Thursday, January 31, 2013

Wojciech Staroniewicz – Quiet City (1995)

Wojciech Staroniewicz - saxophone / composer
Andrzej Jagodzinski - piano
Adam Cegielski - bass
Cezary Konrad - drums

POLONIA 043






By Adam Baruch

This is an early release by veteran Polish Jazz saxophonist / composer Wojciech Staroniewicz, recorded in a classic quartet setting with pianist Andrzej Jagodzinski, bassist Adam Cegielski and drummer Cezary Konrad. The album includes six original compositions, all by Staroniewicz, most of which are ballads.

After listening to just a few opening notes it becomes immediately apparent that this is a Polish Jazz recording, as the music is full of the characteristics, which are unique to Polish Jazz: wonderfully lyrical melodies, folkloristic undertones, unusual meters and those unique harmonies, which only Polish Jazz musicians are able to invent. Also clearly apparent is the virtuosity of the participants, who in spite of their (at the time) young age sound as if they played Jazz for decades. Staroniewicz has a beautiful tone when playing his tenor saxophone, which resembles several of the great American saxophonists, but has more vitality and chutzpah. Jagodzinski is a fantastic player and this early recording already shows him in his full capacity. The rhythm section is also first class, doing a fantastic job supporting the two soloists both during the ensemble parts and solo parts.

Although this is solid mainstream Jazz, it is full of intelligent moments and passionate performances, which take the music well beyond what is usually conceived as mainstream. Partly due to the leader's superb compositions and partly to the musicians growing up absorbing the Polish Jazz heritage, which includes the innovations introduced by Krzysztof Komeda, which were as much influential on Polish Jazz as John Coltrane's legacy was on the global scene, this music is both a classic example of mainstream Jazz as much as an epitome of Polish Jazz.

In retrospect I find myself returning to this album from time to time and although it is rarely considered as a Polish Jazz "classic", it is definitely so for me. Of course the fact that it was recorded almost two decades ago means absolutely nothing except for the fact that is seems to be getting better with time. The fact that Staroniewicz emerged eventually as one of the pillars of the Polish Jazz scene, not only as a player but also as a record label owner, concert organizer, etc. proves that he means business, which is always a great quality in people. So a "classic" for me, and if you get to listen to it – it will be also a "classic" for you!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Oleś Brothers with Theo Jörgensmann & Christopher Dell - Fragment & Moments (2012)

Oleś Brothers with Theo Jörgensmann & Christopher Dell - Fragment & Moments (2012)

Theo Jörgensmann – bassett clarinet
Christopher Dell – vibraphone
Marcin Oleś – double bass
Bartłomiej Brat Oleś – drums


By Ken Shimamoto 

Polish twin brothers Marcin and Bartolmiej Brat Oles (b. 1973) have been recording together since 1999, in various co-led groups which often featured distinguished collaborators such as for example David Murray or  Ken Vandermark. This 2007 session, released early last year, teams them up with a pair of German musicians: Theo Jorgensmann on basset -- not bass -- clarinet (basically a soprano clarinet with an extended lower range, beloved of Mozart) and vibraphonist Christopher Dell.

Opening track “Ornettation” is a conversation between Jorgensmann and Bartolmiej Oles, reminiscent of the ones Coltrane used to conduct with Elvin Jones. The difference is that this one is loose-limbed rather than fervid in tone. Jorgensmann’s sound is reminiscent of the early clarinet masters, but with thoroughly modern ideas, say, like kind of European version of Perry Robinson. Bartlomiej floats the beat on his cymbals while detonating explosions of trap thunder. Vibraphonist Dell sketches the chordal framework and plays Gamelan-like solo lines, vocalizing as the band’s interplay builds intensity.

The brief “I Moment” is a moody ambient soundscape, while the longer “Deep Down” is a contemplative piece on which Marcin Oles’ bass alternately serves as a third melodic voice and provides searching pizzicato lines before Bartolmiej’s drums essay a notable thematic statement. Overall, a work of remarkable subtlety and detail that deserves to be heard.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Randy Brecker / Wlodek Pawlik – Night In Calisia (2012)

Randy Brecker - trumpet
Wlodek Pawlik - piano / composer
Pawel Panta - bass
Cezary Konrad - drums

Kalish Philhamonic Orchestra
Adam Klocek - conductor


LICOMP 014


By Adam Baruch

This is the second album on which the legendary American trumpeter Randy Brecker cooperates with Polish Jazz pianist / composer Wlodek Pawlik, performing a Jazz suite composed by Pawlik. Their previous cooperation resulted in the album "Tykocin Jazz Suite", which was very warmly received by critics and audiences alike. This time they perform the "Night In Calisia" suite, which was commissioned by the Polish City of Kalisz to commemorate its 1850 Anniversary. The music is performed by Brecker, a piano trio led by Pawlik with bassist Pawel Panta and drummer Cezary Konrad and the Kalisz Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Adam Klocek. The suite is sub-divided into six sections, which together provide a continuous flow of integrated music.

The suite is based on several melodic themes, which reappear throughout the sections, with some passages performed by the orchestra and others featuring the piano trio and the trumpeter. There are several extended solos, all executed perfectly as expected from such high-class musicians. The instrumentation and arrangements balance beautifully between the Jazz undercurrent and the orchestral parts, with naturally tend to sound more Classical in nature. The music is wonderfully lyrical and melodic, tranquil and serene most of the time, simply stroking the listener's attention note by note. Brecker plays simply outstanding, with exceptional clarity and stability, which is extremely difficult. Pawlik fills the space with the melodic motifs, always attentive and gentle. The bassist displays sheer virtuosic qualities and a warm sound of rare beauty and the veteran drummer keeps time, when keeping time is needed and gently strokes the set during the more atmospheric passages. This is pure bliss.

I suppose some listeners and Jazz connoisseurs might find this music to be slightly "sugary" at times. Well, perhaps so, but it certainly does not bother me at all. This is supposed to be a melodic, Jazz oriented amalgam of cross-genre explorations, well framed within the Classical tradition as well as the Jazz heritage. Pawlik is obviously a Master of his trade, which anybody listening to this recording must admit fair and square. There is a plentitude of wonderful Jazz / Classical interplays, which are intelligent, interesting and entertaining. The artistry involved both in the composition as well as the execution of this music is definitely praiseworthy.

This album is highly recommended to listeners, who love the proximity of Jazz and contemporary Classical music, and who will find this work delicious at all times. Pawlik confirms his position as a major force on the Polish Jazz scene and listening to Brecker's trumpet is always a pleasure. Well done!

Szymon Makohin – Tryin' Times (2012)

Szymon Makohin - vocals
Michal Tokaj - piano
Radek Nowicki - saxophone
Michal Jaros - bass
Sebastian Frankiewicz - drums

MUZA 1449




By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by Polish Jazz vocalist Szymon Makohin, which was recorded in 2008 and waited for four years to finally see the light of day. It presents Makohin performing eleven Pop / Blues / Soul standards, beautifully arranged by pianist Michal Tokaj, who leads the excellent quartet accompanying the singer, which also includes saxophonist Radek Nowicki, bassist Michal Jaros and drummer Sebastian Frankiewicz. On two of the tracks Makohin performs duets with female singers, the incredible Aga Zaryan and Irena Kijewska.

