Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Polish jazz albums I cannot stop but listen all the time!

Biased, subjective, unsistematic and thorougly mine list of 10 albums I cannot stop listening in Polish jazz 2010:

Joanna Gajda Quartet - Heaven Earth Earth Heaven (2010)




Adam Pierończyk Quartet - El Buscador (2010)



Tomek Sowiński & The Collective Improvisation Group - Synergy (2010)







Piotr Wyleżoł Quintet - Live (2010)







Leszek Kułakowski Ensamble Piccolo - Code Numbers (2010)








Maciej Obara, John Lindberg, Harvey Sorgen - Three (2010)











Mikrokolektyw - Revisit (2010)










Dwootho - Space Pressures (2010)











Soundcheck - III Druglum (2010)










Tomek Grochot Quintet - My stories (2010)










Now, after so much reading, prize for those who were patient enough to complete full post ;-) Ladies and Gentleman please your applause: Wacław Zimpel!!! Best musician of 2010 and his two albums:

Undivided - The Passion (2010)









Paweł Posteramczak, Ksawery Wójciński, Paweł Szpura, Wacław Zimpel - Hera (2010)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Fazi Quintet Moon Ship - Stawka Wieksza Niż Życie (1997)

A trifle, nothing more, but I somehow like it. It contains set of standards, great tunes indeed, all coming from legendary Polish movies. Mariusz Mielczarek, playing on sax and leader of the band, his style rubato, very much like Coleman Hawkins, brings life to music that is so well known and never stray too far away from what listeners remember. Skip it if such film titles like "Stawka większa niż życie", "O7 - zgłoś się" or "Noce i Dnie" tell you nothing. But if they do you will love this music.
Please listen to sample of music from "07 - zgłoś się" which was local version of Bond movies taking place in communist Poland. Hardcore!!!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bogdan Hołownia Trio - On The Sunny Side (1997)

It is a debut recording of jazz pianist Bogdan Hołownia, made on 1995 and published 2 years later. Since then he recorded more than 10 CDs proving to be permanent and valuable part of mainstream jazz in Poland. Born in 1957 he turned to playing piano professionally in 1990 when he decided to go to the US to study at famous Berklee College Of Music. This disc contains rehearsals of jazz standards and may be seen as a program prepared by a student to pass high school exams. And this student was very good indeed! His arrangements are usually faithful to originals but always very melodic, delicate and soulful. They go well with winter evening, fireplace, good book and a glass of old wine from your cellar. It may certainly appeal to all those for whom jazz is syncopated music that swings and is played on blue note. On the recording with Hołownia play following musicians: David Clark on double bass and Skip Hadden on drums, both professors at the Berklee.
Small sample of music of Bogdan Hołownia, from different album and accompanied by a vocal, yet representative for his style: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tQqF3BBwA8

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Tomek Grochot Quintet feat. Eddie Henderson - My Stories (2010)

Fantastic, outstanding, extraordinary? How limited vocabulary of jazz music reviewer is when it comes to expressing his admiration, delight, amazement! 
Many people mistake style with progress. They become infatuated by novelty but   my opinion is that what is good, in music as well as in any other field in life, is always en vogue. Let me give you an example: whether we call her Venus, Virgin Mary, Marylin Monroe or Scarlett Johansson I assume it is beauty, Hellenic "charis", that we are all after? Although beauty is always individual and ever-changing, its idea is permanent, complete, final. Any variation or change to idea is not to be mistaken with creativity as creativity is part of identity, while idea is simply matter of divine inspiration.
Speaking shortly, Tomasz Grochot,  on drums, leader of the group, for whom it is his recording debut,  Adam Pierończyk on alto and soprano saxophones, Dominik Wania on piano and Fender Rhodes, Robert Kubiszyn on double bass plus Eddie Henderson, outstanding American trmpeter, who played with Herbie Hancock, Art Blackey and Pharoah Sanders, recorded the album that is mainstream jazz. Let me say in a different manner: that is beautiful. No, let me make final correction: the album that is.
More about Tomek Grochot and his music (including samples): http://www.myspace.com/tomekgrochot

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Baaba - Disco Externo (2010)

