Wednesday, December 23, 2015

POLISH JAZZ 2015 TOP TEN ALBUMS!!!


POLISH JAZZ BLOGSPOT 2015 TOP TEN ALBUMS

1. High Definition Quartet - Bukoliki 30
2. Wojciech Jachna & Ksawery Wójciński - Night Talks 26
3. Pegapofo - Świeżość 18
4. RGG - Aura 17
5. Radek Wośko - Contouring 14
6. Bartłomiej Oleś/Tomasz Dąbrowski - Chapters 12
7. Ziporyn/Zimpel/Zemler/Riley - Green Light 11
8. kIRk - III 9
9. Krzysztof Lenczowski - Internal Melody 8
10. Klima/Wyleżoł/Kowalewski - Lutosławski Retuned 5

MUZYK ROKU
Tomasz Dąbrowski

DEBIUT ROKU
Quantum Trio - Gravity

REEDYCJA ROKU
Jerzy Milian - Semiramida

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Polish Jazz TOP TEN 2015 by Tomasz Łuczak


Tomasz Łuczak TOP TEN Polish Jazz 2015:

1. High Definition Quartet - Bukoliki
2. Wojciech Jachna & Ksawery Wójciński - Night Talks
3. Bartłomiej Oleś/Tomasz Dąbrowski - Chapters
4. RGG - Aura
5. Pegapofo - Świeżość
6. Radek Wośko - Contouring
7. Klima/Wyleżoł/Kowalewski - Lutosławski Retuned
8. NAK Trio - The Other Side Of If
9. Shofar - Gold Of Malkinia
10. Sphere - Synesthesia

MUZYK ROKU
Tomasz Dąbrowski

DEBIUT ROKU
Quantum Trio - Gravity

REEDYCJA ROKU
Jerzy Milian - Semiramida

Monday, December 21, 2015

Polish Jazz TOP TEN 2015 by Adam Baruch


Adam Baruch TOP TEN Polish Jazz 2015:

1. High Definition Quartet - Bukoliki
2. Pegapofo - Świeżość
3. Krzysztof Lenczowski - Internal Melody
4. Małgorzata Maliszczak - Złote Myśli Kobiety
5. Maciek Pysz - A Journey
6. Zbigniew Chojnacki - Elektrotropizm
7. Bartłomiej Oleś/Tomasz Dąbrowski - Chapters
8. Bartosz Dworak Quartet - Polished
9. RGG - Aura
10. Klima/Wyleżoł/Kowalewski - Lutosławski Retuned

MUZYK ROKU
Wojciech Jachna

DEBIUT ROKU
Nika Lubowicz - Nika's Dream

REEDYCJA ROKU
Krzysztof Sadowski - Na Kosmodromie

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Polish Jazz TOP TEN 2015 by Mateusz Magierowski


Mateusz Magierowski TOP TEN Polish Jazz 2015:

1. High Definition Quartet - Bukoliki
2. Wojciech Jachna & Ksawery Wójciński - Night Talks
3. RGG - Aura
4. Adam Pierończyk & Miroslav Vitous - Wings
5. Ocean Fanfare - Imagine Sound Imagine Silence
6. Quantum Trio - Gravity
7. Pegapofo - Świeżość
8. Nikola Kołodziejczyk Orchestra - Barok Progresywny
9. Radek Wośko - Contouring
10. Ziporyn/Zimpel/Zemler/Riley - Green Light

MUZYK ROKU
Tomasz Dąbrowski

DEBIUT ROKU
Quantum Trio - Gravity

REEDYCJA ROKU
Krzysztof Komeda Trzciński - Krzysztof Komeda w Polskim Radiu Vol. 05

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Polish Jazz TOP TEN 2015 by Piotr Wojdat


Rozpoczynamy publikację podsumowującą 2015 rok w polskim jazzie. Na początek jak zwykle umieszczamy listy indywidualne autorów piszących na blogu. Tegoroczne kategorie to: Top Ten Polish Jazz Albums 2015, Debiut Roku, Muzyk Roku i Reedycja Roku. Zaczynamy od propozycji Piotra Wojdata.

Piotr Wojdat TOP TEN Polish Jazz 2015:

1. Ziporyn/Zimpel/Zemler/Riley - Green Light
2. kIRk - III
3. Wojciech Jachna & Ksawery Wójciński - Night Talks
4. Radek Wośko - Contouring
5. Free4Arts - Six Months And Ten Drops
6. Gorzycki & Dobie - Nothing
7. Kądziela & Wójciński - 10 Little Stories
8. Maciej Fortuna Acoustic Quartet - Jazz From Poland Vol. 1
9. Charles Gayle Trio - Christ Everlasting
10. Slalom - Wunderkamera

MUZYK ROKU
Ksawery Wójciński

DEBIUT ROKU
Quantum Trio - Gravity

REEDYCJA ROKU
Jerzy Milian - Semiramida

Friday, December 18, 2015

JAZZOWE MALINY 2015!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Zapraszam do posłuchania prowadzonej przeze mnie wspólnie z Rochem Sicińskim i Piotrem Wojdatem w RadioJAZZ.FM audycji, w której przyznaliśmy JAZZOWE MALINY za rok 2015!!!

Płyta Roku: Przemysław Raminiak
Utwór Roku: Janusz Szrom
Współpraca Międzynarodowa Roku: Francesco Chiarini
Okładka Roku: Piotr Budniak Essential Group
Zapowiedź/Klip/W Sumie Nie Wiadomo Co Konkretnie Roku: Włodek Pawlik
Krytyk Roku: Paweł Brodowski
Wytwórnia Roku: For Tune
Festiwal Roku: Jazz Nad Odrą
Maliny Specjalne: Wanda Warska, Gabriela Kurylewicz, Krzysztof Sadowski, PSJ


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Francois Carrier/Michel Lambert/Rafał Mazur – Unknowable (2015)

Carrier/Lambert/Mazur

Francois Carrier - alto saxophone, chinese oboe
Rafał Mazur - acoustic bass guitar
Michel Lambert - drums

Unknowable

NOT TWO 928


By Adam Baruch

This is a live recording by the Improvised Music trio consisting of Canadian saxophonist Francois Carrier and drummer Michel Lambert and Polish acoustic bass guitarist Rafał Mazur. The trio performs six spontaneously improvised pieces, credited to all three trio members. The music was recorded at the Alchemia Jazz Club in Krakow.

Although improvised, the music is characterized by a high degree of melodic content as a result of Carrier's contributions, which are mostly long lines of melodic themes. Mazur's bass guitar is always very melodic and here it harmonizes perfectly with Carrier's leading lines. Lambert is a very delicate and sympathetic drummer, supporting his cohorts with his dense, precise rhythmic patterns, but keeping the volume well in control in order not to dominate the proceedings.

There is a wonderful interplay and exchange of ideas between the trio members, who are listening attentively to each other, weaving together a multi-colored tapestry of sound. The music is remarkably relaxed and serene, even in its most intensive moments, completely avoiding any signs of aggression and competitiveness, which so often completely dominates Improvised Music. As a result this is one of the few cases when an Improvised Music recording actually makes sense to be released on record and manages to recreate the actual experience. The excellent recording quality of this album is also very helpful.

Overall this is a very impressive piece of music captured for eternity on record and deserves to be heard by all Improvised Music connoisseurs. Perhaps not particularly groundbreaking, nevertheless is offers many magic moments which happen only in that particular musical idiom. Wholeheartedly recommended!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Jachna/Cichocki/Urowski/Krawczyk – The Right Moment (2015)

Jachna / Cichocki / Urowski / Krawczyk

Wojciech Jachna - trumpet, flugelhorn
Jacek Cichocki - piano
Pawel Urowski - double bass
Mateusz Krawczyk - drums
Wojciech Piórkowski - tenor saxophone

The Right Moment

REQUIEM 99

By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by a Polish Jazz quartet comprising of trumpeter Wojciech Jachna, pianist Jacek Cichocki, bassist Paweł Urowski and drummer Mateusz Krawczyk. The quartet performs nine original compositions: three by Cichocki, two each by Urowski and Jachna and another two co-composed by all four members of the quartet. Saxophonist Wojciech Piórkowski guests on one track.