It seems that most Polish Jazz (and not only Jazz) vocalists consistently repeat the fatal mistake of trying to sing in English, which unfortunately in most cases, including this one, simply does not work. It becomes especially apparent in the duet with Zaryan, where the singer's accent and phrasing contrasts with those of Zaryan, who is one of the very few Polish vocalists able to sing properly in English. Therefore, regardless of how good this album is on the instrumental level, the vocals are a priori an obstacle. Makohin has a very nice tone and obvious vocal talents, but his battle is lost the minute he opens his mouth. It's a pity he didn't follow in the steps of other Polish vocalists, like Grzegorz Karnas for example.

The selection of the material is also quite problematic, as all the songs have a strong common bond of sounding "sweet", with very little diversity, and none of them are challenging vocally. All these songs were performed brilliantly by their original authors, and this slightly Jazzed up version has very little added value. The only case of a Jazz standard present here is more a showcase of a brilliant bass accompaniment than vocal ability.

Of course Tokaj and the quartet play spotlessly and brilliantly, as always. The instrumental work keeps this album alive and kicking, which in retrospect is a pity, since this could have been such a great album under different circumstances.

However, considering this is a debut album, it should not be judged too severely; there is a lot of potential here and Makohin has a lot to offer, so I'm looking forward to hear his next album, hopefully in Polish this time. I certainly wish him all the best and keep my fingers crossed.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mack Goldsbury Quintet feat. maciej Fortuna – Live At CoCo's (2012)

Mack Goldsbury - saxophone
Maciej Fortuna - trumpet
Shaun Mahoney - guitar
Erik Unsworth - bass
Ricky Malichi - drums

CADENCE JAZZ 1245






By Adam Baruch


This album presents a live recording by a quintet, which comprises of four American Jazz players: saxophonist Mack Goldsbury, guitarist Shaun Mahoney, bassist Erik Unsworth and drummer Ricky Malichi and also features the Polish Jazz trumpeter Maciej Fortuna. The American players are pretty anonymous, but Fortuna is very well known on the Polish Jazz scene in the last couple of years and made several recordings as a leader, co-leader and sideman recently. The album includes seven compositions, two of which are standards, two are by Mahoney and the remaining three are by Goldsbury, Unsworth and Fortuna contributing one composition each. The recording quality is quite good and the music has a worm ambience and a clearly defined sound.

Stylistically the music is straightforward American mainstream, which of course in not very exhilarating. Fortunately Mahoney plays some really great and sensitive guitar and Fortuna blows beautifully, as always, being by far the best musician in the quintet and his composition is the most ambitious of the original compositions present herein. There is very little innovation or ambitious improvisation here, with the quintet sticking to the melody like flies to honey, which of course is hardly surprising. To put things in the right perspective, this is a respectable showcase of mainstream Jazz, which simply becomes sort of "not very exciting" after a while.

Of course it's very educational for Fortuna to play with American Jazz musicians, as Jazz in Poland sounds pretty different in most cases. Dues have to be paid and these cats can swing. So no harm done and Fortuna gets another album in his discography, where he shows off his chops. Would I pay money to buy this music? Sorry… I'd have probably enjoyed the evening at the club when this music was recorded, but not much beyond. But hey, that's just me, if you like mainstream Jazz, this ain't bad at all.

Noya / Jakubek / Maseli – Live (2012)

Nippy Noya - percussion
Zbigniew Jakubek - keyboards
Bernard Maseli - vibraphone

PRIVATE EDITION








By Adam Baruch

This album presents a live recording of a trio, which comprises of world famous Indonesian (living in Netherlands) percussionist Nippy Noya and two veteran Polish Jazz musicians: keyboardist Zbigniew Jakubek and vibraphonist Bernard Maseli. The album includes six original compositions, four of which were composed by Maseli and two by Jakubek. Three of these compositions receive extended treatment and carry on for twelve and up to seventeen minutes, while the other three last the usual six / seven minutes. The sound quality is excellent and every detail of the music is perfectly audible, even though it was recorded live.

The music is mostly ambient and atmospheric, with a strong Jazz-Rock orientation, although much more fragile and delicate than the usual output of the genre. A strong World Music influence is also evident. The melodies are stated clearly and are the basis of the extended improvised passages. Jakubek often plays the bass lines using his instruments, so at times the music sounds like being performed by a quartet. The overall atmosphere is reminiscent of several Pat Metheny recordings with his group featuring keyboardist Lyle Mays.

The music is relaxed and flows gently from one track to another, but manages to stay inside the creative limits of the Jazz parameters, without spilling over into the muzak territory, which is usually where such undertakings eventually arrive at. Both Jakubek and Maseli play some truly great solos here and keep the music interesting, with Noya sticking to his percussive background. This is obviously an album, which belongs to the "lighter" side of Jazz, but it is does neither compromise the participating musicians nor insult the listener.

Not exactly my cup of tea, but I suspect that many listeners will love this album to bits, which is perfectly fine with me. This album is definitely recommended to those folks, who love melodic and well played music, which does not make your teeth ache.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Premiere of new album by Wojtek Jachna & Jacek Buhl

Jachna/Buhl - Tapes (2013)

Wojtek Jachna - trumpet, flugelhorn, electronics
Jacek Buhl - drums, percussion







Wojtek Jachna (trumpet, flugelhorn, electronics) and Jacek Buhl (drums, percussion) formed Jachna/Buhl, a spontaneous duo of experienced collaborators whose language is inspired as much by jazz as by freeimprov or electronic music. They recorded three albums up-to-this-date with their latest, "Tapes", available now for free at bandcamp:

http://jachnabuhl.bandcamp.com/album/tapes-milieu-lac-phale-2013



 

Maciej Fortuna – Sahjia (2012)

Maciej Fortuna - trumpet
Piotr Lemanczyk - bass
Krzysztof Gradziuk - drums

PRIVATE EDITION






By Adam Baruch

This is the third album as a leader by young Polish Jazz trumpeter Maciej Fortuna and also his third album as a leader or co-leader released in 2012, which definitely seems to be his breakthrough year. The album was recorded in a trio setting with the excellent rhythm section comprising of bassist Piotr Lemanczyk and drummer Krzysztof Gradziuk (of RGG fame), recorded live during several of the trio's performances at various venues around Poland. Six of the tunes appearing on the album were composed by Fortuna and the remaining two by Lemanczyk. There is also an unlisted bonus track, which features pianist Lukasz Ojdana as a guest.

The album is obviously a document, capturing the trumpeter at this specific stage of his career, rather that a pre-planned studio recording, which usually is intended as a next stage in any musician's path of continuous development. As such it is absolutely perfect in what it does, with the natural open sound, no editing and somewhat casual straightforward capture of the music, including the audience's reaction. Clearly the music is at the center here and everything else is superfluous.

The most striking effect of these recordings is the importance of the teamwork, which is absolutely stunning. This is not a leader / sidemen situation, as all three players contribute equally to the overall result at all stages. These players are undoubtedly virtuosi on their respective instruments, as anybody familiar with the Polish Jazz scene already knows, but in this situation the trio is definitely much more powerful than the sum of its respective ingredients. Also the musical ambience prevailing on these recordings is significantly more free and open than on the earlier recordings by Fortuna, which enables him and his cohorts to take off and hover above the earthly plane defined by the basic melody and chord changes. With the support of this specific rhythm section, the possibilities seem to completely unlimited.