I always wondered at men who once married stop to look at pretty girls. So despite being enamored in jazz since many years I am always ready to take chances and put music other-than-jazz in my CD player provided it has grace and charm. 
In this case there is plenty of both with very significant drop of wit which makes music of this quartet extremely attractive to me. They juggle with conventions, cut well known tunes and paste them in wrong places, wrong moods, in wrong tempos but it is all their own music, individual voice, creative attitude toward musical reality. 
I am certain that they would not like too big words to be used in order to describe their style but I want to underline that this music is of very high quality reminding me such musicians as for example Ben Lamdin whose Nostalgia77 made so big impact on British scene few years ego. Like Lamdin Bartosz Weber (guitar, sampler) started as DJ working entirely on sampled music and gradually turned into mostly acoustic line-up with some top jazz musicians as Tomasz Duda (saxophones, flute, sampler), Piotr Zabrodzki (bass, keyboards, voice) and Macio Moretti (drums). Other bands and artists they may be compared with are Quantic Soul or Amon Tobin. 
Light-hearted, easy-to-listen, dance-like but at the same time ironic, creative, avant-garde. So if you are in music for improvisation and need an album that your girl friend might like as well this extraordinary disc may be one of few albums that may reconcile both your and her tastes.
Please, check this page for more info and music samples:

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Mikołaj Trzaska - Dom Zły (2010)

Mikołaj Trzaska is key figure in Polish jazz nowadays. Born in 1966 he studied in Gdańsk Academy of Art in painting class since 1988. However at the time he became fascinated by John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman music so he started to play on alto saxophone. In 1991 he dropped his studies and co-created band called Miłość (Love) responsible for creating yass movement in Poland which pushed Polish jazz in direction of free and improvised music.
Ever since Miłość times when he collaborated with Lester Bowie he remains very active setting up new project with such significant artists like Oleś brothers, Peter Brotzmann, Joe McPhee or Ken Vandermark. Though he is self-taught and never attended to any musical school he managed to work-out his own style on alto: energetic, assertive, warlike even, though capable of being simultaneously very emotional and moving.
With this specific record, being soundtrack to excellent movie by Wojciech Smarzowski, Trzaska proves that   free jazz can be very valuable addition to moving pictures art. I usually am very skeptical toward soundtracks but in this case music not only provides perfect support for movie but is also fully capable to be listened on its own. Significant part of success of this album goes to exquisite musicians accompanying Trzaska on this CD: Clementine Gasser (5 string cell), Tomasz Szwelnik (fortepian), Clayton Thomas (kontrabas) and Micheal Zerang (drums&percussion).
Speaking shortly, one must say that Trzaska recently has produced incredible streak of excellent records:
1) Duval, Rosen, McPhee, Trzaska "Magic" (2009)
2) Trzaska, Bauer, Brotzmann "Goosetalks" (2010)
proving that he is one of true masters of Polish jazz!

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




Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Jazzpospolita - Almost Splendid (2010)

In Poland we have very strong mainstream jazz, free and improv jazz getting stronger every year but nu jazz, thriving in the West, is honestly speaking underdeveloped. I wish more Polish young musicians would follow suit of such Polish artists like Stealpot or Skalpel who once recorded for legendary Ninja Tune label. And there is so much to explore in this dancelike and electronical jazz sphere where such different artists as Parov Stellar and Bonobo on easy side or Peter Nils Molvaer and Lars Danielsson on more ambitous one coexist.

In recent years two bands in Poland distinguished themselves in this field and can be recommended wholehearteadly: Contemporary Noise Quintet/Sextet and Pink Freud. They play top notch nu jazz in very ambitious form especially in Pink Freud case. And though there is still plenty of work ahead of Jasspospolita before we can count them among those two top bands I must say that as for debut this is more than satisfactory recording.

