Friday, August 6, 2010

Janusz Muniak Quartet - Crazy Girl (1986)

This is 2010 CD re-print of vinyl album issued in 1996 and although on this blog I rather tend to focus on completely new things in Polish jazz, once I started to listen to this music in Empik music store I just couldn't resit and decided to buy it. Responsible for that is first track on this album, Crazy Girl, a very famous composition of legendary Krzysztof Komeda which is so  beautiful played here that you feel dumb and stunned for as long as music flows from speakers and then you simply cannot imagine yourself walking away without piece of this music in your pocket and mind.
Janusz Muniak is indeed one of true masters of Polish jazz coming from the same generation as Komeda, Stańko or Trzaskowski with whom he played of course for many years. He also started as leader in 70ties and continued later on recording significant material as this album testifies. 
As I said before the program of the album starts with Komeda Crazy Girl (please listen to the clip if you want to get to know this tune), then You Taught My Heart To Sing by McCoy Tyner follow, I Remember April comes third and CD ends with original penned by Muniak titled Znienacka ("Unexpectedly"). These tunes are so good I need not to comment on them with Muniak's original no less good. Apart from sensitive and powerful tenor of Muniak we meet on this CD on piano Wojciech Puszek, relatively unknown, but I must say that he plays astonishing jazz here, marvellous performance, on bass Zbigniew Wegehaupt, great Polish bassist who is in absolutely top form here, and on drums George Bruckner, whose play left me the least impressed.
Finally let me tell you one very important thing: Janusz Muniak started to play in early sixties in Cracow and since 50 years has passed if you ever visit this unforgettable city of Cracow you still may hear him playing in his own jazz club U Muniaka:   

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Nigel Kennedy Quintet - Shhh! (2010)

With this record Nigel Kennedy surprised me very positively. Not only he was able to transform his language from classical (though in slightly pop version) to jazz but he did it so handsomely that this record is both easy-to-listen but also truly inspirational.  
The great deal of success of this enterprise goes to Kennedy who composed all the music on the album but we should also pay respect to fantastic musicians of his quintet (Tomasz Grzegorski - saxes, Piotr Wyleżoł - piano, Adam Kowalewski - bass, Krzysztof Dziedzic - drums, Xantone Blacq - percussion) as without their 100% jazz souls this music would never sound as classy as it does.
The music on the album is kind of review of what Kennedy finds attractive in this genre of jazz that I love so much. We therefore start with splendid Transfiguration where the mood of 70ties hangs in the air and the spirit of John McLaughlin Mahavishnu Orchestra is obvious but never obtrusive or secondary. After this piece of fusion jam we move to what is best in pop as in River Man, song by obscure underground star of 70ties Nick Drake, whose output, almost unknown during his lifetime, is now recalled by many including R.E.M. , Norah Jones or Brian Molko. In this song John Themis on guitar and vocal of Boy George appear. Boy George, somewhat forgotton controversial star of 80ties, shines brightly in this little cameo proving that he had much more to say after he quit to shock with his drag acts.
With Silver Lining and even more Shhh! we move into the field of cool jazz with its elegent and refined but bluesy and thoughtful climate.  In this part of the record the piano of Piotr Wyleżoł takes over showing that his talent at least matches that of the leader of the band. In The Empty Bottle and 4th Glass we find ourselfes in more relaxed atmosphere close to smooth jazz evocating the reminiscences of Herbie Hancock's Return To Forever and other project of 70ties. The finish is strong as in Oy! there is plenty of groove and funk elements. 
Apart from paying respect to Kennedy for his and his companions music efforts recorded on this album I should mention his courage and activity in promoting Polish jazz worldwide. In May he took part in organization of festival Nigel Kennedy Polish Weekend in London. He lives in Poland since 10 years and his wife is Polish so I presume he may be treated now as Polish jazz musician ;-) 
Speaking shortly he recorded excellent album and also deserves highest praisefor what  he's doing for Polish jazz. Thank You Nigel!

PS. If you want to learn more about Nigel Kennedy and his Quintet you should  visit this fantastic web site: http://www.nigelkennedyonline.com/The_NK_Quintet.html 

Please watch the promo video of this album to learn more about this project:


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


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