Monday, January 30, 2012

Zbigniew Namyslowski Quartet (Polish Jazz Vol. 6, 1966)

Zbigniew Namysłowski Quartet (band) 

Zbigniew Namysłowski - alto sax
Adam Matyszkowicz (Makowicz) - piano
Janusz Kozłowski - bass
Czesław Bartkowski - drums

(Polish Jazz Vol. 6, 1966)

(Editor) One of the best and most significant recordings of then just 27-years old legendary Polish altoist Zbigniew Namysłowski...

"Jazz fills up my life. It means to me everything -- said Namyslowski. -- Playing in a quartet suits me best... Until recently I did not set great store by composition. But now to be successful one cannot merely play Horace Silver's themes and other people's arrangements. And so I have created my own quartet and my own music, to be able to play what I want and how I want...". 

Quoting these words I cannot help recalling a thin and insignificant looking boy who burdened with a huge cello scrambled on to the gigantic stage of the Forest Opera in order to play with the Modern Combo group, which was taking part at the II International Jazz Festival at Sopot (August 1957), as a completely unknown soloist. And yet a few years later Zbyszek Namyslowski won recognition not only with jazz fans and connoisseurs at home but also with the exacting critics abroad -- after numerous tours of his quartet in such countries as Italy, Belgium, West Germany, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Finland, USA. Namyslowski went through most suitable stages before he achieved his present-day results; he played the trombone in traditional and swing bands, for some time also the trumpet and cornet, and when there was need he accompanied the vocalists on piano. 

But the ambitious musician was never after the label of a "multi-instrumentalist". Eventually he chose the alto saxophone in which he could prove himself completely. What we appreciate with Namyslowski particularly is his equally enthusiastic attitude to all styles in jazz; he is always himself while playing hard-bop along with rhythm and blues, free-jazz and the third current along with the fringes of pop-music, and who at the same time would feel an irresistible fascination towards new ventures? A separate chapter could be devoted to Namyslowski's compositions, the more so that his ambition is to draw inspiration from Polish folk-lore which leads to the sort of music that Poland exports as her contribution to the world of jazz. 

While writing on Namyslowski we must say a few words about the remaining members of the band as they also have their say in modern jazz. The pianist ADAM MATYSZKOWICZ (b. 1940) made his first steps as jazzman within the Cracow "jazz boheme"; in 1963 he made his mark as member of "The Jazz Darlings", and already in those days critics predicted him a fine career which was to lead him subsequently to appearances in the quartet of the known Polish tenore saxophonist Michal Urbaniak. His greatest success abroad was his accompanying to the known Polish group "Novi" which won the first prize at the 15th International Jazz Festival in Zurich (1965). The percussionist CZESLAW BARTKOWSKI also became a jazzman in a student milieu having begun his career in the FAR quartet. In 1961 he made himself known to the wider public at the International Jazz Jamboree at the Warsaw Philharmonic, then he participated in the triumphant tour of Namyslowski's quartet (among others in Britain, Italy, West Germany). From time to time he joins other bands such as the excellent quartet of the Polish pianist Krzysztof Komeda. The bass player JANUSZ KOZLOWSKI (b. 1941) started, like his colleagues, as member of modern student bands. For some time he played with traditional bands such as "Warsaw Stompers", Ragtime Jazz Band, the group Bossa Nova Combo and "Pagart's" big band with whom he went on numerous tours abroad.

Siodmawka (Seven-Four Bars) -- After the composition based on Polish mountaineer's themes called "Piatawka" (Five-Four Bars) in which Namyslowski used rarely appearing in jazz rhythm 5/4, the composer went here still farther and used in "Siodmawka" the beat 714. Along with the free form we hive here harmonies of a mountaineer's tune. This is undoubtedly one of the most interesting items of the record. 

Despair -- In respect of melody and harmony, an equally interesting piece. This is a twelve-bar form of  blues, but without the use of the blues scale. 

Frances the Terror -- Here we come to know the quartet operating within free-jazz, the sort of music which perhaps does not appeal to all, but expresses, however, the artistic changes occurring in our days and the evolution of jazz. The band is improvising in two tempi, two phases, and does it very consistently. 

The Beetle Humming in the Reeds -- A folk-tune again, this time it's a Krakowiak. The quartet plays it with dash and half-jokingly. 

My Dominique -- A typical ballad of simple harmonies, in slow tempo. The composer wrote it with his little daughter, Dominika, in mind. 

The Wardrobe -- The composition, which is being played dynamically and in a "dirty" way, may be regarded as a mixture: free harmony + big beat. Let's hear what's been the result. 

Mead Drinker Lola -- A sort of Charleston, a musical joke with typical solo parts. It can do without commentary, being simply a musical relaxation. 

"Despite the comings and goings of our many American visitors in 1964, one of the most refreshing things to hit the British jazz scene last year was the visit of these four young Poles. This album... is a striking illustration of the high standard of European jazz. ("Melody Maker", London, Jan. 9th 1965) "...As an orthodox modern jazz group, they possess all the qualities one would look for in their American counterpart... As a group, the four men are obviously well accustomed to each other's playing.. In addition their music has a strange attractive flavor which one can only put down to their contact with Polish folk music...".  

(Editor) Please check "The Wardrobe" (Szafa) from this album:

Text:  original line notes from the album's back cover ("The Times", London, 18.3.1966)

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