Straightforward, unpretentious, yet very melodic and accessible it shall appeal to those who only accidentally look into modern jazz garden. But because it at times is dark in mood, scratchy and oniric it shall also keep attention of more sophisticated jazz listeners for longer than just one song. It lacks complexity, density and ironic power of Pink Freud albums or kitsch refinement of Contemporary Noise CDs but it nevertheless bring promise of some individual and interesting voice to speak on its own in future. As far as I am concerned they got credit from me for their next recording. Let me finally say that music is composed and executed by following artists: Stefan Nowakowski (bass), Wojtek Oleksiak (drums), Michał Przerwa-Tetmajer (gitara) and Michał Załęski (keyboards) and invite you to listen to a song from this album:

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Piotr Wyleżoł, Adam Kowalewski, Łukasz Żyta - Yearning (2001)

There are weather phenomena that make my mood metaphysical. It could be heavy rain that sometimes happens in spring. It magnifies smells of blossoming flowers into erotic perfume. Or wind which in summer comes suddenly from the mountain interior and falls on the seashore. It makes crowded beach deserted in just few moments except for few souls that felt lost among the mob and then they seemed to regain their balance in that wind. Or, like at this specific moment, when from winter sky come down, very slowly, majestically, snow flakes as big as ice chalices. And I ask myself what happened up there, have they lost their minds as we did so long ago? And there is nobody sane in universe, nobody to take care of "harmony of spheres"?
Well, not so fast boy, I start to reassure my tired mind and put this record in my Marantz CD-64 mk II KI. If such music as on this album exists there is still chance that your soul shall find peace again. It shall bring Earth into its usual elliptical orbit and our Heavenly Father back into business as usual.
And if you are more for the facts than impressions let me speak shortly: here's fourth disc that makes my journey with Piotr Wyleżoł complete. This is his debut recording made almost 10 years ago with Adam Kowalewski (bass) and Łukasz Żyta (drums). As it happens only with the best musicians Wyleżoł played perfectly from the beginning. His style inspired by great Bill Evans is all present on this first disc and I hope he will be able to preserve it without waylaying his natural, creative development. But that is what indeed is happening since Piotr started to record in quintet format for the first time this year.  With this refreshing change in his career one may only yearn for more great music from him in future... 
Please listen to fantastic song Deal With Myself  from his album titled Children's Episodes recorded for Spanish Fresh Sound New Talent label last year (2009):

Friday, December 17, 2010

Jerry Bergonzi, Jacek Kochan, Piotr Lemańczyk - Three Point Shot (2010)

After last year excellent Naha (featuring Tim Hagans) Piotr Lemańczyk recorded no less attractive Three Point Show this year. His play on double bass makes great impression on me and reminds me of the giants of this instrument like Dave Holland, Gary Peacock or Steve Swallow. His sound is round, deep and fully controlled, he is virtuoso in the best possible meaning of this word. 

Of course best known among these three musicians is Jerry Bergonzi. We all remember him from long collaboration with Dave Brubeck but he also recorded for Blue Note with Joey Calderazzo and  for Italian Red Records. This second cooperation was especially fruitful which is evidenced by his albums for this company recorded with such its renowned artists like Adam Nussbaum, Bobby Watson or Fred Hersch. I must say that his style full of technical fireworks and simultaneously of great musicality reminds me very much of the style of those three aforementioned great artists. Bergonzi has incredible narrative power and he is telling us his own, fascinating story from the very first note of this album. 

Jacek Kochan, playing on drums, perfectly matches Bergonzi and Lemańczyk with his sophisticated style reminding me such masters of this instrument as above mentioned Adam Nussbaum, Peter Erskine or Brian Blade. He is less providing simple rhythm but rather defining his own ideas about this music, creating little cameos of melody and stressing elements in his partners play that he regards as most significant.

Yes, this music is for jazz brainiacs (I must admit I am one of them) who would listen to this CD over over again relishing upon smallest details proving infinite virtuosity of players. It is like jazz riddle with thousand possible solutions, addictive and rewarding for anyone who is in jazz for highest quality musicianship. And finally what is most surprising that its style is as much mainstream as avant-garde with its constant swirls of rhythm and melody. Highly recommendable!

Please, visit Piotr Lemańczyk sites to listen to samples of music from this album:     

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tomasz Stanko Quintet - Purple Sun (1973)

My Stańko disease worsens and though pile of new recordings rises I am stuck to Polish Mag. Today it will be very short here because music is so good that it is not time to waste on spilling out words. I simply regard Stańko's album titled Purple Sun as one of my most favorite if not the most favorite of him. Why?

