piątek, 31 sierpnia 2012

Kuba Stankiewicz - Spaces (2012)

Kuba Stankiewicz - piano

Maciej Sikała - tenor saxophone
Wojciech Pulcyn - double bass
Sebastian Frankiewicz - drums

Spaces (2012)

This is a wonderful new album by the veteran Polish Jazz pianist / composer Kuba Stankiewicz, recorded with his quartet, which includes also saxophonist Maciej Sikala, bassist Wojciech Pulcyn and drummer Sebastian Frankiewicz. The album comprises of nine original compositions, all by Stankiewicz.

The music is mainstream Jazz, or rather classic Jazz, with the typical Polish tinge; lyrical, romantic and brilliantly melodic. For some reason the new generation of the Polish Jazz players diverged largely into new areas, neglecting the unique approach that identified the early days of the scene, which placed composition above everything else. Stankiewicz seems to have returned to that principle here, with his compositions being the centre of attention. Both the beautiful ballads and the up-tempo numbers have splendid melody lines, which serve as perfect vehicles for the saxophone and piano solos. The actual performance of the music is also kept in very traditional form, without any adventurous undertakings, which would have been out of place here.

Sikala, who is the principal soloist here, plays excellently, especially on the soprano, with his long, somewhat sentimental twisted lines being absolutely perfect for this kind of music. The rhythm section plays a refined and tight background, which is always right there, when needed and always balanced with the soloing instruments keeping the music afloat. Stankiewicz plays superbly in the background, but solos sparingly, avoiding drawing too much attention to himself, which is quite unusual for a leader. When he plays solo, he does so with exquisite taste and humility. He obviously prefers the ensemble sound as best suiting his compositions.

In spite of all that "retro" setting, this is a great Jazz album by all means. It's been quite a while since I've had the pleasure of listening to such refined music, which is both aesthetically and artistically pleasing. There is nothing wrong with mainstream Jazz, as long as it is so elegantly performed and presents intelligent and heartfelt music.

There is little to be added here, except for the fact that this is an album every true Jazz lover around the world should be able to cherish wholeheartedly. I can only prompt everybody to try. Satisfaction guaranteed!

By Adam Baruch

Tomasz Stanko Quintet - Jazz Message From Poland (1972)

Tomasz Stanko Quintet

Tomasz Stanko - trumpet
Zbigniew Seifert - violin
Janusz Muniak - Flute, tenor & perc.
Bronislaw Suchanek - double bass
Janusz Stefanski - drums, perc.

Jazz Message From Poland (1972)

Krzysztof Komeda's unexpected death left Polish jazz in a state-of-shock. Tomasz Stańko in his autobiography "Desperado" confessed that he was perfectly happy as trumpeter in Komeda group and were it not for his untimely departure he would never go for his own band. Eventualy he was kind of forced to make that step and it revealed to be a very important event in history of Polish jazz. Stańko musical tastes were different than Komeda's and he directed his new project more into free jazz territory. Since in those times free jazz was phenomenon  almost exclusively limited to the US, Stańko and his band were among forerunners of this aesthetics in Europe. What was important Stańko never actually imitated the American paterns but rather took them as point-of-departure for his own explorations.

It was also one of first times when Stańko showed himself as a very capable leader. He carefully hand-picked most able musicians on Polish scene and thus created a true super-group. Some of his collaborators in this band like for example Zbigniew Seifert made thereafter great career internationally (check his "Man Of Light") or like Janusz Muniak in Poland (check "Question Mark"). Rhythm section players that is a bassist Bronisław Suchanek and drummer Janusz Stefański are no less prominent appearing on countless recordings during this golden era of Polish Jazz (60ties and 70ties last century).

This quintet recorded together three albums, starting with a revolutionary "Music For K" (1970) which had a lot in common with Ornettian, chaotic and loud version of free jazz with following "Jazz Message In Poland" (1972) and "Purple Sun" (1973). Second and third album of this group showed even more clearly that Stańko is interested more in conceptual version of free jazz than its version dominating then in the US thanks to above mentioned Ornette Coleman or others like Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor or Don Cherry. These three albums by Stańko first quintet were great by themselves but they also made a way for even bigger ones to follow like "TWET" (1974) or "Balladyna" (1976), Stańko's first for ECM.

Going back to "Jazz Message From Poland" when compared to "Music For K" it gained ecstatic character resembling a bit the projects by Miles Davis , especially music from legendary "Bitches Brew" sessions (1970). But dialogues between Tomasz Stańko trumpet and Zbigniew Stańko violin are so unique that this records withstands comparison with any record of that era in the world and brings to modern listener fully satisfactory experience regardless 40 years that has passed since its release. 

