Friday, April 3, 2015

Nikola Kolodziejczyk Orchestra – Chord Nation (2014)

Nikola Kolodziejczyk Orchestra

Nikola Kołodziejczyk - piano

with others

Chord Nation

FOR TUNE 0042



By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by young Polish Jazz pianist/composer/bandleader Nikola Kolodziejczyk, recorded by a twenty five piece orchestra, with members who originate from three different countries, which presents a five-part suite, which in turn is a hybrid of contemporary Classical music, classic mainstream Big Band and Free Jazz/Improvised music. There is no doubt that this is a very ambitious project, brought into reality against all odds and one that refuses to compromise and takes no prisoners.

Although highly motivated and certainly ingenious, this project is not quite as revolutionary or innovative as one might imagine. In fact it continues the European orchestral Jazz tradition, which followed a different path from the American orchestral Jazz tradition, which flourished in the US in the early 20th Century and was than imported into Europe and mimicked for a few decades until the emancipation of the European Jazz in the 1960s. Since than a long line of superb European Jazz orchestras carried the torch towards new horizons, starting with the British orchestras led by Neil Ardley, Michael Gibbs, Mike Westbrook and many others and than gradually spread across Europe and even behind the Iron Curtain, with such notable bandleaders as Gunter Hampel, Hans Koller, Martial Solal, Gustav Brom and such distinguished ensembles as the NDR Big Band, the Vienna Art Orchestra and so many others. Many of these European Jazz orchestras often use similar characteristic devices to those used in the process of making the music heard on this album: switching between melodic mainstream Big Band parts and freely improvised passages, using string arrangements and wordless human vocalese, in short the typical palette of contemporary European Jazz orchestral music.

Considering Kołodziejczyk's age, limited experience, restricted resources and all the obstacles that he had to confront in order to record this album, one must admit that this is a remarkable achievement, not only from the aesthetic perspective but also from the pure organizational one. But of course most listeners are not really interested in the behind the scenes of music making and judge it by what they hear. As far as the music is concerned, Kolodziejczyk presents a collection of sonic plateaus, which intertwine and develop slowly, and are best listened to in the sequence dictated by the album's tracks and as a whole. The separate parts of the suite do not really stand on their own, as the melodic content of the entire proceedings is relatively limited. To use a metaphor from a different media, the suite makes sense the same way a complete canvas of a painting makes sense, and wouldn't do so if looked at when sliced into several pieces.

At times one might get the impression that this music is more about "how" than about "what". Kolodziejczyk is obviously enamored with the bag of tricks that are at his disposal as a composer orchestrator, and with the sound of the orchestra, much more than with the actual compositions, and as a result we get a complex baroque musical structure, supported by quite simple foundations. Sometimes the instinctive urge to show as much of one's talents as possible, here and now, can prove hazardous. This often happens to young and talented artists and is quite meaningless in a long range, provided that Kolodziejczyk is treating this project as just one of many lessons he has to go through during his long and hopefully very successful career.

All in all this is a very impressive, ambitious and unusual debut album by an obviously talented musician/composer, who presents enormous potential, which hopefully will be fully realized in his future projects. Since orchestral Jazz albums are extremely rare, this is even more of a valuable contribution to the Polish Jazz scene. Thanks to For Tune for finally releasing this album, over three years after it was recorded, it's certainly better off now in the open for all music lovers to enjoy. I am anxiously waiting for the next project.

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