piątek, 31 grudnia 2010

2010 Polish jazz albums I cannot stop but listen all the time!

Biased, subjective, unsistematic and thorougly mine list of 10 albums I cannot stop listening in Polish jazz 2010:

Joanna Gajda Quartet - Heaven Earth Earth Heaven (2010)

Adam Pierończyk Quartet - El Buscador (2010)

Tomek Sowiński & The Collective Improvisation Group - Synergy (2010)

Piotr Wyleżoł Quintet - Live (2010)

Leszek Kułakowski Ensamble Piccolo - Code Numbers (2010)

Maciej Obara, John Lindberg, Harvey Sorgen - Three (2010)

Mikrokolektyw - Revisit (2010)

Dwootho - Space Pressures (2010)

Soundcheck - III Druglum (2010)

Tomek Grochot Quintet - My stories (2010)

Now, after so much reading, prize for those who were patient enough to complete full post ;-) Ladies and Gentleman please your applause: Wacław Zimpel!!! Best musician of 2010 and his two albums:

Undivided - The Passion (2010)

Paweł Posteramczak, Ksawery Wójciński, Paweł Szpura, Wacław Zimpel - Hera (2010)

czwartek, 30 grudnia 2010

Fazi Quintet Moon Ship - Stawka Wieksza Niż Życie (1997)

A trifle, nothing more, but I somehow like it. It contains set of standards, great tunes indeed, all coming from legendary Polish movies. Mariusz Mielczarek, playing on sax and leader of the band, his style rubato, very much like Coleman Hawkins, brings life to music that is so well known and never stray too far away from what listeners remember. Skip it if such film titles like "Stawka większa niż życie", "O7 - zgłoś się" or "Noce i Dnie" tell you nothing. But if they do you will love this music.
Please listen to sample of music from "07 - zgłoś się" which was local version of Bond movies taking place in communist Poland. Hardcore!!!

wtorek, 28 grudnia 2010

Bogdan Hołownia Trio - On The Sunny Side (1997)

It is a debut recording of jazz pianist Bogdan Hołownia, made on 1995 and published 2 years later. Since then he recorded more than 10 CDs proving to be permanent and valuable part of mainstream jazz in Poland. Born in 1957 he turned to playing piano professionally in 1990 when he decided to go to the US to study at famous Berklee College Of Music. This disc contains rehearsals of jazz standards and may be seen as a program prepared by a student to pass high school exams. And this student was very good indeed! His arrangements are usually faithful to originals but always very melodic, delicate and soulful. They go well with winter evening, fireplace, good book and a glass of old wine from your cellar. It may certainly appeal to all those for whom jazz is syncopated music that swings and is played on blue note. On the recording with Hołownia play following musicians: David Clark on double bass and Skip Hadden on drums, both professors at the Berklee.
Small sample of music of Bogdan Hołownia, from different album and accompanied by a vocal, yet representative for his style: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tQqF3BBwA8

niedziela, 26 grudnia 2010

Tomek Grochot Quintet feat. Eddie Henderson - My Stories (2010)

Fantastic, outstanding, extraordinary? How limited vocabulary of jazz music reviewer is when it comes to expressing his admiration, delight, amazement! 
Many people mistake style with progress. They become infatuated by novelty but   my opinion is that what is good, in music as well as in any other field in life, is always en vogue. Let me give you an example: whether we call her Venus, Virgin Mary, Marylin Monroe or Scarlett Johansson I assume it is beauty, Hellenic "charis", that we are all after? Although beauty is always individual and ever-changing, its idea is permanent, complete, final. Any variation or change to idea is not to be mistaken with creativity as creativity is part of identity, while idea is simply matter of divine inspiration.
Speaking shortly, Tomasz Grochot,  on drums, leader of the group, for whom it is his recording debut,  Adam Pierończyk on alto and soprano saxophones, Dominik Wania on piano and Fender Rhodes, Robert Kubiszyn on double bass plus Eddie Henderson, outstanding American trmpeter, who played with Herbie Hancock, Art Blackey and Pharoah Sanders, recorded the album that is mainstream jazz. Let me say in a different manner: that is beautiful. No, let me make final correction: the album that is.
More about Tomek Grochot and his music (including samples): http://www.myspace.com/tomekgrochot

sobota, 25 grudnia 2010

Baaba - Disco Externo (2010)

I always wondered at men who once married stop to look at pretty girls. So despite being enamored in jazz since many years I am always ready to take chances and put music other-than-jazz in my CD player provided it has grace and charm. 
In this case there is plenty of both with very significant drop of wit which makes music of this quartet extremely attractive to me. They juggle with conventions, cut well known tunes and paste them in wrong places, wrong moods, in wrong tempos but it is all their own music, individual voice, creative attitude toward musical reality. 
I am certain that they would not like too big words to be used in order to describe their style but I want to underline that this music is of very high quality reminding me such musicians as for example Ben Lamdin whose Nostalgia77 made so big impact on British scene few years ego. Like Lamdin Bartosz Weber (guitar, sampler) started as DJ working entirely on sampled music and gradually turned into mostly acoustic line-up with some top jazz musicians as Tomasz Duda (saxophones, flute, sampler), Piotr Zabrodzki (bass, keyboards, voice) and Macio Moretti (drums). Other bands and artists they may be compared with are Quantic Soul or Amon Tobin. 
Light-hearted, easy-to-listen, dance-like but at the same time ironic, creative, avant-garde. So if you are in music for improvisation and need an album that your girl friend might like as well this extraordinary disc may be one of few albums that may reconcile both your and her tastes.
Please, check this page for more info and music samples:

czwartek, 23 grudnia 2010

Mikołaj Trzaska - Dom Zły (2010)

Mikołaj Trzaska is key figure in Polish jazz nowadays. Born in 1966 he studied in Gdańsk Academy of Art in painting class since 1988. However at the time he became fascinated by John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman music so he started to play on alto saxophone. In 1991 he dropped his studies and co-created band called Miłość (Love) responsible for creating yass movement in Poland which pushed Polish jazz in direction of free and improvised music.
Ever since Miłość times when he collaborated with Lester Bowie he remains very active setting up new project with such significant artists like Oleś brothers, Peter Brotzmann, Joe McPhee or Ken Vandermark. Though he is self-taught and never attended to any musical school he managed to work-out his own style on alto: energetic, assertive, warlike even, though capable of being simultaneously very emotional and moving.
With this specific record, being soundtrack to excellent movie by Wojciech Smarzowski, Trzaska proves that   free jazz can be very valuable addition to moving pictures art. I usually am very skeptical toward soundtracks but in this case music not only provides perfect support for movie but is also fully capable to be listened on its own. Significant part of success of this album goes to exquisite musicians accompanying Trzaska on this CD: Clementine Gasser (5 string cell), Tomasz Szwelnik (fortepian), Clayton Thomas (kontrabas) and Micheal Zerang (drums&percussion).
Speaking shortly, one must say that Trzaska recently has produced incredible streak of excellent records:
1) Duval, Rosen, McPhee, Trzaska "Magic" (2009)
2) Trzaska, Bauer, Brotzmann "Goosetalks" (2010)
proving that he is one of true masters of Polish jazz!

