Thursday, September 24, 2020

Joachim Kuhn / Mateusz Smoczynski – Speaking Sound (2020)

Joachim Kuhn / Mateusz Smoczyński

Joachim Kuhn - piano
Mateusz Smoczynski - violin

Speaking Sound

ACT 9630


By Adam Baruch

This is another wonderful duo album by German pianist / composer Joachim Kuhn this time which brilliant young Polish violinist Mateusz Smoczynski. The album was released as part of the "Duo Art" series by the German ACT label, which cultivates the "Art of the Duo" Jazz tradition. The album presents nine pieces, five of which were composed by Kuhn, one co-composed by him and Smoczynski, one is an adaptation of Classical composition by George Gurdjieff, one by French accordionist / composer Vincent Peirani and finally one by Rabih Abou-Khalil.

The music makes it immediately apparent that although obviously improvised, it is first and foremost chamber in character and heavily laden with Classical Music influences. The emerging Jazz-Classical Fusion is one of the finest examples of the idiom, completely unique and aesthetically innovative. Although followers of Smoczynski's career will not be surprised by this deep relationship with Classical Music, for Kuhn's followers this is indeed a great surprise, as his ties with Avant-Garde / Improvised Music are way more "natural" that those with Classical Music exposed on this album. Surprisingly Kuhn's chameleonic ability to fit in every situation works here as well and one might be easily fooled into thinking that he is a veteran Classical pianist, which by the way is exactly what his career was supposed to be in his early days before he discovered Jazz. 

The age difference between Kuhn (born 1944) and Smoczynski (born 1984) is similarly completely insignificant as well, and both players perform in perfect musical and spiritual unity, as expected from such distinguished Artists. They both toy lovingly with the compositions, taking them often quite far-off from their origins at times and staying close to the notes on other occasions. Kuhn sprinkles the proceedings with brilliant but brief Free Jazz arpeggios, and Smoczynski inserts some Polish Folklore fragments, which makes the music a great fun to listen to.

But as usual in the intimate duo setting, the music is first and foremost about the dialogue these two Artists are able to create while performing. As someone who happens to know them both in person, the magic that does take place here is completely natural, as they are both as sweet and loving as they sound. The wonderful photograph included on the album's artwork says it all – Mateusz is looking with obvious respect and admiration at the Master and Joachim smiles kindly in return, like a grandfather proud of his grandchild.

As I have stated so many times, the duo is the ideal musical unit; it is the minimal environment which produces interplay and telepathic communication between the musicians, which is the essence of collective performance. On the other hands it is free of the limitations imposed by performing in a larger environment, which a priori limit the level of the intimacy. This album is such a beautiful expression of the power of a duo that I can hardly think of a better one.

I have been lucky to follow closely the career of Mateusz Smoczynski since his early steps on the musical scene and feel a great pride in his success. Obviously seeing Joachim Kuhn, who has been a part of the Soundtrack Of My Life since forever, being active and productive today is a no lesser joy. Bless you both for this sublime music!

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Zbigniew Lewandowski - Zbigniew Lewandowski (2020)

Zbigniew Lewandowski

Zbigniew Lewandowski - drums
Piotr Baron - saxophone
Andrzej Przybielski - trumpet
Paweł Ścierański - guitar
Krzysztof Ścierański - bass guitar
Andrzej Olejniczak - saxophone
Mieczysław Jurecki - bass guitar
Jose Torres - percussion

Zbigniew Lewandowski

GAD 121

By Adam Baruch

This is a reissue of the debut album by Polish Jazz drummer / composer / bandleader Zbigniew Lewandowski, originally released on the legendary Poljazz label. The music was recorded in 1983 during two sessions separated by several months, with two lineups. The first lineup was a quintet which included alongside Lewandowski also iconic trumpeter Andrzej Przybielski, saxophonist Piotr Baron, guitarist Pawel Scieranski and bass guitarist Krzysztof Scieranski. The second lineup was extended to an octet and included also saxophonist Andrzej Olejniczak, second bass guitarist Mieczyslaw Jurecki and percussionist Jose Torres. The original LP presented six tracks but this remastered edition was expanded by two additional tracks from the first session, previously unissued. All the compositions were by the musicians participating in the recording except for one standard.

The music, influenced by the revolutionary work of Miles Davis, has a distinct Fusion tinge, but is very far from an attempt to copy the great Master. Przybielski, aged thirty-nine at the time of the recording, was already Poland's most idiosyncratic Jazz musician and trumpet Genius. He displays the full range of his abilities, and the fact that the music is Fusion oriented, offers a rare opportunity to hear him in that specific idiom, rather than within his "usual" Avant-Garde environment. His performances on this album are amongst the most extensive documents of his playing, including his weird sense of humor. In retrospect this album emphasizes the devastating loss Polish Jazz suffered with his untimely death in 2011. I had the immense luck and pleasure to produce the album "The Book Of Job", just a couple of years after this recording was made, which also featured Przybielski at his absolute best.

Baron, only twenty-two years old at the time, also contributes wonderfully to the album's overall ambience, offering his compositions, most of the arrangements and excellent soloing. The rest of the players were already more experienced and their professionalism and obvious talents are clearly evident in the resulting music. Overall this is a momentous recording, perhaps one of the most important Polish Jazz albums from the 1980s, and beyond. Polish Jazz/Fusion fans should be grateful to GAD Records for resurrecting this gem and saving it from oblivion. Brilliant stuff!

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Lonker See - Hamza (2020)

Lonker See

Joanna Kucharska - vocals / bass
Bartosz Borowski - guitar
Michal Gos - drums
Tomasz Gadecki - saxophone



By Adam Baruch

This is the fourth album by Polish quartet Lonker See, which comprises of vocalist / bassist Joanna Kucharska, guitarist Bartosz Borowski, drummer Michal Gos and saxophonist Tomasz Gadecki. The album presents seven original compositions, not credited on the album's artwork and assumed to be co-composed by the quartet members, with all lyrics by Kucharska.

The music is a mixture of Psychedelic Rock. Progressive Rock, Trance and Free Jazz, which although hardly innovative (I mean five decades ago this was a highly fashionable music), has a unique character. The meeting between Rock musicians and the Avant-Garde saxophonist works very well and the fact that they are able to find a common language is of course commendable.

However, music that is based on drone-like, repetitive simplistic melody lines, even when spiced by fiery improvisations, eventually becomes somewhat boring. It may be hype for the young listeners, who are exposed to it for the first time and ignorant of musical legacy, but for listeners familiar with this formula since decades it might be less enthusiastic. In spite of the obvious superb playing by Gadecki, the overall result leaves me cold.

