Monday, October 28, 2013

"Meet Meat"



Marek Kądziela? Tomek Dąbrowski? Kasper Tom Christiansen? Te nazwiska nic Państwu nie mówią? Proszę się nie przejmować. To całkiem naturalne w przypadku jazzu, który jest muzyką, o której tożsamości stanowią ciągłe zmiany i innowacje. Może za to znają Państwo takie nazwiska jak Miles Davis, John Coltrane czy Krzysztof Komeda? Oczywiście! To przecież giganci jazzu, których znają i podziwiają wszyscy. Jednak Ci wielcy zaczynali w sposób bardzo skromny. Taki na przykład Miles grał w latach 50tych w Nowym Jorku w knajpach tak małych, że na scenie z trudem mieściły się kontrabas i zestaw perkusyjny. Publiczność stanowiło nieraz zaledwie kilka albo kilkanaście osób, często innych muzyków, a najczęsciej prostytutek i złodzieji. Tłumy waliły wtedy za to na koncerty “gwiazd” w rodzaju Dave’a Brubecka, Stana Getza, Gerry Mulligana czy Cheta Bakera, o których Miles wyrażał się pogardliwie, jako zaledwie imitatorach kopiujących po genialnych czarnych mistrzach jazzu.

Dlatego nie szukajcie dobrego jazzu wyłącznie na prestiżowych festiwalach, w wielkich salach koncertowych, w radiu czy telewizji. Jak kiedyś na 52 ulicy gości on często w małych salkach, w klubach, o których wiedzą tylko wtajemniczeni, wśród publiczności nielicznej, chimerycznej, lecz o bardzo wyszukanych gustach. Zresztą za publiczność wystarczy niekiedy zaledwie jeden człowiek, zwłaszcza jeśli miłość do muzyki połączy się w nim szczęśliwie z posiadaniem dużej ilości pieniędzy. Czyż to nie dzięki hojnej ręce księcia Esterhazy’ego, cierpliwie przez lat trzydzieści finansującego Josepha Haydna, możemy teraz cieszyć ucho boską harmonią jego ponad 100 symfonii?

Pytania retoryczne, ale zadane nie bez kozery. Wróćmy bowiem do wymienionych na początku nazwisk młodych i nieznanych muzyków. Marek Kądziela, założyciel zespołu, gra na gitarze, Tomek Dąbrowski na trąbce, a Kasper Tom Christiansen na perkusji i razem tworzą zespół o nazwie Hunger Pangs, którego płyta “Meet Meat” dała asumpt do tego pseudo-mini-eseju. Teraz powinniny nastąpić liczne etykietki, które pomogłyby czytelnikowi tę produkcję jakoś zaszufladkować. Ale żyjemy w epoce post-gatunkowej i etykietki są przydatne wyłącznie muzycznym krytykom, aby wprowadzić publiczność w błąd co do swoich kompetencji. Z reguły skutecznie.

Ale ja dzisiaj nie jestem w nastroju do stroszenia piórek, do puszczania do publiczności oczka, do krygowania się. Niech wystarczy zatem, że Państwu powiem, iż muzyka ta mi się podoba, ponieważ... jest bardzo dobra. Głupie zdanie, nie przeczę, ale czyż nie do tego sprowadza się w istocie każda recenzja. Argumenty, by jakoś płytę pochwalić lub zniszczyć, dobry krytyk zawsze ma pod ręką. Co innego z wybitną muzyką. Tej jest niewiele jak dziewcząt jednocześnie cnotliwych i pięknych . A jednak ciągle ich szukamy! Mam na myśli płyty oczywiście. Oto przed Państwem jedna z nich: uśmiecha się zalotnie, świeża, nikomu nieznana, lecz kryje w sobie rozkosze, o których filozofom się nie śniło!

Jak mam jeszcze Państwa zachęcić do jej spróbowania? Nie będę przecież udowadniał, że przesłuchałem tysiące płyt, poświęciłem lata na zgłębianie muzyki, że szukam dobrego jazzu z pasją i wytrwałością z jaką niektórzy kopią w poszukiwaniu złotych samorodków, stąd być może warto posłuchać mojej opinii w tej drobnej sprawie. To wszystko prawda, lecz obawiam się, że nie zabrzmi to zbyt przekonywająco. Cóż, zatem powiem inaczej: posłuchajcie Państwo tej płyty i tych muzyków, zanim staną się sławni, bogaci i zepsuci. Za dekadę lub dwie wielbić ich będą wszystkie miernoty jakich wiele pisze o muzyce lub twierdzi, że się na niej zna. I wtedy Państwo, z uzasadnioną wyższością, wspominać będą jak to Wy, już dawno temu, słuchaliście tych genialnych muzyków i poznaliście się na ich niezrównanym talencie! Bezcenne, nieprawdaż?


Autor: Maciej Nowotny

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Sadki Jazz Festival!!!




Small Sadki (just 2,000 inhabitants) are great as far as jazz is concerned. Hometown of very talented guitarist Kamil Pater since 3 years it hosts a compact but very strong representation of jazz musicians. This year citizens of Sadki will have opportonutity to listen to such a great bands as Mikrokolektyw but also Irek Wojtczak & The Bees Knees and Tobiasz Staniszewski. The concerts will take place on 16th November 2013 at the local cultural centre starting  from 9 p.m.

Link do informacji o festowalu po polsku:
http://www.sadki24.pl/Swieto_muzyki_w_Sadkach,10983.html


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Leszek Kulakowski / Big Band – Koncert Monograficzny (2012) ****

Leszek Kulakowski - piano / composer / arranger

PRIVATE EDITION








This is a live recording by the Big Band comprised of students of the Music Academy in Gdansk, directed by the Polish pianist / composer / educator Leszek Kulakowski, who teaches at this Academy. He also plays piano on some of the tracks. The album includes ten original compositions, all by Kulakowski, who also wrote the arrangements (I assume so, as that is not explicitly mentioned on the album's cover), four of which include vocals and the rest are instrumentals.

