Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Slawomir Jaskulke – Moments (2013)

Slawomir Jaskulke - piano


By Adam Baruch

This is the fifth solo album by Polish Jazz pianist / composer Slawomir Jaskulke and his second solo piano recording. Jaskulke has been a dominant figure on the young Polish Jazz scene since the turn of the Century, participated in numerous projects and recorded over thirty albums, mostly as a sideman. This album presents eight original compositions by Jaskulke the composer, which all receive an extended treatment by Jaskulke the pianist.

The immediate impression of the music on this album is quite surprising, especially to people who are familiar with Jaskulke's earlier recordings. It seems he went through a deep transformation over time, during which the Classical music influence won over his initial focus on Jazz, taking him towards new pastures. One might even quite seriously wonder if this music is Jazz at all; a serious question not about how to label this music, which of course is irrelevant, but how to react to it aesthetically. A sort of question one might also ask about the solo piano works of Keith Jarrett, where there is no clear answer to that dilemma. The music is melodic, lyrical and melancholic, with few, if any, rhythmic changes. After stating the melodic theme of each composition, Jaskulke enters a hypnotic, dreamlike phase of variations (rather than improvisations), returning intermittently to the melodic theme. Any listener, without prior knowledge of the artist involved, would most probably come to the conclusion that this is contemporary Classical piano music.

Gone is Jaskulke's percussive attack on the keyboard, his long arpeggios and his youthful carefree chutzpah, all to be replaced by poise, introvert soul-searching and almost lethargic delivery. Obviously his excellent technique as a player is still very much there, but it is less dazzling and flamboyant. Are we talking about "growing up" I wonder, a wiz-kid becoming a celebrity? I have no answers only a lot of questions, but it seems a bit early in his career to "take it easy".

At least the music is all beautifully recorded, with an incredible sound quality, ambience, balance, separation, etc. A Steinway and a superb recording engineer are always worth their cost in gold. This is (sound wise) as good as any ECM recording!

I'm pretty sure this album will win many ecstatic reviews and make numerous listeners very happy. Good for them! It probably even deserves it; and it must be simply me looking for the imperfections of the universe. Talking of which I wonder is the fact that several albums I didn't fall head over heels in love with lately were all released by Universal Music Polska? A coincidence, one wonders?

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