It also appears that in the last couple of years or so more and more European ensembles are drown into this specific creative formula, which personally quite puzzles me, especially in view of the limitations this specific approach presents. There is only place in such narrow idiom for the absolutely best. In short this album has a very specific character, but fails to evoke neither emotional nor intellectual excitement as far as I am concerned. But this is only me of course.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Przemysław Chmiel Quartet - Witchcraft - premiera nowej płyty w Fundacji Słuchaj

Przemysław Chmiel - saksofon tenorowy i sopranowy, klarnet
Mateusz Gramburg - fortepian
Piotr Narajowski - kontrabas
Michał Szeligowski - perkusja

Kwartet Przemysława Chmiela to zespół, który złożony jest ze studentów Wydziałów Jazzu katowickiej oraz krakowskiej Akademii Muzycznej. Formacja wykonuje kompozycje lidera będące z jednej strony utworami zawierającymi fragmenty skomponowane i zaaranżowane, z drugiej silnie odwołujące się do estetyki otwartej, spontanicznej improwizacji. W swojej sztuce muzycy z równą atencją pochylają się nad tym, co w jazzie należy do jego wielkiej historii, jak również nad tym wszystkim, co niesie ze sobą nieskrępowana ograniczeniami stylów sztuka improwizacji.

Debiutancka płyta kwartetu, zatytułowana "Witchcraft" ukaże się nakładem Fundacji Słuchaj - premiera zaplanowana jest na 30 września 2020 roku. Patronatem medialnym objęły ją: portal Jazzarium, TVP Kultura oraz blog Polish-Jazz.blogspot.

Przemysław Chmiel - saksofonista grający na saksofonie sopranowym i tenorowym. Absolwent ZPSM im. Fryderyka Chopina w Warszawie (",Bednarskiej") w klasie saksofonu Łukasza Poprawskiego. Obecnie student Akademii Muzycznej im. Karola Szymanowskiego w Katowicach w klasie Marcina Kaletki.

Zdobywca II Miejsca na IX Międzynarodowym Konkursie Improwizacji Jazzowej w Katowicach w 2019 roku. Laureat Pierwszej Nagrody w kategorii Solo na Tarnów Jazz Contest 2018. W tymże roku roku, wraz z autorskim Przemysław Chmiel Quartet, zdobył II Miejsce na 2018 Blue Note Poznań Competition. Z zespołem Natalii Kordiak natomiast, zdobył II miejsce na Tarnów Jazz Contest 2017.

W 2019 roku ukazały się dwa albumy z udziałem Przemysława Chmiela. Pierwszy z nich to "Bajka" formacji Natalia Kordiak Quintet. Premiera albumu - wydanego w słowackiej wytwórni HevHetia - odbyła się w czeskiej Pradze w ramach festiwalu Voicingers on Tour. "Bajka" zebrała świetne recenzje, znalazła się w wielu zestawieniach najlepszych płyt 2019 roku oraz została nominowana do nagrody Fryderyk w kategorii "Fonograficzny debiut roku - jazz". Drugą z płyt jest ,"Słowo na T." zespołu Sabina Meck Sextet (SJ Records). Album także zebrał świetne recenzje i uznany został za jedną z najlepszych wokalnych płyt 2019 roku.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Joachim Mencel - Brooklyn Eye (2020)

Joachim Mencel

Joachim Mencel - piano, hurdy-gurdy
Steve Cardenas - guitar
Scott Colley - bass
Rudy Royston - drums

Brooklyn Eye

ORIGIN 82806 

By Adam Baruch

This is an album by Polish Jazz pianist/composer Joachim Mencel, recorded in US with three American musicians: guitarist Steve Cardenas, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Rudy Royston. The album presents ten original compositions, all by Mencel. In addition to the piano, Mencel also plays the hurdy-gurdy, which is usually associated with Folk music in many European Cultures, and is very rarely used in Jazz, but not entirely unheard off.

On the album's lines notes Mencel describes the making of this album and the fact that it was recorded in America with American musicians as "the fulfillment of his long-standing dream" and "his dream come true". He also describes childhood memories and feelings about America and "American way of life", which of course are shared by many Poles who grew up behind the Iron Curtain during the Socialist regime (yours truly included), for whom America was a symbol of Freedom and prosperity. Some of us did grow up in the years that followed to witness that dream being shattered.

The music is in part pretty straightforward mainstream Jazz, as appropriate for a Polish version of "American Jazz". Mencel writes nice, solid melodies, which serve as vehicles for the quartet's performances. The musicians are all seasoned veterans and do everything that is expected of them. Mencel plays nice melodic piano phrases, as does Cardenas, and the music flows pretty uneventfully, with the rhythm sections counting the time.

Some other pieces are however distinctly different, more open and less constrained by melodic continuity, which allows the musicians to stretch out and include some breathing space between the notes. In other cases the melodies include more Polish lyricism and even melancholy, taking the music into a more ambitious direction, both harmonically and rhythmically.

The truly unusual moments arrive when Mencel switches to play the hurdy-gurdy, which sounds for a less trained ear like a violin or viola. He uses the instrument to improvise and play solo parts, which of course is, as already mentioned, pretty unique. As a result the music becomes much closer to the European aesthetics, with shades of folkloristic nuances. The delicate hurdy-gurdy/guitar duo piece is a wonderful example of a moment when the magic indeed happens.

Overall this is a mixed bag with some wonderful moments and some less exciting ones, but all obviously very professionally performed and to some degree innovative, as far as the use of the hurdy-gurdy is concerned. Therefore if the mainstream pieces were replaced by more of the hurdy-gurdy/World Music explorations, the album would have been much more coherent and rewarding, as well as less "American".

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Jerzy Milian - Cutting (2020)

Jerzy Milian

Jerzy Milian - composer/arranger


GAD 123

By Adam Baruch

This is the ninth installment of the archival series released by GAD Records, which presents the work of Polish Jazz vibraphonist / composer / bandleader Jerzy Milian. This chapter is dedicated to Milian's recordings from 1970s, done in East Berlin (then DDR) with the Rundfunk Tanzorchester Berlin, conducted by Gunter Gollasch, which included the best East German musicians, such as saxophonist Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky, trumpeter Joachim Grasswurm, trombonist Hubert Katzenbeisser, saxophonist / clarinetist Werner Schmidt, pianist Horst Pawliczak, bassist Klaus Koch, drummer Wolfgang Winkler and others. The orchestra performs sixteen compositions by Milian, also arranged by him.

The music is typical orchestral Jazz, based on the wonderful compositions and brilliant arrangements by Milian, which offer a mixture of relatively easier pieces with some Funk, Swing and even Big Beat inclinations, but also more advanced ones bordering on Anat-Garde, altogether a wonderful example of modern European Jazz, reflecting Milian's fascination with the Third Stream idiom. These orchestral pieces are obviously more "well behaved" in comparison to the music Milian composed for small combos, but still complex enough to rise a brow fifty years later. The orchestra included many excellent instrumentalists (Petrowsky among them), who performed the difficult music without a hitch, and therefore the result is still awe inspiring

Milian's compositions are absolutely brilliant and remain completely valid, often sounding as if composed today. Sophisticated, elegant, clever and beautifully structured, this music is alive and kicking as it was at the time it was created. Overall this is an incredible piece of Polish/European Jazz history, which absolutely deserves to be heard and studied. With Milian's passing it is even more important to document his work and bring it to the public. For orchestral Jazz and East European Jazz enthusiasts this album and all the albums released in this archival series are an absolute must!