The Big Band is of course the pinnacle of Jazz and requires perfect discipline and vast experience to make it "click" at all, not to mention performing brilliantly. Therefore the fact that these kids are able to pull this off the way they do is truly amazing. Although obviously somewhat hesitant and far from clock-like perfection, the Big Bands performs the rather difficult and often complex music quite admirably, all things considered. Hats off to Leszek Kulakowski for undertaking such a challenging project.

But as usual with Kulakowski's music, the charm is hidden in the music itself, which is simply superb. Additionally the unusual arrangements, which are completely different from what one expects to hear in a Big Band setting, are a complete surprise. Closer to contemporary Classical or perhaps Third Stream Music (which on second thought is not surprising at al in Kulakowski's case) these arrangements are a beautiful example of what can be achieved with a Big Band. This is quite typical as far as European Big Bands are concerned, when the traditional American Big Band norms are rethought and refreshed, creating a new approach.

Although somewhat naïve and beautifully imperfect, this is overall a great piece of music, which deserves to be heard and is far from a "school souvenir" to the graduates. Strongly recommended to Big Band fans but anybody who likes slightly "twisted" Jazz is most welcome!

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

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

MUSIC VOX 001





By Adam Baruch

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

250 KG – Podwazna (2013) ****

Tomasz Gadecki - saxophone
Suavas Lewy - guitar

Nasze Nagrania 003







By Adam Baruch

This is a debut recording by the Polish Avant-Garde / Free Jazz duo 250 KG, which comprises of saxophonist Tomasz Gadecki and guitarist Suavas Lewy. Gadecki is known to the followers of the Polish scene as half of the excellent Olbrzym I Kurdupel duo. The album includes seven improvised pieces, which as the duo members state in the liner notes, are based on "carefully prepared compositional assumptions", which is a typical example of irony associated with the Polish Avant Garde, mixed with a grain of truth. And again, quoting the a.m. liner notes, any attempt to describe the music any further is simply futile and contradicts the very essence of this music, which is supposed to be listened to without any preconceptions.

Improvised Music is by its very nature extremely personal and does not often cross the bridge spanning between the improvisers and their audience, regardless of everybody's best intentions. Strangely, this music, which is as improvised as improvised music gets, is also very communicative, which is truly extraordinary. I enjoyed the conversations between the duo members from the moment the music started and hardly even noticed the time moving on, with the album being over much too soon.

Gadecki and Suavas definitely seem to be on the same wavelength, intertwined within the music and bonding constantly, which after all is the essence of collective improvisation. Sonically the tone and timbre of both players is mellow and pleasant, in complete comparison to the usual Avant-Garde harshness and aggression. I'd even go as far as suggesting that this music would be listenable even to audiences beyond the inner circle of the Improvised Music hard core.

So here we have one more example of the creativity and constant development of the Avant-Garde / Free Jazz / Improvised Music scene in Poland, which seems to have no borders or limits and keeps astounding its followers the world over. Such quality and imagination are seeds of hope that the world and its Culture are not yet doomed, after all.

I'd recommend to other musicians belonging to the same musical sphere to listen to this album and learn from it how to be creative and not alienate your public at the same time. At least for me this one is an instant classic of the genre.

Glyk P.I.K Trio – Released At Last (2013)

Irek Glyk - vibraphone
Kinga Glyk - bass
Patryk Glyk - drums
with
Joachim Mencel - piano
Mirek Stepien - accordion

PRIVATE EDITION






This is a debut recording by the Glyk P.I.K Trio, a family trio comprising of father vibraphonist / composer / arranger Irek Glyk and his two children: daughter Kinga Glyk who plays bass and son Patryk Glyk who plays drums. Pianist Joachim Mencel and accordionist Mirek Stepien guest on selected tracks. The album includes nine tracks, eight of which are original compositions by Irek and one is a standard.

Usually such family affairs are more a social event than a serious music making endeavor, but quite surprisingly this album has some merit. Both the compositions, which are quite solid and although pretty mainstreamish provide an adequate basis for improvisation, and the performances, which are quite professional make this a nice listening experience. Of course the more experienced head of the family carries most of the responsibilities here, but the young generation supports him with obvious talent. Personally Mencel's contributions are the highlight of this album.

Overall this is a standard mainstream effort with original music, which does not innovate but holds water and has its value as a generation gap bonding element. Considering the fact that the vibraphone and marimba are such neglected instruments, this is an opportunity to hear their beautiful sound. Don't expect any surprises and take it easy…

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Michael Patches Stewart – On Fire (2013) **

Robert Kubiszyn - bass / keyboards
Marek Napiorkowski - guitar
Pawel Tomaszewski - keyboards
and others

UNIVERSAL 602537537594







Although released under the name of American Jazz trumpeter Michael Patches Stewart, this is in fact a product of cooperation between American and Polish Jazz musicians. The Americans also include saxophonist Kenny Garrett, keyboardist George Duke (on one track only), drummer Poogie Bell and a few others. The Poles are represented by bassist / keyboardist Robert Kubiszyn, guitarist Marek Napiorkowski, keyboardist Pawel Tomaszewski and others. The album comprises of eight tracks, four of which were composed by Kubiszyn and the remaining four by American composers. One track includes vocals.

The music has almost nothing to do with Jazz and is a kind of instrumental Soul / Funk with only marginal Jazzy touches. The melodies are completely banal and unremarkable and the improvisations shallow. The performances are well executed, which is not surprising considering the level of the musicians involved and their professionalism. However the overall result is pretty miserable, screaming "muzak" and "elevator music" from start to finish. Why such talented musicians would stoop so low is completely beyond me and I hope they'd all rather forget this disaster ASAP.

