Saturday, March 30, 2013

Sławomir Kulpowicz - Complete Edition (2013)


Sławomir Kulpowicz - piano

In-Formation Trio (1CD)
Private Balet Music (1CD)
The Quartet (2CD)
Sławomir Kulpowicz & Shujaat Khan (1CD)

Sławomir Kulpowicz - Complete Edition (2013)

Text by Maciej Nowotny

Sławomir Kulpowicz was a significant figure as far as jazz piano in Poland is concerned. Born in 1952 he studied in Katowice Music Academy. At the beginning of his career he played with Zbigniew Namysłowski which here is the thing approximately of the same caliber as in the US playing with Art Blackey & The Jazz Messangers. Very soon however he started to work on his own and in 1977 set up a band unpretentiously named The Quartet which turned out to be a great success indeed. In this set we got full CD of mostly unpublished music of this legendary combo together with other recordings documenting his rich career spanning over 30 years and ended in 2008 by premature death.

The Quartet remains a highlight of the whole set. Its style was influenced as much by Kulpowicz as by Tomasz Szukalski. Szukalski is a true giant on Polish jazz scene and can be compared in influence he exerted on it only with such figures like Krzysztof Komeda or Tomasz Stańko. With Stańko he collaborated on most of his albums made in 70ties. Among them "TWET" or "Balladyna" stand out as most important recordings of that era as much in Polish as in European jazz. This powerful duo was supported by rhythm section consisting of drummer Janusz Stefański and double bassist Paweł Jarzębski. The uniqueness of the music of The Quartet owes a lot to strong personalities of both Kulpowicz and Szukalski. Kulpowicz style may be described as something between Bud Powell and Franz Liszt with an addition of McCoy Tyner. As you recall this last pianist was a long time companion of John Coltrane. Kulpowicz found in Szukalski a partner whom Coltrane found in Tyner. But although the music of The Quartet is clearly inspired by American jazz as played by John Coltrane's band it is by no means the imitation which shall become evident upon rehearsing other CDs of this set.

CD titled "Private Ballet Music" shows Kulpowicz in solo recital.  On this album Kulpowicz, drawing much from jazz solo albums by his famous contemporary Keith Jarrett, also pays homage to classical music. Since then it has become necessary for Polish jazz pianists to record sometime during their carreers a solo album mixing jazz and classical music. Albums by Adzik Sendecki, Leszek Możdżer or recently Sławek Jaskułke or Marcin Masecki are good examples of such phenomenon.

Next CD Kulpowicz recorded with Indian sitar virtuoso Shujaat Khan. But for Kulpowicz it was much more than just copying Coltrane's interest in Eastern cultures. It was also a true spiritual venture which added the authenticity to this recording which as far as Polish jazz is concerned is one of few successful ventures into world music territory.

I especially like the fourth part of this set with CD of In-Formation Trio in which Kulpowicz was supported by double bassist Witold Szczurek (Rek) and drummer Czesław Bartkowski. I find music they played as highly original not being one of multiple offsprings of Bill Evans Trio but going its own unique way. That makes this whole set actual even after many years since its recording and one of key albums in history of Polish Jazz.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Dixie Warsaw Jazzmen – China Boy (2012)

Stefan Wozniakowski - trumpet
Andrzej Bigolas - clarinet, vocals
Wlodzimierz Halik - bass saxophone
Zygmund Jagodzinski - banjo, vocals
with
Maciej Strzelczyk - violin
Fuerte String Quartet

PRIVATE EDITION


By Adam Baruch

This delightful album presents the Polish Traditional Jazz ensemble Dixie Warsaw Jazzmen, which comprises of musicians who used to play with other Polish Trad ensembles like Hagaw, Vistula River Brass Band, Gold Washboard and others: trumpeter Stefan Wozniakowski, clarinetist and vocalist Andrzej Bigolas, bass saxophonist Wlodzimierz Halik and banjoist and vocalist Zygmunt Jagodzinski. They invited the violinist Maciej Strzelczyk as a special guest and finally added the Fuerte String Quartet to play with them, creating a most unusual Trad ensemble with a new approach and rich sound texture.

The music includes seven classic Dixieland compositions mostly dating from the early 20th Century, newly arranged to include the string quartet parts and featuring Polish lyrics on some of them. The overall effect is quite surprising and fresh, which should please many listeners, even those who usually don't listen to Trad Jazz. It is great to see Trad Jazz still being performed vigorously and with such obvious dedication. Many younger Jazz listeners, who are unaware of the early history of the music, should find this most educational on top of being highly enjoyable.

Strzelczyk plays some wonderful solos here and all the rest of the musicians perform spotlessly and with inspiration. This is a great opportunity to take a peek at the less serious, demanding and often over-intellectual Jazz by visiting the historic sources of the music and simply having fun! Very nice indeed!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Don Ellis / Wojciech Karolak Trio – Polish Radio Jazz Archives Vol.02 (2013)

Don Ellis - trumpet
Wojciech Karolak - piano
Roman Dylag - bass
Andrzej Dabrowski - drums

POLSKIE RADIO 1590





By Adam Baruch

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

The material presented here was recorded in 1962 during the 5th Jazz Jamboree and features American trumpeter Don Ellis, accompanied by a Polish rhythm section consisting of pianist Wojciech Karolak, bassist Roman Dylag and drummer Andrzej Dabrowski. All the six tracks were recorded live during the Festival, the last of which is an extended suite composed by Polish pianist / composer Andrzej Trzaskowski presented as part of a concert dedicated to the Third Stream (early Jazz-Classical Fusion initiated by American composer Gunther Schuller in the late 1950s). On that track the quartet is accompanied by the Polish National Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra. Of the five shorter Jazz pieces, two are original compositions by Ellis and the remaining three are standards.

Ellis was the second US musician who opted to play with a local rhythm section, following Stan Getz who did so two years earlier (as captured on the first volume of this series). Although he was just 28 years old at the time, he already had a lot of experience and quite a reputation as a result of playing with many top American Jazz acts in the late 1950s and early 1960s. His Polish partners: Karolak (aged 23), Dylag (aged 24) and Dabrowski (aged 24) sound like veterans, obviously ready and able for the occasion. Ellis was the ideal choice as a performer of the orchestral piece by Trzaskowski, as he was one of the musicians / composers involved in this genre from its early stage.

There is a clear division between the first part of this album, which includes the five Jazz pieces and the orchestral suite, which is quite avant-garde and geared more towards Classical music listeners. Both parts are excellent, each presenting different merits of course. The fact that Trzaskowski composed the orchestral suite at that time is quite astonishing, considering the limited information about contemporary musical trends and developments that managed to cross over from behind the iron curtain. Obviously he was a man of great vision beyond his obvious talents as a player and composer.

The wonderful ambience of the hall and the remastered sound quality are spectacular, worm and natural, leaving many contemporary recordings way behind, even though they were done 51 years ago using quite primitive equipment.

The only note of criticism about this new edition is the lack of a proper booklet with proper liner notes, photographs and other well deserved details, which this monumental music truly deserves. Polish Radio really should have made an effort there. A pity!

