Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Jarosław Śmietana - African Lake (2000)

Jarek (Jarosław) Śmietana is one of giants of Polish jazz and most probably the best guitarist in its history. Back in 70ties he participated in legendary group called Extra Ball and since then  has collaborated with countless musicians in Poland and abroad. Unlike many of his colleagues from that generation, he remains active and records every couple of years new albums. Though he no more pushes boundaries of jazz forward, yet Śmietana usually delivers great  sound, almost always staying close to his beloved fusion jazz aesthetics.

Strong sides of Jarek Śmietana projects are musicians and compositions. On this album both those elements are of the highest quality indeed. Top Polish players like Adam Kowalewski (db), Adam Czerwiński (dr), Jerzy Małek (tr) and Jan Pilch (perc) are supported by excellent foreign Cameron Brown (db), Jeremy Pelt (tr) and Leopoldo F. Fleming (perc). But of course the most famed among them is Gary Bartz (as, ss) who is remembered to be playing with Miles Davis between 1970-71. All these musicians emerge on this CD in different setups (recording sessions took place in Warsaw as well as in New York) but they never fail to produce great sound: varied, rich, melodic.

And in this way we came to another nice feature of this album: tunes that are mostly penned by Jarek Śmietana (some old but few new ones as well) with nice addition of compositions by Gary Bartz, Zbigniew Namysłowski and one standard by Thelonius Monk. Music is very accessible, easy-to-listen and optimistic and shall fit perfectly to the coming summer season. African notes are perhaps most difficult to find in this album: some minor ones in work of guitar or percussion using congas but otherwise it has little (if nothing) in common with African music but rather it is decent piece of straight-ahead jazz with some soul and fusion accents. Good stuff!

Check this film for sample of music from this album:

Author of text: Maciej Nowotny (

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