Saturday, April 30, 2011

First singiel from Wojtek Mazolewski's new record available on YouTube!!!












Wojtek Mazolewski offically published on YouTube first singiel "Newcomer (sunny take)" from his recently issued "Smells Like Tape Spirit" album. Check it out and have fun! Holidays are coming...;-)))

Friday, April 29, 2011

AuAua - Muzyka do bólu (2010)

Recently on occasion of writing about Wojtek Mazolewskis's very good "Smells Like Tape Spirit" (2011) album, I've complimented on pianist Joanna Duda and drummer Michał Bryndal. Here is another recording they play together with this difference that Mazolewski's bass is replaced by Maciej Szczyciński's and Joanna Duda acts as a leader. And again I can only say words of praise as far as play of the artists is concerned, but not so much about the music itself. Because it is too often irritating, though I admit that there are great moments as well. I shall be precise where which emotion prevails: while this band is mixing creatively old school funky swinging with post-disco influences of artists like Jamiroquai, I feel comfortable and enjoy this music as inteligent and autoironic show of very talented, young jazz instrumentalists. However when they try to play more seriously and add to this music some avantgarde blend, this feeling of satisfaction is changing into disappoitment as avantgarde is treated by musicians in extremely infantile way. This is old sin of many yass recordings in Poland: they are uneven, shallow, inconsistent. At such moments Duda's play is mechanical and uninspired, Bryndal's drumming schematic and Szczyciński's bass as predicatble as beats programmed by my PC. 
Summarizing, I appreciate a lot rebellious and creative soul of these young musicians, I think that they were pretty close to record really good album, but eventually it is kind of unfinished work that sounds like being incomplete... Pity...

PS. Joanna Duda makes a lot of PR noise around herself. Well, I understand that it is necessary in these times to get to the public. But I feel like such focus on PR was to the detriment of the music on this album. It might be good in pop (see examples of Lady Gaga or Doda in Poland) but I doubt whether such a strategy will be effective in world of jazz...

Tune "Fitness Szmaty" from this record:


Author: Maciej Nowotny

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Ars Longa vita brevis



Łacińskie przysłowie "Ars longa, vita brevis" można przetłumaczyć na polski "Życie krótkie, a nauka długa". Tyle jest rzeczy na świecie wartych poznania, wręcz niezbędnych ku temu, by dobrze zrozumieć to i owo, a czasu mało, zbyt mało. Nie inaczej jest z jazzem, chcieć poznać wszystko to droga donikąd, zanim człowiek dojdzie do końca, to po pierwsze osiwieje ze zmartwienia i starości, umrze z głodu, a przede wszystkim w międzyczasie i tak nagrają tyle płyt, że okaże się ten wysiłek syzyfową pracą. Dlatego jeśli chcecie poznać dobrze jazz, uchwycić jego esencję, a jednocześnie dobrze się bawić, to warto się skoncentrować na muzyce, która powstała w okresie przemian w jazzie, wyznaczała nowe kierunki, odświeżała atmosferę.

Recepta wydaje się prosta, ale wcale nie tak łatwo wprowadzić ją w życie! Bo na przykład zadam pytanie: co dzisiaj jest nośnikiem zmian w jazzie? Kto pcha go na nieznane tory? Co należy posłuchać, żeby otworzyć sobie nowe horyzonty i jednocześnie zachwycić się pięknem? Oj, nie jest łatwo odpowiedzieć na to pytanie, może jakieś sugestie? Odpowiedzieć nie jest łatwo, bo zmiany w jazzie następują najczęściej na zasadzie ewolucyjnej (oczywiste nawiązanie do tytułu albumu Moncura), to znaczy, zmiany te są prawie niezauważalne, z wolna kumulują się i, często niepostrzeżenie, pojawia się nowa jakość!

Nie inaczej jest z tym fantastycznym albumem "Evolution" jaki Graham Moncur III nagrał w 1963 roku dla Blue Note. Po pierwsze, Moncur jest puzonistą, a dźwięk tego instrumentu nie jest znów aż taki częsty w jazzie. Pamiętamy oczywiście takie nazwiska jak Curtis Fuller, Steve Turre, Roswell Rudd czy Bob Brookmeyer, ale Graham Moncur ma z ich wszystkich nabardziej przestrzenny ton, najlepiej udało mu się opanować twardą i ostrą naturę dźwięku jaki wydaje puzon i wkomponować go w grę innych instrumentów, a nawet w ciszę...

Po drugie, oprócz Moncura na tej płycie pojawia się towarzystwo jakim nie pogardziłby żaden jazzman na tym globie, bo na trąbce gra niezrównany Lee Morgan, na alcie Jackie McLean (to właśnie dzięki jest kapitalnej płycie "Destination Out!" zwróciłem niegdyś uwagę na pojawiającego się na niej Moncura), zjawiskowy Bobby Hutcherson (który udowadnia tu, że wyśmienity wibrafonista może swobodnie zastąpić wydawałoby się nieodzownego pianistę w klasycznym składzie jazzowego kwintetu), solidny Bob Crenshaw na basie i Tony Williams, podówczas niespełnia 18-letni, którego zaraz po tym nagraniu ukradł Moncurowi sam Davis (z którym nagrał wydaną w tym samym roku płytę "Seven Steps To Heaven").

Po trzecie i najważniejsze, muzyka na tej płycie, podobnie jak na "Birth Of The Cool", "Kind Of Blue, "Bitches Brew" Milesa Davisa, "A Love Supreme", "Ascension" Johna Coltrane'a, "Free Jazz" Ornette'a Colemana, "Out To Lunch" Erica Dolphy'ego czy "Free Fall" Jimmy'ego Giuffre odzwierciedla DOKŁADNIE ten moment zmiany, gdy jazz zrzucał skórę i spod starej, która jeszcze jest obecna, widać już nową, wilgotną, miękką, która będzie przyszłością tej muzyki. W przypadku tej płyty muzycy opuszczają dobrze nam znane hardbopowe tory, by otworzyć przed nami szeroki widnokrąg muzyki free, ale właśnie najciekawsze jest to, że słychać dobrze JEDNO I DRUGIE.
Autor: Maciej Nowotny


Excellent news for new record of Marcin Wasilewski Trio!!!


