Monday, February 11, 2013

Tone Raw - Tone Raw (2012)

Marek Konarski - saxophone
Sebastian Zawadzki - piano
Thomas Kolarczyk - bass
Kuba Gudz - drums

SOS 12012

By Adam Baruch

This is a phenomenal debut album by a young (very young) Polish Jazz quartet Tone Raw, which consists of saxophonist Marek Konarski, pianist Sebastian Zawadzki, bassist Thomas Kolarczyk and drummer Kuba Gudz. All four are music students, two of them in Berlin and two others in Odense, Denmark (where many Polish young musicians set out to study Jazz at the local Academy of Music). The album consists of nine tracks, five of which were composed by the pianist, one each by the saxophonist and the drummer, one by a fellow Danish student and one by the godfather of Polish Jazz Krzysztof Komeda, which is performed solo by the pianist. The album was recorded at the Studio Tokarnia and engineered by Jan Smoczynski, with the usual spectacular sonic result.

It is truly impossible to guess the age of these musicians just from listening to the album, as they project incredible maturity both as performers and composers. The music, which although is based on solid melodic themes, is full of space and freedom, allowing the players and the listener to float willingly somewhere in the vicinity without being constrained in any way. The melodies have a subtle, but recognizable ethnic influence, which encompasses such diverse (culturally) areas as Eastern Europe, Middle East or Scandinavia. But in spite the different influences, the music presents quite a recognizable stylistic unity, which is extremely rare among young ensembles. Zawadzki, who is the most prominent composer on this album, and who also plays the solo piano piece, is perhaps at the focal point herein, but it seems that the teamwork and mutual respect shift the focal point towards the cooperative effort rather than individual statements.

The overall effect of the album is typical European Jazz aesthetics, which not only refuses to be forgotten, but keeps pushing the envelope of the genre further and further away from its 20th Century sources, traditions and limitations. These youngsters understand subconsciously that Jazz, Classical Music and Folklore are simply different manifestations of the same Cultural asset, a resource, which one can explore at will, guided only by one's intrinsic sense of beauty, intelligence and above all talent. And there is certainly a lot of talent on this album.

These players and their music deserve the attention of Polish Jazz enthusiasts, as they certainly have a lot of potential, which they have just started to explore. If this is their starting point, one might only wonder what they are capable of creating in the not too distant future. Definitely a striking debut effort!


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