Author of text: Maciej Nowotny (http://kochamjazz.blox.pl/html)

wtorek, 21 grudnia 2010

Jazzpospolita - Almost Splendid (2010)

In Poland we have very strong mainstream jazz, free and improv jazz getting stronger every year but nu jazz, thriving in the West, is honestly speaking underdeveloped. I wish more Polish young musicians would follow suit of such Polish artists like Stealpot or Skalpel who once recorded for legendary Ninja Tune label. And there is so much to explore in this dancelike and electronical jazz sphere where such different artists as Parov Stellar and Bonobo on easy side or Peter Nils Molvaer and Lars Danielsson on more ambitous one coexist.

In recent years two bands in Poland distinguished themselves in this field and can be recommended wholehearteadly: Contemporary Noise Quintet/Sextet and Pink Freud. They play top notch nu jazz in very ambitious form especially in Pink Freud case. And though there is still plenty of work ahead of Jasspospolita before we can count them among those two top bands I must say that as for debut this is more than satisfactory recording.

Straightforward, unpretentious, yet very melodic and accessible it shall appeal to those who only accidentally look into modern jazz garden. But because it at times is dark in mood, scratchy and oniric it shall also keep attention of more sophisticated jazz listeners for longer than just one song. It lacks complexity, density and ironic power of Pink Freud albums or kitsch refinement of Contemporary Noise CDs but it nevertheless bring promise of some individual and interesting voice to speak on its own in future. As far as I am concerned they got credit from me for their next recording. Let me finally say that music is composed and executed by following artists: Stefan Nowakowski (bass), Wojtek Oleksiak (drums), Michał Przerwa-Tetmajer (gitara) and Michał Załęski (keyboards) and invite you to listen to a song from this album:

niedziela, 19 grudnia 2010

Piotr Wyleżoł, Adam Kowalewski, Łukasz Żyta - Yearning (2001)

There are weather phenomena that make my mood metaphysical. It could be heavy rain that sometimes happens in spring. It magnifies smells of blossoming flowers into erotic perfume. Or wind which in summer comes suddenly from the mountain interior and falls on the seashore. It makes crowded beach deserted in just few moments except for few souls that felt lost among the mob and then they seemed to regain their balance in that wind. Or, like at this specific moment, when from winter sky come down, very slowly, majestically, snow flakes as big as ice chalices. And I ask myself what happened up there, have they lost their minds as we did so long ago? And there is nobody sane in universe, nobody to take care of "harmony of spheres"?
Well, not so fast boy, I start to reassure my tired mind and put this record in my Marantz CD-64 mk II KI. If such music as on this album exists there is still chance that your soul shall find peace again. It shall bring Earth into its usual elliptical orbit and our Heavenly Father back into business as usual.
And if you are more for the facts than impressions let me speak shortly: here's fourth disc that makes my journey with Piotr Wyleżoł complete. This is his debut recording made almost 10 years ago with Adam Kowalewski (bass) and Łukasz Żyta (drums). As it happens only with the best musicians Wyleżoł played perfectly from the beginning. His style inspired by great Bill Evans is all present on this first disc and I hope he will be able to preserve it without waylaying his natural, creative development. But that is what indeed is happening since Piotr started to record in quintet format for the first time this year.  With this refreshing change in his career one may only yearn for more great music from him in future... 
Please listen to fantastic song Deal With Myself  from his album titled Children's Episodes recorded for Spanish Fresh Sound New Talent label last year (2009):

piątek, 17 grudnia 2010

Jerry Bergonzi, Jacek Kochan, Piotr Lemańczyk - Three Point Shot (2010)

After last year excellent Naha (featuring Tim Hagans) Piotr Lemańczyk recorded no less attractive Three Point Show this year. His play on double bass makes great impression on me and reminds me of the giants of this instrument like Dave Holland, Gary Peacock or Steve Swallow. His sound is round, deep and fully controlled, he is virtuoso in the best possible meaning of this word. 

Of course best known among these three musicians is Jerry Bergonzi. We all remember him from long collaboration with Dave Brubeck but he also recorded for Blue Note with Joey Calderazzo and  for Italian Red Records. This second cooperation was especially fruitful which is evidenced by his albums for this company recorded with such its renowned artists like Adam Nussbaum, Bobby Watson or Fred Hersch. I must say that his style full of technical fireworks and simultaneously of great musicality reminds me very much of the style of those three aforementioned great artists. Bergonzi has incredible narrative power and he is telling us his own, fascinating story from the very first note of this album. 

Jacek Kochan, playing on drums, perfectly matches Bergonzi and Lemańczyk with his sophisticated style reminding me such masters of this instrument as above mentioned Adam Nussbaum, Peter Erskine or Brian Blade. He is less providing simple rhythm but rather defining his own ideas about this music, creating little cameos of melody and stressing elements in his partners play that he regards as most significant.

Yes, this music is for jazz brainiacs (I must admit I am one of them) who would listen to this CD over over again relishing upon smallest details proving infinite virtuosity of players. It is like jazz riddle with thousand possible solutions, addictive and rewarding for anyone who is in jazz for highest quality musicianship. And finally what is most surprising that its style is as much mainstream as avant-garde with its constant swirls of rhythm and melody. Highly recommendable!

Please, visit Piotr Lemańczyk sites to listen to samples of music from this album:     

środa, 15 grudnia 2010

Tomasz Stanko Quintet - Purple Sun (1973)

My Stańko disease worsens and though pile of new recordings rises I am stuck to Polish Mag. Today it will be very short here because music is so good that it is not time to waste on spilling out words. I simply regard Stańko's album titled Purple Sun as one of my most favorite if not the most favorite of him. Why?