Just in its first week on American Top 10 Billboard Jazz Charts, Marcin Wasilewski Trio's new album "Faithful" debuted very high (source)!!! Congratulations to artists, to ECM and to all listeners who decided to go for this hauntingly beautiful record...
Check ECM web page for some of the music from this album!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Inner Spaces Quintet - Inner Spaces (2011)

Jazz Forum (2011)

Stepanka Balcarova (tr)
Lubos Soukup (sax)
Vit Kristan (piano)
Max Mucha (b)
Grzegorz Masłowski (d)




This is interesting disc which is available to subscribers of Jazz Forum magazine which specializes in presenting young and promising mainstream musicians to jazz audience in Poland. All of those young players are still studying, most of them at famous jazz faculty at Katowice Music Academy. The leader of the band is Stepanka Balcarova who is playing on trumpet and composed or co-composed 3 out of six tunes on the album. She is accompanied by Lubos Soukup on tenor & soprano sax (he composed 2 tunes) and Vit Kristan on piano (composed 1 tune). This front people (all coming from Czech Republic) are backed by excellent Polish rhythm section in persons of Max Mucha on double bass and Grzegorz Masłowski on drums who already distinguish themselves on Jarek Bothur Quartet "Lilla Chezquiz" and in numerous other recordings. 
One must admit that this music is coherent, well-played and compositions are far from being trivial. This is definitely very promising debut and I am sure in future we will hear a lot about musicians that were involved in this project. I would like especially to high-lite Stepanka Balcarowa and Lubous Soukoup who composed most of tunes for being able to create such a intriguing and consistent mood on this album plus I want to stress excellent play on piano by Vit Kristan who is strong competitor for another talented pianist studying in Katowice, namely Kuba Płużek, whose play I admire.
All in all, what we got here is piece of decent mainstream jazz, a little bit cool in the mood but the real question is where these young musicians will go now? In her recent interview for Jazz Forum magazine Balcerova said she would like to go more towards free jazz with some electronic component. A good idea, I would say, since with this album she proved that she can play mainstream very well but it would be risky to continue on such a crowded and well-trodden road...

Check this website for samples of music.

Author: Maciej Nowotny 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Możdżer plans CD dedicated to Komeda...

On 2th May in Sopot at Klub Sfinks Leszek Możdżer will give concert containing material from his planned new solo album "Komeda Możdżera". International premiere of this album is set for June this year and will be issued as previous albums by ACT recording company.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Passion in jazz part II: Undivided - The Passion (2010)

Waclaw Zimpel - bass clarinet, clarinet, tarogat
Bobby Few - piano
Mark Tokar - double bass
Klaus Kugel - drums

Multikulti 2010




This cd got some decent exposure, winning the Happy New Ears poll on well-known Stef's blog. Fact is that it may be one of the most ambitious projects in jazz music for quite a while. Waclaw Zimpel composed "Passion" as a collage of vocal and instrumental themes from the subject's musical history, adding his own parts to it and glueing and expanding thus created rhetorics with improvisation in an effort to create a musical and universal reflection about pain and sorrow, as described in biblical Passion of the Jesus Christ.
Any jazz musician enters an intertemporal dialogue with the jazz history, but, for an improvising musician, to add to this dialogue classical music masters (beginning with Medieval music, through Johann Sebastian Bach, reaching Krzysztof Penderecki) is extremely uncommon, quite unique in fact. 
Zimpel enters also in a dialogue with one of the most important cultural texts written. The scenes selected upon their impact strenght follow the Gospel order : Night / Getsemani / Treason of Judas / Ridiculed King / Denial of St. Peter / Way of the Cross / Crucifixion / Death / Despair / Resurrection. As stated in the liner notes, composer's idea was to translate scenes into the sounds and to do that he would follow the rhythm and the melody of the sentences translating them into intervals.
So that's the idea, and one might have many doubts whether such a vision is adaptable for jazz music at all. Overthought? Overachieving? Overambitious? But the realization is a definite success. The music is (melodically) rich and (harmoically) deep. Solemn motivs are interlayered with cries of pain and despair. Powerfull, thunderous chords (Bobby Few is after all no stranger to fire and passion fueled music having played with Albert Ayler) meet dark and brooding tones of Zimpel's clarinets, thus creating the dramatic tension that will be at the core of this narration. Tokar is his usual raw, sometimes even brutal and Kugel can both add dark, contemplative shades (bells, gongs, wood objects) or bring out the true full-scale storm. But as much as the singular performances are stellar and particular motivs are of incredible touching nature, this is about the big picture, about the vision, and that vision succeeds. Zimpel's composition is incredibly evocative and the performance makes it also emotive and one can literally see the scenes happening through sounds.
This music is not about religious experience but a personal vision, it is also universal in a way it provokes a reflection on the theme of suffering and pain, but also brings hope. If you still don't know this one as this cd presents some of the most touching and beautiful to be found.

part of the performance of "The Passion"

Author: Bartek Adamczak

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Passion in jazz part I: Piotr Baron - Salve Regina (2003)

First part of very interesting text by Bartek Adamczak about tradition of Passion music and its connotations in Polish jazz:

I've just read an interesting short article about modern takes on "Passion" musical 'genre' that seemed long-gone until Krzysztof Penderecki brought it up again in the middle of the last century. Passion of Jesus Christ became a subject of modern readings that would often omit entirely the religious message and search for more modern and alternatives readings - like "Jesus Christ Superstar", like controversial "Last Temptation of the Christ", but could also go way back before the time of Bach into the contemplative aura of medieval harmonies as in Arvo Part's "Passio".
(Polish readers can find the article here, others can use the link to follow the youtube clips it proposes.)
I thought about writing a short note about two jazz cds that fit well into this subject (both of them were played durig the last radio program too).

Piotr Baron - tenor, soprano saxophones
Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith - trumpet
Darek Oleszkiewicz - bass
Marvin Smith - drums
Nolan Shaheed - cornet (last track only)

CelEsTis (2007)


Piotr Baron, a prolific sax player, quite respectable figure in Polish main jazz scene plays in a post-Coltrane vein (though on the mainstream side of the fence) and was never afraid of admitting, quite proud indeed, his faith and used it quite often as an inspiration (with previous CD "Bogurodzica" containing jazz readings of medieval Gregorian choruses being a good example).

"Salve Regina"'s central part are readings of three different versions (the earliest coming from the XI century, the most recent one from XVIII) of "Salve Regina" hymn. The album also features two traditional religious songs typical in Polish liturgy in the period of Lent - "Krzyżu Święty" ("Oh Holy Cross) and "Ja Jestem Zmartwychwstanie" ("I Am the Resurrection") and two Baron's originals - "Joshua 6" (referencing to Bible story of horn sound destroing the Jericho walls) and "Marysia" ("Little Mary") dedicated to his daughter.
What makes this album valuable is obviously not its religious inspiration but the way it transfers into the music. With the addition of masterfull Wadada Leo Smith and omission of a chord instrument (leaving a classic free-jazz quartet format of double horn frontline - double rhythm section), Piotr Baron ventures deeper into free jazz regions and late Coltrane music than he has ever before (although he maintains his full and round tone on the tenor). The themes are stated clearly, without any changes, a sign of respect, the monodic unisono sound of Baron and Wadada is something of a pure spirit. And the solos dig deep, into the harmony, into the message, into the essence.
Darek Oleszkiewicz, a highly demanded bass player, living in States, posesses a huge, deep and woody tone and it was the biggest surprise for me to hear (and see on the concert) him play this wild and free - reminds a lot Charlie Haden in his Coleman days (wonderfull, rich and raw sound of the arco intro to "I Am the Resurrection"). Marvin Smith adds well to this mix maintaining the pulse and pushing forward the soloists (check his playing during Baron's solo in "Salve Regina 1", and his own solo at the end of the track - powerfull and light at the same time).
The addition of free rhythm section, in contrast with solemn and focused readings of the themes, give these songs emotional power that is hard to negate. It's surprising how well those two musical tradiotions fit together (the solemn melodies give also a slight blues feeling to the music - minor keys throughout, as in "Salve Regina 3" with light drum accents and greatly anchored bass).
The music grows in a suite of reflections : beginning with dramatic and sorrowfull "O Holy Cross", through the peaceful melody of "Salve Regina 2" (stirred by Wadada's solo) until the joyful moment of "I Am the Resurrection". This is deeply felt, rich and spiritual music, coming out of religious faith, not forced, not artificial in any way. Coming also from the tradition of John Coltrane "Spiritual" - playing full of passion, engaged in a search of musical revelation. Recommended not only to completists of Wadada Leo Smith.