In addition to the leader's soloing, which of course is the albums focal point, both the bassist and the drummer solo extensively, turning the music into a spectacular listening experience, full of emotional fireworks and uplifting displays of sheer musical delight. We should be grateful that Fortuna decided to capture this music for posterity, as it would have simply faded out into the past leaving those, who didn't attend these concerts, without the opportunity to enjoy its glory.

Fortuna is definitely a player to be watched closely in the future. With 2012 behind us the future looks decisively very bright for him, and his position at the center of the local scene seems to be ensured. He deserves to be recognized worldwide and hopefully this will be the next stage of his career. In the meantime a big thank you for a wonderful musical 2012 - Well done indeed!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Julia Sawicka Project – Fields Of Soul (2012)

Julia Sawicka - vocals
Hans Peter Salentin - trumpet
Tomasz Pruchnicki - saxophone
David Doruzka - guitar
Klaudius  Kovac - keyboards
Krzysztof Dys - keyboards
Roman Chraniuk - bass
Marcin Jahr - drums

PRIVATE EDITION


By Adam Baruch

This is the second album by Polish Jazz vocalist Julia Sawicka and her international band, which includes German trumpeter Hans Peter Salentin, Czech guitarists David Doruzka, Slovak keyboardists Klaudius Kovac and Polish players: saxophonist Tomasz Pruchnicki, keyboardist Krzysztof Dys, bassist Roman Chraniuk and drummer Marcin Jahr. A string trio is also used. The album is beautifully packaged in a hardcover digipak, which is exquisitely designed and features some breathtaking aerial photography, obviously a high-class labor of love.

The album is subtitled: "Unconventional versions of popular songs by Sting", which says it all; the ten songs included have been all written (or co-written in one case) by Sting, appear here arranged in a Jazzy manner and are beautifully performed by the ensemble, which comprises of first-class musicians and does not disappoint. So far so good.

However, tackling Sting's material can be a perilous undertaking, for many reasons; Firstly his songs are quite Jazzy in their original versions, as anybody familiar with Sting's songbook and career should be aware of, and therefore Jazzing them up might prove to be superfluous. Secondly Sting's songs are extremely complex, tricky and above all personal, which makes any attempt to perform them by others almost completely impossible. The gravest mistake was leaving the original English lyrics, which presents an insurmountable challenge for a non-native English speaker performing the vocals. Such ambitious project should have taken the additional step of translating the lyrics into Polish, which probably would have made it so much better.

As a result the album certainly presents nothing, which is "unconventional", as stated in its marketing subtitle, being simply one more tribute album of Jazzed up Pop or Rock material, which is certainly nothing new, even on the Polish Jazz scene. Secondly the vocals suffer badly from the English pronunciation, phrasing and articulation, which unfortunately are below par and plainly stand in the way of the vocalist in order to express her best abilities.

All things considered this is still a nice album, mostly due to the great instrumental parts and solos, providing one can somehow isolate the vocals and not be bothered too much by them. Sawicka is probably quite a talented vocalist, but this album is not working in her favor. I'd certainly love to hear more of her work under different circumstances. In the meantime I'll keep listening to Sting au naturel.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Maciej Jeleniewski & Deer Project - Stop The Time (2013)

Maciej Jeleniewski - producer
Piotr Remiszewski - producer

Guests:
Jarosław Śmietana - guitar
Karen Edwards - vocal
Jerzy Mazzoll - clarinet
Wojtek Karolak - keyboard
Mirosław Kaczmarczyk - guitar
Piotr Iwicki - drums
Tomek Lipnicki - raeding text

Stop The Time (2013)

By Maciej Nowotny

Maciej Jeleniewski and Piotr Remiszewski teamed-up and as Deer Project produced this album which features many respected jazz musicians. Jeleniewski is known as a bass guitarist playing in rhythm section of pop band Oczi Cziorne (together with avantgarde drummer Michał Gos). Piotr Remiszewski has similar background and has been playing as a drummer and also arranging and producing in number of pop projects. 

The overall style of this release verges between pop, smooth jazz and mainstream jazz (OK, this  last reference is a bit of exaggeration I admit). For hardcore jazz lovers who look always forward to see future of this music it will probably sound too sweet and predictable. But one must be aware that jazz audience consists of various people of different needs. For a significant part of it jazz is less spiritual matter but just one of stylistics they found useful for certain occasions or moods in their life. I believe that's why this music when played in fancy bar or during evening meeting with friends may fit perfectly to enhance the beauty of the moment. Perhaps not as a source of any distinctive aural experience in itself it yet may serve well a classy background to other activities.

Although as I said it tastes best when served in background it may still offer some surprisingly nice moments when we catch some of outstanding solos of excellent jazz musicians Jeleniewski and Remiszewski invited to this project. Jarosław Śmietana guitar passages in "Thoughts Moving", Jurek Mazzoll hauntingly beautiful bass clarinet solo in "Fountime" are enough to redeem this music but that's not the end since additionally we will find on this album also a legendary keyboardist Wojtek Karolak, excellent vocalist Karen Edwards or Mirosław Kaczmarczyk and Piotr Iwicki from Loud Jazz Band. These are big or in same cases even great names in Polish jazz but please do not expect anything revolutionary from this music. It was all heard hundreds of times before, and no new ways are explored here. Still if you like such an easy and uncomplicated side of jazz it may be pleasant experience, especially since it is very well recorded.

Tracklist :
1. Myśli Przeprowadzka
2. Przegrana Wieczór
3. Fountime
4. Widok z okna
5. San Francisco Come Back
6. Nikt nie ma to jak profesor
7. W czasie między
8. Niech was Bóg błogosławi Wariata
9. Violet Brainwashed
10. Empty Chair
11. Sophie Sticated


Thursday, January 17, 2013

World loves Komeda!

This is terrific story indeed! Daniel Volovets, a 20-year-old classical, flamenco, Brazilian, and jazz guitarist, who recorded 3 albums already, got enamored in Krzysztof Komeda music. He is now working on 2 more albums, one of which will be a tribute to legendary Polish composer and pianist. That's what he says about this project: "It will feature original arrangements of his compositions for solo guitar and duet with guitar + tenor/soprano saxophones, guitar + violin, guitar + flute, etc." It may sound similar to this home-made rendition of "Ballad for Bernt" which he made when 18 years old with his brother playing on soprano saxophone (then 14!).



If you to help his dreams come true, please show your generosity and help finance his project by donating a small sum through this Kickstarter page:

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Janusz Yanina Iwanski – Yanina Free Wave (2011)

Janusz Yanina Iwanski - guitar
Lukasz Klucznik - saxophone
Marek Pospieszalski - saxophone
Marcin Lamch - bass
Przemek Pacan - drums

MTJ 10934



By Adam Baruch

This is an excellent album by veteran Polish Rock and Jazz guitarist / composer Janusz Yanina Iwanski, recorded with a quintet which also includes saxophonists Lukasz Kluczniak (alto) and Marek Pospieszalski (soprano and tenor), bassist Marcin Lamch and drummer Przemyslaw Pacan. The album comprises of six original compositions, five of which were composed by Iwanski and one is a group composition. Three of the compositions are quite extensive and last between eleven and sixteen minutes. The last track on the album is dedicated to the memory of the great Polish trumpeter Andrzej Przybielski, who died shortly before the album was released and with whom Iwanski played in the past.