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Marcin Olak - Music From Non​-​Existent Movies (2020)

Marcin Olak

Marcin Olak - guitars, loops

Music From Non-Existent Movies


By Jędrzej Janicki

Lata temu Karin Stanek radośnie wyśpiewywała, że chłopiec z gitarą byłby dla niej parą. Pierwszym skojarzeniem przy tej piosence jest jakiś radosny jegomość podgrywający akordy przy ognisku. Widoczek taki rzecz jasna niewątpliwie byłby jak najbardziej urokliwy, jednak relacja muzyka z gitarą może wyglądać również w zgoła odmienny sposób. Przybierać może ona również formę technicznej perfekcji (z doświadczenia wiem, jak dalekiej wszelkim domorosłym gitarzystom) oraz zatopienia się w każdym dźwięku. Właśnie taką ścieżką podąża gitarzysta i kompozytor Marcin Olak. Jego ostatnia solowa płyta o wdzięcznym tytule "Music From Non-Existent Movies" to znakomite ukazanie tego, jak wiele wydobyć można z tego pozornie skromnego instrumentu.

Uczciwie stwierdzić trzeba, że jest to specyficzna płyta wydana w bardzo specyficznym czasie. Jeszcze nigdy granie w pojedynkę nie brzmiało tak dojmująco aktualnie jak w czasach izolacji związanej z pandemią. Oprócz wszelkich negatywów związanych z tą sytuacją wskazać można jeden jej pozytyw - okoliczności te dają każdemu muzykowi więcej czasu na prywatne i intymne obcowanie ze swoim instrumentem w zaciszu domowym. Właśnie trochę takie uczucie podglądania mistrza ze swoim ukochanym obiektem mam podczas słuchania albumu Olaka. 

Gitarzysta absolutnie niczego nie udowadnia i nie szafuje swoimi niemałymi możliwościami technicznymi. Z mniej lub bardziej oczywistych dźwięków buduje intrygujące i niejednoznaczne struktury. Niespotykaną wartość tej płyty stanowią jednak pewne momenty nietypowego zawahania. Te krótkie chwile napięcia nie wynikają rzecz jasna z wątpliwości Olaka co do tego, jaki zagrać kolejny dźwięk, lecz raczej z kontemplowania i zachwytu nad pojedynczą frazą. Marcin gra jakiś fragment, a potem do niego wraca, delikatnie go zmieniając i czasami poruszając się w obszarze eksperymentu i zabawy z instrumentem. Muzyk przepięknie usuwa się w cień, zostawiając wiele przestrzeni, by w pełni wybrzmiewała sama gitara.   

Każdy dźwięk na "Music From Non-Existent Movies" przepełniony jest elegancją i wysublimowanym, klasycyzującym, sznytem. Samotność człowieka z gitarą w tym konkretnym przypadku stanowi synonim bardzo przyjemnych (przyjemnością nie najprostszą) wrażeń po stronie odbiorcy. Nagranie to wymaga dużego skupienia, lecz w dobie szalejącej wciąż zarazy o dłuższe chyba nawet chwile zadumy o wiele łatwiej. Tak czy inaczej, "Music From Non-Existent Movies" to wyjątkowo ciekawa propozycja nie tylko dla gitarowych maniaków. 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Piotr Rodowicz i Przyjaciele - Razem Na Tej Ziemi (2020)

Piotr Rodowicz i Przyjaciele

Bogdan Hołownia - piano
Jarosław Bothur - saxophone
Ryszard Borowski - flute
Mark Waggoner - guitar
Piotr Rodowicz - bass
Kazimierz Jonkisz - drums
Wojciech Puszek - piano (3)
Pancho Campos - percussion (3)

Razem Na Tej Ziemi


By Adam Baruch

This is an album by veteran Polish Jazz bassist/composer Piotr Rodowicz recorded with a bunch of "friends" like pianist Bogdan Hołownia, flautist Ryszard Borowski, saxophonist Jarosław Bothur, guitarist Mark Waggoner and drummer Kazimierz Jonkisz. The album presents ten original pieces (one in two versions), seven composed by Rodowicz and three by Hołownia.

The music is all strictly melodic mainstream Jazz, on the lighter side of the idiom, but the compositions are solid and well crafted, and in the hands of these veteran performers they are all also splendidly executed.

Although this is not the kind of Jazz I tend to listen to on an everyday basis, I firmly believe that it is a legitimate part of the genre, especially since it is accessible to a much wider audience than just the hardcore Jazz buffs. As long as the music has an intrinsic artistic value, is honest and professionally executed, it is fine with me, regardless of what the Jazz snobs my say. Overall this is a lightweight, pleasant listening experience, with Jazzy flavor and a solid entertainment value. Recommended for listeners with such inclinations!

Friday, September 11, 2020

Tomasz Licak - Trouble Hunting (2012)

Tomasz Licak

Tomasz Licak - tenor saxophone, clarinet
Sven Dam Meinild - alto & tenor saxophones
Tomasz Dąbrowski - trumpet, balkan horn
Adi Zukanović - rhodes, keys
Richard Andersson - electric bass
Anders Provis - drums

Trouble Hunting


By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by the Polish/Danish ensemble Trouble Hunting led by Polish saxophonist/composer Tomasz Licak and including Polish trumpeter Tomasz Dąbrowski, Danish saxophonist Sven Dam Meinild, Bosnian keyboardist Adi Zukanovic, Danish bassist Richard Andersson and drummer Anders Provis. The album presents six original compositions, all by Licak.

The music is typical young European Jazz, which combines composed and freely improvised music, with an emphasis on group improvisation and freedom of expression. Despite the advanced explorations, the music manages to stay coherent and tamed, which allows to the inquisitive listener to hear every little nuance of the individual contributions by the musicians.

The ambience of the music combines the Polish melancholy with the Scandinavian minimalism, which works out splendidly. Despite the young age of these musicians, they all already show signs of their musical personality. Listening to this album almost a decade after it was recorded gives a wonderful perspective on the musical achievements of Licak, Dąbrowski and Meinild, who made numerous other recordings since and solidified their personas.

The album is also a document of the bond that was created between young Polish, Danish and other European musicians around the Odense Music Academy, which created an entire circle of musicians who cooperate actively since their meeting as students, being one of the creative foci of contemporary European Jazz.

This album withstands the test of time splendidly and sounds every bit as interesting as it did at the time of its release. It is definitely worth revisiting and European Free Jazz/Improvised Music connoisseurs should definitely try and get a copy before this album (like so many others) disappears into oblivion. Great stuff!

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

The Owl feat. Pablo Held - Improcode - premiera nowej płyty w Fundacji Słuchaj

Marcin Hałat - skrzypce
Maciej Garbowski - kontrabas
Krzysztof Gradziuk - perkusja
Pablo Held - fortepian

Marcin Hałat, skrzypek i improwizator, prezentuje kolejny autorski album, który współtworzą czołowi muzycy europejskiej sceny jazzowej. Druga płyta tria The Owl z gościnnym udziałem niemieckiego pianisty Pablo Helda zawiera 9 utworów. Wydawnictwo zatytułowane "Improcode" tworzą: Marcin Hałat, Maciej Garbowski, Krzysztof Gradziuk oraz wspomniany znakomity pianista Pablo Held. Płyta wydana nakładem Fundacji Słuchaj, będzie miała swoją oficjalną premierę w dniu 15.09.2020 r.