The music is a typical contemporary modern Polish Jazz, somewhat more "conventional" than what one might expect from such names as Jachna and Urowski, but nevertheless excellent. This musical environment serves as a perfect opportunity to hear Jachna play more melodically than on most of his recordings, showing one more of his excellent qualities as a trumpeter.

The atmosphere of this recording and the music bring a fond memory of the modern Polish Jazz period of the 1960s, especially the revolutionary Krzysztof Komeda and Tomasz Stańko recordings. All the tunes herein have the same melancholic touch of Polish lyricism, which was so archetypal of that period, and which makes them sound quite "retro". It is difficult to say if this effect was intentional, but regardless of the actual intentions, the "spiritual" similarity is very apparent.

The performances are, as expected, excellent from start to finish and although Jachna's trumpet is the most evocative instrument, all four members of the quartet are superb instrumentalist and the quartet plays together like a dream, even when the music gets to be complex and demanding. Cichocki, whom I have not heard earlier, is especially impressive as a newcomer and I certainly hope to hear a lot more of him in the future.

Overall this is a superb album, which definitely stands among the best achievements of the current year, even if it is not especially innovative or groundbreaking. Such music continues a tradition that is worth preserving invigorates it and refreshes it with new creative powers. These still relatively young musicians are already the main creative power of the Polish Jazz scene, and the next generations are already puffing on their necks. These are good times for Polish Jazz and it's great to be alive while they last!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Witold Janiak Trio – Zagrajcie Swoją Muzykę (2015)

Witold Janiak Trio

Witold Janiak - piano
Rafał Różalski - double bass
Kamil Miszewski - drums

Zagrajcie Swoją Muzykę

PRIVATE EDITION




By Adam Baruch

This is the fourth album by Polish Jazz pianist/composer Witold Janiak, recorded in a classic piano trio setting with bassist Rafał Różalski and drummer Kamil Miszewski. It presents nine traditional Polish folkloristic tunes rearranged into the Jazz idiom by Janiak. The album was recorded at the excellent Studio Tokarnia and engineered by Jan Smoczyński, with the usual superb sound result.

Judging by the number of albums related to Polish Folklore it seems that the Polish Jazz scene rediscovered its roots in 2015, in a way repeating a trend that was quite popular in the 1960s and 1970s. Some of those recent albums are truly revealing and present superb aesthetic achievements, while others sadly are much less original and seem to just blindly follow a fad.

Janiak and his trio are very proficient musicians and their playing is without reproach all the way through, but the resulting music simply does not rise above the level of being "nice". There is no fire or emotional stir that makes a Jazz album rise above the average. The folkloristic influence is very marginal and does not come forward enough, beyond stating the basic melody line, failing to achieve the amalgamation of the two genres.

To be fair this is still a very decent piano trio album, which many Jazz fans can enjoy; it simply does not compare to other exceptional Jazz albums released in Poland, which are way more artistic, engaging and fulfilling.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Festiwal "jaZZ i Okolice" - Kaszebe II; Peter Evans Quintet; Saagara


By Tomasz Łuczak

Kilka tygodni temu wraz z dobrym znajomym wspólnie zastanawialiśmy się nad znaczeniem yassu jako zjawiska kulturotwórczego w ujęciu totalnym. Który to już raz przywoływaliśmy nie tylko charakterystykę samej muzyki, ale i koncepcyjność oraz ideowość wynikającą chociażby z treści tekstów (Kury, Trupy). Umówmy się, właściwie nic nowego, tutaj wszystko zostało już powiedziane i przemielone po wielokroć. Niemniej dla fana yassowego fenomenu, każda okazja do przypomnienia historycznych momentów może być co najmniej pociągająca. Ten eklektyczny, sentymentalny kontekst powrócił do mnie podczas chorzowskiego koncertu Ola Walickiego (swego czasu jednego z ważnych filarów yassu) z projektem Kaszebe II.

Walicki proponuje tutaj drugą odsłonę swojej autorskiej wizji Kaszub, naznaczoną swoistą trójmiejską dezynwolturą, odważnym igraniem z publicznością na granicy dobrego smaku, czy fekalianym humorem i sowizdrzalstwem a la Tymon Tymański (znakomity Bunio na wokalu). To miejsce, gdzie przewrotna ironia i tandeta Wojciecha Smarzowskiego rodem z „Wesela” przeplata się z ekwilibrystyką słowną Doroty Masłowskiej. Gdzie w sposób inteligentny kiczowata swojskość współistnieje z elegancją na tych samych prawach, a nad wszystkim unoszą się symboliczne opary „Polovirusa”. Dodatkowo cała ta treść w połączeniu z formą muzyczną – mieszaniną pozornie prymitywnego synth popu, rocka alternatywnego spod znaku Captaina Beefhearta czy Pere Ubu, elementów jazz-rocka, folkowych przyśpiewek i znalezionych przez Walickiego fragmentów starych, kaszubskich zaśpiewek – daje piorunujący efekt. No ale jeśli w składzie legendarny gitarzysta Piotr Pawlak czy trębacz Tomek Ziętek, to czy można się dziwić?


Spotkać po raz kolejny Petera Evansa na żywo, to zawsze jest wydarzenie. I nieważne, czy akurat będzie to występ solowy, duetowy, kwartet, kwintet czy orkiestra. Zawsze zwraca uwagę, zawsze wprawia w poruszenie zwoje mózgowe, nigdy nie pozostawia obojętnym. Ileż to już razy pisano o jego technicznej perfekcji, wzorcowo wycyzelowanym brzmieniu, przedstawiano go jako modelowy wręcz przykład idealnego trębacza nowych czasów. 

W Sosnowcu zaprezentował projekt szczególny, czyli elektroakustyczny kwintet, gdzie dla mnie osobiście szczególną rolę prócz Evansa tworzą dwie indywidualności – wielka legenda perkusji Jim Black oraz Sam Pluta odpowiadający za instrumenty elektroniczne i wszelkie dźwiękowe preparacje. Przypadek Pluty jest tu oczywiście podwójnie interesujący. Pozornie niepasujący ze swoimi „udziwnionymi” instrumentami, bo śmiało i bezczelnie ingerujący w akustyczny kontekst formacji, tak jakby rozsadzając wewnętrzną, improwizowaną symbiozę grupy, prowadzący swoją własną elektroniczną narrację, jednocześnie pozostający w intuicyjnym kontakcie z każdym z muzyków. No i mój cichy bohater Jim Black, znakomicie odnajdujący się w tej całej gmatwaninie pełnej matematyki – przestrzenny, precyzyjny, niejednoznaczny, najbardziej bliski idiomowi jazzowemu. 

Ten koncert to cała prawda o muzyce proponowanej przez Evansa – momentami ekstremalnie wymagająca, inteligentna, przytłaczająca wielością znaczeń i rozwiązań, do bólu techniczna, bardzo złożona i intelektualna, w jakiś sposób ryzykowna, zimna i karkołomna. No ale podobno tak właśnie funkcjonują wielkie muzyczne osobowości.


Po takich koncertach ogromnie kusi nazwać Wacława Zimpla najbardziej etnicznym z naszych improwizatorów. Z jednej strony, biorąc pod uwagę pełny kontekst jego dokonań oraz funkcjonowania na muzycznej mapie świata, byłoby to nazbyt oczywiste i chyba jednak pretensjonalne. I nie chodzi już tylko o całą przeszłość związaną z nieodżałowaną Herą, projektami z Raphaelem Rogińskim czy Mikołajem Trzaską. O tym wszystkim już wiemy i nie ma sensu po raz setny mielenie tego wątku. Z drugiej strony mam jednak nieodparte wrażenie, że w przypadku projektu Saagara Zimpel pozwolił sobie na najgłębszą eksplorację definicji „etno”. Z całym pomysłem stuprocentowego zanurzenia się w tradycję, pewną swoistą obrzędowość, z absolutnym odkrywaniem jak najszerszego spektrum w tym przypadku staroindyjskiego dziedzictwa kulturowego. 