The music is a unique cross-genre amalgam, which moves between Jazz-Rock Fusion, ambient / atmospheric improvised stretches and quite Free passages with the guitar and both saxophones improvising simultaneously. A strong melodic presence is felt throughout the entire duration, moving between the foreground and the background of whatever is happening in the course of the performance. Overall the album is mostly Free Jazz oriented and most of the time the group improvisation is the focus, although several simpler and more lyrical moments also materialize. Regardless of any attempts to categorize this music, it is quite elusive and listening to it is the only proper way to deal with it.

The individual instrumental performances are all quite excellent, as all these musicians are obviously highly talented. Iwanski plays some superb guitar licks, which one expects to find only on albums by the top guitar players around. His tone is fairly unusual and clear and his work will surely make many guitar freaks extremely happy. Both saxophonists play with passion and conviction, both able to play unisono or play against each other like fighters in a ring. The rhythm section does a perfect job, keeping the music right on track. The bass is solid and steady and the drums strongly present and almost as aggressive as the soloists, which is exactly what this music needs.

It's a pity this album found only a limited audience, as it truly deserves to be heard by a lot of people, who listen to the different sub-genres of Jazz, as there is something for everybody herein. As all good music this is not easy-listening by any standard, but will definitely grow on the listener with consecutive listening sessions. Therefore people looking for challenging, innovative and highly absorbing new musical vistas should check this album out as soon as possible and as long as it can be found on the market, before it disappears into the great limbo, where all good music seems to be sucked into these days. Great stuff!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Dennis Gonzalez Yells At Eels feat. Wojtek Mazolewski - Bandoleros En Gdańsk (2012)

Dennis Gonzalez Yells At Eels feat. Wojtek Mazolewski - Bandoleros En Gdańsk (1Car Garage Records, 2012)

Dennis Gonzalez - C trumpet, Bb cornet, voice
Marek Pospieszalski - tenor saxophone, alto clarinet
Aaron Gonzalez - contrabass
Wojtek Mazolewski - contrabass
Stefan Gonzalez - drums

By Ken Shimamoto

Bandoleros en Gdansk is the second recording from a collaboration Dennis Gonzalez/Yells At Eels undertook last year with a pair of Polish musicians, bassist Wojtek Mazolewski and tenor saxophonist Marek Pospieszalski. While their session at Radio Gdansk was curtailed after only 24 minutes, the full results are now available on two vinyl artifacts, both on Dallas-based indie labels: TreeFallSounds' Wind Streaks in Syrtis Minor 7" from earlier this year, and now this newly released 45 rpm 12" on 1 Car Garage.

Opening track "The Polish Spirit" is a moody waltz, which Stefan Gonzalez propels like a runaway freight train, clattering along polyrhythmically and throwing out jaw-dropping fills with insouciant abandon. Dennis solos in the middle of his horn's range with a burnished tone, his careening line skirting the limits of tonality. Pospieszalski joins in, commenting on the trumpeter's improvisation before undertaking one of his own. The saxophonist plays with great soul and invention, his long tones evoking the solitude of snow-dusted forests.

Turning the record over, the title track opens with horn polyphony that recalls Ornette's early '70s band with Dewey Redman, then falls into a rock-like, bass-driven groove, with Pospieszalski and the elder Gonzalez testifying on their horns. The rapturously kinetic romp "Artykuty Gospodoarstwa Domowego" begins and ends with a lighthearted vocalization of the title by Dennis, with Mazolewski and Aaron Gonzalez wrestling monolithic slabs of sound from their twin basses in between. It's a pithy and humorous way to end the outing. Jimi Bowman's mastering and the high-quality pressing preserve the immediacy of the moment beautifully.



The Moongang – Taxi (2012)

Joanna Knitters - vocals
Roman Badenski - harmonica
Marcin Wadolowski - guitar
Hubert Swiatek - piano
Karol Kozlowski - bass
Piotr Gora - drums

ALLEGRO 024



By Adam Baruch


This is the debut album by a young Polish Blues-Rock / Funk band Moongang, fronted by female vocalist Joanna Knitter, with harmonica player Roman Badenski, guitarist Marcin Wadolowski, pianist Hubert Swiatek, bassist Karol Kozlowski and drummer Piotr Gora. The album comprises of eleven original songs and one instrumental. The guitarist composed eight of the pieces, the vocalist two and the bassist and pianist contributed one each. Knitter wrote the lyrics to all eleven songs, ten of which are in English and one is in Polish.

Obviously based on the Blues tradition, the music stretches out into other genres, like Rock, Funk and even occasionally Fusion. Almost all the tunes are up-tempo and have a very funky feel about them, which certainly tends to make the listeners dance or at least tap their feet. The instrumental performances are all quite excellent, especially the beautiful harmonica parts, which are the link to the Blues roots of this music, but also the guitar and electric piano solos are a delight. The rhythm section does an excellent job keeping the music moving forward and providing the funky feel. The vocalist has a worm, strong voice, which she uses cleverly and effectively and which is ideal for this kind of music. She has a great timing and phrasing and overall her performances are just what this music needs.

Having said all that, there are some points about this album, which bother me personally, although most local listeners probably won't mind them at all. I understand the desire of Polish bands to sound "international" and use English lyrics. The vocalist's English pronunciation and accent are actually quite passable and are not a problem as such, but the lyrics are. Using slang and dirty words does not make lyrics more "native" English, does it? One does not have to even go beyond this very album to see that the sole song in Polish sounds so much better that all the others, in order to learn a lesson not to make the same mistake again, hopefully.

But all in all this is an excellent debut album by a band with a lot of abilities and even more potential in the future. This band most probably kicks ass on the stage like few others and gives the audiences a great time. The album is great for driving, as I've experienced, making the long stretch of the road to pass unnoticed. Well done indeed!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Staroniewicz / Jagodzinski / Rajski – Tranquillo (2012)

Wojciech Staroniewicz - saxophone
Andrzej Jagodzinski - piano
Adam Cegielski - bass
Czeslaw Bartkowski - drums
with
Polish Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra
Wojciech Rajski - conductor

ALLEGRO 025


By Adam Baruch

Lush saxophone, gently strumming piano and a string orchestra sound more like a recipe for a soundtrack to a third-rate erotic movie (i.e. porn flick) than a serious musical venture. The iniquitous "Sax and Strings" trap made many of the best Jazz saxophone players sound like muzak junkies, leaving only a few of them, who managed to create some superb music out of this unforgiving format. I was prepared for the worse when I placed this album into the CD player and hesitantly pushed the Play button. Lo and behold, the music turned out to be simply delightful… what a relief.

Veteran Polish Jazz saxophonist / composer Wojciech Staroniewicz combines forces with pianist Andrzej Jagodzinski and his trio, which also includes bassist Adam Cegielski and Master veteran drummer Czeslaw Bartkowski. The resulting quartet is accompanied by the Polish Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Sopot, conducted by Wojciech Rajski. The album consists of eleven compositions, two of which are originals by Staroniewicz and the rest are standards (four of those are by Antonio Carlos Jobim). The orchestral arrangements of seven of the tracks were written by another veteran Polish Jazz hero Wlodzimierz Nahorny, three are by Jagodzinski and the remaining one by Artur Jurek.