PS. while both originals are nice I feel they break the unity of the narration, especially the joyful ballad "Little Mary" which is a complete change of pace, although nice arrangement and sweet harmonies (3 horns in the frontline) bring to mind traditional gospel spirituals. I tend to consider them 'bonus tracks'.

"Joshua 6" starts dissonant to introduce a triumphant marching battle cry.

Author: Bartek Adamczak

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Cezariusz Gadzina Trio - Double Heart (2002)

Cezariusz Gadzina is a saxophonist who graduated from Frederic Chopin Music Academy in Warsaw. He continued his eduction in Belgium where in Royal Conservatory in Brussels he studied symphonic conducting. Since then he lives and works in Belgium and I've got acquainted with him on occasion of listening to his album "Double Heart" which was enclosed to 7-8/2002 copy of Jazz Forum magazine. 
I was very positively surprised by the sound of this completely unknown player was capable to produce: meticulous phrasing, lines curved with utmost precision yet very melodic. This was type of play one could expect from one of the masters of this instrument but not from newcomer! Unfortunately average support from rhythm section as supplied by Piet Verbist (bass) and Marek Partman (drums) spoiled somehow overall effect but I was sure then that we should hear more about this player in future.
But it turned out to be different: cut out in Belgium from Polish rich (in artistic terms of course...) jazz soil Gadzina never fulfilled the promise he made by this recording. He kind of disappeared from Polish jazz scene but fortunately remained active as musician in Belgium and is now artistic director for European Saxophone Ensamble. I hope we will hear more from him in years to come since he certainly has not forgot how to play jazz which is evidenced by this film from one of the concerts he gave last year:     



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

Friday, April 22, 2011

Ken Vandermark Resonance - Kafka in Flight (2011 by Bartek Adamczak


Thanks to Bartek Adamczak we may read about one of the most interesting free jazz albums issued in Poland this year: 

This one I've been waiting for long . I had the privilege to witness the process of coming together of the first edition of this project. In 2007 Marek Winiarski and Ken Vandermark invited musicians from all over the world to Krakow so had opportunity to practice for an entire week every morning, then to play improvised sets of music every evening and finally to perform as an orchestra on the last evening of the week (all of this material was released - Saturday concert in Lviv on LP, evening concerts and final concert in Krakow in a fantastic 10-cds "Resonance" box).
Two years later Resonance happens again, with the same line-up (one exception - Waclaw Zimpel takes over the place of Yuriy Yaremchuk), the same time of the year (main project of the Autumn Jazz Festival), the same place ("Alchemia" club which hosts the festival). 
For this venue Ken composed a series of modular pieces, a number of themes, motivs, bridges which, within the given frame of a suite, can be re-organized and re-ordered before each performance. Thus the constant elements can produce a virtually infinite number of orders, sequences - a different melody every time. You can read more about in the liner notes written by Ken himself.
As impressive as this intellectual work behind the music is, it can also easily fill your mind with doubts whether this music is not overly conceptual. But I can assure you it's not!
First tune "Pier (for Yutanaka Takanashi)" starts right away with a smoking solo by Steve Swell, no introduction, just straight into the business, with lightly swinging drums (fantastic audio realisation lets you listen closely to small differences in the way Tim and Michael syncopates), tuba and bass walking fast on the bass lanes and robust, roaring sound of the Steve's trombone soaring over. After the bridge there's another strong statement, a solo slowly getting its momentum, by Waclaw Zimpel (I'm guessing) on bass clarinet. Bridge is repeated, followed by a moody exploration (clarinets), cutted repeatedly by sudden brass section accents. Reed trio (Ken, Waclaw and Mikolaj) comes forward on clarinets with a beautifull improvisation (can't wait to hear their fresh release on Kilogram Records), and is gradually joined by brass instruments. Leaving spot for fine, adventurous duo between tuba and bass. A solemn, wonderfully orchestrated motiv (Ken utilizes perfectly the brass and reeds section distincion) introduces a great, free yet lyrical solo on alto (my guess - Mikolaj).Unaccompanied at the beginning, than pushed forward by drums, it goes into extremely high shrieking register when the motiv returns, duelling with Magnus on trumpet, piercing through the orchestra's tutti. To say the very least - there's a lot going on even considering the 20 minutes span of the piece.
There's no sense in dissecting the three pieces (the review is already too long) so I'll just mention the nasty, funky solo by Ken, that starts "Rope (for Don Ellis)", very much like Spaceway Inc., gritty and passionate, with fantastic groove provided by the 4-piece rhythm section. And Dave Rempis pierces the sky with a complete saxophone madness exposition as the sharp chords sequence starts "Coal Marker (for Chris Marker)".
Every musician has a spot to shine and they do shine indeed as the level of playing is absolutely fabulous, the focus and intensity of the execution at the top level. Its true that this one leaves more space for soloing (compared to the first edition of Resonance) but it's impossible to ignore the compositional work behind this group. All the elements of this musical puzzle are tightly arranged, with great sense of colour, dynamics, space. There's great balance to this creation. Between ferocious power of screaming horns and elegance of swinging rhythm section (and joyfull rides of trumpet or trombone on it), between the spontaneity and rigid form (which is not so rigid on the inside as the elements within are moved back and forth before every performance). Between improvisation - composition and ensemble playing - individual statement.
There's a lot of big band history in this music and a couple of nods towards to 'new music' lands explored by Territory Band. There's Ellington in the suite-form, Mingus in the blues passion, Stan Kenton and Gill Evans in the attention to colour and touch of harmonic adventure.
With an infinite possibilities of organizing the written material there's no definite execution of those compositions, but if Ken states that this concert (final on the tour) was the highlight, there's enough arguments here to trust him on that.
I'm hoping for a lot more coming from this group (cd was released right before Resonance Festival in Chicago an Milwaukee - with a set of new pieces prepared by Ken, inspired by poetry of Czeslaw Milosz, on the occasion of 100th anniversary of this great poet's birthday). In the meantime this is a great release, and you owe it to yourself to give it a try even if you don't like big groups.

many informations on the group can be found here: http://resonancefestival.blogspot.com/

Steve Swell soloing on the groove from "Rope" in Ukraina:


Author: Bartek Adamczak - check his website (Free) Jazz Alchemist 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Andrzej Przybielski with Oleś Brothers - De Profundis (Fenommedia, 2011) by Maciej Nowotny

Recent death of trumpeter Andrzej Przybielski left Polish jazz fans shocked. Who Przybielski was I wrote in this text dedicated to album he recorded with Sing Sing Penelope titled "Stirli Poeple In Jazzga" (2008). Fortunately soon after his departure news came that prior to his departure a very interesting recording was made featuring Andrzej Przybielski and Oleś Brothers, one of the best rhythm section in Polish jazz, news we were first to communicate to public (here). And not much time passed since this intriguing album has arrived to shops and I am now able to write for you few words about it.