What a waste of talent!

Janusz Mackiewicz – Elec-Tri-City (2013) ***1/2

Dominik Bukowski - vibraphone
Marcin Wadolowski - guitar
Janusz Mackiewicz - bass
Grzegorz Sycz - drums
with
Maciej Sikala - saxophone
Leszek Mozdzer - keyboards

BITTT 002




This is the debut album by Polish Jazz-Rock / Funk ensemble Elec-Tri-City, formed by bassist Janusz Mackiewicz and including also the excellent veteran vibraphonist Dominik Bukowski, guitarist Marcin Wadolowski and drummer Grzegorz Sycz. As the word-play title suggests, the band members originate from the country's Tricity on the Baltic Sea. Several guest musicians participate on the album, most notably the keyboards wizard Leszek Mozdzer. The album includes seven original compositions all by Mackiewicz.

The music lies well within the boundaries of the Jazz-Rock Fusion / Funk variety, but presents an up to date version of the idiom and even tries to expand its boundaries by adding somewhat more electronic ambience and more advanced harmonic structures as well as more ambitious improvisations than usually utilized by musicians operating within these genres. The compositions are surely better than most sketchy melodic lines usually used in Funk over a repetitious rhythmic pattern. In short this music is a breath of fresh air as far as Funk & Co are concerned.

The individual contributions are all beyond reproach, which is not surprising considering the obvious abilities of the musicians involved. Mackiewicz plays some pretty "nasty" bass lines, which can wake up the dead, Bukowski and his xylosynth (xylophone-synthesizer) produces superb atmospheric sonic layers and inspired solos, Wadolowski adds a gutsy, Bluesy guitar sound and Sycz keeps the entire shamadan moving forward straight to the listeners guts (or heart). Even Mozdzer plays here considerably more imaginatively than on his solo albums lately.

Overall this is an excellent album as far as Funk is concerned, elegant and entertaining and above all great fun. I enjoyed every minute of this music, which is definitely more suitable for warm climates. Thank you guys for bringing some joy to life!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Magnolia Acoustic Quartet – Boozer (2013)

Szymon Nidzworski - tenor & soprano saxophones
Kuba Sokołowski - piano
Mateusz Dobosz - double bass
Patryk Dobosz - drums
with
Tomasz Dabrowski - trumpet
Maciej Obara - alto saxophone

FOR TUNE 0003



By Adam Baruch

This is a (formal) debut album by Polish Jazz ensemble Magnolia Acoustic Quartet, which comprises of saxophonist Szymon Nidzworski, pianist Kuba Sokolowski, bassist Mateusz Dobosz and drummer Patryk Dobosz. The album presents a live recording of an extended lineup of the ensemble, which adds two slightly older and better known Polish Jazz musicians: trumpeter Tomasz Dabrowski and saxophonist Maciej Obara. The music includes seven pieces, six of which are originals (three by Sokolowski, two by Obara and one by Dabrowski) and one is by the contemporary Polish Classical Music composer Witold Lutoslawski.

The music played by these incredible musicians covers the areas of modern European Jazz, Avant Garde and Free Jazz, firmly embracing the past and clearly pointing out the future. Based on pre-composed themes, the group's music develops into lengthy collective and individual improvisations, which are achieved through mutual respect and collaboration, but also reflect the incredible individual talents. The overall effect is simply stunning and the fact that this music is created by such young musicians is simply unreal. The ensemble portrays the ideal balance between the soloists and the rhythm section. The pair of the Dobosz Brothers is quite likely to become the new brotherly Polish rhythm section following in the steps of the legendary Oles Brothers.

Quite naturally the most impressive solo spots are reserved for the two guests, especially Dabrowski, whose contributions here are simply stellar and again clearly point out his path to stardom and his position as the future top Polish Jazz trumpet player. One of the most exciting moments of this album is the trumpet / drums duet, which is simply divine, and which should come as no surprise in view of the fact that Dabrowski recorded an entire trumpet / drums album recently with American drummer Tyshawn Sorey, also released on the For Tune label.

Considering the fact that this music was recorded live, which eliminates any studio trickery and results in "what was played is what you hear", all that was stated above is even more impressive. After listening to the album several times the music keeps getting better and better and Magnolia Acoustic Quartet simply emerges as one of the best new arrivals on the Polish Jazz scene in the last few years.

This album presents the young Polish Jazz scene at its best: vigorous, daring, original, inventive and hellishly talented. These are the musicians that will lead the scene in decades to come, when the older generation retires or sadly is no longer with us. Judging by this album and many others that pop up recently like mushrooms after rain, we have absolutely nothing to worry about the shape of things to come!

Krzysztof Herdzin – Composer's Concert Live (2013) ****

Krzysztof Herdzin - piano / composer / conductor
Piotr Baron - saxophone

DUX 0970








By Adam Baruch

Polish pianist / composer / arranger / conductor Krzysztof Herdzin, who is in his early forties at the time these words are being written, managed to create an entire universe of music in the relatively short span of his life so far; a universe so diverse and overwhelmingly rich in forms, idioms and palette that one begins to wonder if the Artist will ever reach his limits and become finally content and contained.

Herdzin has been tightrope walking for some time now between Jazz and Classical Music, obviously deeply involved in both genres. Sometimes his works try to amalgamate the genres, creating a Jazz-Classical Fusion, but he also composes "strictly" Classical Music, which is presented on this live recording. Here Herdzin conducts the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra, which performs seven of his compositions. Five of these compositions are orchestral works, with two involving only strings and the other three the entire orchestra, another one involves an improvising saxophonist – in this case the brilliant Piotr Baron – and the last one is a piano concertino in three parts, on which the composer also plays the piano.