After the death of Krzysztof Komeda, Polish jazz pianist and composer who Stańko acknowledged as not only his friend but also mentor, he decided to establish his own band in quintet format. With this group he recorded his first album as leader titled Music For K (read K-omeda) being simultaneously the homage to his friend who departed so prematurely and tragically but which also was total breakdown with his style. Since Komeda was cool jazz cat while Stańko started to played free, very much in Ornette Coleman style but yet in somehow different, unique and his own manner.

During those 3 years that lied between those two recordings Stańko's band made incredible progress and I cannot imagine better way to experience this change than listen one of these albums after another. Although music is still free and there is plenty of collective improvisation yet the quintet phrasing gained space, depth and thoughtfulness of the best and most classy liquors. We have here, perhaps for the first time, what was to become Stańko's landmark: bluesy, brooding sound coupled with infinitely refined chiseling of space and silence.

After saying so many warm words about Tomasz let me now turn spotlight to Zbigniew Seifert. Although he was classically trained violinist he begun to play jazz using alto saxophone which was result of his fascination with John Coltrane. With this record however he decided to go back to violin, often electrically transofrmed and treated as saxophone in Trane's manner. It gave the music on this album the unique fusion blend so similar to Miles Davis recording of that time like Bitches Brew for example. Honestly speaking one is in confusion as to determine who is making bigger impression here: Stańko is no question magnificent but Seifert is no less stunning! It especially refers to the only non-Stańko composition titled My Night My day penned by Seifert which is another clear reference to majestic Komeda's Nightime Daytime Requiem. This composition is simply breathtaking and is also executed in perfect manner. Sadly only few years since that recording Seifert was to follow tragically in Komeda footsteps...  

Author of text: Maciej Nowotny

niedziela, 12 grudnia 2010

Tomasz Stańko - Chameleon (1989) by Maciej Nowotny

My unofficial complete discography of Tomasz Stańko continues with the record titled Chameleon printed originally in Greece in 1989 and only in 2006 in Poland. Why in Greece? Thanks to Apostolis "Lakis" Anthimos, multi instrumentalist (guitars, drums) who at those times lived in Greece and managed to find there producer willing to invest money in this session. Two above mentioned musicians are accompanied on this CD by Janusz Skowron playing keyboards, mainly Roland as far as I can hear.
Eighties were the most erratic and self-destructive period in Stańko life mainly due to situation in Poland which suffered depression under martial law imposed by Gen. Jaruzelski in 1981 in order to suppress Solidarity movement. After seventies when he played state-of-art European version of Ornette Coleman free jazz, in next decade Stańko flirted with pop, electronic music, rock and even reggae starting with recordings titled C.O.C.X. (can be translated into English as D.O.P.E.) and Freeelectronic. So in those terms Chameleon is perhaps most mellow, easy-to-listen and smooth-jazzy record of Stańko and yet it is very, very beautiful and rewarding. 
Stańko as Miles never failed and he can be compared to mythical king Midas who whatever he touched turned into gold. What is fascinating in this record is that despite being at moments very accessible yet it comprises some compositions that counterpoint this sweet and light mood with typical Stańko brooding and bluesy sound. So this music retains Stańko musical identity which we appreciate so much but at the same time, as he states in his recently issued autobiography, could be used during intimate date with his girfriends who would probably run away immediately if exposed to Stańko excellent free jazz recordings as Music For K, Twet or even Balladyna. Typical Stańko sense of humour ;-)))

Author: Maciej Nowotny

sobota, 4 grudnia 2010

Adam Pierończyk - Komeda Innocent Sorcerer (2010)

In this pot there are all necessary ingredients for even most choosy jazz fan to become interested in. First, Pierończyk got his own, individual sound. Avantgarde, assertive and attacking style of his alto & tenor saxes is coupled with very energetic pulse of his rhythm sections. What is truly peculiar for Pierończyk is that he managed to couple typical Komeda cool jazz mood with modern post jazz style full of folk references. 
Second, Komeda compositions are still unsurpassed in Polish Jazz as far as sex appeal is concerned. They have this unmistakable features of true masterpieces which are recognized by being simultaneously easy-to-listen and yet very complicated, deep, refined.
Finally, again Pierończyk was able to gather around himself musicians of the biggest calibre. Anthony Cox (bass) is present on his second recording this year (after equally recommendable El Buscador  published earlier this year) and he never fails to follow leader's complicated meanders of melody and rhythm; he is accompanied in rhythm section by excellent drummer Łukasz Żyta, a very significant player in this orchestra. 
But apart from fantastic work of these two musicians one is also truly amazed by very creative and lyrical play of Nelson Veras on guitar. This is brilliant move by Pierończyk to include him into his band instead of typical piano, the instrument Komeda himself was playing. By this move Komeda compositions regained fresheness and ability to surprise again. Gary Thomas on tenor saxophone is making up for what is one of the most unusual and yet succesful bands playing Komeda music in history.
All music on the album is composed by Komeda but whether it is relatively unknown Wicker Basket (masterpiece in Pierończyk interpretaion!) or much better known Kattorna, Sleep Safe And Warm or Crazy Girl, it rocks, it rolls, it never ceases to astonish and amaze. Wonderful music, great musicians, one of the gems of year 2010 in Polish Jazz.  

środa, 1 grudnia 2010

Code Numbers

Ten tekst noszę w sercu od dłuższego jazzu, bo o płycie tej klasy, co najnowszy album pianisty Leszka Kułakowskiego zatytułowany Code Numbers, trzeba napisać coś, co wykracza poza zbyt oczywiste przymiotniki w rodzaju: najlepsza, doskonała, wybitna. Kolejny zatem raz siadam do pisania o tej płycie, ale chyba wreszcie znalazłem klucz do tej muzyki.
Pamiętacie może teorię strun, jedną z najpiękniejszych teorii wszystkiego, jaką kiedykolwiek stworzono? Podobnie jak najnowsza płyta Kułakowskiego, teoria strun pełna jest liczb, które podobno wyjaśniają wszelkie tajemnice budowy naszego świata. Wg niej struny to jednowymiarowe struktury o wielkości 10¯³¹ metrów, z których składają się dwuwymiarowe membrany wibrujące w dziesięciowymiarowej przestrzeni, stanowiące budulec wszystkich znanych nam cząstek elementarnych.