In retrospect this is a great document of the era and an integral part of the Polish Jazz saga, which deserves to be told and studied. The presence of the orchestral suite makes this an absolute must for collectors of Polish Jazz albums and Third Stream followers.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Stan Getz / Andrzej Trzaskowski Trio – Polish Radio Jazz Archives Vol.01 (2013)

Stan Getz - saxophone
Andrzej Trzaskowski - piano
Roman Dylag - bass
Andrzej Dabrowski - drums

POLSKIE RADIO 1567





By Adam Baruch

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

The material presented here was recorded in 1960 during the 3rd Jazz Jamboree and features American saxophone Giant Stan Getz, accompanied by a Polish rhythm section consisting of pianist Andrzej Trzaskowski, bassist Roman Dylag and drummer Andrzej Dabrowski. Nine of the twelve tracks included here were recorded live during the Festival and the additional three tracks were recorded in the same hall but late at night, without any spectators being presents. All the music comprises of Jazz standards. This recording was made before Getz reached the superstar popularity as a result of his Bossa Nova recordings a couple of years later, but he was already a much respected saxophonist with a very impressive record behind him, although he was just 33 years old at the time.

The story about why Getz opted to play with a local rhythm section has many versions. Most Polish sources quote some vague statements indicating this as being a conscious decision made "in recognition of the talent of the young Polish Jazz musicians". That version has very little support in reality. One should bear in mind that Getz was living at the time in Scandinavia and did not have a steady group he performed with in Scandinavia, where he actually arrived from to play at the Jazz Jamboree (not from the USA). When I talked to Getz about his first visit in Poland (he was there again in 1974 and 1980), he told me that he heard just a little about Jazz in Poland before he arrived there, thanks to the early relationships between the Polish and the Scandinavian scenes, which was about to be expanded in the years to come. His willingness to play with the young Poles should be rather credited to his open-mindedness and general good nature, with always characterized him as a person. Also let us not forget that the logistics and costs involved with bringing an entire quartet from the USA at that time were quite beyond the capabilities of the festival's organizers.

As to the music, there is actually no need to say much about it. Getz plays divinely, as usual, with his unique tone and virtuosity and the sweetest saxophone sound ever. Obviously enjoying himself enormously, he allows the rhythm section to stretch out, playing relatively long solos. The young Poles: Trzaskowski (aged 27), Dylag (aged 22) and Dabrowski (aged 22) sound like veterans, obviously uplifted spiritually by the event. The music is simply perfect, from start to finish. The wonderful ambience of the hall and the remastered sound quality are spectacular, worm and natural, leaving many contemporary recordings way behind, even though they were done 53 years ago using quite primitive equipment. In short everything about this album is simply miraculous.

The only note of criticism about this new edition is the lack of a proper booklet with proper liner notes, photographs and other well deserved details, which this monumental music truly deserves. Polish Radio really should have made an effort there. A pity!

No wander that this material (in one form or another) was bootlegged countless times and the original vinyl release ("Stan Getz W Polsce") reached outrageous sums on the collectors' market all over the world. Now they are available in the best sounding quality ever for the price of a regular CD, so don't even dare to think about this twice. This is an absolute must!

Alex Kolosov / Big Sky – 3 Days (2012)

Alex Kolosov - guitar
Lev Lebedev - clarinet
Vladimir Ivanov - keyboards
Andrey Rozdobudov - drums
with
Michal Urbaniak - violin





By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by the group Big Sky, formed and led by veteran Russian guitarist / composer Alex Kolosov. The group also includes clarinetist Lev Lebedev, keyboardist Vladimir Ivanow and drummer Andrey Razdobudov. A special guest, Polish Jazz violinist Michal Urbaniak, appears on five of the eight tracks, all of which were composed by the leader. The album was recorded at the legendary Rainbow studio in Oslo, celebrated for its fabulous sound quality and ambience.

The music is quite typical Jazz-Rock Fusion, strongly based in Blues and incorporating some World Music influences. The presence of the clarinet adds an unusual dimension to the overall sound of the group, as the delicate tone of the clarinet contrasts with the distorted guitar, which dominates the proceedings. Urbaniak's violin parts are definitely the highlight of the entire recording and Lebedev's parts, although mostly brief, are also delightful.

The album suffers from several disadvantages; First the lack of a bass player, which would add some kind of basic rhythmic pulse to the music, which the drums and keyboards are not capable of providing and without which the music simply lacks the drive it should have. Than the sound of the guitar, which is highly distorted and condensed, is simply unpleasant, especial since it does not change an iota almost for the entire duration of the album. And inviting Urbaniak to play on the album simply emphasizes the colossal difference in the level of the musicianship between him and the regular members of the group.

Altogether this is not a bad album, which Fusion fans might enjoy, but unfortunately not good enough to become a part of the Fusion canon. But considering the fact that Western listeners are rarely exposed to Russian Jazz, this might be worth investigating.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Włodzimierz Nahorny - Jej Portret (GAD Records, 2013)

Włodzimierz Nahorny – piano, alto sax, flute, harpsichord

Zespół instrumentalny, cond. Jan Ptaszyn-Wróblewski(1-12), Zespół Rozrywkowy Rozgłośni Gdańskiej, cond.Jan Tomaszewski (13), Studio M-2, cond. Stefan Rachoń (14), Zespół Perkusyjny Jerzego Bartza (15),Studio Jazzowe Polskiego Radia, cond. Bogusław Klimczuk (16), Big-Band Polskiego Radia, cond. Bogusław Klimczuk (17), Orkiestra Polskiego Radia, cond. Stefan Rachoń (18)

Jej Portret (GAD Records, 2013)

By Maciej Nowotny

I am often asked, as much abroad as in Poland, what really is Polish jazz? What does distinguish it from jazz as played in other countries? This is not easy to answer such inquiries as usually is with all questions regarding music. Perhaps the best way to describe such a complex phenomenon is to give some examples of albums thanks to which we can talk about something as distinctive and unique as Polish jazz.

One of such albums is "Jej Portret" (eng. Her Picture) recorded by Włodzimierz Nahorny. I will not delve here on details of Nahorny biography as it is enough to say that he is one of those crucial personalities in Polish music which shaped its uniqueness over few last decades. This album features him as much as multi instrumentalist, as he plays on piano, alto sax, flute and harpsichord, but first of all as an arranger. He took some of the best Polish songs of 60ties and 70ties, some typical pop, other from movies, and reforged them using bits of language of jazz. The effect? Simply outstanding! First, these songs are creme-of-the-creme of Polish song writing, truly brilliant in every possible sense. Second, in all his arrangements Nahorny used then existing different orchestras whose level in those years (as they were supported by the state radio and television) was nothing else but stellar. Finally, it is Nahorny himself who regardless which instrument he played, sounded absolutely uniquely and individually.

By combining these first-class elements what we got here is simply one of those legendary recordings  of Polish jazz. Released in 1971 on vinyl it remained since then in very limited circulation being an object of longing of many collectors and fans. It is therefore very fortunate that small Polish label GAD Records specializing in reissuing of old Polish vinyls or yet unpublished archive recordings decided to remind it to the public. The level of publishing is first class. Great liner notes both in Polish and English languages give insight into colourful background of this recording. We also got in this reissue six additional tracks which are as excellent as the rest of twelve songs on the album. All in all this album is truly a pearl which every serious fan of Polish jazz should be more than happy to add to her or his collection!