Contrary to what one might expect, Herdzin as a Classical Music composer does not follow the Polish "modernist school", which includes such distinguished composers as Krzysztof Penderecki, Witold Lutoslawski, Henryk Gorecki and Wojciech Kilar, to mention just the most renowned names. His inspiration is obviously much closer to the French modernists / impressionists like Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel and the more avant-garde "Les Six" group, but of course many other distinguished composers he admires. His works are always full of romanticism and lyricism and are beautifully melodic, which makes them sound "easy" / "pleasant", even if they are in fact quite complex in their structure, harmony and form.

The music presented here follows Herdzin's tendency for creating melodic, romantic and mostly joyful music, which can be enjoyed by a wide spectrum of listeners, which can encompass his Jazz listeners as easily as fans of Classical Music. His Jazz persona is evident in the piece involving the saxophone improvisation, which is stunningly performed and definitely is one of the album's highlights. The piano concertino also includes quite a few Jazzy hints and undercurrents. Herdzin does not present any groundbreaking discoveries herein, but his music is a very solid statement and pays tribute to his many talents.

Overall this is a lovely and aesthetically pleasing piece of music, excellently performed and very well recorded, as much as being a great listening experience. Wholeheartedly recommended!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Made In Chicago Festival 2013


The Poznań-based Made In Chicago festival is a highly original and very interesting event on the map of European and Polish jazz festivals. Organized in collaboration with the leading institution to support jazz music in the USA, the Jazz Institute of Chicago, and subsidized by the Poznań Municipality and the State of Illinois, it arouses interest of the industry and world media. 

Made In Chicago is an uncommon festival, just like Chicago is an uncommon, music-friendly place. Held in great respect, historical figures of the Chicago scene constitute the jazz of today alongside young artists. Joint music-making – often in ad hoc outfits which bring together different generations of musicians – is the town’s tradition. Sharing experience is fostered by countless concerts on the constantly changing map of clubs, numerous festivals, incl. the excellent Chicago Jazz Festival, free Jazz City or Word Class Jazz concerts at Millennium Park and several other events organized both by musicians themselves, and by such professional institutions as the Jazz Institute of Chicago. Jazz in Chicago enjoys the status of a world-calibre cultural phenomenon. It does not draw energy from intellectual snobbery of the audiences, but straight from the heartbeat of the town, of which it is a living part. It is always created with the audience and for the audience. Although it has attained to the status of a legend, it keeps surprising with originality. Rooted in the blues, which is invariably present in Chicago, it reveals the wealth of Afro-American culture, and refers not only to the African tradition, but also to contemporary music. Concerts by musicians from Chicago go beyond the traditionally understood jazz, and assume the unique character of a musical mystery. This has been particularly strong since the 1960s, when Muhal Richard Abrams founded the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians), the most important jazz university in the world. It does not only teach music, but also shapes artistic attitudes, awakens the awareness of Afro-Americans’ cultural legacy, and demonstrates the relations between tradition and modernity. There are no typical lecturers, no regular students, there are no grades, exams or academic structures. What there is, is jazz created and explained in direct contact between artists and audiences. Full of distinguished names, the list of AACM-associated musicians grows bigger every year.

This year’s edition of the Festival is a unique event dedicated to the memory of Wojtek Juszczak, the late co-founder of Made In Chicago. Thirty Artists headed by Lauren Deutsch, Director of Jazz Institute of Chicago, who are going to visit our town, have prepared special projects to commemorate the Friend who joined Chicago and Poznań with a truly special bond.

29 Nov. 2013, FRIDAY 
Nicole Mitchell’s Sun Dial , 7 p.m., Scena na Piętrze.

Nicole Mitchell - flute
Joshua Abrams – bass
Njiate Agindotan – drums, percussion
Dwight Trible - vocal

Dee Alexander’s Funkin’ with Acoustic Soul: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix and James Brown, 9 p.m., Sala Wielka CK Zamek.

Dee Alexander - vocal
Harrison Bankhead - bass
Junius Paul - bass
Scott Hesse - guitar
Tomeka Reid - cello
Ernie Adams - drums 
Miguel De La Cerna - piano

30 Nov. 2013, SATURDAY
Roscoe Mitchell/Mike Reed Duet, 7 p.m., Scena na Piętrze.


Roscoe Mitchell – saxes 
Mike Reed - drums

KIZUNA : A Gathering for Wojciech Co-Led by Mwata Bowden and Tatsu Aoki, 9 p.m., Sala Wielka CK Zamek. 

Mwata Bowden – bari sax, clarinet
Tatsu Aoki - bass
Kioto Aoki – taiko drum
Francis Wong – tenor sax
Avreeayl Ra – drums
Dee Alexander - vocal
Nicole Mitchell - flute
Harrison Bankhead - bass
Tomeka Reid – cello
Junius Paul – bass
Robert Irving III – piano
Ernie Adams - drums
Ari Brown – tenor sax
TS Galloway – trombone
Leon Q Allen - trumpet
Scott Hesse – guitar

1 Dec. 2013, SUNDAY 
Chicago Woj-tet, 7 p.m., Scena na Piętrze.

Robert Irving III - piano
Harrison Bankhead - bass
Ernie Adams - drums
Ari Brown - reeds
Scott Hesse – guitar
feat. Leon Q Allen - trumpet

Liquid Soul, 9 p.m., Pawilon Nowa Gazownia.

