Saturday, November 2, 2013

Mieczyslaw Kosz – Polish Radio Jazz Archives Vol.10 (2013) ****1/2

Mieczyslaw Kosz - piano


By Adam Baruch

This is the tenth 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 available additional source of Polish Jazz recordings. For many years Polish Radio recorded concerts presented during Poland's most important Jazz venues, including the annual Jazz Jamboree Festival and many other festivals as well.

The material collected here presents recordings made between 1967 and 1971 by the legendary Polish Jazz pianist / composer Mieczyslaw Kosz, all of which ale solo piano pieces. The material covers a mixture of Jazz standards, Jazz arrangements of Classical pieces and original compositions by Kosz (six of the sixteen tracks of the album). Kosz, who was blind since the age of 12, died tragically in 1973, at a ridiculous young age of 29. During the short period he was active on the Polish Jazz scene (1967-1973) he managed to record just one single studio album released as part of the "Polish Jazz" series ("Reminiscence" Vol.25) and some radio and concert recordings were released posthumously, but of course his overall legacy is criminally limited. Therefore every bit of music he managed to record is absolutely priceless.

Although often compared to Bill Evans due the obvious lyrical similarities, Kosz was infinitely more than a Bill Evans impersonator. He had a unique style, which was a mixture of Classical and Polish Folklore roots and Jazz, which was completely distinctive. He also had a very personal sound and technique, which created the impression that he barely touched the keys even during the most powerful passages. And of course he was also a superb composer, spinning superb melody lines, which often included sophisticated hooks and twists. His expression "only sadness is beautiful" reflects perfectly his tormented personality and private life, as well as most of his compositions. Some of his later compositions encompassed strong Free Jazz elements, which would have probably played a more central role in his music, which sadly remains a speculation.

But above all Kosz was a virtuosic pianist, which is immediately apparent to anybody listening to any of his recording. His technique and even more importantly his wonderful feel for Jazz was simply phenomenal. His playing is captivating and mercilessly overwhelming, and in retrospect emphasizes the scale of the loss Polish and European Jazz suffered as a result of his death.

The beautifully restored sound quality is excellent and the warm ambience of the analog recording is a true joy. As usual with this series, which is very reasonably priced, I miss the presence of "in depth" liner notes / booklet, which should convey the circumstances at which this music was recorded and its importance to the development of Polish Jazz. Nevertheless this is an absolutely essential piece of Jazz history which every European Jazz fan will surely consider an absolute must.

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