Jak opisują swój świat sami muzycy – z jednej strony funkcjonuje tu złożona i skomplikowana koncepcja muzyki karnatyckiej, z drugiej – a jakże – historia europejskiej muzyki improwizowanej, w której Wacław czuje się jak ryba w wodzie. Charakter korzennej celebracji uzupełniają specyficzne instrumenty o egzotycznie brzmiących nazwach – khaen, thavil, ghatam czy khanjira. A do tego wszystkiego coś, co mnie osobiście zaskoczyło najbardziej, czyli duża komunikatywność i klarowność przedstawionej koncepcji muzycznej, co oczywiście przełożyło się na odpowiednie, wielce pozytywne reakcje publiczności. Do pełni szczęścia brakowało tylko Dona Cherry’ego, Lestera Bowie’ego czy Archiego Sheppa. Jeden z najlepszych koncertów tegorocznej edycji festiwalu „jaZZ i okolice”.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Garbowski/Soovik/Damasiewicz – Sesto Elemento (2015)

Garbowski / Soovik / Damasiewicz

Piotr Damasiewicz - trumpet
Maciej Garbowski - double bass
William Soovik - drums

Sesto Elemento

FSR 04



By Adam Baruch

This is a live recording, captured during the Ad Libitum Festival in Warsaw, by an Improvised Music trio comprising of Polish bassist Maciej Garbowski, Polish trumpeter Piotr Damasiewicz and Swedish drummer William Soovik. The album presents nine tracks of freely improvised music, with the composition rights not credited on the album's packaging, therefore by default assumed to be co-created by the trio members. The album was mixed and mastered by Jan Smoczyński, owner of the Studio Tokarnia, which guaranties a great sound quality.

Garbowski is one of my favorite Polish Jazz bass players, who has a proven record not only in the "conventional" Jazz environment as a member of the fabulous RGG trio, but also in much more adventurous experiments, some of them involving also Damasiewicz. This recording is however the most radical environment as far as everything I heard so far by Garbowski. This "total" freedom seems to ill-serve his great talent, mostly because although his playing here is as brilliant as always, it is somewhat detached from his partners, who seem to be exploring their own private avenues.

Damasiewicz progressed quite consistently towards freely improvised music in the stretch of the last few years and although I loved his playing a few years ago, when it showed promises of catapulting him to the very top of the Polish Jazz trumpet pedestal, his more recent explorations leave me much less enthusiastic.

Soovik plays along agreeably with his Polish cohorts, but his contributions to the trio's effort are overall almost unnoticed, staying way in the background most of the time. Nothing wrong with that of course, but in a free improvised environment the total input is what counts as the final result.

There are many interesting moments on this album, some brief highly inspired flashes of sheer genius, but sadly overall while this music was probably a stimulating listening experience, its weight as recorded document is much less significant. As usual the decision do release a piece of recorded music on record is not an easy one and always a very subjective matter.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Purusha – Cosmic Friction (2015)

Purusha

Paweł Postaremczak - tenor saxophone
Wojciech Traczyk - double bass
Paweł Szpura - drums

Cosmic Friction

FOR TUNE 0067



By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by Polish Jazz trio Purusha, which comprises of saxophonist Paweł Postaremczak, bassist Wojciech Traczyk and drummer Paweł Szpura, all three known to Polish Jazz followers as members of the large ensembles led by Wacław Zimpel (Hera and others). The album presents six original pieces, four of which were composed by Traczyk and two are co-credited to all three members of the trio.

The music of Purusha is a "classic" Free Jazz venture, which is its biggest drawback. Free Jazz exploded in the mid 1960s and this music sounds almost exactly as if recorded at that time, i.e. about 50 years ago. With all due respect to the cradle of Free Jazz, Albert Ayler and everything else, the clock keeps ticking. This of course might bring on reflections as to the possible path of Free Jazz in general, which may lead to a conclusion that Free Jazz only truly existed for a brief moment in the 1960s and everything done in that idiom since is simply ripples of that Big Bang?

But aside from the basic problem of being sort of "outdated", the music of Purusha is quite excellent within the boundaries of the Free Jazz idiom. Dominated by the saxophone, as usual in saxophone trios, it explores the various stages of expression between fury and tranquility, exemplifies the group interplay and allows for personal displays of instrumental ability, which are all top notch.

Postaremczak is obviously a highly talented soloist and his approach to the tenor saxophone is very personal and unique. In his hands the saxophone turns into many different instruments, often sounding exotic, weird and wonderful, which of course is very unusual. The rhythm section stands shoulder to shoulder with Postaremczak, both expanding and complimenting his journeys with obvious empathy and spirit of shared goal. Overall this is a very good Free Jazz album for diehard fans of the genre, which although does not innovate, keeps the tradition and legacy alive and kicking. Definitely worth investigation!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Mike Parker's Unified Theory – Embrace The Wild (2014)

Mike Parker's Unified Theory

Bartek Prucnal - alto saxophone
Sławek Pezda - tenor saxophone
Cyprian Baszyński - trumpet
Mike Parker - double bass
Dawid Fortuna - drums

Embrace The Wild




PRIVATE EDITION

By Adam Baruch

American bassist/composer Mike Parker spent a period of a year and a half living in Kraków and playing with local young Polish Jazz musicians. He was a member of the NSI Quartet, together with trumpeter Cyprian Baszyński, saxophonist Bartłomiej Prucnal and drummer Dawid Fortuna, recording with them their excellent eponymous debut album. In parallel and with the addition of the saxophonist Sławomir Pezda they also recorded this album, Parker's second recording as a leader so far, which is released only now. It presents eight original compositions, all by Parker (except one co-composed with Prucnal), three of which are parts of a suite.

As already mentioned in my review of the NSI Quartet album, Parker had a huge influence on his Polish cohorts, taking them away from the European Jazz idiom into more traditional American approach. On this album this is even more perceptible, as the band is playing Parker's compositions and not those by the Polish players, like on the a.m. album.

Parker's music is a great example of modern American Jazz, which keeps up with the changes happening in the music and manages to get itself free from the stagnation that characterizes most American mainstream. His compositions are all well structured and include melodic statements, which then are improvised on, but the freedom and breathing space present in the music allow the musicians to take off and express their individuality, before returning to the compositional structure. All of his pieces are a pleasure to listen to, and the three-part suite that concludes the album is a profound and very moving composition that proves his great talent as a composer.

Of course Parker also plays some tasteful bass parts and his Polish colleagues, all of them superb musicians as well, make this music to come alive in its full splendor. These are after all some of the young lions that will represent the European Jazz scene in a few years. Overall an excellent effort, in every respect, definitely worth listening to, so get it ASAP and help Parker to move on and create some more great music for all of us to enjoy!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Franciszek Raczkowski Trio – Apprentice (2015)

Franciszek Raczkowski Trio

Franciszek Raczkowski - piano
Paweł Wszołek - double bass
Piotr Budniak - drums

Apprentice

FOR TUNE 0066




By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by Polish Jazz pianist/composer Franciszek Raczkowski, recorded in a classic piano trio setting with bassist Paweł Wszołek and drummer Piotr Budniak. It presents seven original compositions, all by Raczkowski.

As the title suggests, Raczkowski is still at the very early stage of his career and is searching for his personal language, both as a player and a composer. His music is floating somewhere between mainstream Jazz and more ambitious explorations of the melodic and harmonic spheres, quite diverse and obviously still uncertain as to the final outcome. As a result the album is somewhat uneven, with some of the pieces being very interesting and others significantly less so. Although the music sounds very melodic, there are but a few clear melodic themes to which the listener can cling to or follow. The rest sounds just as fragmented statements, hold together by the framework of a tune, but not really making sense musically.

The music is very well performed, although Raczkowski does not display a wide dynamic range in his performances, which is splendidly picked up by the rhythm section, which does a wonderful job here. Wszołek keeps the tunes together bravely, even when the music seems to disintegrate, and Budniak keeps it alive with his delicate but masterly strokes.