Mars Williams - Sax
Tom Klein – Guitar
Ricky Showalter – Bass
Devin Staples – Drums
Doug Corcoran – Trumpet / Keys
David “My Boy Elroy” Arredondo – Turntables & Beatbox
Walter "Dirty MF" Sargent – MC
Brian "MC B" Quarles – MC

Anna Serafinska – Groove Machine (2013) ***1/2

Anna Serafinska - vocals
Rafal Stepien - keyboards
Andrzej Gondek - guitar
Michal Baranski - bass
Cezary Konrad - drums

POLSKIE RADIO 1662




By Adam Baruch

This is a live radio recording by veteran Polish Jazz vocalist / songwriter / educator Anna Serafinska with her group called Groove Machine, which consists of mostly younger musicians: keyboardist Rafal Stepien, guitarist Andrzej Gondek, bassist Michal Baranski and drummer Cezary Konrad. The group also includes a couple of female backing vocalists. The album includes ten pieces, nine of which are originals on which Serafinska contributed the music or the lyrics or both and only one is a standard.

The group's name conveys exactly its musical direction, which is Funk, Soul-Jazz and Groove, without exception. Although marginally Jazzy, this music is quite excellent at what it stands for and does not fall behind similar efforts recorded anywhere else in the world, US included. The band plays with a superb feel and groove, as expected, driven by the excellent rhythm section of brilliant Baranski and veteran Konrad, who never fails regardless the musical environment. Keyboards and guitar, which provide the melodic content as well as atmospheric ornamentation, are also spotless and inspired. The tasty hints of ambient and electronic sounds by the keyboardists bring the overall sound up to date sounding completely contemporary.

Serafinska, who sings in Polish and English, does a good job, obviously technically proficient and with a lot of feeling and understanding for this kind of music. However, her voice lacks any distinctive elements and is simply unremarkable. But the lack of luster is definitely a minor drawback and overall she really does an excellent job here both as a performer and composer / lyricist.

This is what it is – good time music, which manages however to preserve musical quality, aesthetics and integrity. With excellent sound quality and truly entertaining contents this is definitely worth listening to, especially while driving a convertible on a sea-side road. Groovy indeed!

Mariusz Bogdanowicz Quartet – Syntonia (2013) ***1/2

Adam Wendt - saxophone
Milosz Wośko - piano
Mariusz Bogdanowicz - bass
Sebastian Frankiewicz - drums
and others

CONFITEOR 007





By Adam Baruch

This is the third album by veteran Polish Jazz bassist / composer Mariusz Bogdanowicz, recorded with his quartet which also includes saxophonist Adam Wendt, pianist Milosz Wosko and drummer Sebastian Frankiewicz. Several guest musicians participate on selected tracks. The album comprises of nine original compositions, all by Bogdanowicz, eight of which are instrumentals and one features vocals.

The music is typical modern Polish Jazz mainstream, with beautiful melancholic melodies, lyrical moods and almost Scandinavian gloominess in the air. All the performances are excellent technically and proficiently executed, with some brilliant moments, especially when trumpeter Piotr Schmidt joins the ensemble and the overall atmosphere becomes somewhat less constrained. The compositions are all quite gorgeous and sometimes it seems that they could have served as a basis for a much more adventurous approach. Bogdanowicz plays delightfully from start to finish and his partners all deserve applause.

It is almost impossible to say anything negative about this album; it is after all a superb mainstream recording by any criteria. Many Jazz lovers, especially Americans (if this album was to reach the US market – which it won't) would simply love it to bits. However, as good as it is, it does not break any conventional barriers and contributes very little to the development of the genre. But who says every album has to do so?

So here we have a very pleasant mainstream album, well played and excellently recorded and full of good music, lacking only a bit of the audacious spark. Perhaps next time?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Shofar – Ha-Huncvot (2013)

Mikolaj Trzaska - saxophone, clarinet
Raphael Roginski - guitar
Macio Moretti - drums

KILOGRAM 026







By Adam Baruch

The Polish ensemble Shofar, founded by guitarist Raphael Roginski, who also leads the excellent ensemble Cukunft, is a trio which also includes the iconic saxophonist / clarinetist Mikolaj Trzaska and drummer Macio Moretti. This is their second album, which consists of eleven pieces, eight of which are original compositions co-credited to the trio and three are their unique interpretations of traditional Hasidic melodies.

The album was recorded a couple of years following their debut, but was actually released only four years later. Musically it is a logical development of the approach established on the debut, which mixes pre-composed themes and improvisations, with strong influences originating in Eastern European Jewish music. Together with Cukunft and quite a few other ensembles the New Jewish Music emerges as one of the most interesting musical development on the Polish scene.

Shofar creates a very distinct sound, with the electric guitar sounding seemingly in conflict with the delicate clarinet, but strangely they somehow complete each other, and together with the percussive ornamentation create a wonderful amalgam, which proposes a new aesthetic. The various pieces represent many different moods, like anger, aggression, despair, peace, love and meditation, always playing just what is necessary and avoiding any meaningless excess. Overall the music is deeply engaging and has a direct impact, regardless if the listener has any Jewish roots or not. This is the real strength of this music.

There are, of course, also the individual talents of these musicians to be considered, in addition to their group performances, which deserve the listener's attention. Roginski, deeply rooted in rocky riffs, expands his vocabulary with ambient accompaniments and wall-of-sound strumming in the most intense moments. Trzaska, relatively restrained, sounds wonderfully mellow and melodic, but underneath his volcanic explosions simply wait for an opportunity to erupt. Moretti keeps a relatively low profile, although his contributions are quite essential to keep the entire creation together and are all performed with great fluency and confidence.