To nieważne, że nic z tego nie rozumiem, nie wiadomo, czy to wszystko jest czymś więcej niż ślepą uliczką, w którą zabrnęli fizycy w poszukiwaniu współczesnego Graala. Wszakże pamiętam, że w VI wieku p.n.e Pitagoras, badając dźwięki greckiej liry odkrył, że harmonii brzmienia drgających strun o różnej długości odpowiada przejrzystość łączących je stosunków matematycznych (½, ⅔, ¾ itd.) . To odkrycie było początkiem teorii muzyki i tak mocno wpłynęło na światopogląd Pitagorasa, że sformułował on pojęcie „harmonii sfer”, podjęte później przez Platona, zgodnie z którym u podstaw całej rzeczywistości tkwi jakaś podstawowa idea, logiczna i niepodważalna, zatem możliwa do wypowiedzenia tak językiem matematyki, jak muzyki, filozofii, a nawet religii.
Jest w tym jakieś szaleństwo bez wątpienia, ale jednocześnie wzlot ducha na niespotykaną skalę i taka też jest muzyka Leszka Kułakowskiego, nie tylko na tej płycie. W kraju pełnym wybitnych pianistów jazzowych (bo gdzie indziej w jednym pokoleniu współistnieją talenty tej miary co Leszek Możdżer, Marcin Wasilewski, Paweł Kaczmarczyk, Piotr Wyleżoł i wielu innych), Leszek Kułakowski zajmuje pozycję kogoś w rodzaju polskiego Theloniusa Monka, Cecila Taylora albo Cedara Waltona, przy czym nie mówię tu o pokrewieństwie brzemienia, lecz o osobowości i twórczym temperamencie. Outsider z natury, ale może i z upodobania, podąża ścieżką rzadziej uczęszczaną, traktem porośniętym burzanem i chwastem. W dziele tym wspaniale go wspomagają jego syn Piotr Kułakowski na basie i Krzysztof Gradziuk na perkusji, którego podziwiamy bardzo za grę w RGG Trio.

I właśnie do stylu tej ostatniej formacji - muzyka ta ma najwięcej podobieństw: wyrafinowana, chłodna, otwarta, improwizująca, rozbrzmiewająca w ciszy impresjonistycznie ledwie naszkicowanej. Nie do pominięcia, jeśli w Waszym krwiobiegu płynie chociaż jedna kropla jazzu.

Maciej Nowotny

wtorek, 30 listopada 2010

Joanna Gajda Quartet - Heaven Earth Earth Heaven (2010)

When I was young I trained for a swimmer, usually swimming in sprint relays, being young however I preferred to swim solo. To my objections my old and experienced trainer always responded in such words: "Maciej, only the strongest teams may field winning relay, that's why I appreciate medals in relays many times more than solo ones". That is very much true in jazz as well and that is also why this recording is so astonishing. Because all of a sudden from the deepest ranks of Polish Jazz team has come forth Joanna Gajda and recorded the CD that is simply outstanding!

Most of data to this article I take from interview Mrs Gajda gave to Jan Cegiełka in Jazz Forum November issue. We learn from it that Mrs Gajda graduated piano from renowned Katowice Music Academy. She is now teaching herself in Kalisz Music Academy but she testifies that only two years before she has became assertive enough (through influence of Piotr Wojtasik to whose mentorship she owes a lot) to start enlisting musicians to her own band. And she managed to gather around herself very talented ones: Borys Janczarski (tenor saxophone) has very smoky sound and his virtuosity reminds the style of magnificent Bobby Watson; Andrzej Święs is promising young bassist, his play provides rock-solid base for this hard-swinging jazz; Sebastian Frankiewicz is quick as a silver young drummer who already recorded interesting album Hendrix Piano with Artur Dutkiewicz Trio this year. As guest appears on this album: Marian Pawlik ona bass, star drummer Kazimierz Jonkisz and fantastic singer Natalia Przybysz.

And exactly the little cameo of Natalia Przybysz who sings wonderful tune to words of St Luke Gospel Don't be afraid little flock is where I would like to turn spotlights first. Vocal of Przybysz is simply smashing, thoughtful and yearning piano of Gajda is flying sky high and support by Swięś & Frankiewicz sensitive enough to blow your mind away! I find no words apt to express my wonder what they do to mainly modal jazz in one piece after another: yes, it is mainstream play but their ability to invoke emotions is revelatory. Strong gospel connotations are omnipresent in this music pointing clearly enough where an idea of the title of album comes from. Finally let me add that all these excellent compositions are written by Joanna Gajda. Great jazz woman appeared in Polish Jazz. People please believe in her! And I do and shall wait for her next CD very impatiently...

I you want to buy this record check this link: http://wwylomie.com/heaven-earth-eart-heaven-cd.html

If you want to listen to more music from this album: http://www.myspace.com/joannagajdaquartet

Author of text: Maciej Nowotny (http://kochamjazz.blox.pl/html)

niedziela, 28 listopada 2010

Dwootho - Space Pressures (2010)

This is debut recording let me therefore start with names of musicians as it is proper to introduce them first: Marek Tarnowski (accordion, hammond organ), Tomasz Piątek (tenor saxophone, clarinet), Bartosz Łuczkiewicz (bass), Maciej Dziedzic (drums, percussion) plus Natalia Gllińska (vocal) as a guest. Certainly very interesting still this record is not easy to classify or judge as it melts in one pot flavors rarely heard together. I would rather avoid to name musical genres which echo in this recording (folk, rock, club music and many other) because I feel that the only label describing properly this music is one of jazz which was once defined as simply "sound of surprise". 
Neither mainstream nor avantgarde this music is eluding all classifications and shall not be overlooked by anyone who values creativity, courage and individuality as expressed in melodies and rhythms.
After saying so many nice things about this recording and its authors let me add a small knock. Though I like music on this album I still feel that sometimes artists slump into what is too obvious, easy and predictable. Bass line become at times too mechanical, sax play too sexy, drums somewhat run of mill and only Marek Tarnowski on his accordion never ceases to surprise and amaze. It is done perhaps in order to provide music more accessible for larger audience. Not a bad idea for debut recording but as far as I am concerned I would expect something more free and improvisational next time to make my interest in this band and its music permanent.   
Please listen to a song titled Balkan Groove:

niedziela, 21 listopada 2010

Pulsarus - FAQ (2009)

Trio Pulsarus consists of Dominik "Doministry" Strycharski (flutes), Aleksander Papierz (saxophones) and Jakub Rutkowski (drums) which are on this recording accompanied by following guests: Wojciech Waglewski (guitars), Adam Pierończyk (saxophones), Mikołaj Trzaska (alto saxophone) and Jan Peszek (voice). Certainly one of the most interesting records in Polish Jazz last year proved to have prolonged influence one me so I decided to go back to it and write few words about it encouraging others to get to know it. 