By Maciej Nowotny

Track listing:
1. Aeoioe (Muniak/Stańko) / Heban (Seifert)
2. Piece For Diana

czwartek, 30 sierpnia 2012

RGG - Straight Story (2004)

RGG (band)

Przemysław Raminiak – fortepian
Maciej Garbowski – kontrabas
Krzysztof Gradziuk – perkusja

Straight Story (BCD, 2004) 

This is the 2nd album (and first studio recording) by the Polish Jazz ensemble RGG, which consists of pianist Przemyslaw Raminiak, bassist Maciej Garbowski and drummer Krzysztof Gradziuk. The album's title track was inspired by the classic film of the same name, directed by David Lynch. Of the eleven tracks on the album ten are credited to the trio and one is a standard.

Considering the fact that this album is in many respects the artistic debut by three young musicians, the quality of the music and the performances are absolutely phenomenal. All the qualities, which will be fully developed on the RGG trio's later recordings, are already there: the incredible interplay, the lyricism and unique perception of melody and above all the freedom of expression. It is almost frightening to see anonymous (at the time) musician create such a sophisticated, advanced and complex music, often years ahead of many Jazz veterans, who made little advance during their entire career.

It is pretty obvious that these young musicians knew pretty well where they wanted to go musically. Their self-confidence, as demonstrated by their performances here, is remarkable and was about to become a key element in the development of their future careers, both as an ensemble and as individuals. A certain level of naïveté is apparent, but it is charming and in retrospect only emphasizes how good the trio was even at the outset of their musical path.

This is a beautiful and almost perfect piano trio album, which should be part of even the most selective record collections. It is a gem, not only among the Polish Jazz albums, but among anything recorded in first decade of the 21st Century. Satisfaction guaranteed!

By Adam Baruch

1. Straight Story
2. Eposs
3. Psalm I
4. Wait
5. Frozen People
6. Sange
7. No One Knew
8. Psalm II
9. Blue Bossa
10. Nordic Storm
11. Innocence

środa, 29 sierpnia 2012

Interplay Jazz Duo - Interplay Jazz Duo (Jazz Forum, 2012)

Interplay Jazz Duo

Kamil Urbanski - piano
Jedrzej Laciak - bass

Interplay Jazz Duo (Jazz Forum, 2012)

(Editor) This is first text by Dirk Blasejezak on our blog. I hope our cooperation will develop over time. I welcome his musical taste and personal point of view on jazz as precious contribution to this site.

Sometimes musicians come together, who understand each other blindly and seem to complement the other one in every moment. With Bill Evans and Scott LaFaro this might have been the case, at least it is reported that Bill Evans fell in a deep depression after the premature death of LaFaro and that it took him months to recover - and there are people who think that he never did recover.

Between Kamil Urbanski and Jedrzej Laciak too seems to be a connection. Apparently light-footed they seem to glide through complex passages - always with an ear for the partner - and the many tempo changes they master together like somnambulists. Here are two playing with and not against each other. No image neurosis disturbs the flow, instead, everyone knows when he needs to take back and leave the field to the other. And when a gap opens up, it is always filled with a true sense for the situation and the parts just played. For the listener this means uninterrupted listening joy without any boredom. Conspicuous, or rather not ear-catching is the fact that here are only two musicians at work - you won´t miss a drummer and no other musician at all, and that's the really remarkable thing about this debut

In 2010 the two musicians, who both studied at the Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music in Katowice, founded the Interplay Jazz Duo. Kamil Urbanski studied composition and arrangement and gathered quite some experience on this field in various projects. He could also already collect various awards and honors for his piano playing. Jedrzej Laciak is also active as a composer, although he studied the bass. He was guided at the academy by Maciej Garbowski (RGG, MACIEJ OBARA QUARTET) - whether this is apparent in these recordings is up to the listener to decide. Jedrzej Laciak plays an acoustic bass guitar here and not the double bass though.

The music itself is, as could be expected with regards to these bios, completely composed. Striking are countless tempo changes, which show how well the “interplay” of the two actually is! Collective free improvisation for longer passages you won´t find here. However, if you appreciate beautifully arranged compositions or every now and then enjoy to simply relax and relish good music - you will have a lot of fun with this record. Maybe this is also the single weak point: There are not many highlights that tear you out of your dreams. It can happen that the record suddenly stops and you have a hard time to remember single passages.