Tracklist:
01. Jej portret
02. Powiedzieliśmy już wszystko
03. Cała jesteś w skowronkach
04. Melodia z filmu „Dziura w ziemi”
05. Taki dzień
06. Mówiły mu
07. Niech pan mi nie odsłania wnętrza
08. Wrócę do ciebie
09. Jest Warszawa
10. Obok nas
11. Właśnie tego dnia
12. Trzymając się za ręce

Bonusy:
13. Zapomniany emigrant
14. Waltz nr 29
15. Namiastka
16. Swing dla Włodka
17. Melodia dla Zofii
18. Zacząć jeszcze raz

Nowojorczycy i Powrót Króla

Dante w “Nowym Życiu” wymienia trzy kategorie pielgrzymów: palmieri, romei i peregrini w zależności od tego czy podążają oni do Ziemi Świętej, Rzymu czy Santiago de Compostella. Jednak gdyby żył dzisiaj kto wie czy nie dodałby do tego zestawienia jeszcze jednej kategorii, aby opisać pielgrzymki jakie odbywają młodzi muzycy jazzowi do Nowego Jorku. Zbiegają się tam z całego świata, by stanąć na 52 ulicy i wspominać czasy, gdy kilkadziesiąt lat temu w miejscach takich jak Onyx, 3 Deuces, Carousel, Downbeat czy Birdland rodził się bebop. Tych miejsc już nie ma, ale muzyka, która w nich powstała, dzięki takim postaciom jak Charlie Parker, Thelonius Monk czy Miles Davis ciągle żyje w tym miejscu.

Wśród tych podróżników do źródeł jazzowej tradycji słychać niekiedy polską mowę. Zwłaszcza w ostatnich latach jest ich wielu, co zwiastuje nową falę w naszej muzce, jej renesans. Adam Bałdych, Tomasz Dąbrowski, Maciej Obara czy Rafał Sarnecki, by wymienić tylko killku spośród wielu, to młodzi polscy artyści, dla których wizyta w mieście nad rzeką Hudson i współpraca z tamtejszymi muzykami, okazać się może trampoliną do wielkiej kariery. Jeśli jeszcze tego nie zrobiliście koniecznie sięgnijcie po będące owocem tych peregrynacji albumy! Oto krótki przewodnik, aby ułatwić nieco Wasze muzyczne wędrówki:

Warto sięgnąć po płytę “Imaginary Room” skrzypka Adama Bałdycha, która pojawia się wysoko w wielu zestawieniach najlepszych polskich płyt jazzowych roku 2012. Trudno się dziwić skoro nagrany został dla renomowanej wytwórni ACT i z udziałem takich wspaniałych skandynawskich muzyków jak Lars Danielsson czy Jacob Karlzon. Nie wiadomo jednak czy w ogóle by powstał gdyby nie poprzedzająca go wyprawa Adama do Nowego Jorku, której owocem był “Magical Theatre”. Wiele kompozycji, i to najlepszych, jakie znalazły się na obsypanej nagrodami płycie nagranej dla wytwórni Sigiego Locha, pochodzi właśnie z tego krążka.

Talent młodego trębacza Tomasza Dąbrowskiego rozwija się w niebywałym tempie! W ostatnich dosłownie 2-3 latach zagrał na dziesięciu różnych płytach, wszystkich godnych uwagi. Przykładem może być krążek Kennetha Dahla Knudsena “Clockstopper”, na którym obok niego pojawiają się takie młode gwiazdy nowojorskiej sceny jak perkusista Jonathan Blake czy pochodzący z Izraela gitarzysta Gilad Hekselman. Jednak ja czekam najbardziej na album “Steps” jaki Dąbrowski nagrał latem ubiegłego roku w Nowym Jorku z legendarnym avantjazzowym perkusistą Tyshawnem Soreyem. Słuchałem ich koncertu podczas ubiegłorocznego festiwalu JazzArt w Katowicach i niewiele przypominam sobie tej rangi wydarzeń w polskim jazzie w ostatnich latach.

Etap nowojorski saksofonista Maciej Obara ma już za sobą. Jednak będące rezultatem jego wyprawy do Nowego Jorku i wydane w 2010 roku płyty “Four” i “Three” należą ciągle do najciekawszych w jego dyskografii. Znajdziecie na nich śmietankę tamtejszej awangardy, a wśród nich muzyków z wyśmienitej School Of Improvisational Music takich jak: Ralph Alessi czy Mark Helias. Nie zapomijcie także o najnowszych planach Obary, wśród których “Komeda” nagrany z nowym zespołem Obara International powinien być perłą w katalogu powstałej niedawno nowej polskiej wytwórni For Tune Records.

Na okładce wydanej w 2008 roku płyty “Songs From A New Place” gitarzysty Rafała Sarneckiego widać wieżowce Manhattanu, bo właśnie w Nowym Jorku studiował i obecnie mieszka. Jego kariera także nabrała w ostatnich latach przyśpieszania, o czym niech świadczy to, że następny krążek “Madman Rambles Again” (2011) wydała mu prestiżowa hiszpańska oficyna Fresh Sound New Talent. Na kwiecień planuje nagranie nowej płyty z sekstetem, z którym na co dzień gra w Nowym Jorku. Zapewne nie tylko ja czekam na ten album z niecierpliwością!

Jednak najsłynniejszym ze wszystkich Polaków jacy w ostatnich latach zjawili się w tym mieście jest Tomasz Stańko. Po zakończeniu współpracy ze swoim “polskim” kwartetem postanowił spełnić marzenie swojego życia i zamieszkał na Manhattanie, naprzeciwko Central Parku. Jego najnowszy, wydany w tym roku album “Wisława” stanowi owoc dwuletnich poszukiwań, w trakcie których Stańko grał z najbardziej znaczącymi przedstawicielami awangardowej sceny nowojorskiej, z których dwóch czyli perkusista Gerald Cleaver i kontrabasista Thomas Morgan, zagrało na tej płycie. Skład uzupełnia inny nowojorczyk, młody pianista kubańskiego pochodzenia David Virelles, któremu wielu wróży karierę równie ekscytującą co ormiańskiemu supertalentowi Tigranowi Hamasyanowi.

Mimo, że po siedemdziesiątce Stańko podszedł do tego zadania z pasją i wigorem młodzieniaszka. Bez względu na to jak ocenimy efekt końcowy, który jednym się będzie podobał bardziej a drugim mniej (należę do tej grupy), to właśnie ten niezmienny entuzjazm Stańki dla muzyki jest tym co sprawia, że jest punktem odniesienia dla kolejnych pokoleń jazzmanów w Polsce. Mamy zatem z początkiem 2013 prawdziwy Powrót Króla. Jednak tak jak w tolkienowskiej sadze to co naprawdę robi wrażenie to fakt, że król nie wraca sam. Otacza go świetna drużyna polskich muzyków, o których nie słyszeliśmy do tej pory w ogóle lub tylko niewiele. To właśnie oni, ci bohaterowie znikąd, nie znani jeszcze szerszej publiczności, sprawiają, że wraz z królem wrócić mogą złote lata dla polskiego jazzu.

