Monday, June 8, 2020

Jerzy Milian - Stigma (2019)

Jerzy Milian

Jerzy Milian - vibraphone
with
Ensemble Studio 4
Rundfunk-Tanzorchester Berlin

Stigma

GAD 107



By Adam Baruch

This is the eighth 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 1970, done in Berlin (then DDR) with the Ensemble Studio 4, a septet led by saxophonist Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky and including trumpeter Joachim Grasswurm, trombonist Hubert Katzenbeisser, saxophonist/clarinetist Werner Schmidt, pianist Eberhard Weise, bassist Klaus Koch and drummer Wolfgang Winkler. The septet performs four compositions by Milian, also arranged by him. Additional three compositions by Milian are performed by the Rundfunk Tanzorchester Berlin, conducted by Gunter Gollasch, a cooperation that would continue for the next fourteen years. Milian plays vibraphone on five tracks, both with the septet and the orchestra.

The music is a wonderful example of modern European Jazz, with both the septet and the Big Band pieces reflecting Milian´s fascination with the Third Stream idiom. The septet included some of the most important East German Jazz players at the time, many of which founded the Avant-Garde/Free Jazz scene in East Germany, which was known by its adventurous explorations and radical approach, which for some reason where tolerated by the State censorship, often considered as the sternest behind the Iron Curtain. 

Therefore it is quite natural that the tracks with the septet are quite challenging and free spirited, and the fact that this music was strictly composed often seems to be lost in the heat of the execution. The orchestral pieces are obviously more "well behaved", 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 not surprising, but 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!

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