Since I already introduced Andrzej Przybielski, let me now add something about Marcin and Bartłomiej Oleś. They have kind of special position in Polish jazz: since many years they basically play together only and developed that kind of interplay that is unique on European scene. For more information check this post dedicated to their excellent album "Walk Songs" recorded with pianist Simon Nabatov.

The music on this album is very good indeed but even better is the sound: deep, focused and bursting with inner energy. Impeccable pulse as supplied by Oleś Brothers is perfect background for spontaneous meandering of Przybielski trumpet. Although artists planned a recording session in studio (one may feel that compositions still need some polish) and I wish they had time to work longer on this material, I must say that this live recording from concert that took place in Bydgoszcz Art Cafe Węgliszek on 26th April 2010, is more than enough to be satisfactory. Although caught in statu nascendi this album surpasses anything that was issued this year under label of Polish jazz... Highly recommendable...
PS. You can buy this recoder at Fenommedia.


Author: Maciej Nowotny 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Maciej Sikała, Piotr Lemańczyk, Tyler Hornby - Able To Fly (2011)

As far as mainstream is concerned this album titled "Able To Fly" may be one of the best if not the best album so far recorded in Polish jazz this year. It is mainstream - yes, there no surprises here - yes but yet somehow depth, creativity and sheer beauty of the music wins over even such a free jazz die-hard as I am. In my opinion Piotr Lemańczyk deserves biggest applause since the sound of his double bass is like no other: deep, round, gravitational should be compared in quality with such masters as Dave Holland and Gary Peacock. He also has incredible streak of recent recordings like "Naha Poeple" (2009) featuring Tim Hagans or "Three Point Shot" (2010) with Jerry Bergonzi.
As for Maciej Sikała, he is a legend of yass movement in Poland, and recorded with Miłość band plenty of excellent music like this well-known record titled "Asthmatic" or albums with great American trumpeter Lester Bowie. Yass was the most important music phenomenon in Polish jazz in 90ties opening its language to avantgarde influences. It is quite interesting that after Miłość ended some musicians who created it has moved even deeper into avantgarde direction like Mikołaj Trzaska while others like Leszek Możdżer or Maciej Sikała have got back to mainstream. Sikała has established lasting relationship with outstanding Polish trumpeter Piotr Wojtasik (check his "Lonely Town") and, among others, with Lemańczyk as evidenced by his appearance on above mentioned "Naha Poeple".
Tyler Hornby is least-known figure to me, Canadian drummer, who back in 2007 issued a record in Poland with guitarist Maciej Grzywacz. He may count himself as fortunate to be invited by Lemańczyk and Sikała into this new project in 2008 which resulted in this exciting record now to be realeased. His drumming is energetic yet precise if somewhat too obvious at moments especially for so sensitive and creative line of Lemańczyk. 
Finally, I can only add that one rehearsal after another this recording brings me a lot of joy revealing more depth and causing more delight that many albums recorded by artists of much better-known names... 


Chromosomos at Sibiu Jazz Festival 2011

Long-forgotten Chromosomos band has all of the sudden come up as guest at Romanian Sibiu Jazz Festival this year! Hopefully it is a sign that artists will record some new material after so long brake since their previous albums: "Ultra Project" (2001) and "Phonophobis (2006). In meantime check some of their music or if you are lucky enough to be in Romania go to the concert:

Monday, April 18, 2011

Tupika - Broń rasowego rażenia (2006)

I love Polish jazz but the truth is that it is dominated vastly by mainstream with avantgarde still being underrepresented and not recognized by official jazz circles. There I want to pay my deepest respect to young musicians who irrespective of many obstacles still dedicate their talent to what is free in jazz. This time in "search of new land" set out Patryk Zakrocki (violin), Norbert Kubacz (double bass) and Paweł Szamburski (clarinet). They created this band late fall 2009 and this is their second album after "Recording Session At Rudera" (2002). This disc contains mostly archive recording from unpublished sessions and since so many years passed I doubt this band would ever again continue to record. It in fact served its role as vehicle for experimenting and developing their own style catapulting at least one of them, Paweł Szamburski, to premiere league of Polish avantgarde. You can find his clarinet on such first rate albums as "Branches Of Dirty Delight" (2009) by Horny Trees, "Istikeyt / Fargangenheit" (2010) by Cukunft or "Lark Uprising" (2010) by Ircha Quartet. 
But even without this context the music on this disc remains still fresh and challenging, by far exceeding many recordings which were made in Polish jazz afterwards. Oscillating between modern chamber music, freeimprov and delicate klezmer moods, it gives one rewarding rehearsal after another. Worthy example for other young musicians to follow showing that only the most daring souls may succeed in modern jazz and bring something unique to its heritage...



Sunday, April 17, 2011

Arszyn / Duda - ŚĘ (2010) by Stephan Moore



I have recently read few great reviews of Polish jazz records at JazzWrap and decided to invite their author to publish them on this blog as well. Stephan Moore fortunately agreed and I am happy to present you his first text. Thanks Stephan!

Arszyn/Duda
SE (Lado ABC)
Krzysztof Topolski (drums; percussion)
Tomasz Duda (sax)

First, I must thank fellow jazz blog, Polish Jazz, for turning me on to some great stuff over the last week. One such record is SE by Arszyn/Duda. This piece of incredible improvisation and experimentalism reminds me of the Ken Vandermark duo sessions of the last couple of years (especially Complete Friction) or even Sonore (with Peter Brotzmann). This improvised session was created by two young and talented musicians who have studied under some of the best in Polish improvisational jazz legends.
SE encompasses three lengthy "untitled" tracks that search, examine, devolve and reconstruct sound through fracture chords and manipulated patterns. There are also elements that remind me of the Master Musicians of Joujouku, especially in the first track which moves ever so closely towards a rolling cacophony of sound and tribal drum beats. It's fierce, blistering and sometimes painful when you're listening with headphones but I loved ever ear-splitting second of it. Track one becomes more free and sparse toward the end as Topolski and Duda share almost silent improvising moments before building up momentum into Track two which turns into a mellow yet still experimental affair.
Track two sees Topolski's pulsating drums subtely shifting in and out of range with Duda creating one and two note poems over top. Towards the end, Duda becomes more like Ornette Coleman with some really beautiful tone dialling and phrasing that may stop you in your tracks thinking there's a melody that's about to break out. Ha, Ha, you're wrong!
Track three follows a similar path but the listener experiences every emotion throughout this piece. Beginning with short half notes and periodic squeals, and lower frequency swathes of the brushes and subtle electronics, this piece than gentle brings the listen down for a soft landing after a good sixty minutes of mind blowing soundscape surgery.
Arszyn/Duda have created a real treat for all us improvisation lovers out here. SE is not for faint-at-heart. You will be hit with sound. There will be blood. This is challenging music, folks. But this is why we love jazz!