After the death of Krzysztof Komeda, Polish jazz pianist and composer who Stańko acknowledged as not only his friend but also mentor, he decided to establish his own band in quintet format. With this group he recorded his first album as leader titled Music For K (read K-omeda) being simultaneously the homage to his friend who departed so prematurely and tragically but which also was total breakdown with his style. Since Komeda was cool jazz cat while Stańko started to played free, very much in Ornette Coleman style but yet in somehow different, unique and his own manner.

During those 3 years that lied between those two recordings Stańko's band made incredible progress and I cannot imagine better way to experience this change than listen one of these albums after another. Although music is still free and there is plenty of collective improvisation yet the quintet phrasing gained space, depth and thoughtfulness of the best and most classy liquors. We have here, perhaps for the first time, what was to become Stańko's landmark: bluesy, brooding sound coupled with infinitely refined chiseling of space and silence.

After saying so many warm words about Tomasz let me now turn spotlight to Zbigniew Seifert. Although he was classically trained violinist he begun to play jazz using alto saxophone which was result of his fascination with John Coltrane. With this record however he decided to go back to violin, often electrically transofrmed and treated as saxophone in Trane's manner. It gave the music on this album the unique fusion blend so similar to Miles Davis recording of that time like Bitches Brew for example. Honestly speaking one is in confusion as to determine who is making bigger impression here: Stańko is no question magnificent but Seifert is no less stunning! It especially refers to the only non-Stańko composition titled My Night My day penned by Seifert which is another clear reference to majestic Komeda's Nightime Daytime Requiem. This composition is simply breathtaking and is also executed in perfect manner. Sadly only few years since that recording Seifert was to follow tragically in Komeda footsteps...  



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

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tomasz Stańko - Chameleon (1989) by Maciej Nowotny

My unofficial complete discography of Tomasz Stańko continues with the record titled Chameleon printed originally in Greece in 1989 and only in 2006 in Poland. Why in Greece? Thanks to Apostolis "Lakis" Anthimos, multi instrumentalist (guitars, drums) who at those times lived in Greece and managed to find there producer willing to invest money in this session. Two above mentioned musicians are accompanied on this CD by Janusz Skowron playing keyboards, mainly Roland as far as I can hear.
Eighties were the most erratic and self-destructive period in Stańko life mainly due to situation in Poland which suffered depression under martial law imposed by Gen. Jaruzelski in 1981 in order to suppress Solidarity movement. After seventies when he played state-of-art European version of Ornette Coleman free jazz, in next decade Stańko flirted with pop, electronic music, rock and even reggae starting with recordings titled C.O.C.X. (can be translated into English as D.O.P.E.) and Freeelectronic. So in those terms Chameleon is perhaps most mellow, easy-to-listen and smooth-jazzy record of Stańko and yet it is very, very beautiful and rewarding. 
Stańko as Miles never failed and he can be compared to mythical king Midas who whatever he touched turned into gold. What is fascinating in this record is that despite being at moments very accessible yet it comprises some compositions that counterpoint this sweet and light mood with typical Stańko brooding and bluesy sound. So this music retains Stańko musical identity which we appreciate so much but at the same time, as he states in his recently issued autobiography, could be used during intimate date with his girfriends who would probably run away immediately if exposed to Stańko excellent free jazz recordings as Music For K, Twet or even Balladyna. Typical Stańko sense of humour ;-)))



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

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Adam Pierończyk - Komeda Innocent Sorcerer (2010)

In this pot there are all necessary ingredients for even most choosy jazz fan to become interested in. First, Pierończyk got his own, individual sound. Avantgarde, assertive and attacking style of his alto & tenor saxes is coupled with very energetic pulse of his rhythm sections. What is truly peculiar for Pierończyk is that he managed to couple typical Komeda cool jazz mood with modern post jazz style full of folk references. 
Second, Komeda compositions are still unsurpassed in Polish Jazz as far as sex appeal is concerned. They have this unmistakable features of true masterpieces which are recognized by being simultaneously easy-to-listen and yet very complicated, deep, refined.
Finally, again Pierończyk was able to gather around himself musicians of the biggest calibre. Anthony Cox (bass) is present on his second recording this year (after equally recommendable El Buscador  published earlier this year) and he never fails to follow leader's complicated meanders of melody and rhythm; he is accompanied in rhythm section by excellent drummer Łukasz Żyta, a very significant player in this orchestra. 
But apart from fantastic work of these two musicians one is also truly amazed by very creative and lyrical play of Nelson Veras on guitar. This is brilliant move by Pierończyk to include him into his band instead of typical piano, the instrument Komeda himself was playing. By this move Komeda compositions regained fresheness and ability to surprise again. Gary Thomas on tenor saxophone is making up for what is one of the most unusual and yet succesful bands playing Komeda music in history.
All music on the album is composed by Komeda but whether it is relatively unknown Wicker Basket (masterpiece in Pierończyk interpretaion!) or much better known Kattorna, Sleep Safe And Warm or Crazy Girl, it rocks, it rolls, it never ceases to astonish and amaze. Wonderful music, great musicians, one of the gems of year 2010 in Polish Jazz.  