A direct comparison is probably risky: But if Bill Evans and Scott LaFaro had ever gotten the chance to record a LP as a duet ... maybe it would have sounded a bit like this one ... 

By Dirk Blasejezak

RGG - Unfinished Story (Ecnalubma, 2007)by Adam Baruch

RGG (band)

Przemyslaw Raminiak - piano

Maciej Garbowski - bass
Krzysztof Gradziuk - drums

Unfinished Story (Ecnalubma, 2007)

This is the 3rd album by the Polish Jazz ensemble RGG, which consists of pianist Przemyslaw Raminiak, bassist Maciej Garbowski and drummer Krzysztof Gradziuk. As the title suggests, it is dedicated to the memory of the great Polish Jazz pianist / composer Mieczyslaw Kosz, who died tragically at the ridiculous age of 29, leaving behind him just a handful of recordings and a memory of a brilliant musician, who was destined for greatness, but missed the opportunity; an unfinished story indeed.

The Polish Jazz scene produced a multitude of tribute albums over the years, most of which commemorate the Godfather of Polish Jazz, pianist / composer Krzysztof Komeda. Many of these albums are excellent and worth listening to, but the decision made by RGG to follow a less obvious path (which seems to me their favorite modus operandi) and create a tribute to a much lesser known figure is truly courageous and admirable, especially in view of the fact that rather than present their interpretation of the music composed by Kosz, they created an "in spiritu" homage.

Of the twelve tracks on the album only two are compositions by Kosz and one is a classical piece, which he used as a basis for improvisation (see "Reminiscence", his only album released during his lifetime). The rest of the album is all original and was mostly composed by Raminiak, Garbowski or co-composed by these two. Two tracks are group improvisations and are credited to the trio. The members of RGG concentrate on the less obvious side of the Kosz musical heritage. Although mostly portrayed as a romantic and lyrical player in the Bill Evans vein, he also displayed an enormous longing for the free form improvisation, keeping the melodic fluidity intact, an element RGG members explore to the max. Therefore, although the album is seemingly almost romantically melodic, this is just a clever illusion masterfully created by the RGG musicians. In fact an attentive listening will reveal that most of the music is full of free elements, amalgamated in a way that emphasizes an "organized and orderly freedom".

As usual, RGG members display a phenomenal interplay, switching the spotlight from one instrument to another, changing tempi and melodic hints, all of that with elegance and flair, which keep them apart from most other piano trios in Jazz today.

Although not explicitly specified on the album's cover, it was recorded in the legendary Studio Tokarnia and engineered by Jan Smoczynski, the studio owner, a guarantee of superb sonic quality. The musical quality is of course beyond reproach, and this album joins the other albums by RGG as some of the most important Polish Jazz recordings and superb gems of piano trio Jazz.

By Adam Baruch 

Track listing:
1. Sunrise [09:53]
2. Reminiscence [04:44]
3. Psalm III [05:19]
4. Signs [05:53]
5. Only Sadness Is Beautiful [03:39]
6. Threedom [05:33]
7. Loneliness [05:24]
8. Fate (Fryt BB-C) Travels [02:49]
9. Ikar's Flight [01:06]
10. We May Meet Up In The Sky [06:06]
11. Unfinished Story [04:38]
12. Polovitzan Dances [03:08]

wtorek, 28 sierpnia 2012

Mojito w Duc de Lombards z Giladem Hekselmanem

Generalna przebudowa Paryża w czasach II Cesarstwa zwana hausmannowską, od nazwiska ówczesnego prefekta miasta, wzbogaciła miasto między innymi o piękne bulwary, w tym o Sewastopolski. Jego nazwa związana jest z nieco już zapomnianą wojną krymską jaką Francja, wraz z sojusznikami, toczyła z Rosją w latach 1853-56. Głównym wydarzeniem tej wojny było oblężenie Sewastopola dające przedsmak koszmarnych wojen wieku następnego. Bitwę, którą Francja zakończyła zwycięstwem, z powodu licznych ofiar tak gorzkim, że Francuzom trudno było je odróżnić od klęski.