Stephan Moore
http://jazzwrap.blogspot.com/


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sławek Dudar Quartet - Brand New World (2009)

Although issued 2 years ago, it is an album that wholly deserves to be recalled as it contains passionate, rhythm-driven and very energetic music. The most distinctive voice is of course that of the leader  saxophonist Sławek Dudar who also penned all compositions apart from "Round Midnight" (T. Monk) and "Midland" (B. Childs). Dudar licks are clearly bop influenced by great sax kings of the past John Coltrane, Joe Henderson or now Joshua Redman, Chris Potter. What I like most in Dudar's play is that although acting as front-man and giving to music its identity, he nevertheless leaves enough space for all other instruments not only to resonate with leader's horn but to express their own individual style. Perfect cooperation of members of the band is in jazz best measure of the quality of music.
Second most interesting player is Grzegorz Urban whose creative presence is most strongly felt in excellent interpretation of Billy Child's classic - Urban's style is close to Child's elegant, delicate and graciously swinging play. Perfect tune! His Monk's "Round Midnight" arrangement is strange: it starts with 3 minutes rehearsal of this tune played as if to recall original and then changing totally mood into kind of dance-like version of this standard but very well played, based on some kind of Latin rhythms, perhaps calypso-like, ecstatic, joyful, uncontrollable, stunning contrast to the classic mood of introduction. Very interesting tune indeed!
Apart from those two outstanding personalities other musicians' presence is no less inspiring: Marcin Spera on double bass supplies music with strong groove pulse, his play is impeccable; Łukasz Sobolak plays on drums. Also two guests invited by the quartet are bringing a lot to the music: Maciek Mazur on guitar is excellent, as wells as Natalia Grosiak whose scat in "Brand New World" is yet another time (check "Sova" by Micromusic) when her vocal shines brightly (if little too short for my taste).
All in all, this is straight ahead playing in shamelessly mainstream idiom but in spite of that it gives one rewarding rehearsal after another. 

PS. Polscy czytelnicy na stronie RadiaJazz znajdą wyśmienitą polską recenzję tej płyty pióra Łukasza Nitwińskiego.

Check video with music of this quartet:


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Polish Jazz - Summary of 1st Quarter 2011

The end of year 2010 was outstanding for Polish jazz with such a number of excellent recordings I do not remember for years. I decided therefore to move one album issued at the very end of last year to new 2011 as it deserves all possible attention: it's "Zomo Hall" by Foton Quartet. It gathered very positive reviews in Poland and abroad. The band consists of Gerard Lebik, Artur Majewski, Jakub Cywiński, Wojciech Romanowski and if any of you got an opportunity to listen to excellent Mikrokolektyw album "Revisit", recorded for American Delmark label last year, so let me assure that here we have music no less ambitious and attractive as on those so widely recognized disc. Bravo!
Apart from "Zomo Hall" most interesting new records of the beginning of this year has come from avantgarde bands with Polish legendary Not Two label issuing following fantastic CDs: first "Kafka In  flight" by The Resonance Ensemble with Ken Vandermark, Mikołaj Trzaska and Wacław Zimpel (among other artists) plus very good "Last Train To The First Station" recorded by the same above mentioned musicians playing as Reed Trio. 
But as far as I am concerned the most inspiring of all was "Nuntium", issued by Multikulti label, with Robert Kusiołek, Anton Sjarov, Klaus Kugel and Ksawery Wójciński. Refined, intellectual, immensely deep music set on minimalistic background. 
I have just complimented on some avantgarde projects but no less interesting things have happened on mainstream side of jazz. At the very beginnig of this year Allegro label issued two interesting albums:
"Afreakan Project" by Wojciech Staroniewicz and "Facing The Challenge" by Krzysztof Pacan. Both these musicians have been known as excellent sidemen but with abovementioned albums they must be included into absolute spearhead of Polish mainstream. For Staroniewicz it is already second album as a leader after fantastic "Alternations" issued in 2008 while for Pacan it is his debut recording in this role and it's simply excellent!
Let me know review couple of albums that were most expected by Polish jazz fans in first quarter of 2011:
- Robert Majewski issued album "My One And Only Love" recorded with dream team composed of Joey Baron, Bobo Stenson i Palle Danielsson, which brought superbly played jazz, mostly emotional ballads, all well-known standards, but I was disappointed however because it was a bit too predictable and conservative for my taste.
- RGG, my favourite Polish cool jazz trio, Przemysław Raminiak, Maciej Garbowski and Krzysztof Gradziuk, whose "Unfinished Story" dedicated to Mieczysław Kosz I regard as one of masterpieces of Polish jazz, recorded new album titled "One" which has premiere in March 2011. It is very melodic and light-hearted and shall appeal rather to smooth jazz lovers than those, as I am, dedicated to avantgarde and improvised side of modern jazz. 
- MWT, Marcin Wasilewski Trio, records for legendary ECM label and is perhaps the best known Polish jazz combo abroad (Tomasz Stańko bands aside). Their new album "Faithful" is step forward in the direction of avantjazz but rather careful and subtle. Still music of MWT retained its unique identity and is pure joy to listen to. 
- CNS, that is Contemporary Noise Sextet, is a band founded by Kapsa brothers, recorded new album as well, "Ghostwriter's Joke". I see this band as one of the most interesting among those young and brave collectives which transgress the boundaries of what we typically associate with jazz. Their previous albums like "Pig In Gentleman" i "Unaffected Thought Flow", uniting jazz, film, rock and pop music were simultaneously ambitious and very sexy. Their newest record however has brought even more rock or even post-punk climates and thus lost some of its appeal to my sensitive and picky ears.
- Wojtek Mazolewski, one of the most prolific Polish musicians these days, recorded with his quintet an album titled "Smell Like Tape Spirit" which is as good and inspiring as recent "Monster Of Jazz" he recorded with Pink Freud. 
All albums mentioned in this note deserve strong recommendation! 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Jerzy Małek confirms new record for August this year...


