Monday, March 25, 2013

Don Ellis / Wojciech Karolak Trio – Polish Radio Jazz Archives Vol.02 (2013)

Don Ellis - trumpet
Wojciech Karolak - piano
Roman Dylag - bass
Andrzej Dabrowski - drums

POLSKIE RADIO 1590





By Adam Baruch

This is the second installment in the new series of releases initiated by the Polish Radio, which presents archive Jazz recordings. Radio recordings are always a fabulous source of remarkable material, and as far as Polish Jazz history is concerned, the Polish Radio, which was a state monopoly for 45 years, recorded over time a plethora of invaluable material, which apart from the albums released by the Polskie Nagrania record company (also a state monopoly), is the only additional source of Polish Jazz recordings. For many years Polish Radio recorded concerts presented during Poland's most important Jazz venue, the annual Jazz Jamboree Festival and many other festivals as well.

The material presented here was recorded in 1962 during the 5th Jazz Jamboree and features American trumpeter Don Ellis, accompanied by a Polish rhythm section consisting of pianist Wojciech Karolak, bassist Roman Dylag and drummer Andrzej Dabrowski. All the six tracks were recorded live during the Festival, the last of which is an extended suite composed by Polish pianist / composer Andrzej Trzaskowski presented as part of a concert dedicated to the Third Stream (early Jazz-Classical Fusion initiated by American composer Gunther Schuller in the late 1950s). On that track the quartet is accompanied by the Polish National Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra. Of the five shorter Jazz pieces, two are original compositions by Ellis and the remaining three are standards.

Ellis was the second US musician who opted to play with a local rhythm section, following Stan Getz who did so two years earlier (as captured on the first volume of this series). Although he was just 28 years old at the time, he already had a lot of experience and quite a reputation as a result of playing with many top American Jazz acts in the late 1950s and early 1960s. His Polish partners: Karolak (aged 23), Dylag (aged 24) and Dabrowski (aged 24) sound like veterans, obviously ready and able for the occasion. Ellis was the ideal choice as a performer of the orchestral piece by Trzaskowski, as he was one of the musicians / composers involved in this genre from its early stage.

There is a clear division between the first part of this album, which includes the five Jazz pieces and the orchestral suite, which is quite avant-garde and geared more towards Classical music listeners. Both parts are excellent, each presenting different merits of course. The fact that Trzaskowski composed the orchestral suite at that time is quite astonishing, considering the limited information about contemporary musical trends and developments that managed to cross over from behind the iron curtain. Obviously he was a man of great vision beyond his obvious talents as a player and composer.

The wonderful ambience of the hall and the remastered sound quality are spectacular, worm and natural, leaving many contemporary recordings way behind, even though they were done 51 years ago using quite primitive equipment.

The only note of criticism about this new edition is the lack of a proper booklet with proper liner notes, photographs and other well deserved details, which this monumental music truly deserves. Polish Radio really should have made an effort there. A pity!

In retrospect this is a great document of the era and an integral part of the Polish Jazz saga, which deserves to be told and studied. The presence of the orchestral suite makes this an absolute must for collectors of Polish Jazz albums and Third Stream followers.

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