This music is truly beyond category and has little parallels in Poland or in the entire world for that matter. Although firmly clinging to the Improvised Music formulas, this music has a "soul" ("neshume" in Yiddish), which is simply absent in most improvised environments. This is perhaps New Jewish Music, but it also is a bridge between the past and the future in all musical areas for people who are willing to listen.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Keefe Jackson's Likely So - A Round Goal (2013) ****

Keefe Jackson's Likely So (band)

Keefe Jackson - bass clarinet, tenor saxophone
Waclaw Zimpel - clarinet, alto clarinet)
Peter A. Schmid - bass clarinet, e flat clarinet, sopranino saxophone, baritone saxophone, bass saxophone
Marc Stucki - bass clarinet, tenor saxophone, harmonium
Mars Williams - sopranino saxophone, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone
Thomas K.J. Mejer - sopranino saxophonw
Dave Rempis - alto saxophone, baritone saxophone

A Round Goal (2013)

"The music of Keefe Jackson's all-reed group Likely So is both a new direction and a continuation of his abiding mission: combining composition and improvisation with an emphasis on the interaction of the individual musicians. On A Round Goal, this leads to an exploration of sound-areas including the textural, the melodic, and the instinctual. Mars Williams, Wac[Pi]aw Zimpel, Jackson, Marc Stucki, Dave Rempis, Peter A. Schmid, and Thomas K.J. Mejer play the entire range of saxophones (from sopranino to contrabass) and clarinets. This album is a live set recorded at the Jazzwerkstatt Festival in Berne, Switzerland."

source: Delmark




Friday, October 11, 2013

Mikolaj Trzaska / Adam Melbye / Jeppe Hojgaard / Rune Lohse - Live At Mayhem (2013) ***1/2

Mikolaj Trzaska / Adam Melbye / Jeppe Hojgaard / Rune Lohse

Mikolaj Trzaska - saxophone and clarinet
Jeppe Højgaard - saxophone and clarinet
Adam Melbye - doublebass
Rune Lohse - drums

Live At Mayhem (2013)


By Maciej Nowotny

I've got this music thanks to Tomek Łuczak, one of our core team, and invaluable for his ability to dig out recordings nobody else heard of or even imagine to exist. And this one is perfect example of such his findings. I assume not only our public but also none of our critics is aware of existence of this material. Perhaps also the families of artists involved - Mikołaj Trzaska and Jeppe Hojgaard on saxophones and clarinets, Adam Melbye on double bass and Rune Lohse on drums - do not know much as this album has been recorded during third concert of the very short tour given by these artists... when? I don't know! As much as I know next to nothing about other musicians than Trzaska. In this respect I am in the same position as the rest of the audience as info about this CD is very scarce.

Perhaps I should not be surprised by similar situation since sometimes it seems to me as if phrase "well known avantgarde recording" was kind of oxymoron. Not only because of relative lack of interest in this music from the wider public but, even more importantly, because of musicians' reluctance to disclose information about the results of their work. From purely artistic point of view it is of course a shame as such recordings as this surely deserve more attention. There is a lot of inventiveness here and, first of all, authenticity and sincerity in music making. But who I am to talk about it when the artists prefer to leave the fruits of their works as much hidden from public and critics as possible? Not even a sample CD to review! Let me then cut this text short and hope that perhaps in future they will begin to treat seriously not only music itself - they definitely can do that - but also its listeners...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mazzoll feat. Sroczynski - Rite Of Spring Variation (2013) **1/2

Mazzoll feat. Sroczynski

Jerzy Mazzoll - clarinets
Tomasz Sroczyński - violin

Rite Of Spring Variation (2013)





Rite of spring variation is a variation on Igor Stravinsky’s breakthrough ballet masterpiece. The recording, preceded by the Contemporary Improvisation Workshop Mazzolleum, features the first guest: Tomasz Sroczyński (violinist and producer, fascinated with electronics). The album follows the idea of Arhythmic Perfection which assumes the existence of the music ideal which can be perfectly re–constructed, however, apart from such a performance, there is a multitude of aberrations, that is a countless number of other possible performances of a piece of music which assume that the aberration is an integral part of the composition. It is a music idea which derives from the mastery of the ‘ideal’ and conscious use of shifts, aberrations, mistakes. 

source: Requiem Records




Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Adam Kowalewski - For You (2013) ****1/2

Adam Kowalewski

Adam Kowalewski - double bass
Piotr Wyleżoł - piano

For You (2013)






By Maciej Nowotny

Any album on which pianist Piotr Wyleżoł apperas immadietely catches my attention. He may be not so well known as for example Marcin Wasilewski or Leszek Możdżer but he definitely is as much talented as those two heavy weights. And what is even more important he does not imitate any of them as much as any other pianist abroad which puts him apart from a pack of young lions (Paweł Kaczmarczyk, Piotr Orzechowski, Dominik Wania or Sebastian Zawadzki) who still are looking for their own unique language.

Here we find him in duo with double bassist Adam Kowalewski who is himself very well known musician on Polish scene with countless recordings already made regardless being still relatively young. Kowalewski composed five out eight tunes on the album with Wyleżoł contributing one and with two - "Little Girl I'll Miss You" written by Bunky Green and "If One Could Only See" by Billy Harper. Most importantly however those two artists have already long story of mutual collaboration with projects such as "Yearning" (2001) or Piotr Wyleżoł Quintet "Live" (2010) stading out as some of the best mainstream recordings in recent decade.

In piano - double bass duo the empathy between players translates directly into the depth of music. If it is combined with boundless imagination of both players what we obtained is a small masterpiece. Many recordings of similar character - and charm! - were coming to my memory while listening to this album: first of all Hank Jones with Charlie Haden. But basically every great piano player has such duo in his curriculum and cherishes it a lot as it is simply a pinnacle of every pianist and double bassist career to be able to play in such a format. Paul Bley with Gary Peacock, Cedar Walton with Ron Carter or Stefano Bollani with Ares Tavolazzi are coming to my memory for similar virtuosity and some artistical affinity since they all have technique based on classical education and their style is influenced by Bill Evans revolutionary recordings (among them of course great album in duo "Intuition" recorded with Eddie Gomez).