One of the most interesting concerts I've been to this year was that of Jerzy Małek Quintet in Warsaw's Skwer jazz club. Jerzy Małek (trumpet) appeared there in excellent company of Marcin Wasilewski (piano), Michał Miśkiewicz (drums), Łukasz Poprawski (alto sax), Max Mucha (b) and, as guest, Radek Nowicki (tenor sax). They gave a breathtaking show with Małek annoucing new album of this quintet to be recorded soon. Małek has an extremely succesful streak of recordings as sideman and in just few recent months he has taken part in such highly succesful recordings as Rafał Sarnecki's "The Madman Rambles Again" (2011), Krzysztof Pacan's "Facing The Challenge" (2011) or Tomek Sowiński's "Synergy" (2010). It is therefore quite understandable that I am waiting impatiently for his next album as a leader and I am happy to inform you that it is already recorded and  due to be issued in the end of August 2011. Certainly one of the records I would like to listen to once it'll arrive to music stores...  
Different line-up but please check this video to listen to Jerzy Małek play on trumpet:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Lora Szafran - Śpiewnik Nahornego (2003)

Confiteor, 2003











This record whose title may be translated as "Nahorny Songbook" contains compositions of pianist Włodzimierz Nahorny. Born in 1941 Nahorny's career is noteworthy for his numerous and successful collaborations with jazz vocalists. The albums he recorded with Breakout, Marjanna Wróblewska and Novi Singers are one of the most interesting in history of Polish vocal jazz.
This album however is only kind of sentimental journey through moods and sounds that were popular in 70ties of 80ties in Polish pop embellished by nice jazz singing by Lora Szafran. Nothing new and exciting is going on here unfortunately...
Check this sweet song by immortal Jeremi Przybora as sung by Lora Szafran:



Sunday, April 10, 2011

Łukasz Łagocki - Crossroads (2010)

I believe it is debut recording of young pianist Łukasz Łagocki and I admit it was close to be overlooked by me among real flood of excellent jazz recordings at the end of last year. Fortunately a friend of mine, Steve Dolan (you can buy this album at his web store: http://www.stevesjazzsounds.co.uk/) has turned my attention towards it and  I discovered music that is excellently thought-out, superbly played and very enjoyable.
Łukasz Łagocki plays on piano and Fender Rhode and we owe to him all compositions (one written with Stanoszek). Łagocki sound on piano shows his classical background, reminding me styles of Fred Hersch or Kenny Werner, while his play on Fender Rhodes is even more interesting, spacious, thoughtful and very sensitive reminding me best years of Chick Corea's Return To Forever band.  
But throughout the album the most imposing is a presence of Israeli flutist Yael Acher with all other instruments graciously turning around his captivating solos. Apart from his conversations with Łagocki, Acher sounds the best when in dialogues with veteran violinist Henryk Gembalski. Once a part of Young Power, a most important band in Polish mainstream jazz in 80ties last century, Gembalski recorded more than 30 albums and since 2000 is working in Katowice Music Academy teaching jazz violin.
Rhytm section consisting of bassist Olo Walicki, a member of legendary Miłość band of 90ties, one of main actors of yass revolution in Poland, and Henryk Stanoszek deserve word of praise as well giving to music not only necessary pulse but breath and spatiality.   
Tending towards cool jazz moods and dominated by flute this album should be compared with latest recordings by flutists Krzysztof Popek and Leszek Hefi Wiśniowski. Lacking Wiśniowski's aggressiveness and bravery it nonetheless surpasses excellently played but too conservative project of Popek: not bad for a debut I would say and giving a promise of more interesting things in future from this young and intelligent player.
Check following link for music from this album: http://www.myspace.com/lukaszlagocki

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Rafał Sarnecki - The Madman Rambles Again (2011) by Maciej Nowotny

Last year I had an opportunity to listen to three CDs of young and very talented Polish mainstream guitarists: Daniel Popiałkiewicz "The Hope For Tomorrow" (2010), Przemek Strączek "Light & Shadow" (2010) and Rafał Sarnecki "Songs From A New Place" (2008). And couple of days ago I got Rafał Sarnecki's new album "The Madman Rambles Again", second after abovementioned debut recording. I am glad to write that it is step forward which evidenced on three different levels. 

First, the music is more diversified than on his previous CD since he added a horn section. Lucas Pino, alto saxophonist from Phoenix, is living in New York now, where he met Sarnecki who then was studying there at Aaron Copland School of Music. Pino has an interesting sound, a little edgy yet meticulous phrasing shows evident influence of great New York masters of past as Parker, McLean, Konitz and present like David Binney, Steve Lehman and most of all Chris Potter. He is accompanied by Jerzy Małek, a top young trumpeter from Poland, a type of player who fits well everywhere, like in recent recording with above mentioned guitarist Przemek Strączek, where they played dialogues in Jim Hall and Chet Baker cool jazz manner. Here Jerzy Małek plays on more aggressive, bopish note and he is equally good. Outstanding! It is noteworthy that Sarnecki kept intact a very decent rhythm section from "Songs From A New Place" in persons of Paweł Kaczmarczyk (piano), Wojciech Pulcyn (bass) and Łukasz Żyta (drums) who in two songs (tracks 4,5) is replaced by Paweł Dobrowolski. On two tracks (1,3) pulse is augmented by percussion of Jose Manuel Alban Juarez.

Second, all songs on this record are originals composed by Sarnecki and as Tomasz Stańko noted, who made a kind introduction to this album, "(they) are cohesive and interesting". Some of them are real vamps, "The Student Protest" being an example, a film with which I enclose at the end of this post and recommend to take a look at. Generally speaking music is accessible, melodic, mainstream jazz with clear New York bopish as well as Latin influences.

Third, the album is issued by good label Fresh Sound New Talent for which Piotr Wyleżoł recorded his noteworthy "Children's Episodes" (2009). Congratulations for both Rafał Sarnecki and Spanish label for being able to identify an interesting young player. It is available worldwide through Blue Sounds and Amazon distribution.  

"Student Protest" is an opening tune, truly a vamp, evidencing Sarnecki's extraordinary talent for composing catchy melodies:



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

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Arszyn / Duda - ŚĘ (2010) by Ryan McMichael























My goal is to present as many views on Polish jazz as possible, preferably from different countries, not only from Poland where I come from. I am therefore very grateful to Ryan MacMichael for contributing to this project with his text and hope it will be lasting relationship. His first review is about one of the most interesting album of the last year, not yet featured here, which is balancing between avantjazz and freeimprov. 
Please, visit Ryan's website: http://www.laze.net/ to get to know more about his musical and other ramblings...

Lado ABC, 2010

The duo of Arszyn (Krysztof Topolski) (percussion) and Tomasz Duda (sax) joined forces in 2010 to release a powerful 65-minute improvised/free jazz piece titled ŚĘ on Lado ABC. Arszyn is known for his experimental percussion and electroacoustic work. He’s also a member of the Polish Society for Electroacoustic Music. Duda you may recognize for his work with Baaba, Pink Freud, and other well-known names from the Polish jazz underground.
ŚĘ’s intense first six minutes feature Duda’s sax playing the role of a buzzing fly, the rapid, staccato notes flitting around the listener’s head. From there, it transforms into a series of Morse code dots and dashes before returning to insect form with bee-buzz notes held for an almost inhuman length of time. It’s a noteworthy opening to a noteworthy album.
Arszyn’s percussion plays a subtle background role until the sixth minute, where the focus shifts to him. From there, the pair play with sounds, repetition, call-and-response, and barely-controlled chaos. There’s no doubt, it’s not an easy listen. ŚĘ is anything but gentle. Yet, it manages to be screechy and subtle simultaneously. There are moments of intensity that will leave the listener barely able to move punctuated by sections of transitional, subdued squeals and percussive brushwork. Breathing, coughing, snoring, speaker buzzing... it’s all part of the soundscape.
Though it is a challenging listen, ŚĘ is a remarkable piece of work and definitely a worthy addition to both musicians’ discographies.