Bulwar zaczyna się na placu de Chatelet i tam właśnie wysiadłem z metra, by przejść kolejne trzy przecznice i znależć się naprzeciwko Duc de Lombards. Najbardziej prestiżowego zdaniem wielu w chwili obecnej jazzowego klubu w Paryżu. Dlaczego jest on taki prestiżowy? Przestudiowałem sobie program tego klubu z ostatnich kilku miesięcy i doszedłem do wniosku, że ten prestiż jest związany z ceną drinków i jedzenia. Na przykład ja zamówiłem dość cienkie Mojito i zapłaciłem 12 Euro. A za przekąskę z rzymskiej sałaty, z dwoma mikroskopijnymi kawałkami grillowanej koziny i ciekawym dipem opartym na serze Roquefort skromne 18 Euro. Tego pułapu prędko już w życiu nie przebiję!

Gorycz tych astronomicznych z polskiego punktu widzenia cen osłodził mi nie tylko kubański rum i garść listków yerbabueny zmieszanych ze skruszonym lodem, ale przede wszystkim muzyka. Była jak łyk świeżego powietrza, jak chłodna kąpiel w morzu po skwarnym dniu, jak odpoczynek w głębokim, wygodnym fotelu po całym dniu spędzonym w niewyobrażalnie długich kolejkach do paryskich atrakcji: Luwru, Galerii D’Orsey i Wieży Eiffla. Do tego wszystkiego miałem szczęście, bo nie trafiłem na jakiś totalnie pokręcony jazz (który nota bene lubię), a na dobry, współczesny mainstream, który nie ranił uszu, a koił moje skołatane paryskim zgiełkiem nerwy.

Formację prowadził młody izraelski wirtuoz gitary Gilad Hekselman. Od 2004 roku mieszka i studiuje w Nowym Jorku. W jego grze słychać wpływ tak Johna Scofielda jak Pata Metheny, ale nie można tu mówić, jak w przypadku wielu innych młodych gitarzystów, o naśladownictwie. Na swoim koncie ma nagrane trzy albumy, z których ostatni “Heart Wide Open” dostarczył większości materiału granego na tym koncercie. O towarzyszącym mu basiście Joe Martinie niewiele potrafię powiedzieć, gra poprawnie, na ochy i achy jednak nie zasłużył moim skromnym zdaniem. Z kolei saksofonista Mark Turner to dobrze mi znana postać. Jego ton jest dość oszczędny, wręcz suchy, ale czuć pełne panowanie nad frazą. Pamiętam go z płyt nagrywanych z Kurtem Rosenwinkelem, Davidem Binneyem czy Joshua Redmanem. Ostatnio nagrał album z formacją Fly dla ECM czyli jest nieźle. Ale najlepsze wrażenie sprawił na mnie perkusista Marcus Gilmore. Gra zjawiskowo! Kiedy przywitaliśmy się zerknął mi bystro w oczy i zapytał: wiesz kim jestem? Jasne! - odpowiedziałem. A czy wiesz kim był mój dziadek? Wprawił mnie w konsternację, tym większą, gdy okazało się, że był nim legendarny bopowy pałkarz Roy Haynes.

Muzyka sączyła się ze sceny elegancko, perfekcyjnie zagrana, lecząc rany jakie zadało mi rozhukane miasto na Sekwaną. Akustyka była wyśmienita! I wiecie co pomyślałem: fajnie jest! Prawie tak fajnie jak w Warszawie w Cudzie Nad Wisłą, na Chłodnej 25 albo w Pardon To Tu... czy w poznańskiem Dragonie... albo krakowskiej Alchemii... prawie... bo jak długo można sączyć jednego drinka?...

Autor: Maciej Nowotny

niedziela, 26 sierpnia 2012

Matt Ulery - By A Little Light (Greenleaf Music, 2012)

Matt Ulery - double bass, voice

Ben Lewis - piano and Jon Deitmeyer - drums on tracks 1-5, 11
Rob Clearfield - piano and Michael Caskey - drums on tracks 6-10, 12
Michael Maccaferri - clarinet, bass clarinet
Tim Munro - flute, alto flute
James Davis - trumpet, flugelhorn
Zach Brock - violin
Dominic Johnson - viola
Nicholas Photinos - cello
Matthew Duval - vibraphone, glockenspiel, marimba
Grazyna Auguscik - vocals

By A Little Light (Greenleaf Music, 2012)

It’s a celebratory moment when an artist attempts to grasp a grand vision. We should want that from our artists, that they attempt to synthesize Big Dreams down to expressions of creativity that can be shared with us all. We want to be able to experience the great expanse of a massive idea and gain a sense of the journey it took to get there. The connection with something that is both immense and intangible is like staring into futures and possibilities opened up to us all. These attempts at capturing the epic don’t have to be perfect. Hell, sometimes their imperfections add to their strength, much how a brief slip can make the climb to the mountaintop that much more thrilling and glorious.