Overall mood of this album is cool and down tempo. Music is wonderfully coherent and though generally kept in minor keys, the tunes are very diversified. Speaking shortly: this album is a true gem! A word of praise also shall be dedicated to Hevhetia recording company. This Slovak label is doing good job releasing many artists from Central Europe and it is really great that such artists like Adam Kowalewski, Piotr Wyleżoł or Grzegorz Karnas are making important contribution to its catalogue. Bravo!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Ircha – Watching Edvard (2011) ****

Mikolaj Trzaska - clarinets
Waclaw Zimpel - clarinets
Michal Gorczynski - clarinets
Pawel Szamburski - clarinet

KILOGRAM 022







By Adam Baruch

This is the second album by Polish clarinet quartet Ircha, founded and led by Mikolaj Trzaska, which also includes Waclaw Zimpel, Pawel Szamburski and Michal Gorczynski. The quartet members play a range of different instruments belonging to the clarinet family and create a completely unique sonic experience, which is unparalleled and completely original. This album consists of sixteen short pieces, which include original compositions by the entire quartet or by individual band members. The pieces vary in length from a minute and a half to over six minutes and could be conceived together as a continuous improvised suite.

Although obviously a part of the Polish Improvised Music camp, Ircha is quite unique in many respects. Seemingly limited by the fact that the musicians use only clarinets, an instrument usually not associated with highly developed improvisational environment (with few remarkable exceptions of course), the group proves that limitations are only present in humans, not in the instruments, and with dedication, talent and virtuosic ability all limitations can be simply triumphed over. Together the quartet offers such a depth of sonic layers and emotional vistas, that the listener completely forgets the fact that there are only clarinets involved.

The music firmly belongs to the Improvised scene, but there is an element of obvious careful planning involved, which defines the ground rules and the overall order of things. The purely melodic element is of course deeply hidden beneath the improvisational approach, but it is there for those who listen carefully. The level of cooperation between the quartet members is their innermost strength, upon all this music is firmly based. This is not four individuals making music together, but a higher-class group spirit of combined consciousness, which presides herein.

Since this is a studio recording, there is no interaction with the audience, which in Improvised Music is often essential. Nevertheless this album, as opposed to many other of its kind, works very well under these circumstances, perhaps because the overall atmosphere of serenity, relaxation and above all mutual respect. There are no attempts to prove who can outplay anybody else, who can play the fastest or the most astounding solo, etc. on the contrary almost all of the music is a dialog, trialog or a quatrolog, and therefore a cooperative effort.

Overall this is an excellent piece of Free Jazz / Improvised Music, which should fully satisfy even the sternest connoisseurs of the genre, and yet at the same time be accessible to many open-minded listeners beyond any specific genre classification.

Ircha – Zikaron Lefanai (2012) ****1/2

Mikolaj Trzaska - clarinets
Waclaw Zimpel - clarinets
Michal Gorczynski - clarinets
Pawel Szamburski - clarinets

KILOGRAM 024







By Adam Baruch

This is the third album by Polish clarinet quartet Ircha, founded and led by Mikolaj Trzaska, which also includes Waclaw Zimpel, Pawel Szamburski and Michal Gorczynski. The quartet members play a range of different instruments belonging to the clarinet family and create a completely unique sonic experience, which is unparalleled and completely original. This album was recorded live and consists of seven pieces, which combine original compositions by the entire quartet or individual band members with traditional folkloristic themes from different cultural backgrounds, like Gypsy, Armenian and of course Easter European Jewish music.

Ircha is one of several different ensembles that Trzaska leads or participates in, which in the last decade greatly contributed to the so called "New Jewish Music" which is being created in Poland, being also a part of a general Renaissance of the Jewish Culture in Poland. This quite surprising phenomenon seems to sweep the Polish cultural landscape like a tsunami, but a highly productive, rather than destructive one. Many of these attempts to create a new, contemporary face of the Jewish Culture is created by Jazz and Improvised Music Artists, like Trzaska, and many are released by the Kilogram Records label, owned by Trzaska and his charming wife.

It is quite difficult to imagine that just four clarinets can create such complex and emotionally overwhelming music. I had the pleasure to attend a concert by Ircha recently and the experience was simply awe-inspiring and spiritually enlightening. Of course Improvised Music is usually easier to absorb live than by listening to records, as the presence of the musicians and the visual element contribute to the immediate contact between the musicians and the audience. A concert recording is, after all, only a "second hand" experience. And yet sometimes the strength of the performance can overcome the barrier of lack of personal contact and reach the listener directly and powerfully, with this album being a perfect example of this.

Although mostly improvised, this music is based on very strong melodic elements, as well as atmospheric ventures, which make it much more accessible and immediate to a much wider audience than the usual Improvised Music crowd, which is a priori quite limited. With deeply melancholic and lyrical melodies and delicate, mostly quite low-volume performances, this music embraces the listener and extends a warm welcome, inviting and enchanting. Of course there are many levels by which the listener can relate to this music; it can be enjoyed on the purely emotional level, or the aesthetical level, or the intellectual level or perhaps all the levels simultaneously. The fact that this music is able to work on so many level is what makes it so remarkable, special and unique.

This album is a beautiful bridge between many artistic directions undertaken by Jazz and Improvised Music creators. It has a fair amount of many different elements, like melody, collective and individual improvisation, folkloristic influences, spontaneity and premeditation, innovation and tradition. This wonderful amalgam, which only happens quite rarely, is fully achieved here, making it an exceptional piece of High Culture.

Monday, October 7, 2013

3D - Maty Rertuar (2013)



3D (band)

Joanna Duda - foretpian, wurlicer, efekty
Tomasz Duda - rurki
Radek Duda - mug efekts, mbira, mikrokorg

Maty Rertuar (2013)

"Since the beginning you could tell that the storm was about to begin. All of those three kids were already hyper active. Tomek and Radek were constantly fighting for toys and shooting to each other with their plastic guns. Joanna was the one who separated her older brothers. The Haribo gummi-bears, hidden in a family's grand piano, were her secret weapon that she used to calm down the situation.

