Thursday, October 24, 2013

Leszek Kulakowski – Slap & Caress (2005) ****

Leszek Kulakowski - keyboards
Dominik Bukowski - vibraphone
Piotr Bukowski - bass
Jacek Pelc - drums

MUSIC VOX 001





By Adam Baruch

This is an excellent quartet recording by the Polish pianist / composer / educator Leszek Kulakowski with the superb veteran vibraphonist Dominik Bukowski, bassist Piotr Kulakowski and drummer Jacek Pelc. The album includes nine original compositions, all by Leszek Kulakowski.

Kulakowski is recognized as one of the most respected Polish Jazz musicians, with many achievements as a leader of his own ensembles, composer of Jazz and Jazz-Classical Fusion pieces and distinguished Jazz educator since many years. This album presents just one of his diverse activities in the field, i.e. small ensemble Jazz.

The piano / vibraphone quartet, a sadly neglected lineup, opens up many possibilities of expression, which would be otherwise unattainable and Kulakowski makes the best out of this opportunity. The keyboards / vibraphone dialogue is the focal point of this music, which allows the melodic themes to be separately developed by both players simultaneously. The excellent rhythm section supports the soloists sympathetically and elegantly, maintaining the delicate balance between the foreground and the background. Overall the performances are first-rate and the level of professionalism is amazing, as expected.

But of course the real forte of this album is the superb level of the compositions, which are all simply stunning. Kulakowski manages to construct his own language, which encompasses elements of Jazz and contemporary Classical idioms, even if those are somewhat hidden beneath the surface. These are hardly the average ditties, which often appear on Jazz albums only to disappear into obscurity soon after. They all have a character and maintain a level of intellectual curiosity, which deserves all praise.

Kulakowski is often associated with the Polish Jazz legend Krzysztof Komeda in many contexts. Although his compositions are not directly derived from Komeda's legacy, they show the same conciseness and ability to condense a deeply emotional musical message into a seemingly simply melodic theme. And of course Komeda also had a vibraphonist in his early groups – the legendary Jerzy Milian. Capish?

So here we have a beautiful mainstream Jazz album, which is full of great music, excellent performances and sophisticated, delicate scents of European Jazz at its best. Who can ask for anything else in these circumstances? Oh well, a bottle of good wine would be nice…

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