"Improcode" to zaskakujący album, w którym splata się wizja muzyki współczesnej w odniesieniu do wysublimowanej formy wiolinistyki. Płyta zawiera wiele różnych koncepcji dialogu i czterostronnych rozmów w obrębie tej stylistyki. Dużo jest w niej wolności i przestrzeni, która charakteryzuje zarówno współczesne idiomy jazzowe, jak i klasyczne. Indywidualny kod The Owl odznacza się niekonwencjonalnym podejściem do muzyki improwizowanej, a kiedy Marcin Hałat staje naprzeciw współgrających indywidualności, muzyka nabiera wyjątkowego znaczenia.

Marcin Hałat - skrzypek, improwizator, poruszający się między muzyką klasyczną, jazzową i improwizowaną. Urodzony w Beskidzie Śląskim w 1981 r. w rodzinie o bogatych tradycjach muzycznych. Jako mały chłopiec dorasta w otoczeniu muzyki ludowej, muzyki Fryderyka Chopina i dobiegających z radia dźwięków amerykańskiego jazzu. W wieku siedmiu lat rozpoczyna naukę w Szkole Muzycznej w Katowicach. Jego talent improwizacyjny odkrywa i zaprasza do współpracy Adam Makowicz. Marcin Hałat wybiera studia na Wydziale Jazzu i Muzyki Rozrywkowej Akademii Muzycznej w Katowicach pod kierunkiem skrzypka Henryka Gembalskiego oraz na Wydziale Instrumentalnym Akademii Muzycznej w Krakowie w klasie Roberta Kabary. Nawiązuje współpracę z Orkiestrą Stołecznego Królewskiego Miasta Krakowa Sinfonietta Cracovia, z którą bierze udział w licznych krajowych i międzynarodowych nagraniach, koncertach i festiwalach.

Pracuje z najwybitniejszymi dyrygentami, są wśród nich: Krzysztof Penderecki, Jerzy Maksymiuk, Christoph Eschenbach, Lorin Maazel, Valery Gergiev, Lawrence Foster, John Axelrood, Rafael Payare i Jurjen Hempel, oraz nagrywa dla takich wytwórni jak Sony Classical, DUX i Tv Arte. Jednocześnie realizuje wiele własnych projektów muzycznych - od muzyki ludowej, przez muzykę kameralną i muzykę improwizowaną. Współpracował z takimi artystami, jak: Grażyna Auguścik, Dorota Miśkiewicz, Włodzimierz Nahorny, Pianohooligan Piotr Orzechowski, Dominik Wania, Pablo Held, Adzik Sandecki, Joszko Broda i Atom String Quartet.

Jest liderem tria The Owl, które tworzy wraz z Krzysztofem Gradziukiem i Maciejem Garbowskim. W 2017 roku ich debiutancki album "On The Way" został wydany przez Fundację Słuchaj i doceniony zarówno w Polsce, jak i za granicą. Marcin Hałat jest stypendystą Ministra Kultury i Marszałka Województwa Śląskiego. Obecnie pracuje na stanowisku adiunkta w Instytucie Muzyki w Cieszynie Uniwersytetu Śląskiego w Katowicach.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Wojtczak/Piotrowicz - Plastic Poetry (2019)


Irek Wojtczak - tenor & soprano saxophones
Kamil Piotrowicz - piano

Plastic Poetry


By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by the Polish Jazz duo comprising of the veteran saxophonist Irek Wojtczak (aged fifty) and young pianist Kamil Piotrowicz (aged twenty seven). The album presents ten tracks, which are connected into an improvised suite. Wojtczak is credited as a composer of one of the pieces and Piotrowicz of two, with the rest being co-composed/spontaneously improvised.

The duet setting is one of the most difficult and demanding Jazz environments, but at the same time one of the most rewarding, and which has earned a status of a sub-idiom called "Art of the Duo" over time. I am happy to say that this wonderful album certainly deserves an honorable place within that idiom.

Wojtczak, who already earned a respected position on the Polish Jazz scene over the years, is no surprise as his consistent excellence is part of his persona. Piotrowicz, on the other hand, recorded his debut album as a leader just three years earlier (2015) and travelled a marvelous journey at the speed of light between his early days characterized by mainstream Jazz to his current position at the spearhead of Improvised Music/Avant-Garde explorations. Therefore this particular get-together reflects the meeting between two consecutive generations of the Polish Jazz scene, where the representatives of both generations have absolutely no problem creating shoulder to shoulder in perfect tandem and without any inferiority complex involved.

Duo is all about conversation and mutual respect and this music is a wonderful example of such human/Artistic relationship. The music, although obviously improvised, sounds often as if it was completely composed and rehearsed for ages, reflecting the perfect understanding and almost telepathic communication between the two musicians. It is also perfectly harmonically structured and offers a continuous line of coherent musical development.

Overall this is a wonderful piece of music which although highly improvised offers a serene, richly textured musical journey, that can be enjoyed by a relatively wide circle of open-minded listeners. The inventiveness and virtuosity of these two superb musicians is a gift we can now share. This is definitely one of the strongest Polish Jazz releases in 2019 and is obviously wholeheartedly recommended!

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Krzysztof Baranowski Trio - Live At Radio Katowice (2020)

Krzysztof Baranowski Trio

Mateusz Kaszuba - piano
Krzysztof Baranowski - bass
Patryk Dobosz - drums

Live At Radio Katowice

PRK 0140

By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by Polish Jazz guitarist/bassist Krzysztof Baranowski recorded live in a classic piano trio format with pianist Mateusz Kaszuba and drummer Patryk Dobosz. The album presents eight pieces, six of which are original compositions by Baranowski and two are standards.

Although Baranowski's primary instrument is the guitar, the trio won a prize at one of the Polish Jazz festivals and led to recording of this album, which finds him playing the bass on his debut recording, rather than guitar. The music is all well within modern mainstream Jazz boundaries, based on solid and highly lyrical melodies, typical of Polish Jazz. Baranowski certainly has a lot to offer as a composer and his compositions are well rounded and beautifully crafted. A few shades and touches of Frederic Chopin's toolbox made me smile.

The performance is less spectacular, but certainly up to the excellent standard expected from the young Polish Jazz musicians, I have not heard Kaszuba on any recordings nor have I listened to him live, so my knowledge about him is very limited, but he certainly is an able player, obviously in the early days of his career, showing promising potential and already a remarkable skill. Dobosz on the other hand is already a highly experienced performer, with a bunch of recordings under his arm, which is immediately evident. Baranowski, although a novice as far as recording is concerned, shows an excellent feel and skill in his role as a bassist, which of course immediately raises the interest in his guitar playing.

Overall this is an impressive debut album, which again stresses the fact that young Polish Jazz players pop up on the scene like mushrooms after the rain, with a continuous stream of talent and creativity, which of course is a wonderful blessing.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Joachim Mencel - Brooklyn Eye - premiera nowej płyty

Joachim Mencel - fortepian, lira korbowa
Steve Cardenas - gitara
Scott Colley - kontrabas
Rudy Royston - perkusja

W dniu 18.09.2020 r. będzie miała miejsce oficjalna premiera nowej płyty pianisty Joachima Mencla. Album zostanie wydany przez amerykańską wytwórnię Origin Records.