The music is presented on three overlaying platforms: the saxophone, the piano trio and the orchestra; each of those with its separate content, and merging with the other two to create the overall effect and compliment each other. Staroniewicz is a superb sax player and his wonderful tone and flow are absolutely perfect for this music. He plays the melodies, but also improvises constantly, although staying well within the harmonic boundaries. Jagodzinski and his trio are also one of the finest Polish Jazz ensembles, and although their role on this album is mostly limited to provide the Jazzy atmospheric background and rhythmic backbone, the trio's leader plays several beautiful lyrical solos and the rhythm section swings like there's no tomorrow.

The strings are the biggest surprise of them all; the arrangements are quite unusual and often not what the listen might expect at all – intelligent, challenging and with a life of their own. Combined with the quartet playing on top they enhance the overall result enormously and one must admit they do it most pleasantly.

Yes, this is the gentle side of Jazz. It is sweet and romantic and beautiful, but it is also clever, perfectly done and heartwarming. It manages to avoid being kitschy, which is so damn difficult under these circumstances. OK I admit, I'm a dead romantic at heart and I love this stuff, exactly for what it is – bite me ;) The album's artwork is also beautiful, one of the few cases when the artwork fits the album's contents perfectly. Great stuff!

Wojciech Staroniewicz – A`FreAK-aN Project (2011)

Wojtek Staroniewicz - saxophone, leader
Przemek Dyakowski - saxophone
Darek Herbasz - saxophone
Irek Wojtczak - saxophone
Dominik Bukowski - marimba, vibraphone, kalimba
Janusz Mackiewicz - bass
Adam Czerwinski - drums
Larry Okey Ugwu - percussion
Slawomir Berny - percussion

ALLEGRO 021

By Adam Baruch

This is a very interesting concept album by veteran Polish Jazz saxophonist / composer Wojciech Staroniewicz, dedicated to African music. Staroniewicz assembled an unusual lineup, fronted by a four-saxophone brass section: himself on tenor, Przemek Dyakowski on tenor, Dariusz Herbasz on baritone and Irek Wojtczak on tenor and soprano saxophones. There are no keyboards, as appropriate for African music, which are replaced by typical African instruments like marimba and kalimba, with some vibraphone, all played by Dominik Bukowski. The rhythm section comprises of bassist Janusz Mackiewicz and drummer Adam Czerwinski and two percussionists complete the lineup: Larry Okey Ugwu and Slawomir Berny. The album includes seven original compositions, all by the leader, and was recorded "live" in the studio.

Rather than copying obvious African elements, Staroniewicz creates a set of compositions, which are African more in spirit than in form, a task which is most commendable and of course much more difficult. The brass arrangements sound similar to African Brass Bands, mostly those from Southern part of the continent, but what is most impressive, is that Staroniewicz presents Africa as a whole, with music influences originating from all the four corners of the Black Continent – North with its Middle-Eastern flavor, West with its typical rhythm signatures, East with its enchanting expressive melodies and South with its highly energetic, danceable spirit. The decision not to include keyboards, especially electronic ones, adds significantly to the authenticity and genuineness of the overall result.

Although obviously a team effort, especially in light of the live recording circumstances, there are plenty of great solos by all the players involved. These are all experienced and talented musicians, mostly leaders of their own ensembles and the common strength of their conglomerated effort is quite impressive. One should note that although this is obviously a Jazz-World Fusion album, the ethnic elements are not dominating the basic Jazz feel and order of things here, which happens so often in this genre. After all these are European musicians, who grew up on European aesthetics and heritage, and for them pretending to be native Africans would be ridiculous. Therefore this subtle and intelligent approach is much more effective.

In addition to the great musical content the album is also beautifully packaged and the graphic design of the digipak enclosure is simply wonderful and highly original, which proves how much thought and love went into making this album.

Highly recommended to Jazz-World Fusion enthusiasts, who should enjoy this music wholeheartedly and repeatedly, discovering the many layers it has to offer. Nice stuff!

Jerzy Mazzoll - Responsio Mortifera (2012)

Jerzy Mazzoll - clarinet, copositions, texts

Marcin Dymiter - producing and mixing

Responsio Mortifera (2012)





By Maciej Nowotny

"Responsio mortifera" were words written by the scribe upon the record of final interrogation of Jeanne D'Arc. Based on this she was condemned to death by auto-da-fe. Why Jerzy Mazzoll chose these words to become a title for his latest album will remain his mystery. But it should be noticed that his life was not without pain and suffering, be it private or musical. As the latter is concerned despite being one of protagonists of so-called yass - free jazz influenced movement which in 90ies last century refreshed somewhat stale air of Polish music - he never really got as much recognition as he deserved. Virtually unknown abroad, he was despised by leading exponents of mainstream jazz in Poland who looked at him and his colleagues (Tymon Tymański, Tomek Gwinciński, Mikołaj Trzaska and others) with the same dismay as once Miles Davis seen music of Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy or Cecil Taylor. 

This lack of support combined with personal problems (among them very grave illness) all resulted in long break since his last albums, recorded with band or under his own name, respectively 6 or 12 years ago!!! It doesn't mean he was inactive - the music is all his life - but he didn't contributed to mainstream with new musical ideas. Great loss taking into account how innovative thinker and accomplished musician he is! Set upon such a background his 2012 comeback looks even more conspicuous because he returned this year with three (sic!) new albums. His "Minimalover" was warmly received by critics and audience and was followed by EP "Jeden Dźwiek i Pan Bóg" (transl. "One Sound and the God") and finally this album released at the end of year. They all share one characteristic common for all Mazzoll projects: they are difficult to describe. Mazzoll style is highly individual like no other in Polish jazz or even the world.

The labels such as jazz, avantgarde, electronic music, punk rock though applicable are far from denoting precisely what you can find on this disc. Perhaps names of musicians which Mazzoll himself regards as his favourites will tell you more: Eric Dolphy, Roscoe Mitchell, Peter Jorgensmann, Evan Parker or Bill Laswell. None of them appears on this album but no less than 19 (sic!) other musicians were recorded or sometimes caught unaware and are present on this album. To make a coherent music out of such a maze is a great achievement of Marcin Dymiter who is not only a producer but effectively co-creator of this album. In the end it works very fine, being very personal an yet very forward thinking. In some aspects it sounds like, say, Matana Roberts' famous "Coin Coin" where she relates the history of her family, its emancipation from slavery, in universal language of jazz. Nature of a slavery Mazzoll found himself in is different but the goal itself is the same since times of Aristotelis: to get rid of the past through artistic experience. A catharsis. In this context the only setback of this recording is that the translations of Polish texts spoken by Mazzoll are not included with CD. But even without them the sheer power of emotions present here should be moving to any open-hearted listener.

Mazzoll instrumental:


Mazzoll reading his poetry:




Sunday, January 13, 2013

Responsio Mortifera...

