Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Piotr Damasiewicz & Power Of The Horns Ensemble – Polska (2019)

Piotr Damasiewicz & Power Of The Horns Ensemble

Piotr Damasiewicz - trumpet
Maciej Obara - alto saxophone
Gerard Lebik - tenor saxophone
Adam Pindur - soprano saxophone
Paweł Niewiadomski - trombone
Dominik Wania - piano
Ksawery Wójciński - double bass


Jakub Cywiński - double bass
Samuel Hall - drums

Polska

ASTIGMATIC 011

By Adam Baruch

This is the second album by Polish trumpeter/composer Piotr Damasiewicz and his Power Of The Horns Ensemble and their first studio recording. It features a nonet version of the ensemble which also includes saxophonists Maciej Obara, Adam Pindur and Gerard Lebik, trombonist Paweł Niewiadomski, pianist Dominik Wania, bassists Ksawery Wójciński and Jakub Cywiński and Australian born drummer Samuel Hall. The album presents four (one in two parts) original compositions, all by Damasiewicz.

The debut album "Alaman", recorded live in 2012 (i.e. six years earlier), was the first release of the now legendary For Tune Records label, and created quite a stir at the time. It was recorded by an eleven-piece version of the ensemble, which included only five of the musicians present on this new recording and presented just three expanded tracks, characterized by extensive improvisations. The raw power of the horns and super-sized rhythm section combined with the youthful excitement associated with the occasion managed to create some magic moments, which the recording certainly reflected, but which did not prove to have a long-lasting value. In retrospect the status of "…one of the most captivating albums in the history of Polish jazz…" is certainly a hype rather that an objective statement.

The new album is a complete about face and presents perfectly well-behaved, modern mainstream Jazz, with smooth performances but limited level of enthusiasm. Of course this is a perfectly legitimate approach; considering the time that passed since the debut; maturity, age and experience certainly have their influence. Yet Damasiewicz seems to cling to the past by including on this album older material, like the title tune which originates from 2014 and even one composition already presented on the debut, which perhaps indicates a shortage of new material. But regardless of the past connections, the music on this album is based on rather basic melodic elements, repeated continuously with little variations, except for the ensemble dynamics. The "wall of sound" approach of the debut is now replaced by a more chamber like approach typical of Polish Jazz from the 1960s, and a retro sound and ambience.

Damasiewicz dedicates the compositions on the album to the Godfathers of Polish Jazz: Krzysztof Komeda, Tomasz Stańko and Tomasz Szukalski and to his teacher Piotr Wojtasik, all of whom obviously influenced his musical path, which is well reflected within the music on this album, and which, as already stated, often ventures into the climates invented and developed by his Mentors and which characterize Polish Jazz or at least its early days. The album's title seems to suggest that the music on this album is the continuation of that magic "Polishness" that Polish Jazz offers at its core; a daring statement by all means, which will be judged by history alone.

The individual performances by the leader and the ensemble members are, as expected, highly professional, but if not for the excellent, as always, contributions by Wania, who in the period separating these two recordings made one giant step after another, the music would have became almost banal, a déjà vu of sorts. Considering the astonishing level of the musicianship on the Polish Jazz scene, something more spectacular would have been needed in this music to become "…sublime and unique…". The album's liner notes, from which all the above quotes are taken, is fascinating, full of hints, allegories and references – definitely worth reading!

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