Płyta "Brooklyn Eye" jest realizacją marzenia, aby nagrać płytę inspirowaną Ameryką i aby zrobić to w Nowym Jorku, wspólnie z muzykami amerykańskimi. Repertuar płyty składa się wyłącznie z moich kompozycji. Wszystkie nawiązują do przeżyć związanych z amerykańską muzyką i kulturą, inspirowane są również moimi podróżami po USA i wszelkimi impresjami oraz inspiracjami związanymi z amerykańskim sposobem życia.

Część utworów powstała dawno temu i grałem je w zupełnie innych opracowaniach, a niektóre napisałem specjalnie na tą sesję i wykonałem je po raz pierwszy w studio. Niektóre utwory wykonuję na fortepianie, a inne na lirze korbowej. Lira w jazzie to precedens. W Polsce ten instrument po wielu latach zapomnienia wraca do łask przeważnie w wykonawstwie muzyki dawnej czy ludowej. Ja natomiast staram się znaleźć dla niego zupełnie nowe zastosowania. Próbuję znaleźć jego jazzowy głos i brzmienie.

Największą inspiracją w tych poszukiwaniach jest dla mnie muzyka wspaniałego krakowskiego kompozytora i skrzypka Zbigniewa Seiferta. Sam zresztą kiedyś grałem na skrzypcach i po latach zacząłem tęsknić do możliwości modulowania dźwięku w trakcie jego trwania oraz do grania w stroju nietemperowanym. Takie możliwości daje mi lira. Na płycie gram na niej zarówno tematy utworów jak i improwizacje, a także akompaniamenty. Wyjątkowym momentem płyty jest utwór "Photosynthesis" zagrany tylko w duecie liry z gitarą. W połączeniu tych dwóch instrumentów udało się uzyskać niespotykane, bardzo oryginalne brzmienie. Skład mojego zespołu to również zestaw marzeń, to wspaniali muzycy. Słucham i podziwiam ich muzykę, i zespoły, w których grają od wielu lat.

W pierwszym dniu naszej sesji nagraniowej Rudy Royston zawiadomił nas o pożarze w katedrze Notre Dame w Paryżu. Z jednej strony musieliśmy utrzymać potrzebną koncentrację by grać jak najlepiej, ale pomiędzy utworami oglądaliśmy zdjęcia z Paryża i wszyscy byliśmy bardzo przejęci rozgrywającym się tam dramatem. To doświadczenie przemijania z pewnością miało wpływ na muzykę, którą zarejestrowaliśmy.

Joachim Mencel

Thursday, September 3, 2020

NUDA. - NUDA (2020)


Michał Milczarek - guitar
Marcin Albert Steczkowski - cornet
Marcin Jadach - double bass
Michał Bryndal - drums



By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by Polish quartet NUDA. (Eng. Boredom), which includes cornetist Marcin Albert Steczkowski, guitarist Michał Milczarek, bassist Marcin Jadach and drummer Michał Bryndal. The album presents eight original compositions, all co-credited to all four members of the quartet.

The members of the quartet come from very different backgrounds, between almost mainstream Jazz, via Jazz-Rock Fusion to Avant-Garde Jazz, but the music on this album is mostly improvised and rather free, with limited melodic contents. The overall approach is very minimalistic and the music plays around with sound and silence, creating imaginary, almost ambient soundscapes.

Although the cornet and guitar are at the front line, the quartet distributes equal weight between all four players, which is very effective. The rhythm section often plays in a completely different space-time continuum than the soloing instruments, and even creates polyrhythmic diversity between the bass and the drums. Therefore at times all four musicians play seemingly "inconsistently" between each other, but highly creatively and artistically.

There is no doubt that the album manages to present a fresh, highly unconventional approach to music making and has a lot to offer together to an open-minded listener. The concept needs perhaps a bit of refining and the short playing time (just above half an hour) needs expanding, which can all bee achieved on the next album. Overall this is a splendid debut effort and a most welcome fresh breath of air. Well done!

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Liquid Quintet - Flux (2019)

Liquid Quintet

Agustí Fernández - piano
Artur Majewski - trumpet
Albert Cirera - saxophones
Rafał Mazur - bass
Ramon Prats - drums


FSR 2019/17

By Adam Baruch

This is a live recording, captured during the 12th Ad Libitum Festival in Warsaw, by the Liquid Quintet, one of several Improvising Music ensembles under the "Liquid" moniker, led by Spanish pianist Agustí Fernández. The other members of the quintet are Spanish saxophonist Albert Cirera and drummer Ramon Prats, who together with Fernandez constitute the Liquid Trio, and Polish trumpeter Artur Majewski and bassist Rafał Mazur. The album presents five tracks, all co-credited to the five musicians taking part in the music-making process, as appropriate for the idiom.

Fernández, who is undoubtedly the most internationally recognized representative of the Spanish musical Avant-Garde, is a most prolific artist with a huge number (around 100) of recordings as a leader and sideman, probably more than any other European Improvised Music activist. There is nothing wrong with this fact per se, but it does create certain "cautiousness" upon approaching his recordings. The connection between him and the Polish Avant-Garde is quite natural and produced several earlier fruitful meetings, including the participation of Mazur on several occasions.

The music is exactly what one would expect from such spontaneous performance; a continuous barrage of notes exchanged between the quintet members, which vary in intensity from hardly audible to overwhelming, creating, as the title suggests, a prolonged flux of energy and sound. There us an obvious affinity and musical conversation between the quintet members, but with a complete lack of melody, harmony and structure, this music can be considered as "digestible" only by the very innate circle of hardcore Improvised Music/Avant-Garde connoisseurs, which of course is perfectly fine.

All five musicians are excellent instrumentalist, which can be heard by a trained-ear listener. Although the concept of soloing is nonexistent in a group improvisation idiom as such, there are many moments where just one musicians is left "up front" by his cohorts and is able to articulate his statement more recognizably on top of the quiet background improvisations. But of course the telepathic communication between the musicians is the essence.

Improvised music is very similar to nonfigurative visual arts; the combination of colors and shapes either convinces the person looking at it or doesn't, which is often mood dependent. This music is offered to the listener on the exact same principle: take it or leave it. Count me in.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Leszek Kułakowski/Maciej Sikała - Red Ice (2019)

Leszek Kułakowski/Maciej Sikała

Leszek Kułakowski - piano
Maciej Sikała - soprano saxophone

Red Ice


By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by a duo of two veteran Polish Jazz musicians, pianist/composer Leszek Kułakowski and saxophonist Maciej Sikała. The album presents eleven original compositions, all by Kułakowski.

Kułakowski is a versatile and highly imaginative composer and his music always reflects the Polish Jazz lyricism at its best, as echoed by his extended recording legacy. But on this excellent recording his composition are padded and extended by the improvised contribution of Sikała, who turns out to be an ideal partner in this intimate encounter, adding not only his soprano saxophone virtuosity but also his own layer of melancholy and lyricism. The combined result is deeply moving and instantly becomes another exquisite instance of my favorite "Art of the Duo" idiom.

