Dominik Bukowski - vibraphone, kalimba
Amir ElSaffar - trumpet, santur
Adam Żuchowski - double bass
Partyk Dobosz - drums, darbuka
By Adam Baruch
This is the fifth album as a leader by the Polish Jazz vibraphonist/composer Dominik Bukowski, one of the most respected and prolific figures on the Polish Jazz scene. The album was recorded live in a quartet setting, with American trumpeter Amir ElSaffar, Polish bassist Adam Żuchowski and drummer Patryk Dobosz. Together they perform eight tunes (one split into two parts), five of which are arrangements of traditional melodies and three are original compositions by Bukowski.
The music is a Jazz-World Fusion project, which amalgamates the Folklore roots of Polish and Middle Eastern music, or more specifically the Arabic maqam system, which lately has been discovered by many Jazz improvisers all over the world. The maqam is remarkably open system and as such an ideal basis for improvisation, which is clearly demonstrated on this album. Both the traditional pieces and the original compositions get a similar treatment, which creates a remarkable coherency and consistency, which this album manages to uphold for its entire duration.
The involvement of ElSaffar is of course the decisive factor, which makes this album tick. His knowledge of Arabic musical forms makes him an ideal partner side by side with Bukowski, who after all is originally rooted in different musical environment. Without him this project might have proven to be too ambitious for the Polish musicians working on their own. Of course ElSaffar's virtuosic trumpet performances based in the Jazz idiom are another strong virtue of this project. His santur solos are also some of the highlights of the album.
Bukowski wisely lets ElSaffar to take upon himself most of the soloing and in general the leading of the music, as he is the bridge between the two worlds. Bukowski and the rhythm section take a step back and play along the trumpeter, contributing amicable support, both harmonically and rhythmically, which is especially impressive considering how difficult the odd and irregular Arabic rhythms usually are for people living outside the region. Żuchowski and Dobosz wisely take the rhythmic level of the music into a free form and less regular rhythmic environment, skillfully avoiding the traps of the tricky Arabic patterns as such. Their contributions are excellent all the way through and truly admirable.
Bukowski, as usual, contributes some superb vibraphone vistas, somewhat subdued and modest, but always elegant and highly aesthetical. His original compositions fit the concept of the album ideally and the vibraphone/trumpet collaboration is tasteful and unique. This album, diametrically different from the other projects he is involved in, proves his diversity and open-mindedness.
Overall this is definitely one of the most interesting Jazz-World Fusion albums recorded by Polish Jazz musicians in a long time and deserves all the compliments bestowed upon it already, which I fully support. Bukowski has been a sure "bet" ever since he arrived on the scene and this album places him also in the "full of surprises" category, which is pretty rare. Hats off, Dominik!