After repeated listening to this album I could not honestly make up my mind if it presents a pianist/composer of great hope, as some of the statements I read about it claim. The comparisons to Keith Jarrett are pretty far fetched and might prove more damaging than constructive. I'll have to wait patiently for the next album to see if Raczkowski is the "next" big thing on the Polish scene. In the meantime this album surely deserves to be listened to and as a debut it is altogether quite nice.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Kwartet Pałucki – Na Skrzyżowaniu Rzek (2015)

Kwartet Pałucki

Grzegorz Tomaszewski - zither, harmonica
Michał Kulenty - saxophone, flute
Karol Szymanowski - vibraphone
Krzysztof Samela - bass

and guests

Na Skrzyzowaniu Rzek

FOR TUNE 0073

By Adam Baruch

This is a live recording by the Polish ensemble Kwartet Pałucki, a quartet dedicated to playing music that originates in the Pałuki region, combined with Jazz improvisations. It comprises of zither and harmonica player Grzegorz Tomaszewski, saxophonist/flautist Michał Kulenty, vibraphonist Karol Szymanowski and bassist Krzysztof Samela. They are joined by four guest musicians: vocalist Zbigniew Zaranek, knee fiddle player Maria Pomianowska, accordionist Łukasz Mirek and percussionist Julia Rauhut. Together they perform six traditional tunes/songs arranged in a Jazz-World Fusion fashion.

The music is a well rounded, melodic, straightforward mainstream Jazz combined (gently) with the folkloristic themes. Everything is well performed and there are plenty of nice solos by the participants. The vocal parts are also quite excellent. Generally this is a very pleasant listen and although the song's lyrics are in Polish, the album should be accessible to most Jazz-World Fusion fans.

On the other hand this album is not really very ambitious or innovating, and therefore does not belong to the list of groundbreaking Polish Jazz albums amalgamating Polish Folklore, which have been recorded on the local scene since the 1960s and are still being created today, some of which were released by For Tune Records. Overall this album is worth checking out for people who appreciate the diversity of the Polish Jazz scene.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Atom String Quartet – Atomsphere (2015)

Atom String Quartet

Mateusz Smoczyński - violin
Dawid Lubowicz - violin
Michał Zaborski - viola
Krzysztof Lenczowski - cello

Atomsphere

KAYAX 087



By Adam Baruch

This is the third album by the Polish string quartet called Atom String Quartet, one of the most unique and successful music ensembles on the local scene in the last half-decade, which comprises of violinists Mateusz Smoczyński and Dawid Lubowicz, violist Michał Zaborski and cellist Krzysztof Lenczowski. Recorded a couple of years after its predecessor, this album, spread over two CDs, presents twelve new original compositions (five by Lenczowski, two by Smoczyński, two by Lubowicz, two by Zaborski and one co-composed by all of them), two compositions by Polish contemporary Classical composer Witold Lutosławski (arranged by Lenczowski) and finally one by legendary Polish Jazz violinist Zbigniew Seifert (arranged by Smoczyński).

Musically this album more or less follows the same pattern already established by its predecessors, with the quartet walking the rope between Jazz influenced pieces and more "serious" Classically influenced pieces, somehow managing to keep the two quite diverse trends to merge and coexist. They are all obviously extremely talented musicians and composers, virtuosi performers and great entertainers, but at this point of their existence the question if their novelty and extraordinary abilities are enough to keep them going?

Perhaps the decision to release a double album was a bit hasty as the material, as good as it is, is certainly not diverse enough to justify a two CD extravaganza. Perhaps a single CD of more simmered down, distilled and self-censored material would have worked better?

On the other hand these young people have obviously a lot to say and feel an urge to share their musical discoveries with a large audience, which is perfectly fine. They can, after all, play extremely well and the string wizardry is always exciting. Personally after listening to this double album several times I still can't grasp exactly why I feel a bit disappointed? Perhaps the feeling of déjà vu is to blame; in any case I am sure that many listeners will find this album very satisfying. I still hope these young people have more in them that shown herein.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Maciek Pysz – A Journey (2015)

Maciek Pysz

Maciek Pysz - guitar
Daniele di Bonaventura - bandoneon, piano
Yuri Goloubev - double bass
Asaf Sirkis - drums

A Journey




DOT TIME 9044

By Adam Baruch

This is the second album by Polish (resident in London) guitarist/composer Maciek Pysz, recorded in a quartet setting with celebrated Italian bandoneónist/pianist Daniele di Bonaventura, Russian bassist Yuri Goloubev and Israeli drummer Asaf Sirkis (also resident in London). The album presents twelve compositions, ten of which are originals by Pysz, one is an original co-composed with Italian guitarist Gianluca Corona and one is composed by Ralph Towner. The music was recorded at the wonderful Artesuono Studio in Italy and engineered by Stefano Amerio with spectacular sound quality.

Pysz continues the path already established on his debut album, which presents him as a superb composer and a virtuoso guitar player, which in spite of his young age (born 1982) propels him directly to the very top of contemporary Jazz-World Fusion musicians. The beauty and depth of the compositions presented on this album as well as their extraordinary execution are simply marvelous.

The music, although obviously deeply personal, is at the same time completely universal, crossing melodic and rhythmic boundaries with ease and amalgamating the absolute best of the diverse Musical cultures from all over the world. Pysz has an ability to weave exquisite melodies, which in spite their sweetness manage to avoid completely even the slightest suspicion of cliché and kitsch. This is a very rare gift and he uses it exceptionally well.

The three musicians that accompany Pysz on his journey are all top professionals: di Bonaventura provides the perfect harmonic and melodic counterpart to the guitar parts and his melancholy and delicate lyricism are simply ideally suited to this music, Goloubev is one of the most sophisticated bassists in Europe, his sound is absolutely unique and his emotional intelligence is incomparable, and finally Sirkis, who grew "under my wings" at the early stages of his career, turned into one of the Master drummers of our times, playing very subtly on this album, but his sole solo spot here is such a classic of the trade that it should be studied by all drummers.

There is no doubt that this is an amazing album, full of musical beauty, aesthetic pleasure and extraordinary musicianship, an album that has only a very few equals among the numerous other albums released on a world scale. Blessed by the talent and the friendship of his fellow musicians Pysz gives the world a brilliant gift of music, which should leave not a soul untouched. Essential listening for Body and Soul!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Kazimierz Jonkisz Energy – 6 Hours With Ronnie (2015)

Kazimierz Jonkisz Energy

Borys Janczarski - tenor saxophone
Tomasz Grzegorski - tenor saxophone
Ronnie Cuber - baritone saxophone
Robert Murakowski - trumpet
Jan Smoczyński - piano
Wojciech Pulcyn - double bass
Kazimierz Jonkisz - drums

6 Hours With Ronnie

FOR TUNE 0070

By Adam Baruch

This album documents the meeting between veteran Polish Jazz drummer Kazimierz Jonkisz and his ensemble Energy with legendary American baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber. The following musicians also take part in the recording: saxophonists Borys Janczarski and Tomasz Grzegorski, trumpeter Robert Murakowski, pianist Jan Smoczyński and bassist Wojciech Pulcyn. The album was recorded at the fabulous Studio Tokarnia, owned by Smoczyński, who also engineered and mastered the album, with the usual spectacular sonic result. The music includes six compositions, two of which are originals by Pulcyn, one is by Cuber and the remaining three are standards.

The music is, as expected, straightforward mainstream Jazz, with the two Pulcyn tunes being by far the most refreshing pieces on this album. It is executed without a flaw by all the participants, although the session seems to be lacking any high energy or particular joy of life, which is typically present on the best Jazz recordings.

Overall this is a nice, well played and well recorded mainstream Jazz album, which is no different from thousands of similar albums recorded before. As such it contributes nothing to the Jazz milieu and with all due respect is simply banal. Smoczyński plays some great introvert piano parts and Pulcyn, as always, keeps time beautifully, but other than that it's all déjà vu. Of course since baritone saxophone is not heard very often, this is a good opportunity to enjoy this beautiful instrument being played well.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Quantum Trio – Gravity (2015)

Quantum Trio

Michał Ciesielski - tenor & soprano saxophones
Kamil Zawiślak - piano
Luis Mora Matus - drums

Gravity

FOR TUNE 0054



By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by the Quantum Trio, which consists of Polish saxophonist Michał Ciesielski and pianist Kamil Zawiślak and Chilean drummer Luis Mora Matus. It presents ten original compositions, three of which were composed by Ciesielski, one by Zawiślak, four by Matus and the remaining two by all three members of the trio.