Autor: Maciej Nowotny


Friday, March 22, 2013

Slawomir Jaskulke – Fill The Harmony Philharmonics (2004)

Slawomir Jaskulke - piano
Slawomir Kurkiewicz - bass

Krzysztof Dziedzic - drums
with
Hanseatica Chamber Orchestra
Mika Urbaniak - vocals


BCD 04




By Adam Baruch

This is the third album by Polish Jazz pianist / composer Slawomir Jaskulke, which presents a five parts suite for piano trio and chamber orchestra of the Jazz-Classical Fusion variety. The additional trio members are bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz, one of Polish Jazz most renowned bassists (Simple Acoustic Trio, Tomasz Stanko), and drummer Krzysztof Dziedzic. The orchestral parts are performed by the Hanseatica Chamber Orchestra. Vocalist Mika Urbaniak is featured on one track. The music was composed by Jaskulke, who was twenty four years old at the time.

This ambitious project, undertaken by such a young musician, is quite extraordinary by any standard. Although Jazz and Classical music have been previously combined with various degree of success, this attempt is certainly quite different from all the others, employing musical devices, themes and arrangements often contrasting and seemingly clashing with other, like the vocal Rap part in the midst of a fragment performed by the strings. The Jazz trio interludes move in and out of the orchestral accompaniment, as do the solo piano parts. The overall structure does not seem to follow any of the pre-ordained Classical musical configurations, and Jaskulke appears to be using the orchestra as a tool rather than a point of reference.

Although free-structured, the music maintains a melodic backbone, which re-appears both in the orchestral and the trio parts. The listener might find this music quite difficult to absorb, certainly during the initial listening phases, since things seldom continue for a period of time long enough to begin to sound "familiar". There is a sense or urgency and unrest, which is reminiscent of music composed for suspense movies. But listeners willing to listen patiently and repeatedly will eventually embrace the entire piece, finding its intrinsic logic.

The Classical parts are obviously influenced by contemporary composers and a well trained might hear traces of George Gershwin, The French Modernists and of course the Polish avant-gardists (Krzysztof Penderecki & Co.). Polish composer / pianist Frederic Chopin presides as well, if not bodily then surely spiritually. Stylistically this hodge-podge might need some polishing and sorting out, but give the guy a break; after all he is only twenty four…

Regardless if one enjoys this music or not, it surely deserves to be appreciated for its aesthetic merits, its audacity and its innovation. Perhaps it is a bit over the top, but people who don't dare don't get there. Personally I quite like it and wholeheartedly recommend it to music aficionados, who are after the less obvious yet more rewarding game.

Slawomir Jaskulke – Sugarfree (2003)

Slawomir Jaskulke - piano
Krzysztof Pacan - bass
Krzysztof Dziedzic - drums

BCD 03







By Adam Baruch

This is the second album by Polish Jazz pianist / composer Slawomir Jaskulke, which was recorded in the classic piano trio format with bassist Krzysztof Pacan and drummer Krzysztof Dziedzic. The album presents seven original compositions, all by Jaskulke.

By the time this album was recorded, Jaskulke was already a member of the quartet led by the Polish Jazz legend Zbigniew Namyslowski, which is the most desirable position for any Polish Jazz musician and which means that his talent was recognized as extraordinary on the local scene. Anybody listening to this album must admit that Jaskulke is indeed one of the most extraordinary musicians to arrive on the Polish Jazz scene in the 21st Century. This album confirms not only his superb qualities as a player, but even more interestingly and dramatically his talent as a composer.

Jaskulke has an easily recognizably personal style, which is quite extraordinary for such a young musician. His approach to the piano is percussive, almost "aggressive" at times, and at the same time he can stroke the keys delicately as a summer breeze. His compositions are also quite distinct and remarkable and regardless of their tempi, they convey a punctuated, but clearly stated melody, irregular meters and ultra-modern rhythmic devices, which can be found in contemporary electronic music. All these, combined with the obvious Jazz legacy create an amalgam, which is highly innovative and surprising.

This music is perhaps one of the most contemporary approaches to Jazz, taking the music from the 20th Century, where it was born and raised, into the 21st Century, where it now develop into a plethora of new directions. It proves that Jazz does not need to be stagnant and can be innovated in many ways, not only in the avant-garde / Free / Improvised Music idiom, but also in new and unexpected directions.

The performances on this album are truly stellar, not only those by the leader but also those by the rhythm section. Pacan, who was also a member of the Namyslowski quartet at the time, is a brilliant bassist, capable of a wide range of styles, from classic Jazz to modern, almost Pop / Rock pulsations. Dziedzic is an ideal drummer in this setting, perfectly in sync with Jaskulke in the percussive beat parts and his by and large more Rock than Jazz sound.

Overall this is a brilliant album in every aspect, sadly largely overlooked at the time of its release but certainly deserving an honorable position among the great Polish Jazz piano trio recordings. This is highly recommended to all Polish Jazz fans and Jazz aficionados in general. It's never too late to discover this priceless gem!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Simon Krebs - Please Don't Feed The Tears (2012)

Simon Krebs

Simon Krebs (guitar)
Kasper Tranberg (trumpet)
Tomasz Licak (tenor sax)
Bartlomiej Wawryniuk (alto sax)
Rasmus Fribo (bass clarinet, tenor sax)
Richard Andersson (bass)
Anders Mogensen (drums)
Please Don't Feed the Tears (2012)


Since few years when Polish students began to flock to Music Academy in Odense (Denmark) we have something like "Danish Wave" in Polish jazz. Significant number of talented, young musicians who studied or are studying there have brought onto our scene the enthusiasm, fresh attitude and new ideas. Names like Tomek Dąbrowski, Marek Kądziela and Tomek Licak must be mentioned here. These guys are on the brink of significant careers having in their hands everything necessary to become key players on our scene in decades to come.

It happened that above mentioned Licak is also one of musicians featured on this record titled "Please Don't Feed the Tears" and released by Danish Blackout label in 2012. As usual he is playing on tenor saxophone being supported in horns section by another Pole, and student of this school, alto saxophonist Bartek Wawryniuk. But this is definitely collective work with all musicians of this septet playing equally important role. Apart from both Poles the band consists of trumpeter Kasper Tranberg, clarinetist Rasmus Fribo, bassist Richard Andersson and drummer Anders Mogensen. They are all led by young guitarist Simon Krebs who also composed six out of seven tunes (seventh one being well-known standard "Nature Boy").

I don't know much about Simon Krebs apart from that this is not his debut recording. Judging solely on this album I can say he is extremely talented composer and gifted musician. The septet play is immaculate. The level of musicianship as displayed by all musicians is simply outstanding. Tunes are captivating and far from being trivial despite fact that music is kept well within limits of mainstream. All in all, excellent proposal, fully deserving to be recommended to anyone interested in high-quality modern jazz of Scandinavian origin with small but significant drop of Polish blood. 







Iiro Rantala / Michael Wollny / Leszek Możdżer - Live at Berlin Philharmonic I (2013)

Iiro Rantala 
Michael Wollny
Leszek Możdżer 

all on piano & Fender Rhodes (on 06 & 08)

Live at Berlin Philharmonic I (2013)


In 1944, the notorious American jazz impresario Norman Grantz (1918 – 2001) had a vision: He wanted to anchor the uniqueness and virtuosity of improvised music deep in society, enable the musicians to garner the rank and recognition that they deserved, and create something entirely new by spontaneously combining different styles and approaches in unexpected ensembles. There could only be one place to make this plan a reality – a classical concert hall: "Jazz at the Philharmonic" was born. Grantz' concerts, which later also went on tour, enjoyed fantastic success for 20 years. He presented the most famous jazz musicians of the era, including the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson and Lester Young. Jazz got sophisticated.

Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic: The new concert series in the Chamber Music Hall of the Berlin Philharmonic picks up on Norman Grantz' ground-breaking idea. The Berlin Philharmonic Foundation was of the opinion that jazz deserved more attention, and when ACT-owner Siggi Loch remembered the "Jazz at the Philharmonic" concert series, he proposed such a concept for Berlin. It became immediately apparent on 11 December 2012, at the opening night of "Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic", that jazz is a welcome guest. For the first time in its 25-year history, the Kammermusiksaal was completely sold out for a jazz concert, with an audience of 1200. 3 pianists - Iiro Rantala, Leszek Możdżer and Michael Wollny proved – as soloists, in duos and as a trio – that jazz can break down the rigid old borders between "serious" and "entertaining" music. They showed an audience of largely classical fans that, in no uncertain terms, classical and jazz are anything but opposites. The Tagesspiegel newspaper wrote that it was an event "with rarity value for Berlin" and the public broadcaster ZDF said: "That was fantastic, if not to say world class".

The live recording "Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic I" provides the proof of what can happen when musicians that have never played together before join forces in unusual situations. Rantala, Wollny and Możdżer succeed in creating a defining moment in music, in which "jazz and classical meet as equals" (Tagesspiegel), little wonder really, with all three of them being such crossover fans. Michael Wollny, the still only 34 year-old flagship of young German jazz, gets his inspiration just as much from Schubert or Mahler as from Björk or Kraftwerk, which culminates into powerful masterpieces like "Hexentanz", Wollny's solo title on the album of the same name, a chromatically undulating, harmonically sparkling and rhythmically rousing cornucopia of his unrivalled personal expressiveness. 

The Pole Leszek Możdżer enjoyed a classical music education. An exchange between the main musical directions is entirely natural for him, as his impressionist solo "Incognitor" shows. The Finn Iiro Rantala is a kindred spirit in this respect, as can be heard in the duet "Suffering".

Iiro Rantala, the recent Echo Jazz award winner in the field of international piano stands at the peak of the innovative eclectics aligning themselves with the old jazz tradition to study and revere great inventors of piano music and use them for their own ideas. It only makes sense then that the recording begins with him. Rantala's version of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Aria and the Goldberg Variations, the starting and endpoint of all swinging and improvised music, here transported with exemplary care into the present. Nor is it any more a coincidence that he and Wollny follow it up with "Tears For Esbjörn", the poignant homage to one of the most influential jazz pianists of the last 20 years: Esbjörn Svensson, who died in 2008. Indeed, it is the overwhelming duets that make it clear that all three musicians have the same quality playing together as they do as soloists. After all, they all started their careers in bands: Wollny with his trio [em], Rantala with the trio Töykeät and Możdżer in various groups, for example with Lars Danielsson. Then, when they all join together for Chick Corea's "Armando's Rumba" at the end of "Jazz At Berlin Philharmonic", it is the expected highlight that casts a spell on the listener. And all the while, even beneath this raging, masterly Latin party, there is a classical foundation to be heard.

At the latest after the "powerful start" (Tagesspiegel) of the first "Jazz At Berlin Philharmonic" edition there was no doubt that more had to follow. On 25 March, the pianists Joachim Kühn and Yaron Herman meet with Michel Portal on the bass clarinet and violinist Adam Baldych to go on an adventure of free improvisation; a musical dialogue without a net. Norman Grantz would have loved it.

(source: ACT)


Track listing:
1. Aria And Goldberg Variation - 07:12 (Johann S. Bach)
2. Tears For Esbjörn - 06:53 (Iiro Rantala)
3. Hexentanz - 10:22 (Michael Wollny)
4. No Message - 05:28 (Leszek Mozdzer)
5. Incognitor - 05:33 (Leszek Mozdzer)
6. Svantetic - 06:34 (Krzysztof Komeda)
7. Suffering - 08:08 (Lars Danielsson)
8. Armando’s Rumba - 06:16 (Chick Corea)


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Soundcheck / Aga Kiepuszewska – Soundcheck IV – Marysia – Wiersze Z Kazachstanu (2011)

Maciej Kocinski - saxophone
Krzysztof Dys - piano
Andrzej Swies - bass
Krzysztof Szmanda - drums
with
Aga Kiepuszewska - vocals
Dell'Arte String Quartet

BCD 27



By Adam Baruch

This is the fourth album by Polish Jazz quartet Soundcheck, which comprises of saxophonist Maciej Kocinski, pianist Krzysztof Dys, bassist Andrzej Swies and drummer Krzysztof Szmanda. It includes eleven original compositions, all of which were composed by Kocinski to the poems written by Maria Kocinska. Vocalist Aga Kiepuszewska sings the lyrics and recites parts of the poems, except for one case where the vocals are performed by child Antosia Kocinska. Several of the pieces also feature string quartet arrangements performed by the Dell`Arte String Quartet.

The album belongs to the Jazz & Poetry genre, which is utilized often in Polish Jazz, certainly more so than in any other country. However, this time the lyrics are not by a well-known Polish poet, but by the Aunt of Soundcheck saxophonist Maciej Kocinski. These beautiful poems were written between 1942 and 1946 in Kazakhstan, where she and her family were exiled by the Soviet authorities after the Soviets accused her Father of anti-Soviet conspiracy. USSR invaded Poland in 1939, just a couple of weeks after the invasion from the west by Nazi Germany, and as a result Poland was divided between the Nazis and the Soviets according to the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. This very personal history of one young woman, as told by these poems, is a painful memory of the fortunes of very many Poles, who shared her fate.

These poems, although perhaps lacking the glitter of famous lyricists, are no less convincing and certainly no less moving. They are deeply lyrical, full of sadness, pain, longing, despair, hope, love and faith. Now, endorsed by the wonderful musical veil, they were brought back to life, enhanced and revitalized. The music is perfectly suited not only to accompany the poems but also to paint a perfect soundtrack for the story behind them. The entire album sounds like a continuous musical suite, with the songs, recitation and interim instrumental pieces interwoven into a complete conceptual piece, with is not only highly emotionally effective, buy also aesthetically sublime.

The execution is also exceptional, which is not surprising, as Soundcheck have already established a strong position on the Polish Jazz scene in the last few years. Naturally this music is less adventurous or freely improvised than their instrumental albums recorded previously, but that does not mean it is any less ambitious or complex or beautiful. The limitations involved with incorporating lyrics and music obviously did not present a serious challenge neither to the composer not to the players, and as a result they managed to create an uplifting, awe-inspiring, intelligent piece of music. The vocals, which are somewhat restrained and delicate, are also perfect in this framework. Anything spectacular would have simply spoiled the perfect balance achieved here. Of course the vocalist sings beautifully and her ability to restrain herself is admirable. Kocinski plays several breathtaking solos and his playing seems to grow from one album to another. The rest of the group just do what they do best: play their hearts out.

This is definitely one of the most outstanding albums recorded in 2011, an admirable addition to the Polish Jazz legacy and the Polish Jazz & Poetry movement. As long as there are young Jazz musicians on the local scene, capable of producing music of such quality, the faith of Polish Jazz is in good hands.