Długie, ciemne włosy Joanny D’Arc spływały w dół jak wodospad z wysokiej skały. Oczy miała opuszczone. Jej usta drżały. Henryk Beaufort, kardynał Winchester, wypowiedział ostatnie pytanie: “Kto zesłał głosy i dźwięki, które słyszałaś?”. Lecz Inkwizytor usłyszał tylko ciszę, bo przecież gęsia skórka, którą zauważył na ramionach Joanny nie mogła być odpowiedzią. Dlatego powtórzył pytanie i dodał: “Córko, jeśli wyznasz, że pochodzą od Szatana ocalisz życie i duszę! Dokonasz żywota w klasztorze. W przeciwnym razie jeszcze tego wieczora spłoniesz na stosie...”. “Wszystko co usłyszałam pochodzi od Boga” - wyszeptała. Kardynał pokręcił głową i nakazał skrybie zaprotokołować: “Oto jej ostateczna odpowiedź - responsio mortifera - na takie bluźnierstwo jedynym lekarstwem jest śmierć w płomieniach”. Mazzoll skończył opowieść, ale ja patrzyłem na niego z oczekiwaniem. “To wszystko?” - zapytałem. “Jakie jest znaczenie tej historii?”. “Posłuchaj muzyki” - odparł.

Ale właśnie o muzyce Jerzego Mazzolla pisać jest trudno. Bo nie pasuje do niej żadna etykietka. Oczywiście wszyscy uważają go za legendę yassu na równi z Tymonem Tymańskim, Tomaszem Gwincińskim czy Mikołajem Trzaską. Niektórzy nazwą go jazzmanem, bo (jak Eric Dolphy)... gra na klarnecie, a w takich powołanych przez niego formacjach jak Arhythmic Perfection pobrzmiewały echa muzyki tworzonej w kręgu chicagowskiego AACM. Jednak on sam chociaż marzy o tym, aby zagrać z Roscoe Mitchellem, odrzuca wszelkie afroamerykańskie konotacje. Bliżej mu do europejskiej awangardy spod znaku Petera Brotzmanna czy Evana Parkera (kolejni muzycy z jego wymarzonego zespołu), która przejęła ducha free jazzu, lecz w formie inspirowanej dwudziestowieczną muzyką klasyczną. W tej galerii ważnych dla siebie postaci Mazzoll umieszcza jeszcze Billa Laswella, którego eksperymenty z elektronicznym przetwarzaniem dźwięku miały duże znaczenie dla tego, jaki kształt przybrał ten projekt.

Zatem etykietki nie będą kluczem, dzięki któremu uda nam się zgłębić zagadkę ”Responsio Mortifera”. Może lepszym tropem będzie pogmatwana biografia Mazzolla? Choćby taki zdumiewający fakt: w tym roku wydaje już drugą płytę po wydanym na początku 2012 roku albumie “Minimalover” (a z EPką “Jeden Dźwięk i Pan Bóg” to nawet trzecią!). Te krążki ukazały się po... sześciu albo dwunastu latach milczenia, zależy od tego czy liczymy odpowiednio płyty nagrane w zespole czy pod własnym nazwiskiem. W tych latach przez jego życie osobiste przeszła fala wielka i niszcząca jak tsunami, lecz nie czas i miejsce, aby o tym pisać. Szczególnie bolesne było odrzucenie przez środowisko muzyczne, brak docenienia, a może po prostu brak zrozumienia, który sprawił, że yass, a wraz z nim Mazzoll, traktowani byli (i są!) przez naszych “jazzmanów” trochę jak Miles Davis traktował free jazz i Ornette’a Colemana. Jednak ten się śmieje kto się śmieje ostatni i wyklęty przez Milesa free jazz, podobnie zresztą jak i yass w Polsce, wydaje się wywierać większy wpływ na nową generację muzyków (tzw. post-yass!) niż otaczane takim kultem sławy mainstreamu z przeszłości.

Wreszcie na tę płytę można spojrzeć przez pryzmat tego kto przyczynił się do jej powstania i skąd pochodzą znajdujące się na niej dźwięki. I znów rzecz ciekawa! Naszych starych mistrzów, poza Stańką oczywiście, bardzo trudno namówić do wspólnych projektów z młodzieżą, do traktowania ich po partnersku. Mazzolla zaś ciągnie do tych młodych bardzo. Zachował dziecięcą ciekawość tego, co nowe, którą wielu w jego wieku dawno utraciło. “Responsio Mortifera” jest tyleż jego jego dziełem co odpowiedzią Marcina Dymitera, który podjął się produkcji tej płyty. A nie było to zadanie banalne! Muzyka na niej przypomina wielki gordyjski węzeł: składają się na nią dźwięki, których autorami jest 19 różnych muzyków, nagrane w różnych sytuacjach tak muzycznych jak i prywatnych. Że Dymiter z tego chaosu potrafił dobyć czyste złoto jest niewiarygodnym wprost wyczynem!

Nie oczekujcie zatem łatwej do słuchania płyty, zawierającej zbiór banalnych melodyjek. “Na granicy skupienia i zmęczenia trzeba zacząć” - tymi słowami cały ten niezwykły krążek się zaczyna. A jakimi się kończy, przynajmniej w mojej skromnej opinii, to już wiecie...

Skrybą był Maciej Nowotny


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Kocin Kocinski Trio – Proverbs 3:5 (2012)

Maciej Kocinski - saxophones, EWI, electronics
Andrzej Swies - bass
Krzysztof Szmanda - drums
guests:
Kuba Badach - vocals
Patrick Jiya - vocals

ALLEGRO 026



By Adam Baruch


This is the debut recording by the trio led by Polish saxophonist / composer Maciej Kocinski, who is primarily known as the leader of the Soundcheck quartet, which received a lot of positive attention on the local scene in the last few years. The other members of the trio are bassist Andrzej Swies and drummer Krzysztof Szmanda, who are also Soundcheck members. Vocalists Kuba Badach and Patrick Jiya appear as special guests. The album consists of ten original compositions, all by Kocinski.

The trio serves as another vehicle for the leader and his cohorts to present music, which does not fit within the framework of the Soundcheck quartet, moving into areas like atmospheric / ambient / contemplative music influenced by folkloristic motifs and to some extent by contemporary Classical music. The usage of electronics and electric bass takes the music further away from purely acoustic Jazz mainstream. There is also an atmosphere of deep emotional expression, enhanced by the album's beautiful artwork, title and of course its subject matter. Naming an album after a Biblical quote (and even printing the original Hebrew text on the cover) is surely no accident.

The music is quite an unusual amalgam, which makes sense only after listening to the whole album, preferably more than once. It involves many different techniques, from "conventional" acoustic saxophone trio to purely improvised passages, electronic soundscapes, vocal chanting, recitation and others. And yet all these different elements fit together perfectly against all odds, creating truly exciting and emotional sonic experiences. Kocinski uses the EWI skillfully to produce a plethora of different sounds, enhancing the overall instrumental range. The element of melody is vital to this music and reoccurs repeatedly, with beautiful lyrical themes, which later serve as the basis for improvised excursions.

The album and the music are obviously a team effort, and although the leader is the primary soloist, his partners get ample opportunity to contribute. Swies is brilliant, as always, with his bass (acoustic and electric) being the backbone of this excellent music. Szmanda fills the blanks and supports delicately, which is exactly what this music needs. His intelligence and good taste are obvious all the way through. All in all this is a superb musical effort, which keeps the listeners on their toes for the entire duration, leaving them wishing for more of the different same.

The Polish Jazz scene seems to be a bottomless pit of great music and talented musicians. It is always a great pleasure to discover yet another example of the above and this album certainly stands out as one of the most interesting releases of 2012. Wholeheartedly recommended to all those lionhearted connoisseurs of exciting, surprising and adventurous music!