The music is mostly serene, intimate and reflexive, with strong and beautiful melodic themes and a distinct Classical influence. The chamber ambience is also emphasized by the lack of bass, which usually supplies the Jazz pulsation, not present here. Nevertheless this is undoubtedly a Jazz album, although the music is very elegant and almost lofty, somewhat similar to the Scandinavian touch. Contrary to what the trio publishes in their promo materials about their music, all of the music herein is perfectly composed and arranged and shows no traces of spontaneous composition/improvisation.

The personal contributions by all three trio members are without reproach; Ciesielski plays delicate, long phrases with beautiful intonation and great sensitivity, Zawiślak masterly accompanies the saxophone parts and plays elegant solo parts and finally Matus ornaments the music with his rich palette of percussive sounds, showing great imagination and a lot of skill. Overall this is a very enjoyable, delicate and aesthetically pleasing album, and a most impressive debut outing. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come. Definitely recommended!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Nika Lubowicz – Nika's Dream (2015)

Nika Lubowicz

Nika Lubowicz - vocals
Kuba Lubowicz - keyboards
Dawid Lubowicz - violin, mandolin
Krzysztof Lenczowski - cello, guitar
Marcin Murawski - double bass, bass guitar
Marcin Ułanowski - drums
Bogusz Wekka - percussion
Artur Gierczak - guitar
Piotr Schmidt - trumpet
Andrzej Jagodziński - piano

Nika's Dream

FOR TUNE 0065

By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by Polish Jazz vocalist/composer Nika Lubowicz, who is accompanied by a very impressive group of musicians, which includes her siblings: violinist Dawid Lubowicz (Atom String Quartet) and keyboardist Jakub Lubowicz, cellist Krzysztof Lenczowski (also Atom String Quartet), bassist Marcin Murawski, drummer Marcin Ułanowski, percussionist Bogusz Wekka, guitarist Artur Gierczak and trumpeter Piotr Schmidt. Veteran pianist Andrzej Jagodziński guests on a couple of tracks. The album presents nine tracks, three of which are standards, two are by Dawid Lubowicz, another two by Krzysztof Lenczowski and yet another two by Nika Lubowicz herself. All songs feature English lyrics except for the last track which has lyrics in Polish.

From the very first notes of this album it's plainly evident that this is no ordinary vocal Jazz album. The arrangements, which in most cases feature either the violin or the cello up front alongside the vocal parts, replace the usual "vocals with piano trio" setting. The arrangements also include other unusual lineups, keeping the listener on his toes at all times. The overall atmosphere of this album is all about the essence of music, freely crossing genre boundaries, comfortably and elegantly touching upon mainstream Jazz, ethnic music, Pop and Soul with the same artistically predetermined frivolity. I even have to agree with all the compliments listed in the album's liner notes authored by Krzysztof Herdzin, which happens extremely rarely.

Nika Lubowicz uses her vocal abilities wisely and intelligently, switching between lyrics and vocalese with grace. Her vocalese parts are in fact way more impressive than her actual singing lyrics, which as always in such cases suffer from the English pronunciation, being far from ideal. The closing track sung in Polish is a sore proof of this. Luckily her singing lyrics are altogether just a minor part of the entire endeavor. I have not timed the album but about half of the album's duration is instrumental, which is highly unusual for albums involving vocals, and which is a very courageous and in this case extremely tasteful decision.

This is the second album in the "pink" (Jazz vocals) series by For Tune Records, and it is again a big time winner. Albums of such quality and obvious aesthetic approach are extremely rare and the fact that at least once a year they do materialize makes life worth living, at least for people who love music. This is definitely a most impressive debut and so far the best vocal Jazz album released this year on the Polish Jazz scene. Well done girl!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Malerai/Uchihashi/Maya R - Utsuroi (2015)

Malerai/Uchihashi/Maya R

Michał Górczyński - clarinet, tenor saxophone, keyboard, plastic flute, toy guitar, voice
Kazuhisa Uchihashi - guitar, daxophone
Maya R - vocal
Dagna Sadkowska - violin
Mikołaj Pałosz - cello

Utsuroi

FOR TUNE 0055

By Michał Pudło

Dwa pierwsze zadęcia klarnetu i dwa zwiewne ptaki ulatują już z trzepotem skrzydeł – tak rozpoczyna się „Utsuroi”, czyli owoc współpracy warszawskiego tria Malerai (multiinstrumentalista Michał Górczyński, skrzypaczka Dagna Sadkowska i wiolonczelista Mikołaj Pałosz) z japońskim improwizatorem Kazuhisą Uchihashim i wokalistką Mayą R. Album nie jest do końca samoistną całością, gdyż stanowi drugą część cyklu „muzyka do języków”, rozpoczętego zeszłorocznym „Preparing To Dance-New Yiddish Songs” (Malerai, Goldstein, Masecki). Trio Malerai, w szczególności zaś Michał Górczyński, próbują z pomocą muzyki charakteryzować język, poprzez język kulturę, a poprzez kulturę, domyślamy się, zbiorowo rozumianą duszę wybranych kultur.

Wspomniałem poetycko o ptakach na wstępie, ale przecież na taki początek zupełnie nie przygotowuje nas oszczędna okładka. Co prawda wytwórnia ForTune przyzwyczaiła już do ozdabiania albumów melancholijnymi i stylowymi fragmentami czarno-białych fotografii, w tym momencie jednak wybór brutalistycznego zygzaku architektury wydaje się daleko posuniętą przewrotnością. Dlaczego? Ponieważ muzyka na „Utsuroi” jest barwna i wielowymiarowa.

Istotą rzeczy pozostają kompozycje Michała Górczyńskiego. Niekiedy beztroskie, innym razem dosadne, pomyślane na klasyczne trio i rozmaite urządzenia, jednocześnie otwarte na improwizacje Uschihashiego (grającego na gitarze elektrycznej i daksofonie – fascynującym instrumencie przypominającym siodełko roweru) i śpiewany tekst. Progresywność sprawia, że z największym trudem przychodzą porównania. Jak ująć album, w ramach którego w utworze „Atarashii Umini Mukate” słyszymy muzykę z filmów studia Ghibli, w kolejnych mamy nagrania terenowe, saksofon a’la Brötzmann, następnie w „Shiawase” dalekie echa impresyjnej muzyki Pera Nørgårda? Styl Górczyńskiego nie jest ani trywialny (jak muzyka filmowa, czyli użytkowa muzyka klasyczna), ani nadmiernie skomplikowany. Najbardziej jednak uderza negliż emocjonalny – „Utsuroi” w najgłębszym sensie może być eklektyczną muzyką ilustrującą dowolne stany ducha. Oszałamia słuchacza w mgnieniu oka, z drugiej strony może też przytłoczyć rozmachem. Potrafię sobie wyobrazić zastrzeżenia, problem z chaosem, odurzenie mnogością wolt i suspensów. W porządku, ale narzekanie na rozmach przypomina dąsy bibliofila w antykwariacie pełnym białych kruków.

