Friday, January 4, 2013

Laboratorium – Anthology 1971-1988 (2006)

Janusz Grzywacz - keyboards, leader
Marek Stryszowski - saxophone, vocals
Pawel Scieranski - guitar
Krzysztof Scieranski - bass
Mieczyslaw Gorka - drums
Ryszard Styla - guitar
Krzysztof Olesinski - bass
Andrzej Mrowiec - drums
Jan Pilch - percussion


By Adam Baruch

This box set compiles all the albums released by the Polish Jazz-Rock Fusion ensemble Laboratorium, which was without a shadow of a doubt one of the best and most important Fusion outfits in Eastern Europe before the fall of the Iron Curtain. Over the years the band managed to release ten albums, an unprecedented achievement at the time, of which seven were studio recordings, two were recorded live and the last one was a compilation of previously unreleased tracks. Two of the studio albums were released on the legendary Polish Jazz Series (Volumes 49 and 58). All the ten albums were remastered for this box set release and expanded with a plethora of bonus tracks, which include studio outtakes, radio and live performances and mini-sleeved. The booklet includes a detail history of the band and reflections about the albums by the band's founder / leader keyboardist / composer Janusz Grzywacz.

As all ensembles Laboratorium changed lineups over the years, but enjoyed relatively steady personnel for extended periods of time, which undoubtedly added to their success. Most of their material, which is covered by their second to sixth albums (and the compilation album), was recorded by a steady lineup, which included in addition to the leader also saxophonist / vocalist Marek Stryszowski, guitarist Pawel Scieranski, bassist Krzysztof Scieranski and drummer Mieczyslaw Gorka. On the later albums the lineup includes Grzywacz and Stryszowski (who are the only musicians appearing on all the ten albums) with guitarist Ryszard Styla, bassist Krzysztof Olesinski, drummer Andrzej Mrowiec and percussionist Jan Pilch. The debut recording, which initially occupied only one side of an LP, features the legendary Polish violinist Zbigniew Seifert and is stylistically quite close to Free Jazz in contrast to the Fusion direction adopted later.

The band performed only original music, which of course was a courageous decision, and with a singular exception, all the music enclosed herein was composed by Laboratorium members, mostly by the leader but also by others or co-composed by the band. Over the years Grzywacz emerged as a first rate tune-weaver with an excellent ability to write great melodies and riffs, which make the music accessible, even when it becomes quite complex. The music remains intelligent and ambitious throughout, with a remarkable consistency of high-level quality. But the most important factor of Laboratorium was its ability to constantly evolve and change, which is quite evident to anybody listening to the music in the proper historic order. Grzywacz slowly moved from acoustic to electric piano and then to synthesizers, but never indulged in mindless pyrotechnics which so many of his colleague keyboardists fell victim to during that period of time. Laboratorium managed to avoid that terrible, obnoxious 1980s cheesy synthesizer sound, which is a success in itself.

Although most of the music performed by Laboratorium is instrumental, they used the human voice time and again in an instrumental capacity. These vocalese experiments are all quite interesting and present another layer of the band's musical range. It seems that Polish Jazz is particularly fond of such experimentation since its early days and it's definitely interesting to hear how Laboratorium handled them.

There are endless moments of musical joy inside this box set; virtuosic performances by the musicians, especially those by Krzysztof Scieranski, who stands easily shoulder to shoulder with such bass heroes as Jaco Pastorius, beautiful melodies, funky grooves, superb guitar and keyboards solos, in short Fusion heaven for all connoisseurs of the genre. I can't imagine any Fusion fan anywhere on this planet not being melted away by the beauty of this music.

The box set is an individually numbered limited edition and if you can put your hands on a copy, don't you dare to hesitate even for a moment – it's worth its weight in gold!

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