Pulsarus as a band was created in 2003 and they debuted in 2005 by Digital Freejazz, next year followed by CD titled Squared Rotoscope and after 3 years FAQ arrived, "the best one we've made so far" as the leader of the band claims. Musically we have here electro-acoustic jazz which I like very much and associate wit such excellent jazzmen as Evan Parker and Rob Mazurek, or, if we want to dig deeper Steve Reich and Karlheinz Stockhausen. It is therefore very praiseworthy that in these Polish Jazz territory we have this electro-acoustic field as well and cultivated by such talented musicians!

What marks this CD out is its artistic unity to which contributes the fact that almost all music on this album was composed by Strycharski. But this effect is evident also in such details as the cover of this CD which reminds me in mood the old sci-fi horrors as Ridley Scott's Alien. Let us therefore note that for production of the album Piotr Pawlak was responsible on behalf of Biodro Records.

The most controversial point in this astonishing music production is the part in which Polish famous actor Jan Peszek takes part. It takes form of some theatrical monologue, accompanied by music but it sounds really whacky and rather unconvincing to me. On the other hand there is a project that the music on this album will be accompanied by a film then this presence of the Peszek voice on this recording might be more justified. 

All in all this is certainly recording worth your your while let me therefore encourage you strongly to visit following site and listen to the samples of music from this session: http://www.myspace.com/pulsarus 

AUthor: Maciej Nowotny (http://kochamjazz.blox.pl/html)

czwartek, 11 listopada 2010

Piotr Wyleżoł - Children's Episodes (2009)

Marcin Wasilewski, Przemysław Raminiak and Piotr Wyleżoł - certainly names to remember if you are interested in Polish Jazz. They all excel in classic jazz trio format and over years attained level of perfection that cannot be praised too much. Of them all Piotr Wyleżoł style is closest to great Bill Evans tradition or Polish jazz piano genius Mieczysław Kosz. His piano sings, yearns and sighs as if whispering to the ear of lover girl (or boy).   He evokes emotions with ease of true master and takes us on a ride where everything may happen from tenderest lyricism to utter despair and finally to hard swinging jazz redemption. 
Awesome display not only on side of this fantastic pianist but also on the side of his equally gifted companions: bassist Michał Barański and drummer Łukasz Żyta. Honestly speaking the quality of jazz trio owes as much to the competence of the pianist as to the quality of interplay between members of the trio. In this case the level of interplay between artist is breathtaking. And to no surprise as they have been already playing together for 10 years and recorded  such gems  as "Piano Trio" (2006).
This year however may be turning point in Piotr Wyleżoł career because he not only sees this CD issued by well established Fresh Sound New Talent label but he also recorded "Live" (2010) CD in quintet format with fantastic new musicians Pierończyk, Dorouzka, Kowalewski, Dziedzic and also played important role in new Nigel Kennedy jazz project "Shhh!" (2010). Well, so this star on Polish Jazz firmament that shines so brightly cannot be anyone's but his. Congratulations Piotr!

środa, 3 listopada 2010

Piotr Lemańczyk - Naha People (2009)

Too few people in Poland noticed and appreciated this album as it deserved. In my opinion however this was not only one of the best jazz recordings last year but also one of the most intriguing over last couple of years. Moreover I honestly cannot recall anyone in Poland playing on trumpet (Tomasz Stańko apart of course) on a level Tim Hagans is playing on this CD. Speaking shortly this is item that every jazz lover shall definitely inspect more carefully and listen many times over.
Certainly mainstream jazz but it has all charm of modern jazz as it is forward thinking, complex and infinitely refined. All musicians involved in this project play simply masterfully. Tim Hagans who is one of the best trumpet players on this planet shows that his artistic potential is simply limitless. His trumpet weavers and meanders as butterfly on a spring meadow in full blossom. Piotr Lemańczyk bass is rock solid and deep as some far away storm on the edge of dream and reality. He is assisted by fantastic young vibraphonist Dominik Bukowski whose strokes are as light as first raindrops on freshly opened flowers in the morning. Nor worse is veteran drummer Kazimierz Jonkisz whose intricate play reminds me of sun beams hide-and-seek game with shadows in some old and mysterious forest. On tunes 1,6,7 excellent saxophonist Maciej Sikała appears his presence subtle and unobtrusive as moon waning in morning light. Finally, I would like to notice very high level of recording and mastering of the sound for which Michał Mielnik and Tomek Cybula were responsible.
All compositions are by Piotr Lemańczyk and are very good but if I was to find some fault in this magnificent project I would say that tempos of tunes might be a bit more diversified. But apart from this minor objection I find this album very rewarding and cannot but listen to it over and over again. Fantastic music! 
To learn more about the leader please visit: http://www.piotrlemanczyk.com/. To hear some music from this album: http://www.myspace.com/lemanczykpiotr.