W przypadku tak bogatego aranżacyjnie, różnorodnego brzmieniowo albumu na niewiele zdaje się analiza detali. Nie należy rozkładać „Utsuroi” na czynniki pierwsze, tak jak nie wyciąga się nitek z tureckiego dywanu po to, by poznać tajemnicę misternie uszytego wzoru. Mamy do czynienia z monetą, która upada na kant pomiędzy orłem akademii a reszką intuicji. Każdy nawet wymagający dźwięk daksofonu, smyczków czy przesterowanej gitary elektrycznej został przez Górczyńskiego odpowiednio i z pietyzmem umiejscowiony w widełkach stylu. Dlatego też eklektyzm – bo właśnie o eklektyzmie należy mówić w momencie, gdy album dosłownie bombarduje nas tematami, pomysłami i nagłymi zwrotami akcji – zdaje się układać w spójną całość. To nie lada osiągnięcie, biorąc pod uwagę ambitny koncept (zgłębianie fenomenu lingua japonica). Swoją drogą „cykl językowy” Malerai będzie miał swoją kontynuację – polecam zatem przeprogramować radary na odbiór wieści z obozu twórców „Utsuroi”.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Festiwal "jaZZ i Okolice" - Trzaska/Mazur/Jorgensen; Oregon; Kazuhisa Uchihashi Altered States feat. Maciej Obara


By Tomasz Łuczak

Tegoroczną edycję festiwalu „jaZZ i Okolice/jaZZ & Beyond” określa motto „Etno inspiracje, brzmienia nowe i źródłowe”. Andrzej Kalinowski, pomysłodawca i szef artystyczny festiwalu, potraktował to sformułowanie bardzo szeroko, czego idealnym wręcz przykładem było umieszczenie w programie koncertu tria Mikołaja Trzaski. I gdyby trzymać się mocno oklepanej już teorii, że Trzaska to najbardziej radykalny polski muzyk, ostry awangardzista z krwi i kości, który poraża i przeraża agresją swojej wypowiedzi muzycznej, to faktycznie dla kogoś z boku zetknięcie tak wyrazistej duszy artystycznej z kontekstem etnicznym niekoniecznie musi się zazębiać. Ale tak to już w życiu bywa z różnymi teoriami, że często przynoszą ze sobą tylko część prawdy, a my właśnie skupiamy się na pierwszym wrażeniu, rzadko chcąc wchodzić w detale. A wiadomo, gdzie tkwi diabeł.

Rzeczony diabeł to w przypadku tego konkretnego tria (Trzaska – saksofon, klarnet; Rafał Mazur – akustyczna gitara basowa i Peter Ole Jorgensen – perkusja) historia europejskiej muzyki improwizowanej przefiltrowana przez dość dobrze wychwytywalną od pewnego czasu etniczność czy folkowość Mikołaja, rozumianą jako subtelna afirmacja jego żydowskich korzeni. Charakterystyczna, podskórna melodyka Trzaski, ujawniająca się w najbardziej nieprzewidywalnych momentach, gdzie moim zdaniem ten korzenny, pierwotny kontekst wyznaczał głównie klarnet basowy, idealnie wręcz współgrała z matematyczną precyzją Mazura i mocnym, motorycznym brzmieniem perkusji Jorgensena, prezentowanym chyba najlepiej w składach z Peterem Brotzmannem. Gliwicka Jazovia, w której wybitnie rzadko goszczą tego typu składy, stała się w ten wieczór otwartym i buzującym kreatywnością miejscem, w którym świetnie odnaleźliby się tak ikoniczni eksperymentatorzy, jak Derek Bailey, Paul Rutherford, Evan Parker czy Barry Guy. I zapewne tego dnia w Gliwicach czuliby się obok Trzaski bardzo dobrze.


Dużo łatwiej mówić o etno-folku w przypadku legendarnej już grupy Oregon, która aktualnie obchodzi 45-lecie swojego istnienia (czyż to nie najdłużej działający skład jazzowy w historii?) i również z tego powodu zawitała w tym roku do Katowic. Klasyczny skład założycielski reprezentowany jest obecnie przez Ralpha Townera (gitary, fortepian, syntezator, elektronika) i Paula McCandless’a (saksofony, obój), których wspierają Paolino Dalla Porta (kontrabas) i Mark Walker (bębny, perkusjonalia).

W przypadku koncertów Oregonu nie można mówić o nieprzewidywalności i elemencie zaskoczenia. To raczej przeglądowy wgląd w historię muzyki jako takiej, z czytelnymi odniesieniami do world music, etno-jazzu, fusion, źródłowej muzyki amerykańskiej, to inspiracje muzyką indyjską, współczesną kameralistyką, a momentami nawet wycieczki w kierunku bardziej awangardowym. Czyli właściwie wszystko to, do czego formacja przyzwyczaiła nas przez lata i za co ciągle jest kochana. Ta charakterystyczna multikulturowość znajdywała swoje miejsce przede wszystkim w dominującym współbrzmieniu gitary klasycznej mistrza Townera (naturalnie narzucające się skojarzenia stylu solowych płyt dla ECM) i oboju czy saksofonu sopranowego Paula McCandless’a. Reprezentatywna dla Oregonu swoistego rodzaju elegancja, równoważona była tego wieczoru bogatą prezentacją brzmień perkusyjnych, co zdecydowanie dodało całości kolorytu. Jednym słowem, był to udany powrót do przeszłości, o czym świadczą też dwa bisy na koniec i owacja na stojąco.


Koncert Macieja Obary, jednego z najważniejszych obecnie polskich saksofonistów altowych, z Kazuhisa Uchihashi Altered States, był pokłosiem jego pobytu w Japonii w ramach 2. Festiwalu Muzyki Polskiej w 2014 roku. Dobrze znany naszej publiczności Uchihashi, jeden z absolutnie najważniejszych gitarzystów improwizowanych świata, jako kurator festiwalu sam wyselekcjonował polską obsadę w procesie wcześniejszych działań mających charakter warsztatów (obok Obary znaleźli się tam również m.in.: Jerzy Rogiewicz, Michał Górczyński, Jerzy Mazzoll czy Wacław Zimpel). Między Obarą a Uchihashim zaiskrzyło do tego stopnia, że postanowili raz jeszcze wspólnie spotkać się w sytuacji koncertowej. Okazją do tego był właśnie festiwal „jaZZ i Okolice”.

Muszę przyznać, że w tak radykalnej formule, generalnie dość jednak odleglej od kontekstu gry w jego macierzystym kwartecie, widziałem Obarę po raz pierwszy (znów kłania się Mikołaj Trzaska, dla którego jest to zdecydowanie bezpieczny grunt). Było dla mnie wielką niewiadomą, jak nasz świetny skądinąd muzyk wejdzie w ekstremalnie nieskrępowaną, otwartą i odważną koncepcję japońskiego eksperymentatora, której do tej pory raczej nie eksplorował. Albo eksplorował w bardzo ograniczonym stopniu. Moje obawy okazały się w gruncie rzeczy bezpodstawne. Maciej dobrze odnalazł się w tym konglomeracie mocnej rockowej alternatywy, noise’u i preparacji dźwiękowych, dodając do całości tak charakterystyczny dla siebie rys ekspresji i improwizowanej kreatywności. I nawet jeśli początkowo niezaprawiona w awangardowych bojach publika miała wrażenie totalnej nieprzystępności formy, w efekcie dzięki wykreowaniu przez wszystkich muzyków swoistej klarowności i komunikatywności przekazu, mogła zakończyć ten wieczór z uśmiechem na twarzy.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Wojciech Jachna & Ksawery Wójciński – Night Talks (2015)

Wojciech Jachna & Ksawery Wójciński

Wojciech Jachna - trumpet
Ksawery Wójciński - double bass

Night Talks

FSR 03



By Adam Baruch

This is a "live in a studio" recording of spontaneously composed Improvised Music performed by two prominent Polish Jazz musicians: trumpeter Wojciech Jachna and bassist Ksawery Wójciński. The album presents eleven pieces "carved out" from the music recorded during a night session, hence the album's title.

I have been following the development of Wojciech Jachna for over a decade now, closely watching his recordings and inviting him to play at the concerts I organize simply for the reason that he is a symbol of the new generation of the Polish Jazz scene and a wonderful person: immensely talented, always searching, unconventional, open minded and above all modest and unpretentious. Such qualities are very rarely found in one individual, which makes Jachna a true phenomenon.

Jachna can be a bit timid when playing with musicians he is not familiar with, and therefore it is very constructive that he and Wójciński played together before this session was recorded. Consequently there is no timidity or hesitation here whatsoever and these two musicians play as if they played together for ages.

Wójciński is a wonderful bassist and even if I criticized severely his solo album a while ago it does not mean that I don't admire his talent and virtuosity. On this album he not only serves as a part of the duo but assumes the role of "master of ceremonies", gently pushing the music forward and suggesting the next move, with Jachna responding swiftly and amicably. His arco work is absolutely stunning here.

