Thursday, February 14, 2013

Zbigniew Namyslowski – Dances (1997)

Zbigniew Namyslowski - saxophone, flute, trombone
Krzysztof Herdzin - piano
Olgierd Walicki - bass
Grzegorz Grzyb - drums
Cezary Paciorek - accordion
Maciej Strzelczyk - violin
Jose Torres - percussion


By Adam Baruch

This album by veteran Polish Jazz saxophonist / composer Zbigniew Namyslowski summarizes many years of his career by concentrating on one of the most important characteristics of his music: the symbiosis of Jazz and World Music, or more precisely Jazz and folklore, as represented by dances from different regions. The album comprises of fourteen original compositions by Namyslowski, all of which are based on specific dance rhythms, like tango, waltz and samba or Polish folk dances like mazurka, kujawiak and oberek. Several of the compositions included on this album are new arrangements of compositions recorded and released previously over time.

The music is performed by a quartet, which besides Namyslowski, who plays saxophone, flute and trombone (his original instrument) includes also pianist Krzysztof Herdzin, bassists Olgierd Walicki and drummer Grzegorz Grzyb. Three additional players expand the lineup to a septet: accordionist Cezary Paciorek, violinist Maciej Strzelczyk and percussionist Jose Torres. A Cuban percussion group guests on one tune (obviously the samba).

Namyslowski's ability to compose melodies, which fit the various rhythms and meters, including some very odd meters indeed, is absolutely phenomenal. This album is full of such clever tunes, which happen also to be delightful and sound completely "easy" in spite of their complex and capricious nature. The actual performance is of course first-rate, as always with ensembles led by Namyslowski, who is very strict and meticulous as far as playing is concerned.

In many respects this is the most unconventional album ever recorded by Namyslowski in which Jazz plays still a central role, but is intertwined with the folkloristic elements so tightly, that is sounds often like a soundtrack to a documentary produced by National Geographic. Jazz connoisseurs will find this album absolutely charming in every respect, even though it covers musical ground not habitually associated with Jazz.

It might be very difficult to find, but I urge every Polish Jazz enthusiast to lay their hand on a copy of this gem. Listening to this music is such a great fun!

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