Wholeheartedly and most warmly recommended!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Piotr Lemanczyk – Amhran (2013)

Seamus Blake - saxophone
Piotr Lemanczyk - bass
Jacek Kochan - drums

SOLITON 257






By Adam Baruch

Polish Jazz bassist / composer Piotr Lemanczyk is a household name on the local scene and over the years he gained a considerable reputation as one of the most talented, versatile, dependable and imaginative bass players around. His numerous recordings in the last decade present a musician of many faces, who feels completely comfortable playing Free Jazz, melodic lyrical mainstream Jazz and anything in between.

This album finds Lemanczyk in a trio setting, with US (British born) saxophonist Seamus Blake and Polish drummer Jacek Kochan, playing mostly music he composed. Of the eight compositions present on the album seven are by Lemanczyk and the remaining one is by Kochan. The music is free-spirited and open, not Free Jazz per se, as it is based on pre-composed themes, but it emphasizes the improvisations, focusing on them rather than on the melodic or even harmonic backbone. Naturally the saxophone stands in the centre of attention, but a careful listener will notice immediately that this is first and foremost a collective performance, which never falls back into a soloist / rhythm section situation, like most other saxophone trio recordings. Although Lemanczyk solos as well, his most significant contribution is simply playing along with his cohorts, demonstrating ears wide open and undivided attention and respect towards his partners. The drums often take a step back on this album, which leaves the dialog between the saxophone and bass as the centerpiece of this beautiful music.

I wonder if other listeners will share my view that this album is largely atypical as far as Polish Jazz is concerned. That omnipresent lyricism / intrinsic melancholy, that is the trademark of Polish Jazz, is almost completely gone herein. If I listened to this music blindfolded, I'd most probably deduce that this is an American album. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly why, but the way the saxophonist improvises and Lemanczyk / Kochan respond is a classic example of contemporary American Jazz characteristics.

Any way one looks at (or rather listens to) this music, one thing is apparent: this is masterly conceived and superbly executed stuff, which has so much to offer that even an experienced Jazz connoisseur will need to contemplate and absorb this music for a while in order to fully comprehend it. There is simply to much aesthetic beauty here to be taken in at one go. One can only hope this music will reach as many appreciative listeners as it truly deserves.

This album is an absolute must for all Polish Jazz fans and any serious Jazz buff anywhere on this planet should be able to enjoy this music to the fullest, even if it will take more than one listening session to get there. Wholeheartedly recommended!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Zbigniew Namyslowski – 3 Nights (1999)

Zbigniew Namyslowski - saxophone
Krzysztof Herdzin - piano
Olo Walicki - bass
Grzegorz Grzyb - drums
with
Piotr Wojtasik - trumpet

Grzgorz Nagorski - trombone
Cezary Paciorek - accordion
Jose Torres - percussion


POLONIA 174/176

By Adam Baruch

This album by Polish Jazz Colossus saxophonist Zbigniew Namyslowski documents a live recording captured during three consecutive nights at the legendary Warsaw Jazz Club "Akwarium". Accompanied by his regular (at the time) quartet, with pianist Krzysztof Herdzin, bassist Olgierd Walicki and drummer Grzegorz Grzyb, as well as guest musicians: trumpeter Piotr Wojtasik, trombonist Grzegorz Nagorski, accordionist Cezary Paciorek and percussionist Jose Torres, Namyslowski played a different program each night, which comprised entirely of his original compositions, twenty three of them in total.

Although not intended as such, this recording is a sort of retrospective, both for Namyslowski the composer and Namyslowski the player. Approaching the age of sixty Namyslowski celebrated four decades of activity on the local and international scenes: recording some of the Polish Jazz milestone albums, grooming generations of Jazz musicians and playing countless concerts, an impressive record, which only very few other musicians share with him. Among the compositions performed one can find a few of his early tunes, going over thirty years back before the date of this recording, as well as some recently composed ones.

The three nights seem to have quite a different character, although it's difficult to guess if that was intended. The first night is all up-tempo tunes, performed by a septet with strong presence of the percussion, which spices the music with a Cuban feel. The second night is more modern mainstream, performed by a sextet and the last night is the most adventurous, with odd meters and World Music influenced compositions, which are often Namyslowski's trademark. Overall the quality of the compositions and the performances are of course excellent. Namyslowski always knew how to pick up his group members, almost always from the ranks of one young generation after another. Walicki and Grzyb represent the youngest (at the time) generation and both prove to be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with the veterans. Herdzin, who played for several years with Namyslowski in the late 1990s, was still relatively unknown at the time (in the years to come his career was about to literally explode) and is the most interesting soloist on this album except the Boss of course. The guest players are all well known and their contributions are professional, but not very inspiring, except perhaps for Paciorek, who is so original that his playing is always fascinating.

In the long discography by Namyslowski, this is perhaps not one of his milestone recordings, but in retrospect it definitely reflects his exceptional abilities as a player, composer and bandleader. The sound quality of these live recordings is spotless and has a warm aura and superb presence. This is a must have for the many Namyslowski fans and Polish Jazz buffs in general!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Olbrzym I Kurdupel – Frrrr… (EP) (2008)

Tomasz Gadecki - saxophone
Marcin Bozek - bass guitar

PRIVATE EDITION







By Adam Baruch

This album the debut recording by the Polish Avant-Garde Jazz duo Olbrzym I Kurdupel or saxophonist Tomasz Gadecki and bassist Marcin Bozek. It includes six original pieces, which time in total just under half an hour and therefore counts as an EP, although it also includes a video of a live performance by the duo, which also times at about half an hour hence one could call it an enhanced EP.

Recorded a short time after the duo met and started to play together, this album is less adventurous than the material they recorded later on for their next full album, with the pieces based on predetermined themes, but already explores the ideas of spontaneous improvisation and composition. Saxophone and bass (electric bass in this case) are quite an unusual pairing, with few examples that one can draw comparisons to, which is all for the best, as they are quite an unique phenomenon. Gadecki plays very much in the early Free Jazz tradition with long, convoluted lines and progressions, while Bozek adds series of rapid pulsations during the up-tempo numbers or reserved bass chords on the more lyrical pieces. There is still a strong melodic feeling, although melodies are not played per se.

There is an obvious empathy and mutual respect, which make this music tick, apparent in the way the two musicians listen to each other all the time with great sensitivity and complement each other musically. It is certainly heartwarming to find such amount of open-mindedness and experimentation these young musicians are blessed with. Olbrzym I Kurdupel is just one of many Avant-Garde Jazz ensembles active in Poland and the fact that such music is thriving there is truly amazing considering that the world at large is steadfastly plunging into moronic anti-music.

Definitely worth exploring, although quite difficult to find as it was not commercially released. Free Jazz buffs will have a field day listening to this one!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Jazz City Choir - Jazz City Choir (2012)

Jazz City Choir (band)

Małgorzata Korczyńska - Dyrektor, Dyrektor Artystyczny
Anna Gadt - Music Director, conductor, soloist
Joanna Kucharczyk - I soprano
Agata Sasinowska - I soprano
Magdalena Stróżek - II soprano
Małgorzata Romańska - II soprano
Ewa Barczyńska - alto
Aleksandra Bogucka - alto
Grzegorz Duszak - tenor
Adam Konowalski - bass
Karol Yamazaki - bass

Jazz City Choir (2012)

By Maciej Nowotny

This CD is a rare example of wise state patronage over jazz projects in Poland. Last year under auspices of Instytut Muzyki i Tańca (Institute of Music and Dance) the project "Jazzowy Debiut Fonograficzny" (Jazz Debut) was started. The first album to be completed under this scheme was excellent "Tone Raw" (2012) and this one comes as second yet no less interesting.