Matt Ulery’s By A Little Light is about as close to perfection as one can get.

Spanning two discs, bassist and composer Ulery presents a story that is as much classical as it is jazz, as much theater as it is music. At the heart of the music is the piano trio. Working with two different piano-drummer combos, pianist Rob Clearfield paired with drummer Michael Caskey and pianist Ben Lewis paired with drummer Jon Deitemyer, Ulery starts with the trio and builds up, and out, from there. Adding members of the Eighth Blackbird ensemble, violinist Zach Brock and vocalist Grazyna Auguscik to this mix, Ulery all but guarantees that his music will defy comparison. This is music with a strong identity difficult to put name to. The first disc, subtitled “By a Little Light” is all instrumental. The second disc, subtitled “To the Brim”, is accompanied by vocals. It is an album in two acts.

Disc One sets the stage. Using a blend of classical, jazz, and Old World folk music, Ulery weaves a landscape out of sound and populates it with cities of notes. Even on a tune like the title-track, where it is only the piano trio in action, the texture of the sound gives the impression of more instruments lurking in the background, uncredited and out of sight. Nothing about this music is small. Even the nuances possess a weight that belies their brief moments in the spotlight. Piano is given lots of room to roam and explore, while drums stamp it on the map. When not gingerly tiptoeing through the scene, strings make dreamy pronouncements, while vibes and trumpet shade the edges.

No better representative track for Disc One than “To Lose Your Mind.” Vibes and piano provide a sense of gravity, of two feet planted on the earth, while strings and drums provide the running start and liftoff to flight. On violin, Zach Brock transitions between those two roles, providing at time the sound of footfalls on fresh soil, and at other times, lush notes ethereal as clouds.

The final track on Disc One, “The Miniaturist”, ends with a lullaby, reminiscent of Ulery’s 2010 release Flora.Fauna.Fervor. Piano and vibes meticulously create a silhouette composed of infinite permutations of shading, while bass and drums imbue it with just the faintest sense of motion, that perhaps the silhouette, like a dream come alive, is more than just a shadowy outline.

Disc Two lets the characters develop. Set to a backdrop of soaring woodwinds, brass, and strings, Auguscik sings words of encouragement. The song blossoms with the hope and romance of fairy tales. But fairy tales are also typified by the affliction of dark days, and so when shadows descend upon the composition as it transitions to the next song, it’s almost to be expected. This time it’s Ulery who takes over the role of vocalist. His voice has little range, and it’s sort of brittle; qualities which imbue the music with an eye-opening vulnerability as he sings of his worry of loneliness and worst case scenarios. It makes for one of the album’s biggest successes. After this, the composition returns to the jazz piano trio, and then true to form, it grows organically from there. Joined by strings, alto flute, and bass clarinet, the tune lifts off, returning to its original spot for the song’s conclusion.

Auguscik returns to vocals for the final three tracks (with Ulery providing some accompaniment). They’re beautiful songs, and of particular note is the superb pairing of Tim Munro on alto flute with the bass clarinet of Michael Maccaferri on “To the Brim”, who enter with melodic statements of heartbreaking beauty. Their appearances are only momentary, but it speaks well to Ulery’s talents that he allows his compositions room to breathe such that seemingly minor details and embellishments are allowed to become something greater.

“… allowed to become something greater.” That is By A Little Light in a nutshell.

By Dave Summers

RGG - True Story (2009) by Adam Baruch

RGG (band)

Przemyslaw Raminiak (piano)
Maciej Garbowski (bass)
Krysztof Gradziuk (drums)

True Story (2009)

This is the 4th album by the Polish Jazz ensemble RGG, which consists of pianist Przemyslaw Raminiak, bassist Maciej Garbowski and drummer Krzysztof Gradziuk. A monumental undertaking recorded "live" in the studio in just two days and resulting in two CDs, each presenting sixteen pieces, varying in duration from just over a minute to over six minutes, all of which are on the spot improvisations, except for the first introductory piece on each CD. All the music is accredited to all three RGG members. The album was recorded in the legendary Studio Tokarnia and engineered by Jan Smoczynski, the studio owner, a guarantee of superb sonic quality.