Thursday, January 10, 2013

Innercity Ensemble - Katahdin (2012)

Innercity Ensemble
personnel:

Radek Dziubek - laptop, pady
Rafał Iwański - gongs, percussion
Wojtek Jachna - trumpet, flugelhorn
Rafał Kołacki - gongs, percussion
Artur Maćkowiak - guitar, synthesizer
Tomek Popowski - drums, percussion
Kuba Ziołek - guitar, sampler, voice

guests:
Tomek Pawlicki - flute on Ołowiane słońce
Antek Majewski - cello on Niedzieli Życia III

Katahdin (2012)

By Dirk Blasejezak

“This album was recorded in three days during an improvisational meeting in Mózg, Bydgoszcz. The idea was to capture unique sound of seven different personalities merging into one stream of free-flowing peaceful and sincere musical experience. The results of this meeting turned out very fruitful and the listening opportunity that we give to you should be as opening as creating those sounds was for us.”

“Opening” probably is the key word here! This is definitely a hard one for the Jazz Police. Katahdin goes beyond some of the borders of jazz music. Anybody who thinks that it has to swing to be jazz should better keep his hands off this record. Free jazz fans on the other hand will also have problems with this album. The Innercity Ensemble walks here on rarely explored terrain; somewhere on the intersections between some of the most important musical movements of the 20th century. 

Starting into the album my first association was: Is this new music? Are those some jazz musicians playing improvisations on Terry Riley? Because the first thing that hits the ears are patterns - percussive patterns. And it takes a while until you realise that those patterns are here to stay. One half of the band is involved in percussion and it takes the rest of the band some time to get heard. When finally on the second track the horn comes through more clearly to help the listener out every jazz fan should get a grip on this album.

This is also when the second association swept over me: The Panthalassa album with remixes of Miles Davis by Bill Laswell, and the (quieter) music from Miles Davis’ electric phase in general. And this kept coming whenever trumpet and drums are more present although this is in no way comparable with the 60ies or 70ies but truely a work of the 21st century. 

And there’s another influence I’m not exactly sure of (maybe that’s only me); and I had to search a while through my not so often enjoyed music until I found what faintly shines through: at some time after listening twice or three times through the whole album I was reminded of some music I hadn’t put on for more than a decade: consumed by Ritchie Hawtin aka Plastikman. For me that was the missing link - if you can imagine something in-between the patterns of the minimalists, the minimal techno and some dark ambient influences you might get a picture of this recording. This is not any kind of fusion, this is rather an amalgam comprising something new. Something very exciting! 

I’m afraid though that this my also be one of the problems of this album: there is no confined audience for this. It gets even harder when gongs and other percussion in combination with voice and samples create a sound that takes you to places far east. (Although I think that I am mislead as Katahdin is a mountain in Maine, USA, but I have to admit that my knowledge of the Indian traditional music is rather restricted.)

Katahdin indeed is “peaceful and sincere” music by some well known Polish musicians that could already be heard in projects like Hati, Contemporary Noise Sextet, Sing Sing Penelope, and many more. A very fruitful get-together it seems when you think of the two other releases in 2012 (i.e. Odrzutowce and the self titled album presented by Milieu L'Acéphale). What’s even more interesting is, that all three were recorded at the Mozg club in Bydgoszcz in August 2011 - it seems they had a very creative time there. But please do not mix these recordings up with the video of Przesilenie (which is often presented for this project) - on this album you find completely different material. And I do hope that there will be many explorative listeners out there - I would definitely recommend this to anybody, not only jazz lovers. In the end the good thing about music crossing borders is that it’s also capable of uniting listeners from different directions. And Katahdin is definitely able to achieve this!

One example from this album (available as a free download):





Monday, January 7, 2013

Grzegorz Karnas – Karnas (2011)

Grzegorz Karnas - vocals
Michal Tokaj - piano
Adam Oles - cello
Michal Jaros - bass
Sebastian Frankiewicz - drums

HEVHETIA 0050




By Adam Baruch

This is the fourth album by Polish Jazz vocalist / composer / arranger Grzegorz Karnas, one of the most unique and talented representatives of the young generation of the local Jazz scene. Separated by five years from its predecessor "Ballady Na Koniec Swiata", this album is significantly different from his earlier work and presents several novelties as far as his recording career is concerned, for example the inclusion of songs not composed by him, usage of lyrics in several different languages, a new instrumental concept, etc. The singer is accompanied by a splendid quartet, which features pianist Michal Tokaj, cellist Adam Oles, bassist Michal Jaros and drummer Sebastian Frankiewicz. Except for the bassist the other three musicians are long time collaborators on his earlier recordings. The presence of a bassist allows Oles to play his cello more in the way it was originally intended, as opposed to the earlier recordings, where it was mostly playing the bass parts.

The album comprises of no less than nineteen tracks, some quite short (under a minute) and other fully developed and lasting around seven minutes. One song (Laurie Anderson's "Langue D'Amour") appears four times in different incarnations and two other songs are reprised. Karnas composed or co-composed six of the pieces, four other pieces are credited to the band accompanying him, one is an instrumental composed by Tokaj and three are songs from the canonic Rock repertoire like Sting's "Roxanne", Joni Mitchell's "Black Crow" and the a.m. song by Laurie Anderson.

It is immediately obvious that this is Karnas' most ambitious album to date. The complexity and versatility of the material is overwhelming and music moving from one theme to another creates a charming flow, which makes the listener whish for it never to stop. Instrumentally this album, with Tokaj taking over the role of the main soloist, is finally perfect and Tokaj's beautiful tango is the best original piece of music on the album. Oles finally shows what he's made of and plays some amazing sounds. The vocal performances are also excellent, obviously more mature and relaxed than ever before. This time Karnas is pretty minimalistic, not trying to overemphasize his part and treating the entire project as a whole rather than another solo album. The group effort is definitely what makes this album tick so wonderfully and takes it a few notches up the scale.

Overall this is a truly amazing vocal Jazz album, which plainly stands out as an artistic achievement, leaving most other albums of its kind way behind. Suffice to listen to the vocalist's interpretations of the three well known songs, in order to appreciate his originality. Add to this the strength of his original material and Karnas emerges as an artist worth following and already leaving his mark on the contemporary scene, with very few contenders. An absolute must!

Grzegorz Karnas – Ballady Na Koniec Swiata (2006)

Grzegorz Karnas - vocals, composer, lyrics
Adam Oles - cello, co-composer
Radoslaw Nowicki - saxophone
Tomasz Kalwak - electronics
Bogusz Wekka - percussion
guests:
Michal Tokaj - piano
Damian Kurasz - guitar

NINTH FLOOR 1002


By Adam Baruch

This is the third album by Polish Jazz vocalist / composer / arranger Grzegorz Karnas, one of the most unique and talented representatives of the young generation of the local Jazz scene. Born in the southern Polish province of Upper Silesia, Karnas graduated form the Jazz Institute at the Katowice Academy of Music, where a large percentage of the young Polish Jazz musicians get their initial graduate education. His debut album "Reinkarnasja", released in 2000, created quite a stir on the local scene and immediately established him as one of the most significant newcomers.

