But this record was just a beginning of what proved to be one the most interesting careers in world jazz.

Below 2nd song from this album title Infinitely Small:



Author of text: Maciej Nowotny
http://kochamjazz.blox.pl/html

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Arek Skolik Special Trio - Detour Ahead (2010)






















I was a little afraid that this record might pass unnoticed since apart from the leader, drummer Arek Skolik, who is recognized on Polish jazz scene, pianist Kuba Płużek and bassist Max Mucha are just 20 and almost débutante (their first record together as part of Jarek Bothur Quartet was issued just few weeks ago). But fortunately the record was immadietely spotted by Jazz Forum which gave it **** stars and by Piotr Iwicki (http://jazzgazeta.blox.pl/2010/06/Arek-Skolik-Special-Trio-Detour-Ahead.html) who also expressed very positive appraisal. Therefore I gladly join my voice to theirs in order to praise this recording which has several qualities which make it especially attractive to my ears.
I want to focus on Kuba Płużek who shows on this album simply astonishing musicality. It is well known that Poland abounds in top class jazz pianists but I barely can recall one who can swing better than this young lad. In the same time he has this unmistakable bop-ish touch, a little rough, scratchy but very, very energetic. This young man has indeed immense talent which he already showed on above mentioned Lilla Chezquiz album by Jarek Bothur Quartet but this time we can hear him in different program, mainly standards such as for example  Nobody Else But Me (J. Kern), Detour Ahead (H. Ellis, J. Frigo, L. Carter), Five Brothers (G. Mulligan), 9:20 (C. Basie) or September Second (M. Petrucciani). In this diversified program Płużek and his partners never cross the border between what is the deep knowledge of great tradition of jazz and soulless counterfeit of what was once great but today is only the distant reminiscence. Though they play well-known tunes it sounds freshly and shows enough imagination and creativity to spark these standards again with their unique personalities.
All this would be impossible if Płużek's talent was not accompanied by the precision drumming of Arek Sokolik and solid bass-line provided by Max Mucha. The role played by Arek Skoloik, the leader of the band shall be especially appreciated as his decision to coach these young musicians comes in tradition set by Miles Davis (in US) and Tomasz Stańko (in Poland). I am sure he does not regret this decision because this trio may become the significant force in Polish jazz. To sum up let me say that with this record they earned a huge credit of trust with me and I am waiting impatiently for their concerts and new projects. Since the last song on this album titled Coda goes little towards free jazz perhaps it may happen that in future their path shall go in this direction (the hope expressed in Piotr Iwicki's review as well). Whatever it shall in fact be let me hope the trio continues to work together and record again soon. Small sample of music from this album:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pq3ivmMcp9U&feature=player_embedded

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Duval, Rosen, McPhee, Trzaska - Magic (2009)























I decide to look back a little because I finally laid may hands on this fantastic recording issued last year by Polish label Not Two. It is double CD album recorded live in legendary Alchemia jazz club in Cracow. The history of cooperation between Joe McPhee (tenor sax), Dominic Duval (bass) and Jay Rosen (drums) dates back to 1990 when the trio assembled for the first time on occasion of the gig given at The Vision Jazz Festival. Joe McPhee is of course most famous figure of those three, born in 1939 in Miami, he is best known for his glorious streak of concerts and recordings with elite musicians of international free jazz and avant-garde scene. Among them we may enumerate such personalities as Don Cherry, Carla Bley, Steve Lacy, Anthony Cox or Evan Parker. Always focused on creative and improvised side of jazz McPhee and his partners, since then called Trio X, met in 2006 Polish alto saxophonist Mikołaj Trzaska who along with Adam Pierończyk is without doubt best Polish modern free jazz saxophonist. His standing in Poland is exceptional because he is one of the founders of revolutionary yass scene in Poland in 1990s (located in and around city of Gdańsk) and key figure in the band called Miłość, clearly the most important cooperative in history of Polish jazz since Komeda quartet or Stańko quintet/quartet. Despite the end of yass movement and disintegration of Miłość Trzaska's talent continued to develop rapidly, he recorded a lot and like before was able to establish relationships with significant musicians. And this is exactly the case as far as this recording is concerned, a second in the row, after critically acclaimed Intimate Conversations (http://freejazz-stef.blogspot.com/2007/12/mcphee-trzaska-rosen-intimate.html) and well received concerts throughout the world (http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=31138). The music on this album although free jazz in the tradition of Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Albert Ayler or Archie Shepp, that is energetic, warlike, uncompromising, is still very spacious, sensitive and open to silence. If I was to catch this "magic" which is rightly put in the title of the album I would point exactly at this astonishing contrast which shows that great free jazz masters tend to mature in a very attractive manner making the music much less chaotic but condensed, concentrated and yet very sharp, revealing the guts of jazz, leaving the experienced listener astonished and puzzled by its freshness and intensity. Masterful recording! For those interested in more info please visit http://freejazz-stef.blogspot.com/2010/02/joe-mcphee-mikoaj-trzaska-dominic-duval.html. For those interested to buy this record http://www.nottwo.com/PelnaPlyta.php?Id=368&W=0. Unfortunately I found no music samples from this record but if you like free jazz you surely would not be disappointed. 

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tomasz Stańko - Desperado (2010) by Maciej Nowotny
























This is first book to be posted on my basically musical blog but I believe everybody should easily appreciate my decision. Because it is autobiography of Tomasz Stańko, clearly the most important figure on Polish jazz scene, and also very significant on world scene. The book has a form of extensive interview with Rafał Księżyk asking the question and Stańko answering them. They soon engage in real dialog and Księżyk shows that his erudition is limitless and that he is right person for such a job indeed. It is also clear right from first pages that this book will be breathtaking and breakthrough since Stańko uses strong language and his straightforwardness is incredible. He speaks as he plays: his language is focused, his understanding deep, his maturity evident and yet somehow repulsive to those who are more bound to bourgeois superstitions. He speaks about jazz, narcotics, sex, life in plain and laconic manner as if he wanted to test where the boundary lies between confession and literary exhibitionism. The effect of this dialog is shattering: one eats one page after another in gasps horrified that with every hour it remains less and less remaining of this astonishing 500 hundreds pages oeuvre.

I know it would be futile to recommend this book to anyone at this moment because it is printed in Polish and only Poles can read it now (and I am sure they will!). What can I say is that I hope that it soon will be translated to English as it definitely deserves it because Stańko is of importance to international jazz and not only to Polish one. If someone reads this message and is capable of such job please treat this post as strong encouragement to such task.

Author of text: Maciej Nowotny
http://kochamjazz.blox.pl/html
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