By Maciej Nowotny

sobota, 30 października 2010

Wojciech Myrczek Quintet - We'll Be Together Again (2010)

This record was added to summer (7-8/2010) edition of Jazz Forum magazine and this music was very well coupled with this season of the year. It is warm, tender and and cheerful. Young singer embarks on journey across jazz standards as if cruising round some Caribbean island. One can imagine not only luxurious ship and its captain with cigar in his mouth but also refined and cultured passengers that can appreciate jazz standards played and sung with such a elegance. I see them chatting, mashing and dancing to this music flowing from the scene so effortlessly, so easy, so skillfully. Certainly Myrczek is the most interesting debutant in male jazz vocalists for years. And honestly speaking there never have been too many of them in Poland too. With few exceptions Polish Jazz can be associated with all kind of musicianship but rather not with male jazz singers. Is it possible that Myrczek or other young artists may change this situation? Time will show... 
To listen to one of songs sung by this artist please visit following web page: http://www.myspace.com/wojciechmyrczek. Finally let me note hat Myrczek enjoys solid backing by following musicians: Marcin Kaletka (tenor saxophone), Michał Wierba (piano), Michał Kapczuk (double bass) and Sebastian Kuchczyński (drums)

niedziela, 24 października 2010

Witold Janiak - Mainstreet Quartet (2010)

The cover of this CD very well reflects the mood of the music inside: sunny, relaxing evening, drinks, smiling girls as brown as a berry. And from speakers music as mellow and elegant as Martini is sipping. However if someone decided to listen to it more carefully he would discover how masterfully it is accomplished, that it is by no means prosy but has links to such great formations of the past as fusion jazz Chick Corea's Return To Forever, Herbie Hancock's Headhunters or smooth jazz giants David Sandborn (clearly inspiration for saxophonist Michał Kobojek) or Bob James (the same for piano player Witold Janiak). Other musicians in this quartet are bassist Marcin Błasiak and drummer Emil Waluchowski who give a very solid support in rhythm section.
This recording prove that many prizes that befell on this group, among them Grand Prix of Bielska Zadymka Jazzowa, the festival organized under auspices of Tomasz Stańko himself, were by no means accidental. By this album they show that there is still something worthful to say on smooth side of jazz and that jazz is so interesting because it has so many faces, not only free or avant garde, but also easy-to-listen and melodic, sometimes traditional and dance-like.
Please, listen to one song from this album Thursday Evening. More music is available on following web page where you can also find in my opinion the best track on this album, the interpretation of Herbie Hancock's Chameleon (http://www.myspace.com/mainstreetquartet), a truly wonderful tune! I am waiting impatiently for their next recording where I hope they will go deeper in this direction, rehearsing hidden gems jazz of undervalued jazz of fusion era...

Author of text: Maciej Nowotny (http://kochamjazz.blox.pl/html)

środa, 20 października 2010

Tomasz Sowiński & The Collective Improvisation Group - Synergy (2010)

Goddamn Polish Jazz so motherfucker strong! exclaimed one of my American colleagues upon hearing this recording. And indeed it is extremely funky although names of musicians involved in this project may be totally unknown and impossible to spell for foreign listeners. Nonetheless they are all creme de creme of Polish young jazz players and they really do hit the roof with this music!
Groove is strong in this music as once force in Luke Skywalker. Recently in one of my texts I cried over the fact that we lack in Poland of drummers of calibre of Jack DeJohnette, Jim Black or Jeff "Tain" Watts. But this record headed by young Polish drummer Tomasz Sowiński proves that I was completely wrong. His work on both drums and Łukasz Ruszkowski's on percussion  is so creative and forward-thinking that I simply find no words to express my admiration for them. Everything rustles, bounces and leaps in this music! Rhythm is omnipresent as Holy Ghost in hearts of true (jazz) believers. 
In file with such other jazz orchestras as Paweł Kaczmarczyk AudioFeeling Band (http://kochamjazz.blogspot.com/2010/01/paw-kaczmarczyk-audiofeeling-band.html), Contemporary Noise Sextet (http://kochamjazz.blogspot.com/2010/03/contemporary-noise-sextet-unaffected.html) or Jerzy Małek Group (http://kochamjazz.blogspot.com/2009/12/jerzy-maek-group-bop-beat-2009.html) Tomasz Sowiński and his The Collective Improvisation Group lead Polish jazz audience towards Promised Land of long forgotten jazz big bands. Darek Herbasz (tenor sax), Jerzy Małek (trumpet, flugelhorn, cornet), Piotr Mania (piano), Piotr Pawlak guitar&additional sounds), Żuchowski Adam (bass) and Ruszkowski Łukasz (percussion) plus leader, seven jazz musicians, the magnificent seven, the seven samurai who cut through ten consecutive tunes like damasacen steel through all doubts that modern jazz can be both avant garde and sexy.
Finally let me underline the role played in this recording by Piotr Mania. His presence on the piano reminds me very much of Kenny Drew style. Like Drew Mania remains low profile, subtle and vigilant to slightest changes in complicated rhythms of music but he never fails to support, nurture and expand it. 

poniedziałek, 11 października 2010

Stańko, Szukalski, Holland, Vesala - Balladyna (1976)

My Stańko quest continues with Balladyna, his first CD for ECM, recorded with Tomasz Szukalski (saxophone), Dave Holland (bass) and Edward Vesala (drums). With this disc Stańko made farewell to his previous style dominated by Stańko's own, highly original version of Ornette Coleman's free jazz (as evidenced in Twet album which was recorded prior to this one). Step by step his music on this album changes by gaining more space, breath, gravitating towards silence and thoughtfulness so characteristic for all recordings made for Manfred Eicher. But this transformation is not complete yet and it still needed many years to finally take place. In meantime his cooperation with ECM ceased and his career took somewhat chaotic course over next couple of years. But this good beginning for ECM was never forgotten and made his great come back to this company possible many years later when he matured enough to get control over his doping habit.
Balladyna is certainly no easy-to-listen piece of music. I believe that for many mainstream jazz lovers it sounds repulsive or abhorrent. Stańko was of course fully aware of this effect. His choice of Balladyna as the title for this record is meaningful as Balladyna, the character created by XIX century poet Juliusz Słowacki, is as much violent, lustful and unpredictable as Shakespeare's Lady Makbet.  She murders her own sister, exiles her mother and plays her lovers against each other all in order to get power she is mad about. Eventually she goes unharmed by human justice or revenge.
Therefore I advise strongly to listen to this music remembering all these connotations because if there is any conventional beauty in it, it is the charm of crime, rape or tragedy, that is so attractive to flock of peaceful and well-fed citizens of great cities, since times of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides.
Finally it is necessary to recall that this recording was recently re-printed by ECM in Touchstones series at a bargain price which I invited with  gratitude as prices of ECM records remain, in my opinion, exorbitantly high. This reprint was accompanied by Stańko drafting musicians for what he called New Balladyna Project. He gave concert in Denmark accompanied by Tim Berne (saxophones), Anders Jormin (bass) and Stefan Passborg (drums) with material from this record. In Poland he did the same although with different cast including talented Maciej Obara on sax (http://kochamjazz.blogspot.com/2010/03/obara-alessi-waits-helias-four-2010.html). Although there were many hopes that new record may arise of collaboration of those renowned musicians unfortunately these expectations remain unfulfilled.