The music is beautifully melodic, and yet offers rich and often quite complex chord structures, which never stop to amaze with their ingenuity, but remain wonderfully coherent. As such it is an ideal vehicle for the improvised contributions, which are natural extensions of the basic melody lines. Sikała does an absolutely amazing work here, not only as a player/improviser, but more importantly as a co-composer of sorts, since his improvisations often add an additional melody line of its own,

The intimate atmosphere of the duo, which in these circumstances bridges between the classic Jazz idiom and the minimalism of chamber Classical Music, becomes completely full and perfectly rounded, proudly standing on its own. I dare to suggest that this music performed by a larger lineup would have probably lost much of its charm in comparison to these intimate versions.

On this album Kułakowski leaves most of the soloing to Sikała, but the few soli he does play here make me smile, longing for a long awaited solo piano album by the Maestro. Overall this is a brilliant Jazz album, which offers highly rewarding listening experience on many different levels; lovers of Jazz duo albums, fans of both of these excellent musicians, Polish Jazz enthusiasts and Jazz connoisseurs all over the world, all should be equally satisfied with what this album has to offer. Wholeheartedly recommended!

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Jaromír Honzák Quartet - A Question To All Your Answers (2007)

Jaromír Honzák Quartet

Michał Tokaj - piano
David Dorůžka - guitar
Jaromír Honzák - double bass
Łukasz Żyta - drums

A Question To All Your Answers


By Adam Baruch

This is the third album as a leader by Czech Jazz bassist / composer Jaromír Honzák and his first release on the excellent Czech label Animal Music. The album was recorded by a Czech/Polish quartet which also included Czech guitarist David Dorůžka and Polish pianist Michał Tokaj and drummer Łukasz Żyta, both of which played with him on this album's predecessor "Present Past". Clarinetist Tomáš Čistecký, flautist Lucie Čistecká and pianist Vojtěch Procházka appear as guests. The album presents eight original compositions, all by Honzák. Seven on the tracks were recorded at the excellent Studio Tokarnia and engineered by Jan Smoczyński, with the usual superb sound quality. The last track was recorded at the Czech Radio and features the a.m. guests.

Honzák, whom I have been watching closely since many years, proudly continues the Czech Jazz Bass tradition, established by internationally known bassists like George Mraz (really Jiri Mraz) and Miroslav Vitous, but also less known outside of their homeland like Luděk HulanFrantišek Uhlíř, Karel Vejvoda, Petr Korinek and others. His beautifully round notes and chronometric pulsations are always a guarantee of a perfect rhythm section anchor in the numerous recording he took part in.

But on this album Honzák great forte are his wonderful compositions, which are beautifully woven, versatile and most importantly open enough to be stretched and explored by the quartet members, often towards unexpected directions. As a result this album is a superb ride into the unforeseen, with each track taking the listener on a new adventure. Not losing the sense of melody and coherence, the music has so much freedom and breathing space that the flexibility is endless.

Of course the leader gets fantastic support from the quartet members; Dorůžka, here fourteen years younger than today, is already a bright star on the European scale, while Tokaj and Żyta, despite their relatively young age at the time were already seasoned veterans, capable of playing virtually anything. Together the quartet sounds like an organic unit and in retrospect I'd love to hear this experience repeated again. Overall this is a brilliant album from start to finish, a perfect reflection of 21st Century European Jazz at its best. Fourteen years later it still sounds perfectly fresh and sparkling with ingenuity, like a gem it is. Absolutely not to be missed!

Friday, August 28, 2020

Zoubek/Cruz/Witkowski - Radium (2019)


Philip Zoubek - prepared piano, synth
Ivann Cruz - guitar, electronics
Marcin Witkowski - drums, electronics



By Andrzej Nowak

Jesteśmy we francuskim Lille, na koncercie pewnego tria, jest rok 2017. Philip Zoubek gra na fortepianie preparowanym i syntezatorze analogowym, Ivann Cruz na gitarze elektrycznej i elektronice oraz Marcin Witkowski na perkusji preparowanej i elektronice. Dziewięć improwizacji (na ogół bardzo swobodnych), 54 minuty i 56 sekund.

"Radium", bo tak zwie się foniczna dokumentacja owego koncertu, to prawdziwie elektroakustyczna przygoda, kreowana wyobraźnią trzech bystrych improwizatorów, w trakcie której nie brakuje zwinnych preparacji, masywnych pasm elektroniki i mnóstwa niebanalnych rozwiązań dramaturgicznych. Jedynym dylematem odbiorcy zdaje się tu być odwieczna wojna żywych i syntetycznych dźwięków. Gdy dominują te pierwsze, jakość nagrania osiąga stany wysokie lub jeszcze wyższe. Kiedy dominują te drugie i biorą na swoje barki całe jarzmo świata, wszystkie jego problemy i chcą je rozwiązać masywnymi pasażami niemal harsh-noise, to recenzent zgłasza votum separatum.

Skupmy się wszakże na niewątpliwych atutach płyty. Już samo otwarcie obiecuje naprawdę wiele - metaliczny rezonans strun gitary, młoteczki czarnych klawiszy fortepianu, skupiony, aktywny drumming na wytłumionym werblu i tomach. Matowa narracja z elektronicznym backgroundem, który wzmaga jakość akustycznych ekspozycji - mamy wrażenie, że na scenie jest mała orkiestra, nie zaś trójka muzyków. W drugim utworze napotykamy na ciekawą koegzystencję syntetycznego ambientu, świetlistej gitary i akustycznych preparacji. 

Kolejny fragment jest niezwykle perkusjonalny, a to zasługa wszystkich uczestników spektaklu, także znów świetnie preparującego pianisty. W czwartej części narracja nabiera niemal industrialnej mocy, posmaku dark ambient i po raz pierwszy szuka hałaśliwych akcentów. Piąta improwizacja tonuje jednak emocje, schodzi na samo dno i stawia na elektroakustyczne preparacje. Nie brakuje akcji typu call & responce, a całość pięknie wygasza akustyka gitary i piana. 

Równie zmysłowy zdaje się być odcinek numer siedem - garść całkowicie zasłużonego chilloutu, dubowa gramatura gitary, perkusjonalne błyskotki. A wszystko to po odcinku numer sześć, niemal 13-minutowym ataku harsh elektroniki. Podczas gdy ósma improwizacja znów brnie w syntetyczny hałas, finałowa, dziewiąta koi wszystkie zszargane nerwy - piano szuka ciszy na dnie pudła rezonansowego, szczoteczki perkusyjne szeleszczą, a szklista gitara nuci meta-melodyjne frazy.

Tekst pierwotnie opublikowany na blogu Trybuna Muzyki Spontanicznej.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Cykl koncertów w ramach projektu "W sieci dźwięków" - Future Jazz Impro Session

Zapraszamy na cykl siedmiu wspaniałych koncertów, które zostały przygotowane w ramach programu "W sieci dźwięków". Siedem koncertów - ponad siedem godzin muzyki - kilkunastu znakomitych artystów. Wszystkie koncerty będą retransmitowane w sieci, a część z nich odbędzie się z udziałem publiczności - całość na profilu Fundacji Genarator Sztuki.