The music is lyrical and melancholic, developing slowly and delicately moment after moment. Obviously nobody is in a rush to just make a statement, and the long lasting tones little by little evolve spontaneously. Although Jachna is obviously the "leading" voice here, it is nevertheless a duo album from beginning to end and the contributions are simply inseparable. After listening to the album a few times it definitely emerges as one of the best Polish Jazz albums released so far this year. Another "Art of the Duo" masterpiece of international scale!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Zbigniew Chojnacki – Elektrotropizm (2015)

Zbigniew Chojnacki

Zbigniew Chojnacki - accordion

Elektrotropizm

FOR TUNE 0076






By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by Polish accordionist/composer Zbigniew Chojnacki, which presents him playing solo accordion with some use of electronics. The album comprises of six tracks, all composed by Chojnacki, four of which are part of a suite and the other two are unrelated.

From the very first moments of this album it becomes immediately apparent that Chojnacki presents a completely unconventional and novel approach to accordion as far as playing the instrument is concerned, as well as making music in general. The fascinating sounds he is able to produce are absolutely stunning, but even more so is the music, which takes the listener on a transcendental journey toward new and unchartered sound vistas.

This music is so different and so engulfing that when listening to it for the first time the listener is completely left to his own frame of reference, as nothing is able to prepare him to what this music has to offer. A deeper analysis and later reflection allows one to understand the path this music takes, from the traditional role of the accordion in European music towards its influence in World Music, Jazz and other areas, via such notable accordion and bandoneón players like Astor Piazzolla, Dino Saluzzi, Art Van Damme and others.

We use the terms "groundbreaking" and "innovative" way too often, but his music truly deserves to be described in these terms. It presents a completely new frame of reference as far as accordion is concerned and for the time this music reaches the audience the meaning of this term will be completely transferred. Breakthroughs of this magnitude are way too far apart and it is a privilege to witness one of them in real time.

The way Chojnacki plays his instrument brings fond associations of the 1960s, when the great Jazz pioneers were taking bold steps like those taken on this album. Sadly, half a Century later, musicians are ready to push the boundaries of known universe only very rarely. This album is one of such rare occasions.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Intuition Orchestra – Case Of Surprise (2015)

The Intuition Orchestra

Ryszard Wojciul - saxophone, clarinet
Bolesław Błaszczyk - keyboards, cello
Jacek Alka - drums
with
Marta Grzywacz - vocals
Barbara Błaszczyk - vocals
Dominik Strycharski - recorders


Case Of Surprise

FOR TUNE 0071

By Adam Baruch

This is the second album released on For Tune Records by the Polish Improvised Music ensemble The Intuition Orchestra. On the previous album, entitled "To The Inside", they created a bridge between the origins of their activities by including archival material of early recordings going back as far as 1993, and their (then, 2011) current material. Listeners interested in the genesis of the ensemble (and the fascinating Polish Avant-garde in general) should check out the fabulous Legendarne Zabki album as well as the Grupa W Skladzie album, which are both related to Intuition Orchestra. On this album the ensemble is down to a trio lineup with saxophonist/clarinetist Ryszard Wojciul, keyboardist/cellist Bolesław Błaszczyk and drummer Jacek Alka. They are joined by three guests: vocalists Marta Grzywacz and Basia Błaszczyk and recorders player Dominik Strycharski. Together they perform twenty one short (averaging around two minutes) collectively improvised pieces. The titles of all the pieces are in fact lines from a poem by Grzywacz.

The music on this album can be treated as a continuous flow from start to finish, since the separation into the individual pieces is pretty arbitrary. It includes a wide variety of sounds produced by the instruments, voices and electronics, all combined into an unusual, bubbling amalgam, which is unpredictable and keeps the listener at his toes at all times.

There is very limited melodic content here, and when present it lasts just for a brief moment, before it is picked up by the improvisers and taken into another dimension. As such, this music is obviously much more difficult and challenging, but of course provides a much stronger emotional as well as intellectual interaction. Avant garde music is not supposed to be measured by its likeability, but rather by its ability to absorb the listener's attention and take him unconditionally on a timeless, completely subconscious journey into sound aesthetics.

To an untrained ear this music can sound chaotic and even cacophonic, and yet it does make perfect "sense" and "intelligibility" to the cognoscenti. The trick is simply to let the flow of the sound engulf you and carry you on. This music seems to be able to serve as a vehicle to reach "higher planes", a rare and precious quality, which should be cherished.

Overall this is superb contemporary music, which still tries to expand the realm of what we consider as being sonic Art. Regardless of the current trend of music imploding into itself, people who are pushing outward at least try to slow the process. This album is warmly recommended to open minded listeners, who have no Avant-garde phobias!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Jacek Mielcarek/Jakub Mielcarek – I Co Dalej? (2015)

Jacek Mielcarek/Jakub Mielcarek

Jacek Mielcarek - saxophones, clarinet, tarogato
Jakub Mielcarek - double bass, piano, percussion

I Co Dalej?

PRIVATE EDITION


By Adam Baruch

This is a debut album by Polish Jazz saxophonist/clarinetist Jacek Mielcarek and his son bassist/pianist Jakub Mielcarek, which presents ten original compositions/improvisations, all co-composed by the duo. The music was initially intended as a soundtrack for children's stories, but the recorded music turned out to be solid enough to tell a story of its own.

According to the PR material the music was recorded completely spontaneously and was all composed at a spur of the moment, unplanned and unrehearsed. It is difficult to believe that nothing was planned in advance, as this music is way to organized to be completely composed on the fly, but of course I might be mistaken.

In any case the album presents, as said above, ten duets of improvised music, performed beautifully by both musicians, who are completely in synch both emotionally and musically. They both display a high level of technique, with Jacek especially impressive on clarinet, and Jakub, as already evident from his other recordings over time, is a superb virtuoso bassist. The music, in spite of its free spirited nature, manages to remain very melodic, even if the melody is mostly subconscious.

It is quite an experience to listen to these duets for the first time, and the only reservation one might put forward is if this music is interesting enough to make listeners to return to it periodically. The problem with atmospheric music like this one is of course that it moves the listeners emotionally while it is playing, but leaves them rather baffled when it's over. But of course this might be just my impression. There is still enough great musicianship on this album to grant it the opportunity to be heard by as many people as possible. It is gentle and "nice" enough to bring new listeners to improvised music, which is already a winner.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Mikołaj Trzaska – Cześć, Cześć, Cześć… (1996)

Mikołaj Trzaska

Mikołaj Trzaska - alto & soprano saxophones, guitar
Jowita Cieślikiewicz - piano, keyboard, Hammond organ
Tomasz Hesse - bass, Hammond bass pedals
Jacek Olter - drums, electronic drums
Szymon Rogiński - didgeridoo


Cześć, Cześć, Cześć…

GOWI 37

By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by legendary Polish saxophonist/clarinetist/composer/bandleader Mikołaj Trzaska, recorded while Trzaska was still a member of the no less legendary Yass ensemble Milość, which revolutionized the Polish Jazz scene in the 1990s. The album was recorded in a quartet setting with keyboardist Jowita Cieślikiewicz (from the legendary all female ensemble Oczi Cziorne) and two Milość related musicians: bassist Tomasz Hesse and drummer Jacek Olter. Didgeridoo player Szymon Rogiński appears as a guest musician. The album presents nine tracks, seven of which are original compositions by Trzaska, one is a traditional song and one was co-composed by Hesse and Tomasz Gwinciński (a legendary representative of the Bydgoszcz music scene and considered as one of the creators of the Yass idiom).

From a twenty years long retrospect this album sounds today even more poignant than when I heard it for the first time at the time it was originally released. After closely following the musical path and development of Trzaska during that period, it becomes clearly evident that this album was not only revolutionary, but even more importantly so it was completely prophetic as far as Trzaska's future was about to reveal itself. It includes all the elements in his music, which were about to burst out later on: a superb sense of melody, always full of tension and suspense, which would become Trzaska's trademark in his remarkable career as a creator of some of Poland's most important soundtracks to no less important movies. It also includes the element of cyclic, almost trans-like, hypnotic repetition, which was to characterize Trzaska's music in the ensembles he led during those twenty years. And last but not least it also features his obvious search of his musical roots, which was about to blossom when Trzaska discovered Jewish music.