Jazz City Choir was founded in 2007 by Małgorzata Korczyńska at Łowicka cultural centre and in 2009  joined by Anna Gadt (Stępniewska) who became Music Director. Gadt is well known jazz vocalist on Polish scene with albums like "Still I rise" (2010) through which she gained a respect among the critics and an admiration from public. Under her leadership nine vocalists (Joanna Kucharczyk, Agata Sasinowska, Magdalena Stróżek, Małgorzata Romańska, Ewa Barczyńska, Aleksandra Bogucka, Grzegorz Duszak, Adam Konowalski, Karol Yamazaki) has become an accomplished team capable of dealing with ambitious repertoire. This repertoire is a very strong side of the project and tribute for it should be paid to Paweł Zielak who arranged four out of six tunes and obviously those the most interesting. This list of musicians shall be completed by addition of two instrumentalists, Paweł Puszczało on double-bass and Krzysztof Gradziuk whom we know from famous RGG trio and countless other projects as one of the most creative drummers on Polish scene.

As I mentioned before a very strong side of this album is the selection of compositions. I found especially rewarding interpretations of "Spain" by Chick Corea with Al Jarreau lyrics and two Esbjorn Svensson tunes - "When God Created a Coffee Break" and "Elevation of Love". In this second tune Grzegorz Karnas appears who in my opinion is the most interesting Polish jazz male vocalist these days. His solo and those by Anna Gadt are both highlights of this album which make it sufficient to recommend this CD for any jazz lover in Poland and abroad.



Tracklist:
1. Sing a Song of Song 6:28
(Kenny Garrett, aranżacja:Paweł Zielak) solo: Anna Gadt
2. Elevation of Love 7:12
(Esbjorn Svensson, aranżacja:Paweł Zielak) solo: Grzegorz Karnas
3. And It Happened To Me 3:53
(Joanna Kucharczyk)
4. When God Created z Coffee Break 9:32
(Esbjorn Svensson, aranżacja:Paweł Zielak) solo: Anna Gadt
5. Pulsary 6:23
(Jan Sanejko) solo: Anna Gadt
6. Spain
(Chick Corea, aranżacja:Paweł Zielak) solo: Anna Gadt

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Polish-Jazz blog provides media patronage for new album by Tone Raw !!!

Tone Raw

Marek Konarski - saxophone
Sebastian Zawadzki - piano
Thomas Kolarczyk - bass
Kuba Gudz - drums

Tone Raw (2012)





Tone Raw is a band formed in 2012 by young instrumentalists who study in Academies of Music in Berlin and Odense in Denmark. Their music is based in traditional European jazz inspired by ethnic sounds from Germanic, Scandinavian and Slavic nations. Musical heritage and new compositions results in unique mixture of tradition and modernity. Marek Konarski's spontaneous saxophone and lyrical harmony of Sebastian Zawadzki's piano meets rhythm section of drummer Kuba Gudz and Thomas Kolarczyk on the double bass who played with each other in many bands in Berlin. Tone Raw instrumentalits have been awarded in many contests and festival, such us European Jazz Contest in Rome, Novum Jazz Festival and Jazz Juniors in Cracow, Tarnów Jazz Contest or Young Jazz and Blues Bands Contest in Gdynia. Despite the young age, musicians who formed Tone Raw have played concerts throughout the whole world (Poland, Denmark, Germany, Italy Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, USA, Russia etc.).

Their first album, named after the band Tone Raw, is a result of winning Jazz Debut Album program subsidized by Institute of Music and Dance in Poland and financial help from Office of the Marshal of the Kujawsko-Pomorskie Voivodeship. It was recorded in Tokarnia Studio in Nieporęt in August 2012. Before the recordings band was played the tour in Poland during which spontaneous improvisations turn into the tunes that are included in this album full of enthusiasm and energy coming from the new experience. Besides new compositions by the band, Tone Raw includes Svantetic by Krzysztof Komeda in Sebastian Zawadzki's interpretation.

"The real substance of that music came from looking for the truth about ourselves. Whole concept was born in the distanced Fyn island in Odense where we had met to express our need to create. Monotony and rawness of that place influenced us so much that it resulted in our music. It's peaceful and balanced without exaggeration but with tempestuous character. We think that the biggest beauty lies in the simplicity".


Monday, March 4, 2013

Mikołaj Trzaska - Mikołaj Trzaska Gra Różę (2013)

Mikołaj Trzaska

Mikołaj Trzaska - Bb, bass clarinets, alto saxophones
Wacław Zimpel - alt, Bb, bass clarinets
Michał Górczyński - Bb, bass clarinets
Mike Majkowski - double bass
Adam Żuchowski - double bass
Paweł Szpura - drums


Mikołaj Trzaska Gra Różę (2013)

By Ken Shimamoto

On "Mikołaj Trzaska Gra Różę", recorded live in front of a highly demonstrative audience, multi-reedman Mikołaj Trzaska leads a quintet that’s heavy on deep, woody sounds. The leader, his fellow clarinetist Waclaw Zimpel, and a third reedist, Michal Gorczynski, all play Bb and bass clarinets. Mike Majkowski and Adam Zuchowski play matching double basses, and Pawel Szpura is a masterfully supportive percussionist. Their music draws on free jazz and European free improvised music as well as modern classical music, while forging a distinctive group identity. Symphonic in scope, the seven tracks flow together seamlessly, as if they were movements of a single long piece.

The opening track, “By Boat,” is a leisurely voyage, alternating episodes of horn polyphony with others where the soloists spar with the rhythm section. At one point, the confluence of voices builds to a peak of intensity reminiscent of ‘60s freeblow freakouts, before taking a sharp left turn into more abstract waters. “Buckets On the Doorstep” is a stately chamber piece for the horns and basses. At first, a bass clarinet plays long tones against a pointillistic pizzicato bass. Snatches of melody slither to the surface, then gradually recede.

After this sedate opening, “Bicycle Herd” jars the listener awake with horns that blare and drums that clatter like Brotzmann and Bennink at their most anarchic, then enters a less crowded sonic space. The contrast heightens the impact of the quiet passage, throwing each sound into brilliant relief. A dialogue between bass clarinet, arco bass, and lightly tapped percussion ensues, followed by a lachrymose lament that gives way to a busier contrapuntal exchange. The track segues into the somber-sounding “Despair on Birch.” The group’s gift for empathetic interaction and dynamic variation is a thing of wonder.

“Walk To the Edge” features a stately theme, filled with spiritual longing, played first in unison, then with counterpoint by clarinets and arco bass. In between, the basses play a duet in which melody alternates with bowed multiphonics. Throughout, Szpura’s responsive sprung rhythm provides a sense of openness. On “Harvest Ax,” the jostling horns and basses build tension, while the expansive drums release it. As the piece winds down, a theme of striking simplicity emerges to provide a backdrop for snaky solo explorations, then closure.

The crowd roars its approval, then Trzaska and Co. encore with “Wedding, Boat and the End,” a slight return that carries a palpable sense of dread, ending the proceedings on an uneasy note. Overall, this record is a unified work that leaves the listener with a sense of completeness. An important release.


