Thursday, June 16, 2011

Reed Trio (Trzaska / Vandermark / Zimpel) - Last Train To The First Station (Kilogram Records, 2011)

Reed Trio

Mikolaj Trzaska - alto saxophone, baritone saxophone, bass clarinet
Ken Vandermark - tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, clarinet
Waclaw Zimpel - bass clarinet, clarinet, tarogato

1kg Kilogram Records, 2011

Again Free Jazz Alchemist (check his web site is using his unique knowledge about Polish free jazz to tell a story about one of the best avantgarde albums recorded this year:

I remember how I've been excited getting news about this trio first recording ever since 2008. Wawrzyn Makinia (known maybe better as Laurenz; owner of Multikulti) was all hyped about the first recording session (I was visiting Poznan for Made in Chicago Festival and could a get a first-hand report). Only to find out (through Ken Vandermark's facebook and occasional meetings in Krakow with Waclaw or Mikolaj) that the session was lost due to the hard disk crash. The trio's set during the second edition of Resonance project (autumn 2009) was so inspiring and in complete sync that it was obvious enough that those three will continue to work together.

In April of 2010, after performing in Gdansk, (a studio session and a concert which, fortunately recorded, constitutes the music available on this cd) during the travel from Gdansk to Warsaw, Ken Vandermark's baritone was stolen from the train's compartment (something I'm ashamed to admit happened in my own country but the immediate reaction and remarkable support - the story on national news, newspapers and the entire community of musicians, music promoters and music fans united in the search for the baritone uplifted my spirit a bit). The following days were packed with action flick worthy events but the baritone was not found. Ironically though the insurance money allowed Ken to buy the baritone from Peter Brotzmann (old Werner Ludi's instrument) which was actually what he wanted to do in the first place. And that's the story behind this music (described elegantly by Ken himself in the liner notes) - full of bumps and unexpected and unwelcome twists, the music though is something completely else.

The music is, to put it simply, beautiful. Surprisingly fragile, a fruit of incredible sensibility - it's remarkable how those three artists are able to connect and react together, completely egoless. The sense of communication is uncanny, sweet harmonies, instant unisonos ("When Tulips are Gold", clarinet duo by Ken and Waclaw - "Crossroads nad Cosmic Ray"). Seamlessly exchanging roles of leading, harmonic or rhythmic instruments this trio creates a truly democratic 'conference of birds'. And although the sacrum space (New Synagog in Gdansk) could have suggested the more intimate playing not unlike modern chamber music, it doesn't mean that they're playing shy - occasional wild screams make the general peaceful nature of this music more evident.

The clarity of vision is awe-inspiring whether it's the entire trio playing, a duo piece (3 of those) or a solo (one by each musician). Each of those really is worthy a mention, fragile and lyrical Trzaska's alto ("Sitting on a Warm Stone"), rhythmic and hard-edged Vandermark's tenor ("The Distance That Becomes You") or slow, deep, meditative and soulful Zimpel's bass clarinet ("It's Here and It's Gone"). Despite this variety, or maybe thanks to it Reed Trio creates the music that is uncompromising, emotionally gripping and sometimes even breathtaking, with a sense of unity and direction that is quite spectacular.

This is some of the most enchanting and absorbing music I've heard this year. It sure may have taken a lot of time and trouble to get this recording done, but (from my perspective which is a listener's point of view) it was completely worth it. A stunning statement.

Reed Trio performing in Gdynia in 2008:

Author of text: Bartek Adamczak (

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