Friday, November 29, 2013

Jerzy Milian – When Where Why (2012) ***1/2

Jerzy Milian - vibraphone / composer

GAD 005









By Adam Baruch

The Polish GAD Records label has become a treasure chest of archival recordings by Polish Jazz and Rock artists and in the short period of time since 2010, when the label released its first album, it established its position on the market as a dedicated and reliable source of interesting material. This album follows the already established pattern and is the first volume of archival material by legendary Polish Jazz vibraphonist / composer Jerzy Milian, one of the forefathers of modern Polish Jazz.

The material collected here was recorded over a period of several years in the 1970s by the East German Rundfunk Tanzorchester Berlin conducted by Gunter Gollash, which included many excellent players, some known also internationally like the legendary saxophonist Ernst-Ludwig Petrovsky. Milian worked with the orchestra for many years, writing and recording a lot of quite diverse music with them.

The music presented here, all composed by Milian, consists of fifteen relatively shorter pieces, which exemplify the "lighter" side of his composer's milieu, which of course does not mean the music is of lesser quality or sophistication. The melodies are all quite superbly crafted and the orchestral arrangements are all splendid and interesting. It is less adventurous material than some of Milian's other compositions, but lacks nothing as far as compositional skills, flair and elegance are concerned. The orchestra performs the music spotlessly and with grace and as a result this is a wonderful Big Band / orchestral album, which reflects well on Milian's talent and vision. It is also a great example of European Big Band / orchestral sound and style, which varies considerably from its American counterparts.

In retrospect these recordings are a sad reminder of the Big Band form, which is almost extinct today in comparison to its hay days. With the impossible economics behind keeping a Big Band performing and touring and a dwindling public funding, most Big Bands, including the one present here, were eventually disbanded, an omen of a disappearing Culture. They also present a little known facet of European Jazz, which bloomed under the surface behind the Iron Curtain, even in the DDR and East Berlin, which were always considered as the epicenter of Socialist conservatism, cultural and otherwise, and oppression of "forbidden" Western influences. And yet the wide open eyes of the censorship often missed some truly daring escapades happening just under its nose. This is definitely one of such cases.

With remastered and restored sound and informative booklet (including text in English), this album is definitely worth checking out by any connoisseur of European Jazz, looking for another perspective.

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