Saturday, March 30, 2013

Sławomir Kulpowicz - Complete Edition (2013)

Sławomir Kulpowicz - piano

In-Formation Trio (1CD)
Private Balet Music (1CD)
The Quartet (2CD)
Sławomir Kulpowicz & Shujaat Khan (1CD)

Sławomir Kulpowicz - Complete Edition (2013)

Text by Maciej Nowotny

Sławomir Kulpowicz was a significant figure as far as jazz piano in Poland is concerned. Born in 1952 he studied in Katowice Music Academy. At the beginning of his career he played with Zbigniew Namysłowski which here is the thing approximately of the same caliber as in the US playing with Art Blackey & The Jazz Messangers. Very soon however he started to work on his own and in 1977 set up a band unpretentiously named The Quartet which turned out to be a great success indeed. In this set we got full CD of mostly unpublished music of this legendary combo together with other recordings documenting his rich career spanning over 30 years and ended in 2008 by premature death.

The Quartet remains a highlight of the whole set. Its style was influenced as much by Kulpowicz as by Tomasz Szukalski. Szukalski is a true giant on Polish jazz scene and can be compared in influence he exerted on it only with such figures like Krzysztof Komeda or Tomasz Stańko. With Stańko he collaborated on most of his albums made in 70ties. Among them "TWET" or "Balladyna" stand out as most important recordings of that era as much in Polish as in European jazz. This powerful duo was supported by rhythm section consisting of drummer Janusz Stefański and double bassist Paweł Jarzębski. The uniqueness of the music of The Quartet owes a lot to strong personalities of both Kulpowicz and Szukalski. Kulpowicz style may be described as something between Bud Powell and Franz Liszt with an addition of McCoy Tyner. As you recall this last pianist was a long time companion of John Coltrane. Kulpowicz found in Szukalski a partner whom Coltrane found in Tyner. But although the music of The Quartet is clearly inspired by American jazz as played by John Coltrane's band it is by no means the imitation which shall become evident upon rehearsing other CDs of this set.

CD titled "Private Ballet Music" shows Kulpowicz in solo recital.  On this album Kulpowicz, drawing much from jazz solo albums by his famous contemporary Keith Jarrett, also pays homage to classical music. Since then it has become necessary for Polish jazz pianists to record sometime during their carreers a solo album mixing jazz and classical music. Albums by Adzik Sendecki, Leszek Możdżer or recently Sławek Jaskułke or Marcin Masecki are good examples of such phenomenon.

Next CD Kulpowicz recorded with Indian sitar virtuoso Shujaat Khan. But for Kulpowicz it was much more than just copying Coltrane's interest in Eastern cultures. It was also a true spiritual venture which added the authenticity to this recording which as far as Polish jazz is concerned is one of few successful ventures into world music territory.

I especially like the fourth part of this set with CD of In-Formation Trio in which Kulpowicz was supported by double bassist Witold Szczurek (Rek) and drummer Czesław Bartkowski. I find music they played as highly original not being one of multiple offsprings of Bill Evans Trio but going its own unique way. That makes this whole set actual even after many years since its recording and one of key albums in history of Polish Jazz.

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