Sunday, February 3, 2013

Slawomir Jaskulke – Live Gdynia Summer Jazz Days 2001 (2002)

Slawomir Jaskulke - piano
Maciej Sikala - saxophone
Piotr Lemanczyk - bass
Tomasz Sowinski - drums

ALLEGRO 003





By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by Polish Jazz pianist / composer Slawomir Jaskulke, recorded live in a classic trio / quartet setting with saxophonist Maciej Sikala, bassist Piotr Lemanczyk and drummer Tomasz Sowinski. The album presents five original compositions; three of which are by the leader and two are by Sikala. The first two numbers are performed by the trio and the other three by the quartet.

Jaskulke is considered as one of the most brilliant representatives of the young generation of Polish Jazz pianists and his achievements during the first decade of the 21st Century are indeed remarkable and include performances around the globe and numerous recordings as leader and sidemen (including those with the veteran Polish Jazz icon Zbigniew Namyslowski). He has also composed music for theatre and cinema.

Anybody listening to this album at the time of its release should have expected great things from Jaskulke, as it is a truly outstanding debut. The trio numbers present Jaskulke as an amazing piano virtuoso, playing in a unique style, which is incredibly percussive and powerful, whereas the quartet numbers present his gentler side as a balladeer, playing beautifully restrained melodic phrases or as an ensemble player of great sensitivity. Such incredible versatility is very rare indeed and when executed with a magic touch like the one he presents here, it is simply marvelous. Considering the fact that Jaskulke was only twenty two years old at the time of the recording one must admit that this is a discovery of an extraordinary talent.

Musically the trio and the quartet are also quite different, with the material written by the leader being much more open and often freely structured, whereas the numbers written by the saxophonist are pretty standard mainstream Jazz compositions, both very good, but not special in any way. In a sense it seems as if these two different settings belong on two separate albums, but what was done can not be undone, so one should enjoy the fact that this marvelous music was captured for posterity and we can listen to it again and again.

The rhythm section performs exactly as expected, changing the volume and presence according to the specific requirements of the moment, always there when one expects them to be, keeping perfect time (which is not always easy here) and modestly displaying another level of virtuosity. Together the ensemble sounds like an unstoppable locomotive, which runs amok, especially in the last tune.

This is definitely an album every Jazz piano lover should listen to, sooner or later, an experience he'll never regret nor forget. Wholeheartedly recommended!

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