Sunday, October 11, 2015

Adam Bałdych & Helge Lien Trio – Bridges (2015)

Adam Bałdych & Helge Lien Trio

Adam Bałdych - violin
Helge Lien - piano
Frode Berg - bass
Per Oddvar Johansen - drums


ACT 9591

By Adam Baruch

This is the third album for the prestigious German ACT label by Polish Jazz violinist/composer Adam Bałdych, clearly the most significant representative of the Polish Jazz violin school active today. Contrary to most Jazz musicians, Bałdych obviously prefers to create ad hoc associations with various musicians rather than lead his own band, which in his case seems to be the ideal solution in order to fully communicate his enormous versatility. This time he cooperates with the Norwegian piano trio, led by pianist Helge Lien, which also includes bassist Frode Berg and drummer Per Oddvar Johansen. The album's eleven tracks consist of nine original compositions by Bałdych and one piece co-composed by Bałdych and Lien and additionally an arrangement of a pop tune. Two of the compositions were arranged by Polish Jazz pianist/composer/arranger Krzysztof Herdzin.

Similarly to his previous album recorded with the Israeli pianist Yaron Herman, the atmosphere and actual material on this album is only marginally Jazzy and covers mostly other music areas like contemporary Classical and World Music. The music is very spacey, intimate and minimalistic in form, based on beautiful melodic themes, which Bałdych masterly creates seemingly from thin air. The influence of the Polish Folklore is very significant in Bałdych's playing on this album, more than on any of his earlier recordings and some of the songs sound like famous Polish Folklore dances. Of course this might have happened somewhat subconsciously, but considering Bałdych's sophistication and perfectionism that is quite unlikely.

Personally I find the team work on this album a bit limited, certainly in comparison of Bałdych's earlier work. Although the Norwegian trio has an excellent record behind it, their role on this album is almost entirely concerned with accompaniment with very few moments of true group improvisation and interplay. This might have been a conscious decision on the part of Bałdych or simply worked out this way, but the result definitely puts the trio on a second plane, with the rhythm section almost never leaving the shadows. Of course the trio does a great job playing alongside Bałdych, but personally I miss the electricity in the air which could have uplifted this album to another level.

Overall this is a beautiful piece of music, skillfully executed, which should make every fan of violin perfectly happy. Jazz purists might find this a bit too sweet, smooth and melancholic, but to be fair Bałdych simply has no competition neither in his own country nor anywhere else at the moment, so he is setting the mark. Bałdych will surely come up with a new surprise pretty soon, being always full of ideas and abilities, and his work is always a source of joy and aesthetic pleasure.

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