Musically this album lost absolutely nothing of its charm and strength over time and as already mentioned above is an absolutely marvelous statement, which not only depicts the essence of the Yass era, with its nonchalance, daring and open-mindedness on one hand and the total commitment to doing your own thing on the other, but also captures in an embryonic stage one of Poland's most creative and significant musical minds.

Sadly this album never really achieved the iconic status it truly deserves, which complies with the ancient saying: "No Prophet is welcome in his hometown", which tragically is more often true than not. Since it seems to be still available, I can't think of a Polish Jazz album that deserves to be in every serious Polish Jazz collection than this one, not only for its historic significance but simply because it contains so much great music. Don't even think twice!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Graal – Czarne 13 (2015)

Graal

Antoni Gralak - trumpet
Bronek Duży - trombone
Klaudiusz Kłosek - trumpet
Alek Korecki - saxophone
Marek Pospieszalski - saxophone
Locko Richter - bass
Ola Rzepka - drums
Arek Skolik - drums
Darek Sprawka - tuba
Jacek Szymkiewicz - vocals

Czarne 13

FOR TUNE 0059

By Adam Baruch

This is the sixth album by the cult Polish ensemble Graal, founded and led by the legendary trumpeter/composer/bandleader Antoni Gralak, who is also known for his involvement in such pivotal Polish ensembles as Free Cooperation, Young Power, Tie Break, Woo Boo Doo, Yeshe and others. This album, recorded four years before it finally gets to be released, presents ten songs, all composed by Gralak and the ensemble with lyrics by the ensemble's vocalist Jacek Szymkiewicz. Two radio edits of two of the songs on this album are added as bonus tracks. In addition to Gralak, who also plays tuba and Szymkiewicz, who also plays acoustic guitar, the other members of Graal are: trombonist Bronek Duży, trumpeter Klaudiusz Kłosek, saxophonists Aleksander Korecki and Marek Pospieszalski, bass guitarist Locko Richter, drummers Ola Rzepka and Arek Skolik and finally tuba and trombone player Darek Sprawka; altogether ten musicians.

The music of Graal is a strange amalgam of Rock and Jazz-Rock Fusion, with elements of cabaret and theatrics. The "songs" are often full of dramatic exclamations and theatrical displays of emotion, and the "free" lyrics add to the overall atmosphere of "controlled anarchy". The huge brass section sounds at times like a street marching band, or Balkan brass ensemble, or typical Brass-Rock section, constantly changing its ambiance. The sound is rather muffled and often creates an impression of a live recording. The rhythm section sets a groovy paste, with funky bass guitar in charge of the bottom parts and the drums keeping the mayhem in check. The lead vocals are always up front and the brass is always in the background, which makes the solo parts somewhat less prominent in the overall sound, but those are all well worth being discovered by careful listening.

The solitary instrumental piece on this album is perhaps the most powerful glimpse to the essence of this ensemble, with the multilayered brass parts creating a mini-suite which is both beautifully organized and free at the same time; a wonderful example of contemporary music. Gralak has a gift of creating stuff, which is always unique and exists outside of the Polish Jazz/Fusion scenes, being a typical Lone Ranger. This music simply creates a universe of its own, which is incomparable to anything else happing on the local scene or anywhere else for that matter. Since this is a typical ensemble project, there are few displays of Gralak's virtuosic ability as a trumpeter, but it is his leadership that holds this project together.

Whether one loves or hates this music, one thing is sure: it's impossible to say indifferent to it, which is already a huge achievement in comparison to most of the music created today. Gralak is one of those people who make the Polish music scene worth following and admiring!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Eskaubei & Tomek Nowak Quartet – Będzie Dobrze (2015)

Eskaubei & Tomek Nowak Quartet

Eskaubei - rap
Tomek Nowak - trumpet
Kuba Płuzek - keyboards
Alan Wykpisz - bass
Filip Mozul - drums

Będzie Dobrze

FOR TUNE 0059

By Adam Baruch

This is a very interesting album, which amalgamates Rap and Jazz; a concept that has been attempted many times before, but rarely turned out to be a success. Polish rapper Bartlomiej Skubisz (a.k.a. Eskaubei) combines forces with a Jazz quartet led by trumpeter Tomek Nowak, which also includes keyboardist Kuba Plużek, bassist Alan Wykpisz and drummer Filip Mozul. A few guests appear on selected tracks. The album presents eleven original songs, all composed by Nowak (with the exception of one tune which includes music composed by Płuzek) and with lyrics by Eskaubei (with the exception of two song lyrics written by the a.m. guests). The album also includes the radio edit of the title song as a bonus track.

Rap and Jazz are seemingly two completely contrasting Art Forms. Rap focuses on the spoken word, which attempts to deliver a message, and which uses music as a background stimuli, mostly rhythmically, with the melody part being usually pretty limited, repetitive and ornamental rather than substantial. Jazz on the other hand is all about complex melodic and harmonic structures and unlimited improvisation. The Jazz & Poetry idiom successfully managed to combine spoken word and Jazz music since the 1950s but Rap & Jazz, as already mentioned above, has been much less consistent and successful in trying to present a contemporary artistic attempt of amalgamating spoken word and Jazz.

When analyzing a Rap & Jazz project, like the one here, I usually try to separate the contents into two separate planes and than estimate the level of correlation between them. In this case my feelings are as follows:

The Rap part, i.e. the strength of the lyrics and their delivery (sadly limited to Polish speaking audiences only) is cohesive, intelligent and moving. The subject matter touches upon many of the problems we all encounter in our lives, like social injustice, personal relationships, morality, hypocrisy of the media and the pitiful state of music industry. The delivery is emotional, clearly understandable and above all classy.

The music is also quite excellent: funky, melodic, uplifting and intelligent. The performances are excellent with Nowak's trumpet delivering many scorching solos and Pluzek playing a beautiful soulful electric piano, like a true pro, also delivering several heartwarming solos. The rhythm section is the backbone of this music, keeping the beat and pushing the groove rolling. This music could have easily stand on its own (without the Rap on top), producing an excellent Funk-Groove-Soul-Jazz album.

But of course most importantly these two layers placed upon each other produce the best Polish Rap Jazz effort so far. This result is hardly accidental, in view of one of the album's songs, in which Eskaubei tells about the deep influence of Miles Davis on his artistic creation. Overall this is a most enjoyable, aesthetically pleasing piece of music, which puts a smile on the listener's face. Warmly recommended!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Ed Cherry Special Trio – Szósta Po Południu (2015)

Ed Cherry Special Trio

Ed Cherry - guitar
Adam Kowalewski - double bass
Arek Skolik - drums

Szósta Po Południu

FOR TUNE 0064




By Adam Baruch

This is a live recording at Warsaw's club Szósta Po Poludniu (hence the album's title) of a trio led by veteran American guitarist Ed Cherry with a Polish rhythm section: bassist Adam Kowalewski and drummer Arek Skolik. The trio performs six tunes, five of which are standards and one is a Pop song.

The music is a standard mainstream, completely unimaginative, uninspiring and honestly boring to tears. Although Cherry has an impressive musical history, his contributions in the last decades are not very impressive or noteworthy and his playing here unfortunately sounds like a third rate imitation of Wes Montgomery and is sadly embarrassing. The rhythm section, although quite professional, is not able to save this gig from disaster.

This kind of music is still played in clubs all over the US, but on the European scene it is utterly out of place in view of the creativity and excellence displayed by musicians in any European country today. One can only wonder why this gig was recorded and released in the first place and speculate about the inferiority complex some Europeans still suffer from, based on the assumption that anything in Jazz done by Afro-Americans is superior to European Jazz, which is simply not true for at least half a Century. The usually excellent Polish For Tune label, which released dozens of superb albums in the last few years, made a real blunder with this album. Hopefully this is not a sign of things to come.
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