Stylistically this album is a direct continuation of its predecessor "Sny", except for the fact that all the music was co-composed by Karnas and cellist Adam Oles (who also plays on the album) with lyrics by Karnas. The thirteen pieces are all relatively low-key, hence the reference to ballads in the title, although they have little in common with what is considered a ballad in classic Jazz other than the slow tempo. The accompaniment is also more subtle than on the previous album, with more ambient background sounds and less typical Jazz solos. Oles, who plays his cello mostly as if it was an acoustic bass, sets much of the overall sound and atmosphere. Other participants include saxophonist Radoslaw Nowicki, keyboardist and electronic sounds creator Tomasz Kalwak, and congas player Bogusz Wekka. In addition two guest artists also participate: pianist Michal Tokaj and guitarist Damian Kurasz.

Karnas apparently found in Oles an ideal partner in his search for a decisive stylistic crystallization, which is quite apparent here. His vocal explorations are less chaotic and outrageous, with spontaneity replaced by self-control and moderation, which of course does not make his music any less exciting. But this album is somewhat less accessible and immediately likeable that his earlier work, perhaps due to the depressing lyrical subject matter (end of the world), which is apparent not only in the lyrics but also in the somewhat gloomy melody lines. All in all this is definitely another excellent piece of musical artistry.

Karnas is a unique voice and everything he recorded is worth the listeners' attention, especially since vocal Jazz is such a neglected area dominated by mediocrity if not worse. Therefore this album stands out as a beacon of hope that not all is lost and the end of the world will have a wait for a while. Exciting stuff!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

POLISH JAZZ TOP TEN 2012!!!

(Editor) We love these end-of-the-year summaries and yet... we hate them! The first emotion comes from happiness that we have had so much fantastic music this year. The second from the obligation to choose between so many great albums. In fact we could pick up yet another ten and... another of no worse recordings. Such is the richness of Polish jazz! Let us hope that artists will keep on working hard to make the stunning renaissance of Polish music to continue and that audience through its dedication will provide support without which the music cannot exist. Finally all the best for our readers in New Year! We need your attention to carry on with our service which we hope you enjoy ;-)

1. Piotr Baron Quintet - Jazz Na Hrade - 26 points
2. Pianohooligan - Experiment: Penderecki - 24
3. The Intuition Orchestra with Grażyna Auguścik/Zdzisław Piernik - Fromm - 13
4. Grzegorz Karnas Trio feat. Miklos Lukacs - Audio Beads - 12
5. Krzysztof Komeda - Meine Susse Europaische Haimat - 10
6. Mikołaj Trzaska Ircha Clarinet Quartet - Zikaron-Lefanay - 9
7. Tomasz Dąbrowski - Tom Trio - 8
8. Adam Bałdych & The Baltic Gang - Imaginary Room - 7
9. Kuba Stankiewicz - Spaces - 6
10. Light Coorporation - Aliens From Planet Earth - 5

Please, check also our individual lists:

Adam Baruch:
1. Krzysztof Komeda - Meine Susse Europaische Haimat
2. Piotr Baron Quintet – Jazz na Hrade
3. Pianohooligan - Experiment: Penderecki
4. Kuba Stankiewicz – Spaces
5. Light Coorporation – Aliens From Planet Earth
6. Krystyna Stańko - Kropla Słowa
7. Beata Przybytek - I'm Gonna Rock You
8. Leszek Kułakowski – Piano Concerto, Sketches For Jazz Trio & Symphony Orchestra
9. Maciej Fortuna Trio – Solar Ring
10. Maciej Garbowski – Elements

Tomasz Łuczak:
1. The Intuition Orchestra with Grażyna Auguścik/Zdzisław Piernik - Fromm
2. Pianohooligan - Experiment: Penderecki
3. Tomasz Dąbrowski - Tom Trio
4. Piotr Baron Quintet - Jazz Na Hrade
5. Grzegorz Karnas Trio feat. Miklos Lukacs - Audio Beads
6. Remont Pomp - Złota Platyna
7. Topolski/Szwelnik - Polymer
8. Tomasz Licak - Trouble Hunting
9. Dariusz Herbasz - Joy Of Friendship
10. Kamil Szuszkiewicz/Marcin Zabrocki - Szuszkiewicz/Zabrocki

Maciej Nowotny:
1. Piotr Baron Quintet - Jazz na Hrade
2. Mikołaj Trzaska Ircha Clarinet Quartet - Zikaron-Lefanay
3. Adam Bałdych & The Baltic Gang - Imaginary Room
4. Pianohooligan - Experiment: Penderecki
5. Grzegorz Karnas Trio feat. Miklos Lukacs - Audio Beads
6. Małe Instrumenty - Chemia i Fizyka
7. Sing Sing Penelope – This Is The Music/Volume 1
8. The Intuition Orchestra feat. Grażyna Auguścik/Zdzisław Piernik - Fromm
9. Tomasz Licak - Trouble Hunting
10. Mud Cavaliers & The International School Of Traditional Music Ensemble - Scenes Of Infinity


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Rasz, Kucz, Kwiatkowski - Prenty (2012)

Rasz, Kucz, Kwiatkowski (band)

Robert Rasz - drumms, percussions
Konrad Kucz - Oriental and Western virtual instruments, loops
Mateusz Kwiatkowski - cello

guest: Krzysztof Brade - guitar samplings

Prenty (2012)

Human is not only a certain, rather peculiar, animal species but also an idea. I can imagine that it may once exist without homo sapiens although it would make me sad. Can machines be human? No. I don't think they ever will be. But perhaps they will snob to behave like human. At which area it seems possible? Perhaps music. To a certain degree it has already started. Ages ago it all began with human voice and later with instruments made of natural materials: pipe of reed, drum of skin or lira of tendons. Each epoch brings its own wave of instruments following slow development of industrial talents of human kind: organs, piano or saxophone. Finally new age of computers has come. Moore's law stating that the computing power doubles approximately every two years means also that at this insane pace doubles also possibilities in computer driven generation of yet unheard combinations of new sounds. If you like to check how creative the use of this technology may be I recommend you to listen to this album. 

It is a perfect mixture of industrial, ambient, modern dance and classical music with minimal yet important addition of jazz spontaneity and improvisation. Robert Rasz is a drummer and percussionist I have observed carefully for last couple of years. His versatility allows him to fit well as much in indie pop music projects (like with Gaba Kulka on excellent "Hat, Rabbit") or in avant jazz enterprises (like in fabulous "Afekty" recorded in trio with Wacław Zimpel and Wojtek Traczyk). Konrad Kucz is a composer and producer who specializes in ambient music (he also worked together with Gaba Kulka on her "Sleep Walk"). On this record he operated different Oriental and Western virtual instruments and created loops. Mateusz Kwiatkowski is classically trained cellist and composer who collaborated with Raphael Rogiński, Ksawery Wójciński or Paweł Postaremczak in ephemeral but interesting groups striving to enliven classical music with infusion of modern dance music.

It would be difficult to find three musicians of more different backgrounds yet creating music that coherent! In terms of mood it sounds as a soundtrack to would-be sequel to cult Ridley Scott "Blade Runner" movie. Disturbing, insane, ghastly: it conjures true magic causing alternately chills and ecstasy. It is true one of the most astonishing sonic adventures in Polish music last year!

Promo mix:


and a video clip to first track on this album:





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