Monday, July 18, 2011

Zbigniew Seifert Quartet - Nora (GAD, 2010) by Adam Baruch

Zbigniew Seifert Quartet

Zbigniew Seifert (as)
Jan Jarczyk (p)
Janusz Stefański (dr)
Jan Gonciarczyk (b)

Gad Records, 2010

Adam Baruch (check his music boutique on best archive recording of last year. Highly recommended!

This wonderful album collects all the existing recordings by the early Jazz quartet led by Polish violinist / saxophonist / composer Zbigniew Seifert, a world class virtuoso who was unfortunately taken away from this world by the ever-so-cruel cancer at the ridiculous age of 32. Seifert discovered Jazz while being a student at a music high school, where he studied classical music. Immediately stricken by Jazz, he started to live a double life, continuing his degree studies as a classical violinist and in parallel playing and later leading his own Jazz quartet. Seifert almost immediately moved into modern Jazz, even ultra-modern at the time, as his immediate model would be the late period John Coltrane. Seifert's hypersensitive and well trained ears were able to follow Coltrane's convoluted music note by note, thus enabling him to absorb his style. In order to emphasize the separation between his classical violin training Seifert played the alto saxophone exclusively at the early stages of his career, returning to the violin only much later, a move which gained him his international recognition and success, cut short soon after by his untimely death. By the end of the 1960s Seifert was a permanent member in the Tomasz Stanko quintet, Poland's pioneering Free Jazz outfit at the time, as well as leading his own quartet with pianist Jan Jarczyk, bassist Jan Gonciarczyk and drummer Janusz Stefanski (who was also a member of the Stanko quintet). 

The quartet never recorded an album for the "Polish Jazz" series, but three of their performances were recorded by the Polish Radio and are presented on this album: The 1969 concert at the Jazz nad Odra Festival and the 1969 and 1970 concerts at the Jazz Jamboree Festival – all together eight tracks, only two of which (taken from the 1969 JJ) were previously released on record in a various artists compilation entitled "New Faces In Polish Jazz" (Polish Jazz Vol. 20). Seifert composed five of the tunes, Jarczyk one and the other two are standards. The music is just sensational, mostly almost Free, with long and well developed solos by Seifert and Jarczyk, with superb backing by the rhythm section. That kind of music would fit perfectly well anywhere in the world at that time, but taking into account the fact it comes from Poland, a country deep beyond the Iron Curtain with minimal exposure to the latest trends and under a Socialist regime, which does not tolerate artistic deviance, it is an absolute miracle. 

The historic importance of these recordings is invaluable, especially since the quartet wasn't able to secure a proper studio recording in a reality when the only record company on the market was state owned and run by party officials. Thank God for the Polish Radio archives and the initiative to compile and release this album. Although "too little too late" applies here, so does "better this than nothing". I'll add that in order to fully appreciate this music in proper historic perspective and its meaning in the history of Polish (and Eastern European) Jazz, I'd recommend reading the recently published Zbigniew Seifert excellent biography entitled "Man of the Light", by Aneta Norek – alas this privilege is limited to people who can read Polish (unless the book gets translated into English, which it truly deserves). In the meantime savor this fantastic music, as it lost nothing of its intensity over time. A must to all Polish Jazz lovers!

Sample of music from this album:

Author of text: Adam Baruch

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