30.08.2020, godz. 20.00 - "Future Jazz Impro Session" - to finałowy koncert z cyklu "W sieci dźwięków" - realizowany przez Fundację Generator Sztuki w ramach programu "Kultura w sieci".

Grzegorz Tarwid - piano & synth
Tomasz Licak - saksofon
Wojciech Jachna - trąbka
Michał Starkiewicz - gitara
Ksawery Wójciński - kontrabas
Krzysztof Szmańda - perkusja

Koncert będzie transmitowany w sieci na stronach Fundacji Generator Sztuki. Wszystkie wydarzenia "W sieci dźwięków" dofinansowano ze środków Narodowego Centrum Kultury w ramach Programu Kultura w sieci.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Anna Gadt/Marcin Olak - Gombrowicz (2020)

Anna Gadt/Marcin Olak

Anna Gadt - voice
Marcin Olak - guitars



By Adam Baruch

This is a wonderful debut album by the Polish Avant-Garde Jazz duo comprising of vocalist Anna Gadt and guitarist Marcin Olak, which offers their interpretations of the writings by Polish author Witold Gombrowicz, one of the most idiosyncratic and controversial literary figures in Polish Cultural heritage. Although based on prose fragments, this album firmly belongs to the Jazz & Poetry idiom, both conceptually and aesthetically. The album presents twelve tracks of improvised voice/guitar pieces, which include recitation, singing and vocalese, each of them based on a different fragment taken from texts by Gombrowicz

Listeners familiar with the Polish Avant-Garde/Improvised Music scene are probably familiar with Marcin Olak's recordings on the FSR label, which are all worth checking out. Gadt is of course one of the brightest stars on the Polish Jazz vocal scene, with a substantial recording legacy, but most importantly characterized by her chameleonic quality of constant transformation of her vocal style, which over the years developed from mainstream to highly personal Improvising Music environment, which is still evolving. She is also a respected and devoted teacher of the vocal Art and her students are beginning to shape the next generation of the Polish Jazz vocal scene.

During my recent visit in Warsaw I had the opportunity to attend the debut performance of this music in a small club, which offered an intimate opportunity to celebrate the release of this album. I watched the audience to see how effectively this highly demanding music will be able to penetrate the walls of indifference and cerebral demand this music requires, but to my surprise the audience was absolutely mesmerized by what was happening on the small stage. Obviously this music is stronger and more communicative than what one might expect, in spite of its farfetched aim towards intellectual brain functionality, acting on the purely emotional, raw instinct level as well, in retrospect somewhat similar to Gombrowicz's writing.

Connoisseur of the human voice Art will be of course delighted by Gadt's performances on this album, which include probably many of the things "you always wanted to do with your voice but were afraid to try" list. She is simply fearless and completely uninhibited in the way she uses her voice, which often expands the known boundaries of vocal expression. Although using texts in Polish language, this kind of vocal expression transcends any language barriers completely, making them meaningless. In some cases Gadt's vocal construction are so distinctive, that she seems to construct a completely new vocal "language" of her own design.

It is pretty rare when an album labeled as Avant-Garde is truly Avant-Gardist in its nature, since the label is used way too lightly these days. Anything that is unusual/unconventional often gets labeled as Avant-Garde, whereas in fact despite being different, it does not offer anything that is done for the first time and is a pillar of fire showing the way to whoever is following. This album, however, is genuinely Avant-Gardist in every bit of its existence and its ingredients as much as a whole - a rare and beautiful thing indeed - and an absolute treasure! Thank you Anna and Marcin!

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Wojciech Jachna Squad - koncert promujący płytę Elements

Wojciech Jachna - trąbka, flugelhorn
Marek Malinowski - gitara
Jacek Cichocki - pianino, elektryczne pianino, syntezator Moog, fx
Paweł Urowski - kontrabas
Mateusz Krawczyk - perkusja, perkusjonalia

30 lipca w bydgoskim MCK odbył się koncert grupy Wojciech Jachna Squad, promujący album "Elements", przygotowany w ramach dotacji udzielonej przez Ministra Kultury i Dziedzictwa Narodowego w "Programie stypendialnym na upowszechnianie kultury przez osoby fizyczne - Kultura w sieci". Koncert został nagrany i zrealizowany przez bydgoskie Miejskie Centrum Kultury, a następnie udostępniony za pośrednictwem YouTube poprzez strony oraz platformy zajmujące się kulturą. Działanie to ma na celu pokazać zespół w warunkach koncertowych, których zabrakło na skutek wiosennej pandemii Covid-19 i braku możliwości kontaktu ze słuchaczem.

Płyta "Elements" stanowi pomost pomiędzy kreatywnie wykorzystaną elektronikę i otwartymi formami muzycznymi, a bardziej tradycyjnym, jazzowym podejściem do kompozycji i improwizacji. Wielką wartością albumu Wojciecha Jachny są czytelne i atrakcyjne melodie, które powodują, że nawet te bardziej eksperymentalne fragmenty pozostają nadal przystępne dla słuchacza. Bogactwo pomysłów sprawia, że nie sposób przy tej muzyce się nudzić. 

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Marta Wajdzik Quartet - My Planet (2020)

Marta Wajdzik

Marta Wajdzik - saxophones, flutes, programming
Paweł Tomaszewski - piano, rhodes piano, programming
Robert Kubiszyn - bass
Paweł Dobrowolski - drums
Zuzanna Wajdzik - vocals (2,3)

My Planet

NOT ON LABEL 5907785040588

By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by young (eighteen years old) Polish saxophonist / flautist / composer Marta Wajdzik recorded in a quartet setting with veteran Jazz musicians: keyboardist Paweł Tomaszewski, bassist Robert Kubiszyn and drummer Paweł Dobrowolski. Zuzanna Wajdzik (Marta's sister) adds vocalese on a couple of tracks. The album presents seven original compositions, all by Wajdzik.

The music is all melody based mainstream Jazz, bordering on Fusion due to electric keyboards and bass ambience and dynamic drumming. Some ethnic influences are also present in the music, which offers a nice variety. The compositions are solid and coherent, serving as ideal basis for the extended improvisations and the up-tempo rhythmic character of most of the tunes makes the music flow briskly from one tune to another, offering a pleasant listening experience.

Most of the solo work on the album is performed by the myriad of keyboard instruments, and Tomaszewski's limitless imagination finds plenty of opportunities to skyrocket. Wajdzik solos sparingly, which is understandable considering her limited experience and technical skills, and she mostly states the melodic themes, leaving the expressive improvisations in the hands of Tomaszewski. The rhythm section is superb all the way, playing respectively in the background with an occasional bass solo, but offering interesting bottom harmony and rhythmic intensity.

One might wonder if the album was not recorded a bit too early as far as Wajdzik is concerned. With all due respect to wunderkinds, their stories usually end in a rather grim manner in the long range. Hopefully this is not the case here and I am anxiously awaiting her real debut sometime in the future. Overall this is an impressive debut, but not entirely earned by Wajdzik herself and with another team of players might have sounded quite different. Good luck and may the Force be with you young Lady!