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Code Numbers

Ten tekst noszę w sercu od dłuższego jazzu, bo o płycie tej klasy, co najnowszy album pianisty Leszka Kułakowskiego zatytułowany Code Numbers, trzeba napisać coś, co wykracza poza zbyt oczywiste przymiotniki w rodzaju: najlepsza, doskonała, wybitna. Kolejny zatem raz siadam do pisania o tej płycie, ale chyba wreszcie znalazłem klucz do tej muzyki.
Pamiętacie może teorię strun, jedną z najpiękniejszych teorii wszystkiego, jaką kiedykolwiek stworzono? Podobnie jak najnowsza płyta Kułakowskiego, teoria strun pełna jest liczb, które podobno wyjaśniają wszelkie tajemnice budowy naszego świata. Wg niej struny to jednowymiarowe struktury o wielkości 10¯³¹ metrów, z których składają się dwuwymiarowe membrany wibrujące w dziesięciowymiarowej przestrzeni, stanowiące budulec wszystkich znanych nam cząstek elementarnych.

To nieważne, że nic z tego nie rozumiem, nie wiadomo, czy to wszystko jest czymś więcej niż ślepą uliczką, w którą zabrnęli fizycy w poszukiwaniu współczesnego Graala. Wszakże pamiętam, że w VI wieku p.n.e Pitagoras, badając dźwięki greckiej liry odkrył, że harmonii brzmienia drgających strun o różnej długości odpowiada przejrzystość łączących je stosunków matematycznych (½, ⅔, ¾ itd.) . To odkrycie było początkiem teorii muzyki i tak mocno wpłynęło na światopogląd Pitagorasa, że sformułował on pojęcie „harmonii sfer”, podjęte później przez Platona, zgodnie z którym u podstaw całej rzeczywistości tkwi jakaś podstawowa idea, logiczna i niepodważalna, zatem możliwa do wypowiedzenia tak językiem matematyki, jak muzyki, filozofii, a nawet religii.
Jest w tym jakieś szaleństwo bez wątpienia, ale jednocześnie wzlot ducha na niespotykaną skalę i taka też jest muzyka Leszka Kułakowskiego, nie tylko na tej płycie. W kraju pełnym wybitnych pianistów jazzowych (bo gdzie indziej w jednym pokoleniu współistnieją talenty tej miary co Leszek Możdżer, Marcin Wasilewski, Paweł Kaczmarczyk, Piotr Wyleżoł i wielu innych), Leszek Kułakowski zajmuje pozycję kogoś w rodzaju polskiego Theloniusa Monka, Cecila Taylora albo Cedara Waltona, przy czym nie mówię tu o pokrewieństwie brzemienia, lecz o osobowości i twórczym temperamencie. Outsider z natury, ale może i z upodobania, podąża ścieżką rzadziej uczęszczaną, traktem porośniętym burzanem i chwastem. W dziele tym wspaniale go wspomagają jego syn Piotr Kułakowski na basie i Krzysztof Gradziuk na perkusji, którego podziwiamy bardzo za grę w RGG Trio.

I właśnie do stylu tej ostatniej formacji - muzyka ta ma najwięcej podobieństw: wyrafinowana, chłodna, otwarta, improwizująca, rozbrzmiewająca w ciszy impresjonistycznie ledwie naszkicowanej. Nie do pominięcia, jeśli w Waszym krwiobiegu płynie chociaż jedna kropla jazzu.

Maciej Nowotny
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