czwartek, 7 października 2010

Soundcheck - III Druglum (2010)

This year I planned holidays in such a way as to be able to reconcile them with my passion for jazz. Therefore we took for Croatia, splendid place which I can only wholeheartedly recommend, but instead of flying there by plane we traveled by car. As a result I have plenty of time to listen to many great jazz recordings of this year while driving from North to South through this beautiful continent of Europe.
Among the best recordings I listened to this almost 48 hours long session (with stopovers in Wien and Venice) is the newest, third in row, CD Druglum by Polish quartet named Soundcheck. Musicians' names are following: Maciej Kocin Kociński (saxophones), Krzysztof Dys (piano), Andrzej Święs (bass) and Krzysztof Szmańda (drums and percussion). They started to play together in 2002 and since then have scooped up numerous prizes in international and Polish jazz contests including prestigious Grand Prix of Jazz Nad Odrą festival in 2005. Plus they've recorded three excellent CDs, all very ambitious, moody, complex and brooding. Truly excellent music executed with utmost attention to details.
I am especially astonished by Maciej Kociński play on alto saxophone. Himself he acknowledges  influences from Micheal Brecker and Kenny Garret. But I myself also hear even closer affinities to Jimmy Giuffre (in the past) and David Binney (now), very unique voices in modern jazz, highly individual, avant garde, yet very, very musical. There is also some resemblence in Kocin style and the style presented by one of the best saxes in Poland at the moment Adam Pierończyk on his last CD titled El Buscador. One can only dream that they meet one day to record something together, it would be like meeting of basic nature elements, fire and water, wind and earth. For the time being we can hear them in two seperate recodings, both strong contenders for the title of best Polish jazz recording this year.
I would also like to notice an excellent play on bass by Andrzej Święs whose sound is round, deep and thoughtful. No worse is  timely accompaniment by Krzysztof Dys' piano. Last but not least we shall also sight that Krzysztof Szmańda playing on drums and percussion appeared on second breathtaking recording this year together with excellent Kattorna which makes him the most obvious runner for the best Polish jazz drummer of 2010 (at least in my opinion).

Author of text: Maciej Nowotny (http://kochamjazz.blox.pl/html)

Please listen to the piece of fantastic music cooked for us by this quartet:

sobota, 2 października 2010

Tomasz Stańko Septet - Litania (1997)

This disc is probably the best Polish jazz recording of 90ties. But it would be impossible without the stellar support of Scandinavian musicians in persons of Bernt Rosengren (tenor saxophone), Joakim Milder (tenor and soprano saxophones), Bobo Stenson (piano), Palle Danielsson (double-bass), Jon Christensen (drums) and Terje Rypdal (guitar). Further it was great German producer and owner of ECM recording company Manfred Eicher who instigate Stańko to go back to Komeda's music.The effect of this project probably surpassed all expectations of poeple involved in its creation because after many years we may see this record as undisputed turn point in international recognition of Krzysztof Komeda music.
Inspired by Stańko and his marvelous companions many Polish and foreign artists since then delve deeper into Komeda's music finding inspiration in his highly original and charismatic ouvre. This year also brought many recordings dedicated to Komeda of which I personally choose these two as most appealing:
Without Komeda's music and Polański's film Knife In Water I would never become so enamored in jazz music. Every year I go to Mazury Lake District, I take a boat with CD recording and while sailing past locations where so many scenes from this film were shot, I either listen to this music or imagine that I listen to  it. Among tunes that I know by heart is this one, Ballada, astounding beauty of so Polish style:    

sobota, 18 września 2010

Stańko, Szukalski, Vesala, Warren - TWET (Polish Jazz – Vol. 39, 1974)

Recently (http://kochamjazz.blogspot.com/2010/06/tomasz-stanko-quintet-music-for-k-1970.html) I've started what was intendend as complete review of Tomasz Stańsko discography. After 3 months comes next review so at this rate the whole project shall be completed in 40 years or so... Going back to subject I listened this time to the album titled TWET (title comes from combined letters of artists names). Issued in 1974 is Stańko's third album as a leader. The set up of musicians changes completely from aforementioned Music For K. Peter Warren is American bassist and his presence by Stańko side turned up to be only incidental. We shall however bu grateful to him for providing solid and compassionate base line for this rather wild and free jazz recording.
Edvard Vesala, Finnish drummer, on the contrary, became a long time companion of Tomasz. Daring, creative and somewhat crazy (they both doped heavily in those years) he fits perfectly to introvertic yet top-notch avantgarde style of Stańko those days. 
Tomasz Szulaski, nicknemaed "Jackal", was another worthy addition to Stańko group. Szukalski talent exploded at the beginning of 70ties when with Zbigniew Namysłowski group he recorded such fantastic discs as Winobranie and Kuyawiak Goes Funky. Szukalski  warlike, all-or-nothing and uncompromising attitude to playing saxophone was  another perfect addition to leader of the band elegant, moody and pensive trumpet.
All these building bricks jagged in so well that from the first notes of first composition on this album titled Dark Awakening (arguably the best one on the album) we feel this rehearsal shall be something special. Artistic unity, ambitious design, great individualities drawn together: all those components necessary for cooking up great recording are obvious on this disc and they do work. The material is complex, deep, challenging to both mind and heart so all can be said about TWET except that it is nice and easy to listen. And that is my one and only objection to this music: I feel that besides such a weirdo crazy about free jazz as I am few people really ever return to this album and listen to this undoubtedly awesome music.