At the time, the grand piano served them as a space ship. They were travelling all around the Universe as if they were the Star Wars characters. Sometimes boys were arguing about who will play the role of captain Hans Solo. Joanna never wanted to become a princess Lea. She was much more into Chewbacca. Still at the playground, none of them expected to become a musician. And to be part of a family band.

They waited till the force came to them. One day, during their grandma's birthday party, they took a quick decision and ran into the rehearsal room. Soon, they will come into your town to present the family songs from their brand new album."

(source: bandcamp)


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Re.mus - Re.mus (2013) ***1/2

Re.mus (band)


Jamie Evans – tenor saxophone
Jacek Steinbrich – double bass
Jamie Davis – drums & percussions

Re.mus (2013)





That jazz music was created by the uneducated and sometimes even illiterate people is well known fact. Only in recent decades this situation has changed and now majority of young jazz musicians are the graduates of music schools. Such a situation has its advantages, like very high level of performances, and the disadvantages, like certain similarity of styles, predictability and uniformity of their projects. That's why I feel that influx of musicians that did not undergo regular academic education is so important for jazz to survive. This project, called Re.mus, is a good example of such a process.

It's protagonist is Polish double bassist Jacek Steinbrich who with this record is kind of coming to my attention out-of-nowhere! His musical education is irregular and comprises classes in composition, double bass and jazz piano which he took mainly in Dublin. There in local Centre for Creative Practices he participated in weekly jazz sessions during which he got to know his partners in this project two Irishmen: tenor saxophonist Jamie Evans and drummer & percussionist Jamie Davis. As Steinrich they both are not professional musicians, Evans as Steinbrich is a teacher, while Evans works in IT industry. But who cares when in terms of pure emotionality, enthusiasm and energy this CD surpasses many recordings of so-called professional musicians.

All these guys must have indeed a huge natural talent that regardless technical limitations they can deliver music so engaging and fresh! Stylistically their language is built upon music of such great individualists as John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler but also, surprisingly, John Lurie with his "garage-sound" band Lounge Lizards or Medeski, Martin &Wood with their dedication towards rhythm&blues roots of modern jazz.  But first of all it is all open minded, saturated with love towards music, with spontaneity which makes their improvisation childlike fresh and engaging. That's why it moved me really so deep and I decided to write about this music in order to encourage these artists to continue their interest in music making as it would be great loss if such a story would end on this intriguing overture only...

Due to the patronage by Kaiser Soze Foundation the whole album may be downloaded for free here: download album




Friday, October 4, 2013

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Hera with Hamid Drake - Seven Lines (2013) *****

Hera (band)

Wacław Zimpel - clarinet, alto clarinet, harmonium
Paweł Postaremczak - tenor & soprano saxophones
Ksawery Wójciński - double bass
Paweł Szpura - drums
Rafael Rogiński - guitar
Maciej Cierliński - hurdy-gurdy
Special guest: Hamid Drake - drums, frame frum, voice

Seven Lines (2013)

By Martin Schray

Germany’s standard work on jazz, Joachim-Ernst Berendt’s and Günther Huesmann‘s “The Jazz Book”, claims that in the last 20 years jazz has become world music, a hybrid. Of course, jazz actually has always been world music since New Orleans was a cultural melting pot of nationalities, races and cultures, but in times of migration and globalization jazz has indeed established as the improvised music between the cultures more than ever before. Today, in our interlinked world, music of the most various, overlapping, different, even competing styles has been colliding. Moreover, you don’t even have to be from – say – India to play ragas, you can find great – in this case – raga musicians almost everywhere (especially in the big cities). And many of these musicians speak of themselves as members of the jazz community.

An excellent example of this theory is Hera, a Polish band consisting of Wacław Zimpel (clarinet, bass clarinet, harmonium), Paweł Postaremczak (soprano and tenor saxes, harmonium), Ksawery Wójciński (double bass) and Paweł Szpura (drums). They have always been one of this blog’s favorites, Stef has rightfully talked of their debut album and “Where my Complete Beloved is” in glowing terms. But while these albums, which were recorded with a completely different line-up, are either clearly in the Coltrane tradition or knee-deep in Zydeco (or both), Zimpel and his collaborators try the big strike with this release, which is why the band has expanded and is now augmented with Rafael Rogiński (guitar), Maciej Cierliński (hurdy-gurdy) and American master percussionist Hamid Drake.

“Seven Lines” includes Polish folk songs and Jewish klezmer (something you might expect when you see Zimpel and Rogiński in the line-up) but also music from the Far East, Sufi chants, blues sprinkles, African funk or free jazz elements.

Especially the harmonium and Maciej Cierliński’s hurdy-gurdy provide for a very oriental mood in “Sounds of Balochistan” before a repetitive blues riff comes up so that the reeds can kick off melancholic lines and the guitar can add shredded intersperses. Even here they have got you, from the very beginning the music develops a vibrating, vortex-like quality, it overwhelms the senses with an almost psychedelic force. The rhythmic propulsion provided by the double drums reinforces the trance-like, hypnotic character of the tracks, there are so many magical moments in this music, it is an omnipresent experience of sound, rhythm, atmosphere and melody, it takes you by the hand and leads you to a musical Garden of Eden. Just listen to the mourning interplay of the reeds at the beginning of “Roofs of Kyoto”, the meditative spirituality of Drake’s voice in combination with the drums and the harmonium in “Temples of Tibet” or the funk groove outro of “Afterimages” which can match with Drake’s Wels quartet (with Brötzmann, Gania and Laswell) on “Long Story Short”. 2013 has been a very good year for the music we love so much, there have been lots of brilliant albums so far. “Seven Lines” is definitely among them.

The album was recorded live at Manggha during Krakow Jazz Autumn Festival on Nov, 1st, 2012 and is available on CD.


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