Friday, March 1, 2013

Beata Pater - Red (2013)

Beata Pater

Beata Pater - vocals, violin
Mark Little - keyboards
Aaron Germaine - bass
André Bush - guitar
Darius Babazedeh - saxophone, flute
Ranzel Merritt - drums
Raul Ramirez - guitar
Carl Lockett - guitar
Celia Malheiros - guitar
Kush Khanna - tabla
Tom Peron - trumpet
Buca Necak - contrabass
Doug Edwards - voice

Red (2013)

By C. Michael Bailey

Polish vocalist/composer/violinist Beata Pater, as of late in San Francisco, releases "Red", the third recording in her "colors" series following "Black" (B&B, 2006) and "Blue" (B&B, 2011). She specializes in the no-lyrics singing that is related to, but not exactly the same as scat singing. Much of this is present on Redwhere, an expressive and passionate singer, Pater draws every bit of creativity from her mezzo-soprano voice. Her capability is elastic like that of Betty Carter and Cheryl Bentyne, with the midrange guts of Sarah Vaughan.

"Red", like the previous "color" releases, focuses nominally on the particular color considered, ergo, the original "Big Red" and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard's "Red Clay." Red sports fewer mainstream standards in favor of more Pater compositions and those shared with pianist Mark Little, with "Red Clay" and pianist Herbie Hancock's "Butterfly," which opens the disc, representing the "standards." Pater approaches a hip-hop sensibility on "Sir Doug of Edwards" and A Michael Jackson-infused groove on "Big Red," which features electric guitarist André Bush.

Pater brings all of her James Brown funk to "Red Clay," producing a rendition that is at once curious and fertile. It is a reflection of the entire disc, which houses music that pushes the envelope of vocal jazz and R&B. Pater has seized on a theme and she is riding it for all it is worth. It will be interesting to see where it goes next.


O tym dlaczego ona tańczy NIE dla mnie...

Jeden z moich ulubionych pisarzy Jaroslav Hasek, autor "Przygód Dobrego Wojaka Szwejka", założył w roku 1911 wraz z przyjaciółmi Partię Umiarkowanego Postępu W Granicach Prawa. Przeglądałem ostatnio jej postulaty i stwierdziłem, że prawie nic się one przez lat sto nie zdezaktualizowały. "Wprowadzenie obowiązkowego alkoholizmu" poszerzone o przymus palenia marihuany już właściwie jest na sztandarach jednej z naszych partii. "Nietykalność księży" jest z kolei wśród haseł innej. Także "Zorganizowanie sieci państwowych zakładów wychowawczych dla niedorozwiniętych posłów" mogłoby żywy oddźwięk znaleźć w naszym społeczeństwie.

Jednak Hasek i jego koledzy wiele mogliby się też nauczyć od naszych polityków. Nie wierzycie? To rzućcie okiem na artykuł piętnasty Ustawy o Radiofonii i Telewizji. W myśl tego zapisu "nadawcy programów radiowych przeznaczają co najmniej 33% miesięcznego czasu nadawania w programie utworów słowno-muzycznych na utwory, które są wykonywane w języku polskim, z tego co najmniej 60% w godzinach 5—24." Tak jak on jest tutaj zapisany nie obejmuje on chociażby muzyki muzyki instrumentalnej. Zatem taki na przykład polski jazz żadnej z niego korzyści odnieść nie może. Już prędzej łomotać cały dzień będzie o nasze uszy przebój ostatniego Sylwestra w naszej państwowej (sic!) telewizji czyli "Ona tańczy dla mnie". Przecie to polskie, swojskie, wyśpiewane od ucha do ucha. Że potworne? Że prymitywne? Że głupie jak but? Czy ktoś się zastanowił czy na tym ma polegać promocja naszej kultury? Czy tak ma wyglądać tak potrzebny dla naszej sztuki mecenat Państwa?

Otóż ona tańczy NIE dla mnie! Bo według mnie to jest antypromocja i antymecenat. W ich wyniku nie tylko w niczym politycy nie pomagają naszej kuturze, ale ją wręcz zażynają. Już lepiej doprawdy słuchać Stinga, Adele czy Lany Del Rey niż ich pożal się Boże polskich kopii i podróbek. Dlaczego, pytam się, nie mamy narodowej instytucji, w której pracowałaby grupa kompetentnych ludzi i mądrze, podkreślam mądrze, wspomagałaby polską muzykę? Miliardy złotych poszły na stadiony, na których ani razu się nie pojawiłem, bo po co? Aby oglądać naszych kiepskich kopaczy jak zbierają baty od dosłownie wszystkich w Europie czy na świecie? Żeby spędzić parę godzin wśród kipiącego agresją tłumu pogrążonego w plemiennym amoku? Po co komu ta lekcja bezrefleksyjnego nacjonalizmu? Gdzie tu jakiś powód do prawdziwej narodowej dumy? Ot, wywaliliśmy pieniądze (chociaż nikt nas nie pytał czy tego sobie życzymy) kompletnie bez efektu! Stadiony stoją, FIFA zarobiła miliony, a my przez kolejne dziesięciolecia będziemy musieli do nich dokładać...

Nóż się w kieszeni otwiera, gdy się słyszy, że tylko w tym roku, do działalności samego Stadionu Narodowego trzeba będzie dołożyć 22 miliiony złotych! Chryste Panie! Wyobraźcie sobie Państwo ile dobrego mógłby uczynić powołany do wspierania polskiego jazzu instytut dysponujący takim budżetem?! Przecież większość najlepszych polskich płyt jazzowych wydanych w zeszłym roku to niszowe projekty powstałe za dosłownie grosze. Graniczy doprawdy z cudem, że nasi artyści bez żadnej pomocy Państwa albo z niewielką są w stanie NA PRZEKÓR wszelkim problemom tworzyć i nagrywać tak zdumiewająco piękną muzykę. Ale cały ten gmach na bardzo słabym zbudowany jest fundamencie. Jeśli pozostawi się go tak jak jest to wielkie mam obawy o jego trwałość. PO prostu muzycy klepią biedę! Zresztą nie tylko oni. Klepią biedę organizatorzy koncertów. Klepią biedę piszący o muzyce. I tak dalej i tym podobnie. 

Oburzające! Głupie! Bezmyślne! Zwłaszcza, że rząd potrzebuje jednego dnia by znaleźć dla kulejącego LOT-u 400 milionów złotych! Po co? Czy gdyby LOT przestał istnieć to od jutra na Okęciu przestałyby startować i lądować samoloty? Zapewniam Państwa, że inne firmy szybko zapełniłyby tę lukę. Jednak NIKT, podkreślam nikt, nie zapełni luki po Stańce, po Namysłowskim, po ich starszych i młodszych utalentowanych koleżankach i kolegach, dzięki którym istnieje polski jazz. Bo talentu nie da się kupić za żadne pieniądze. Oprócz iskry Bożej potrzeba mu długiej i ciężkiej pracy. I wzrasta jak drzewo czerpiąc soki z tej ziemi. I trzeba go też od czasu do czasu, bu nie usechł, podlewać i mądrze dbać o niego. NIE tworząc głupie zapisy narzucające pseudopolską muzykę odbiorcom i ograniczające ich wolność wyboru. Lecz aktywnie działając na rzecz wsparcia tego co najlepsze w polskiej kulturze, by przetrwała pamięć o naszych czasach i o ludziach, którzy żyją i tworzą tu i teraz.

Autor: Maciej Nowotny
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