Ryan MacMichael


Check this site for samples of music from the album: 


Monday, April 4, 2011

Królowie saksofonu

Królowie saksofonu! To w dużej mierze dzięki nim mamy jazz taki, jaki dzisiaj kochamy, to oni nadawali kierunki, w jakich on się rozwijał, określali jego tożsamość na nowo, dostosowując go do danej epoki i zmieniających się czasów. Charlie Parker, właściwie jego alt, stworzył ten sposób improwizacji na saksofonie, który kojarzymy z bopem, a później, niemal wszyscy, mniej lub bardziej naśladowali jego styl. Jego ścieżką poszedł John Coltrane, ale w pewnym momencie znalazł swój własny niepowtarzalny sound (przypomnijmy: grał na tenorze), potem zaś współtworzył nową free jazzową estetykę z następnym gigantem tego instrumentu, jakim był Ornette Coleman. Coleman nagrywa do dzisiaj (jego album „Sound Grammar” z 2006 jest po prostu świetny!), a gdyby chcieć traktować historię jazzu linearnie, jak przecież wielu sobie życzy, chociażby piszący tutaj niekiedy (zbyt rzadko!) Paweł Baranowski, to następni powinni być Albert Ayler i Archie Shepp. Bóg Ojciec, Duch Święty i Syn – jak ktoś nazwał ich kiedyś żartem (chociaż wielu za tego ostatniego uważa raczej Pharoaha Sandersa). 
Ale przecież na rozwój jazzu można patrzeć nie tylko chronologicznie, ale jak na drzewo, które wypuszcza gałęzie w różne strony i wcale nie jest jasne, która sięgnie najwyżej, ku światłu. Bo czyż można pominąć w historii jazzowego saksofonu takie postaci, jak Wayne Shorter, Micheal Becker (kapitalne przeróbki jego utworów prezentuje ostatnio w krakowskim Piecarcie Paweł Kaczmarczyk) czy David Sanborn? Każdy z nich wywarł na jazz wpływ olbrzymi, nie do przecenienia, nawet jeśli nieraz ich artystyczna droga kończyła się ślepym zaułkiem. 

A dzisiaj kto może aspirować do takiej roli? Wielu wskaże Kena Vandermarka, o którego znaczeniu pisałem niedawno przy okazji płyty trio Free Fall „Grey Scale”, gdzie jego kreatywność przypomniała mi znane z fizyki „ruchy Browna”. Ale dla wielu Vandermark będzie zbyt nieokiełznany i wskażą raczej Chrisa Pottera, którego pełno wszędzie i to nie tylko po free jazzowej, ale głównie po mainstreamowej stronie jazzu. Wszakże właśnie przez tę swoją kompromisowość i pociąg ku komercyjnym projektom dla wielu będzie niestrawny, podobnie jak choćby taki Joshua Redman czy Branford Marsalis, którzy mimo marketingowego zgiełku, który ich otacza, miejsca wśród wielkich moim zdaniem raczej nie zajmą.

Może zatem warto, abyście zwrócili uwagę na Davida Binneya, który jest jednym z najbardziej kreatywnych saksofonistów młodego pokolenia i jednym z nielicznych, którzy pokazują, że można iść ścieżką jazzowej awangardy, a jednocześnie zachować kontakt z szeroką publicznością.
Moje pierwsze z nim spotkanie miało miejsce przy okazji przesłuchania płyty „Welcome To Life”, wydanej w 2004 roku, która to płyta wywarła na mnie niezatarte wrażenie. Nigdzie i nigdy nie słyszałem, żeby jakiś jazzman potrafił wykreować podobny nastrój: opisałbym go jako mieszankę niepewności i rezygnacji, a jednocześnie niezrównanego, metafizycznego piękna. Jest to bardzo rzadkie połączenie emocji szalenie trudnych do wyrażenia w muzyce, a płyta w mojej opinii ociera się o status arcydzieła. Od tamtej pory skaczę to w tył, to w przód, eksplorując cierpliwie liderski dorobek Binneya i nie znalazłem żadnej słabej płyty (jeszcze jedna cecha, która łączy go z największymi). 

Zresztą ci najwięksi bardzo mu pomogli, bo pobierał nauki u boku Phila Woodsa, George’a Colemana czy Davida Liebmana (jak nasz młody pianista Mateusz Kołakowski), a na jego płytach znaleźć można nazwiska takich tuzów, jak Uri Caine czy Bill Frisell. Ale od tych wielkich postaci może nawet istotniejsze są nazwiska jego rówieśników, bo to creme de la creme nowojorskiej awangardy. I właśnie na jego najnowszym krążku, zatytułowanym „Graylen Epicenter”, towarzyszą mu między innymi Craig Taborn (grywa ostatnio w Nowym Jorku z Tomaszem Stańko), Wayne Krantz, Chris Potter, Brian Blade, pojawia się nawet wokal niezrównanej Gretchen Parlato.
Tak, „Graylen Epicenter” Davida Binneya, wydana pod koniec stycznia tego 2011 roku, to dokładnie epicentrum światowego jazzu, kompas wskazujący kierunek, co powinno dać wiele do myślenia naszym pięknie swingującym młodym muzykom. Bo najpiękniejszy jazz, śmiem twierdzić, rodzi się, gdy artysta potrafi, jak niegdyś rzymski bóg Janus, patrzeć jednocześnie za i przed siebie…


Autor tekstu: Maciej Nowotny


Arek Skolik Checkmate Quintet - Mirror Gambit (2002)

The ranks of Polish jazz are deep which is evidenced in Arek Skolik case: although known by few he is top drummer deserving to be counted among the best, not only in Poland. It is his second album as leader after first "Checkmate" (1998) and before third "Detour Ahead" (2010).  Musically it is straight ahead jazz, it may sound even a bit old-fashioned but God! that's well played indeed. It's smooth as a silk, as stylish as Aston Martin among ordinary cars, as smart as Gucci clad gentleman among Chinese party members from era of Mao.
As any good music, this one is as good as sidemen who are playing, and in this case they are outstanding: Michał Walczak (guitars), Paweł Smorąg (saxophones), Krzysztof Pacan (bass), Bogusz Wekka ( percussion, congas) Paweł Rozkrut (bells),  Piotr Biazik (accordion) and Irena Kijewska (vocal) singing in very interesting version of Komeda "Sleep Safe And Warm" from Polański's film "Rosemary's Baby".
From line-up one can even draw conclusion that the strongest side of music is rhythm: all is bouncing here, leaping and thudding in a most attractive manner. Some of players involved in creating this wonderful pulse have made thereafter big careers like bassist Krzysztof Pacan whose last album "Facing The Challenge" (2011) is outstanding and Bogusz Wekka who is recognized as excellent sideman and played, among many other projects,  in Paweł Kaczmarczyk Audiofeeling Band on his "Compelexity In Simplicity" (2009), the record of the year 2009 in Poland accordin to Jazz Forum magazine.
The program contains all originals except aforementioned standard by Komeda, it's superbly played, it's optimistic, it's fresh so I can only say that if you like good old jazz just go for it without hesitation!
Check Arek Skolik site for music samples from his last album and this film for one song from "Mirror Gambit":


