Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Free Cooperation – Polish Radio Jazz Archives Vol.18 (2014)

Free Cooperation

Andrzej Przybielski - trumpet
Aleksander Korecki - saxophone
Wojciech Konikiewicz - keyboards
Janusz Yanina Iwanski - guitar
Wojciech Czajkowski - bass
and others

Polish Radio Jazz Archives Vol.18

POLSKIE RADIO 1668

By Adam Baruch

This is the eighteenth 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.

This album is perhaps one of the most important pieces of the Polish Jazz legacy issued so far as a part of this series. It presents the cult Free Cooperation ensemble, an informal gathering of top young Polish Jazz musicians active in the 1980s, which in retrospect turned out to be the next generation of the local scene, which carried on the tradition into the difficult next decade, after Poland finally received its political independence. The music of Free Cooperation was an eccentric amalgam of cross-genre explorations, moving between Reggae and Jazz-Rock, through the Jazz Big Band tradition and far out into collective improvisation and even some World Music influences. The music was composed by the ensemble's members, like keyboardist Wojciech Konikiewicz, flautist/saxophonist Aleksander Korecki, guitarist Janusz Yanina Iwanski and bassist Wojciech Czajkowski.

Among the ensemble members we find the legendary trumpeter Andrzej Przybielski, whose solos on this album are absolutely breathtaking. Other members include trumpeters Antoni Gralak and Mariusz Stopnicki, saxophonists Mateusz Pospieszalski and Marek Kazana, trombonist Bronislaw Duzy, electric bassist Marcin Pospieszalski, violinist Henryk Gembalski and drummers Michal Zduniak and Sarandis Juvanudis. Piotr Bikont recited poetry, which accompanied some of the compositions.

Listening to the music today, almost three decades after it was recorded, clearly points out how revolutionary and ahead of its time it was, not only as far as the local scene is concerned, but on the entire European Jazz scale. Free Cooperation came to the public attention thanks to their appearance at the 1985 Jazz Jamboree festival, which is documented here on one of the tracks; the other six tracks were recorded at the Polish Radio Studio in Poznan some months earlier. The ensemble was active between 1985 and 1988 and recorded two albums for the Poljazz label, which are still waiting to be reissued, which is a true shame. In April 2014 the remaining members reactivated Free Cooperation playing a gig in a club in Krakow.

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.

Side Note: In 1985 I returned to Poland for the first time after leaving the country in 1967, in order to record the now legendary "The Book Of Job" project (follow the link to read the entire story). Andrzej Przybielski was one of the musicians participating in that project and he told me about Free Cooperation, which I than saw in person a few days after the recording was over on the stage of the Sala Kongresowa during the a.m. Jazz Jamboree performance, which of course left me flabbergasted. This album is therefore especially dear to my heart.

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