By Maciej Nowotny

piątek, 6 sierpnia 2010

Janusz Muniak Quartet - Crazy Girl (1986)

This is 2010 CD re-print of vinyl album issued in 1996 and although on this blog I rather tend to focus on completely new things in Polish jazz, once I started to listen to this music in Empik music store I just couldn't resit and decided to buy it. Responsible for that is first track on this album, Crazy Girl, a very famous composition of legendary Krzysztof Komeda which is so  beautiful played here that you feel dumb and stunned for as long as music flows from speakers and then you simply cannot imagine yourself walking away without piece of this music in your pocket and mind.
Janusz Muniak is indeed one of true masters of Polish jazz coming from the same generation as Komeda, Stańko or Trzaskowski with whom he played of course for many years. He also started as leader in 70ties and continued later on recording significant material as this album testifies. 
As I said before the program of the album starts with Komeda Crazy Girl (please listen to the clip if you want to get to know this tune), then You Taught My Heart To Sing by McCoy Tyner follow, I Remember April comes third and CD ends with original penned by Muniak titled Znienacka ("Unexpectedly"). These tunes are so good I need not to comment on them with Muniak's original no less good. Apart from sensitive and powerful tenor of Muniak we meet on this CD on piano Wojciech Puszek, relatively unknown, but I must say that he plays astonishing jazz here, marvellous performance, on bass Zbigniew Wegehaupt, great Polish bassist who is in absolutely top form here, and on drums George Bruckner, whose play left me the least impressed.
Finally let me tell you one very important thing: Janusz Muniak started to play in early sixties in Cracow and since 50 years has passed if you ever visit this unforgettable city of Cracow you still may hear him playing in his own jazz club U Muniaka:   

niedziela, 1 sierpnia 2010

Nigel Kennedy Quintet - Shhh! (2010)

With this record Nigel Kennedy surprised me very positively. Not only he was able to transform his language from classical (though in slightly pop version) to jazz but he did it so handsomely that this record is both easy-to-listen but also truly inspirational.  
The great deal of success of this enterprise goes to Kennedy who composed all the music on the album but we should also pay respect to fantastic musicians of his quintet (Tomasz Grzegorski - saxes, Piotr Wyleżoł - piano, Adam Kowalewski - bass, Krzysztof Dziedzic - drums, Xantone Blacq - percussion) as without their 100% jazz souls this music would never sound as classy as it does.
The music on the album is kind of review of what Kennedy finds attractive in this genre of jazz that I love so much. We therefore start with splendid Transfiguration where the mood of 70ties hangs in the air and the spirit of John McLaughlin Mahavishnu Orchestra is obvious but never obtrusive or secondary. After this piece of fusion jam we move to what is best in pop as in River Man, song by obscure underground star of 70ties Nick Drake, whose output, almost unknown during his lifetime, is now recalled by many including R.E.M. , Norah Jones or Brian Molko. In this song John Themis on guitar and vocal of Boy George appear. Boy George, somewhat forgotton controversial star of 80ties, shines brightly in this little cameo proving that he had much more to say after he quit to shock with his drag acts.
With Silver Lining and even more Shhh! we move into the field of cool jazz with its elegent and refined but bluesy and thoughtful climate.  In this part of the record the piano of Piotr Wyleżoł takes over showing that his talent at least matches that of the leader of the band. In The Empty Bottle and 4th Glass we find ourselfes in more relaxed atmosphere close to smooth jazz evocating the reminiscences of Herbie Hancock's Return To Forever and other project of 70ties. The finish is strong as in Oy! there is plenty of groove and funk elements. 
Apart from paying respect to Kennedy for his and his companions music efforts recorded on this album I should mention his courage and activity in promoting Polish jazz worldwide. In May he took part in organization of festival Nigel Kennedy Polish Weekend in London. He lives in Poland since 10 years and his wife is Polish so I presume he may be treated now as Polish jazz musician ;-) 
Speaking shortly he recorded excellent album and also deserves highest praisefor what  he's doing for Polish jazz. Thank You Nigel!

PS. If you want to learn more about Nigel Kennedy and his Quintet you should  visit this fantastic web site: http://www.nigelkennedyonline.com/The_NK_Quintet.html 

Please watch the promo video of this album to learn more about this project:

Author: Maciej Nowotny

niedziela, 25 lipca 2010

Artur Dutkiewicz - Hendrix Piano (2010)

It is impossible to imagine jazz without influence on it exerted by Jimmy Hendrix. All so called fusion jazz is heavily indebted in what this guitar giant did in such a short span of his life. This CD however has absolutely nothing in common with fusion and is mainstream jazz interpretation of famous Hendrix tunes. 
Artur Dutkiewicz, leader of the band, born in 1958, is present on Polish jazz scene since 30 years. He played with excellent Tomasz Szukalski Quartet with which he recorded in 1987 album Tina Blues, voted as best album by Jazz Forum that year. 
In 1996 he created band called Electric Jazz Concert which in its music referred to fusion era and in 1999 recorded well-received Lady Walking album.
Simultaneously he started to work within a new formation that come into being called Artur Dutkiewicz Trio where he played mainstream jazz. He managed to secure here a collaboration of fantastic double bass player Darek Oleszkiewicz (who replaced Daniel Biel who left Poland), permanent resident resident of the US, whose recordings with Bennie Maupin, Brad Mehldau or Charles Lloyd speak for itself, and promising, young drummer Sebastian Frankiewicz.
Going back to music if you like classic jazz trio and happen to be a fan of Jimmy Hendrix this album surely will make you very happy. But even if you are neither of those two you shall not regret money spent on this music because it's extremely listenable and persuasive. And to no surprise because this trio has been playing Hendrix music since 2001 and only now they decided to record. Not only they know it by heart but that they also put all their heart in it. Obviously this album is not any breakthrough in interpretation of Hendrix music but as mainstream jazz it may be very rewarding.
Please visit this artist page to listen to the samples of music from this album:

piątek, 23 lipca 2010

Leszek Możdżer - Kaczmarek by Możdżer (2010)

Leszek Możdżer, arguably the most recognized Polish jazz pianist, is musician I already wrote three presenting his mainstream jazz recordings ("Time"), free jazz ("Asthmatic") and, in last post, classical music face ("Chopin"). But Możdżer's multi-faced personality still contains land unexplored because he is also very active in the field of film music. First he began to collaborate with Zbigniew Preisner, a film music composer, famous for being author to films directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski, but his relationship with Jan A. P. Kaczmarek, dating back to 1999, has become as much fruitful resulting in numerous soundtracks for films among which is Oscar winning track for Marc Foster Finding Neverland (2004).
Możdżer play on this record is very emotional. He builds moods with space and light, using very simple means, though music is infinitely refined. Honestly speaking this music has little in common with jazz if we define it as syncopated music. What we hear here is one of the greatest jazz-man making music, a person who clearly outgrown the limits of jazz as genre, but still remaining part of Polish jazz.
Please listen to this wonderful music, I present you Piano Variation from Unfaithful movie:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...