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Contemporary Noise Sextet - Ghostwriter's Joke (2011)

I love this band so please bear in mind that my opinion is biased: in this case the problem is that I had expectations too high. First record of then Contemporary Noise Quintet "Pig Inside Gentleman" (2006) simply turn my jazz gusto upside down. It was simply tour-de-force, something completely new in Polish music, a perfect blend of jazz, rock, pop, film music: it was sexy as hell and yet appealed to such a conneiseurs as I pretend to be. Because of its originality it was either loved or hated but the most important is that nobody remained  indifferent. 
With their next record "Unaffected Thought Flow" (2008) the band expanded into six regular members (plus guests). It resulted in even more diversified sound quite unlike for group operating on the vestiges of jazz and popular music. With this record even skeptics became convinced that Contemporary Noise Sextet is new significant force in Polish jazz and they began to be counted among strongest young bands such as Pink Freud or Sing Sing Penelope (Tomek Glazik and Wojtek Jachna played in both SSP and CNS). The success of those two albums helped them also to be recognized abroad which resulted in German Denovali Rec. and Japanese Zankyo Rec. issuing their CD as well as their own Polish Electric Eye Rec.
Their third issue, "Theater Play Music" (2008), was quite different story and is still waiting to be described on this blog. So let me now focus now on their newest album: what is it like?
First of all it confirms thoroughly that they developed their own language, immediately recognized after listening to first bars of the music: a dream fulfilled for any players. Film music connotations are even stronger than before: one rehearsal after another I tried to imagine a narrative that might fit to this dynamic and story-telling music.
On the other hand I must confess that  music on this record moved from typical jazz spatiality to rock aggressiveness and thus lost some of its grip over me. I never liked rock, I hate loudness and din, I despise ostinato pulse present from first to last second of this album. One could expect that such evolution of the band's sound may happen as shortly before recording of this album the artists involved in this project reactivated their former band Something Like Elvis, a legend of Polish postpunk scene. 
Well, it is sad, but I simply feel like my old friends went their own way, quite separate from my gusto, but I appreciate their decisions and bid them farewell. Could it be that we shall meet again in a future...? 
Check this film about making of the album containing a sample of music:


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Przemysław Strączek Group - Light & Shadow (2010)

Second album by guitarist Przemek Strączek as a leader is a very interesting work indeed. Great part of the success of this album lays in Strączek inviting Jerzy Małek, probably the most promising young mainstream trumpeter in Poland. Their style fit each other perfectly: Strączek mellow, warm, elegant chops with Małek crystalline, virtuosic, precise licks. They remind me duos of great masters of the past like Jimmy Hall and Chet Baker. Those two are main figures on this album but their colorful playing is augmented by excellent background created by rhythm section in persons of Maciej Garbowski (double bass) known from fantastic RGG trio and Sebastian Kuchczyński (drums), another promising young drummer from Katowice Music Academy, like  Daniel Fortuna or Sebastian Frankiewicz, who are making their way to the top of Polish jazz players.   They are in few songs accompanied by String Quartet (Marta Bielawska, Leszek Dzierżęga, Karolina Pazdro, Ewelina Mrozek) but this CD first of all remains piece of tasty straight ahead jazz. Technical mastery, depth of the sound, diversified compositions all contribute to album that not only should be noted among many other great jazz recordings of year 2010 but also is  a promise of even better things in future  from Przemek Strączek and his talented companions.

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


Friday, April 1, 2011

RGG - One (2011) by Maciej Nowotny

I wonder a little whether it is a pure coincidence but the fact is that right after Polish premiere of Marcin Wasilewski Trio new album "Faithful" on 4th March, on 12th of the same month a premiere of RGG trio album titled "One" took place. And so my Marantz CD player is now munching music of both trios and I see in his quartz eyes the same hesitation which you could find in mine: which is better? Before I answer this question let me first say few words about RGG record since about Marcin Wasilewski's "Faithful" I wrote in last post.
Album opens with "One", composition by Maciej Garbowski (doublebass), a very representative tune for RGG style: pensive, gracious, charismatic. Perfect cooperation between Przemysław Raminiak (piano), Maciej Garbowski and Krzysztof Gradziuk (drums): they indeed sound like one.
Marcin Wasilewski plays on his album composition of Paul Bley "Big Foot" and by another astounding coincidence we have on this album a composition by his wife Carla Bley "Around Again" (check original and new version). Broken rhythms, dissonances and meandering of collective improvisations remind us that RGG last album "True Story" was all 2 CD free jazz playing - the territory where they feel very comfortable already.
Third "Bell", again by Garbowski, is splendid tune where there is very little melody, only scratches of rhythm, glimpses of tempos, harmonies barely sketched. Thoughtful piano of Raminiak conversates as if in dream with rustling drums of Gradziuk and Garbowski's double action involving play with fiddlestick. Fourth "Spring Walk", by Przemysław Raminiak, is a wamp, the moment you listen to it, you remember it and for ever.
Next is Richie Beirach's (p), "Elm", another splendid tune, check this version recorded with George  Mraz (b) and Jack DeJohnette (d), again played so consistently as intended by trio to show audience that whether speaking in free or mainstream jazz language they retain their own, unique sound identity.
Following "From the Other Hand" (6) is by Raminiak and through "Almost Blues" (7), "The Truth" (8) and "Out of Row" (9) all by Garbowski music is flowing impeccably alternately low or up tempo. With "C.T." (10) dedicated to Cecil Taylor, a collective improvisation dominated by ramshackled piano, we are on more interesting territory but soon "Stop&Think" follows presumably as inteded counterpoint to wild din of previous song.   
We are now getting closer to the end of the album with last song before last "When My Anger Starts to Cry" by Norwegian band BeadyBelle, a great hit, easily recognized here  and yet transformed into small jazz gem. Finally another drop of collective improvisation in "On the Way to Road 11". Wonderful!
So let me get back to the question: which album is better? I must confess that up to this moment RGG trio was my favourite: I regard their "Unfinished Story" as masterpiece and their last "True Story", double CD, exclusively improvised as magnificent work. But with this album they kind of step back toward more accessible music which will perhaps appeal to wider audience but which leave me a little bit disappointed because my tastes shifted significantly over years toward avantjazz and freeimprov music. I therefore regard Marcin Wasilewski trio "Faithful" as a winner this time: it's as melodic and charming as "One" but more focused on avant jazz side, though I admit that once collective improvisation is concerned alone RGG prevails. Goddamn! That's  hard choice. Perhaps it's better to say that such great artists shouldn't be compared for one is certain: musicianship is on both albums on the same absolutely stellar level. Bravo!


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


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