Sunday, April 6, 2014

Uri Caine/Ksawery Wójciński/Robert Rasz - Szpilman (2014) *****

Uri Caine / Ksawery Wójciński / Robert Rasz 

Uri Caine - piano
Ksawery Wójciński - double bass
Robert Rasz - drums

Szpilman (2014)

By Maciej Nowotny

Thanks to Roman Polański film "Pianist", awarded with 3 Oscars in 2003, Władysław Szpilman became universally one of the symbols of the survivors of Holocaust. But few people abroad or even in his native Poland were acquainted to any degree with his musical oeuvre. The reason for this is that Szpilman was first of all the performer and composer of very light and noncommittal popular tunes. Our grandparents or even parents knew melodies he composed by heart and I remember my father to whistle it to himself while he was shaving in the morning. But over last decades the complete change in the musical tastes of younger generations saw Szpilman songs less and less performed. Even the success of Polański movie did not change the situation and one must confess with complete surprise that this specific project is probably the first serious try to interpret songs written by Szpilman in jazz manner. That is not merely reproducing how they were played hundreds or thousands times before but digging deeper to try to discover them anew.

The occasion for this was created by the order from the Tzadik festival in Poznań for its 2013 edition and by the support of Narodowy Instytut Audiowizualny which together with Multikulti recording label was responsible for releasing this album. In this case the public money was spent well as not only the legacy of the exceptional artist was reminded to the public but also young promising musicians were given the opportunity to prove themselves in inspiring project with the world class artist. Uri Caine does not need to be presented to world jazz audience so let me only add that just from the start he seemed to me the perfect choice. Like Szpilman himself his style is built first of all on the strong foundation of classical music with jazz or pop being complementary. Last but not least he also is of the Jewish origin as Szpilman was.

He is supported on this album by the double-bassist Ksawery Wójciński and the drummer Robert Rasz - arguably one the most "restless minds" in young Polish improvised music. The more one must admire how well they fitted in Caine's orthodox approach to this music. All tunes are easy to recognize and only gradually with the music and album unfolding the Caine and his young collaborators are starting to reveal to us some deeper layers of Szpilman and their own musical ideas. Although I admire Caine's technical proficiency and unbounded creativity I must confess that without Wójciński spontaneity and Rasz unpredictability it would feel somehow incomplete. All in all it is unquestionably the unique album and one of the strong contenders for the title of the Best Album in 2014 in Polish jazz.

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