Saturday, June 21, 2014

Various Artists – Polish Radio Jazz Archives Vol.14 (2014)

Various Artists


By Adam Baruch

This is the fourteenth installment in the new series of releases initiated by the Polish Radio, which presents archive Jazz recordings. Radio recordings are always a fabulous source of remarkable material, and as far as Polish Jazz history is concerned, the Polish Radio, which was a state monopoly for 45 years, recorded over time a plethora of invaluable material, which apart from the albums released by the Polskie Nagrania record company (also a state monopoly), is the only available additional source of Polish Jazz recordings. For many years Polish Radio recorded concerts presented during Poland's most important Jazz venues, including the annual Jazz Jamboree Festival and many other festivals as well.

The material collected here presents the third volume of recordings made in 1963 during the sixth Jazz Jamboree festival in Warsaw. In contrast to the two earlier volumes, this one presents only Polish Jazz musicians, and therefore is by far the most interesting and enlightening of the three. In many respects this album is a comprehensive review of the Polish Jazz scene at the time and presents the early days of the modern Polish Jazz at its pivotal stage of forming its own identity, as far as sound, atmosphere, character and unique stylistic aesthetics are concerned.

The album includes just six tracks, by four different ensembles, playing expanded compositions, three of which cross the fifteen minutes duration time, a clear signal of creativity and improvisational freedom typical of modern Jazz. The ensembles are: Zbigniew Namyslowski (saxophone) quartet with pianist Wlodek Gulgowski, bassist Tadeusz Wojcik and drummer Czeslaw Bartkowski (one track), Andrzej Trzaskowski (piano) quintet with saxophonists Zbigniew Namyslowski and Michal Urbaniak, bassist Julian Sandecki and drummer Adam Jedrzejowski (two tracks), Alek Musial (trumpet) quintet with vibraphonist Ryszard Kruza, pianist Wlodzimierz Nahorny, bassist Wieslaw Damiecki and drummer Bogdan Jopek (one track) and finally Krzysztof Komeda (piano) quintet with trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, saxophonist Michal Urbaniak, bassist Maciej Suzin and drummer Czeslaw Bartkowski (two tracks). Of the six compositions three are standards and three are originals, one by Trzaskowski and two by Komeda.

Stylistically the music is quite similar, ranging from more traditionally based modern Jazz in case of the Namyslowski and Musial tracks to more advanced characteristic Polish Jazz material in case in of the music by Trzaskowski and finally most dramatically in the music by Komeda, which is already eons ahead of its time. The two Komeda tracks are the epitome of modern Polish / European Jazz, which clearly show a mature approach free of the restrictions imposed by the American Jazz tradition. These tracks are alone worth the price of the entire album, but of course the rest of the material is also quite excellent.

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

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