Friday, August 21, 2020

Marton Juhasz - Discovery (2019)

Marton Juhasz

Olga Konkova - piano, rhodes
Sergio Wagner - trumpet
Enrique Oliver - tenor saxophone
Paco Andreo - valve trombone
Szymon Mika - guitar
Yumi Ito - vocals
Danny Ziemann - bass
Marton Juhasz - drums



By Krzysztof Komorek

Akademia Muzyczna w Bazylei prowadzi od 2017 program "Focusyear" skierowany do młodych przedstawicieli sceny jazzowej. Podczas pobytu na uczelni, muzycy pracują nad programem koncertowym i płytą, która wieńczy roczny kurs. Dyrektorem artystycznym przedsięwzięcia jest znakomity gitarzysta austriacki Wolfgang Muthspiel, a pośród wykładowców znaleźć można same gwiazdy. W pierwszym roku zajęcia prowadzili między innymi Jeff Ballard, Django Bates, Larry Grenadier, Dave Holland, Lionel Loueke, Joshua Redman, Steve Swallow i Mark Turner. 

Naturalnym jest, że tak bliska współpraca przez niemal rok rodzi muzyczne i osobiste przyjaźnie, a także stwarza szanse na zrealizowanie projektów już poza tokiem studiów. Pierwszy rocznik liczył osiem osób, a znaleźli się w nim: perkusista Marton Juhasz, trębacz Sergio Wagner, puzonista Paco Andreo, saksofonista Enrique Oliver, pianista Olga Konkova, kontrabasista Danny Ziemann, wokalistka Yumi Ito oraz gitarzysta Szymon Mika. Radzę uważnie śledzić ich muzyczne działania, bowiem nie mam wątpliwości, że będą to zawsze wydarzenia wartościowe i godne uwagi. 

Pisałem już jakiś czas temu o świetnym koncercie Yumi Ito i Szymona Miki. Teraz chciałbym polecić płytę firmowaną przez Martona Juhasza nagraną z oktetem grupującym cały debiutancki rocznik bazylejskiego programu. Jedenaście w większości krótkich nagrań, skomponowanych zostało przez węgierskiego perkusistę. Płytę zaczyna minutowa, solowa etiuda Yumi Ito. Jej wokalizy będą pojawiać się na pierwszym planie podczas całego albumu, a możliwości wokalne zaskakiwać będą z każdym kolejnym utworem. Także w "Spellbound", klasycznej, pięknie zaśpiewanej balladzie, z tekstem napisanym przez samą wokalistkę. 

Miejsce na indywidualne popisy znalazło się jednak dla całej ósemki muzyków. Zachwycają chociażby następujące po sobie solówki poszczególnych instrumentów w "Little Prayer", saksofon we wspomnianym już "Spellbound", kapitalna gra Szymona Miki i Olgi Konkovej, stylistyczne pomysły i wolty. Każdy bez wyjątku utwór polecić można szczególnej uwadze. "Discovery" jest pierwszą płytą Martona Juhasza w roli lidera i śmiało można orzec, że jest to debiut perfekcyjny. 

Mam nadzieję, że wspomniane tu nazwiska, w różnych konfiguracjach osobowych objawią się w najbliższej przyszłości z jeszcze niejednym ciekawym pomysłem. A jeżeli kuźnia talentów Akademii w Bazylei w kolejnych latach działać będzie równie udanie, to czeka nas prawdziwy jazzowy urodzaj.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Błoto - Erozje (2020)


Marek Pędziwiatr - piano, synth, percussion
Olaf Węgier - tenor saxophone, percussion
Paweł Stachowiak - bass, percussion
Marcin Rak - drums



By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by Polish quartet Błoto, which is a classic "Son of Godzilla" type of offshoot of the popular EABS ensemble, comprising of keyboardist Marek Pędziwiatr (a.k.a. Latarnik), saxophonist Olaf Węgier (a.k.a. Książę Saxonii), bassist Paweł Stachowiak (a.k.a. Wuja HZG) and drummer Marcin Rak (a.k.a. Cancer G). The quartet and its music are a result of an incidental gathering of these musicians in a studio, during a short break in the EABS tour, which resulted in a spontaneous recording session undertaken without any preparation whatsoever. The well oiled EABS PR machine as well as the contemporary sound and attitude managed to create a stir on the local market and even the COVID-19 pandemic did not manage to halt the viral reaction. The album presents ten tracks, which were cut from the ninety minutes of music that was recorded, lasting just above forty minutes.

The music is indeed fresh, vibrant and a great fun to listen to, but it is not that much different from the improvised passages played during EABS live performances, which of course is not very surprising. Hypnotic groove, synthesizer soundscapes, dynamic rhythms and almost Free Jazz solos on top are a well oiled formula that EABS perfected over time and this session basically offers nihil novi sub sole.

The album's title and the PR material allude to a parallelism between this album and the iconic recording "Korozje" by Polish Jazz legends Andrzej Kurylewicz and Tomasz Stańko. Personally I find nothing in common between these two albums and the unnecessary references to the Polish Jazz history are more damaging than useful. EABS are not like any of the Polish Jazz past icons, and they don't need to be. They are an excellent ensemble living in a different era and playing music that has five decades of additional musical influences to absorb, which they indeed do all the time.

Overall this album offers many great moments and an ambience that brings young generation of listeners closer to Jazz, which by itself is a great success. It is first and foremost oriented towards the wide circle of the EABS fans base, but being less visceral that the EABS albums, it also appeals to new listeners, which again is a good thing. These guys are excellent musicians and they still have a lot of youthful enthusiasm and creativity, so let's enjoy them as long as that lasts. Is it Jazz?... Frankly, my dears, I don't give a damn!

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Ulf Johansson Werre Trio - Two Hearts (2020)

Ulf Johansson Werre Trio

Ulf Johansson Werre - piano, trombone, vocal
Zbigniew Wrombel - bass
Wojciech Lubczyński - drums

Two Hearts


By Adam Baruch

This is a live recording by a Jazz piano trio comprising of Swedish pianist / trombonist / vocalist Ulf Johansson Werre and Polish bassist Zbigniew Wrombel and drummer Wojciech Lubczyński. The album presents ten tracks, all of which are Jazz adaptations of Swedish and Polish Folk songs, all arranged by Werre.

The music is kept strictly within the mainstream Jazz idiom, sounding like something that might have been recorded in the 1950s. Striding, swinging piano and amicable accompaniment by the rhythm section create a very pleasant and easy Jazz atmosphere, which seems to be hanging to the glory of the Jazz tradition, but adds nothing contemporary to the proceedings.

The concept of arranging Folk songs and using them as a basis for the Jazz environment has been utilized with various degrees of success since many years. Some Polish Jazz albums managed to create sublime projects in this idiom, but this album sadly can't be counted among them. It trivializes the Folk material rather than upgrading it within the cross-genre transition. The Folk roots and their aesthetics are completely lost here and there is nothing left except for occasional melody quote and a barrage of catchy boogie-woogie phrases.

Werre and his Polish cohorts are of course accomplished musicians and technically this music is without reproach of course, as is the excellent sound quality. Overall, although this is hardly my cup of tea, this is still a very enjoyable easy Jazz album, which many listeners can enjoy, especially those who listen to Jazz looking for entertainment while drinking cocktails.

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