The album's title, consistent with the titles of the two albums which preceded this release, includes the word "story", which clearly points out to the fact that the trio members conceive their music-making as a process of storytelling, metaphysically of course, but nevertheless quite significantly. Music is, after all, a reflection of the musician's personality and his life experience, not just a detached intellectual creation of his mind. The storytelling influences the character of the music dramatically and is responsible for it being wonderfully communicative, even though it is completely free stylistically. RGG manage to create perhaps the most "talkative" form of Free Jazz ever encountered, which enables every Jazz listener, including those with little or even no Free Jazz experience, to absorb and most importantly enjoy this music. Amazingly, the album creates an overall aura of serenity and composure, although it is in fact full of creative tensions and convolutions.

As in all piano trio music, and especially in case the music is highly improvised, the key element is the musical bond developed between the trio members, which in the best of cases involves truly telepathic communication. RGG definitely fall in that category, displaying an amazing level of group consciousness, collective improvisation ability and above all enormous mutual respect. The solo spot moves freely between the instruments, as the trio members clearly share the storytelling duties equally, supporting and complimenting each other rather than competing with each other. This incredible level of cooperation is the trio's most formidable asset.

But of course each of the trio members is a great instrumentalist, regardless if he plays solo or is part of the duo and trio format. Perhaps more so that in any other piano trio setting, RGG eschews the concept of a "leader" and presents a concept of a music unit, which is much greater than a sum of its parts. That is why RGG is able to produce such extraordinary music, which has few equals anywhere in the world.

Polish Jazz aficionados will of course try the unavoidable comparison between RGG and the "other" great Polish Jazz piano trio, the Simple Acoustic Trio. For a true music lover there is no competition here whatsoever, and these two great ensembles compliment each other rather than compete with each other. Polish Jazz is simply lucky to have two such brilliant piano trios creating music in tandem.

This is definitely some of the finest Polish Jazz ever recorded, and some of the most wonderful piano trio music ever created. It would be criminal to miss this album, something a true music connoisseur should avoid at all costs. This stuff is essential for the mental health of those, who are lucky to immerse in its splendor.

By Adam Baruch


Act I (CD 1)
Prologue I
Scene I
Scene II
Scene III
Scene IV
Scene V
Scene VI
Scene VII
Scene VIII
Scene IX
Scene X
Scene XI
Scene XII
Scene XIII
Scene XIV
Epilogue I

Act II (CD 2)
Prologue II
Scene I
Scene II
Scene III
Scene IV
Scene V
Scene VI
Scene VII
Scene VIII
Scene IX
Scene X
Scene XI
Scene XII
Scene XIII
Scene XIV
Epilogue II

sobota, 25 sierpnia 2012

String Connection - Live in Warsaw (Poljazz, 1986)

String Connection (band)

Krzesimir Dębski - violin, keyboards
Andrzej Jagodziński - grand piano, french horn
Zbigniew Wrombel - bass
Krzysztof Przybyłowicz - drums

Live in Warsaw (Poljazz, 1986)

A short note about this album might begin as the introduction to Star Wars movie cycle: "Far far away in a distant country behind the Iron Curtain a small group of rebels tried to dispel the darkness imposed upon jazz music by the evil Empire". As you probably know in 1981 gen. Jaruzelski crushed the Solidarity movement  in Poland. His backlash on democratic forces was not limited to politics only. The culture of the country suffered under communist tyranny as well. The music and jazz  being no exception of course. Subsequent period of decadence was seen as extremely disheartening especially when compared to unprecedented and continued rise of jazz in Poland which began in mid-50ties and lasted for quartet of the century unhindered.

The depression reigned on almost every field of people's life be it political, economical or cultural but there were some beacons of hope even in those times which heralded that some renaissaince might be possible in future. In Polish jazz perhaps strongest example of such a hope was music created by String Connection. They debuted in 1982 with "Workoholic" and were recording feverishly in following years completing discography of nine discs in next 6 years when in 1988 the group was disbanded.

The moving force behind this collective was violinist Krzesimir Dębski who should be placed among the greatest exponents of so-called Polish school of jazz violin together with such giants as Zbigniew Seifert (check his "Man of Light") or Michał Urbaniak (check "Fusion III"). But other musicians in this band played on equally high level: pianist Henryk Jagodziński (who in following years made significant career on his own; check for example "Deep Cut"), doublebassist Zbigniew Wrombel and drummer Krzysztof Przybyłowicz. Music was progressive as for those times. Though clearly rooted in bop tradition and influenced by fusion aesthetic, it was at the same time creatively transformed by band's members into language of their own. That is probably why  its rehearsal after so many years sill remains more than satisfactory experience...

1. Surim
2. Red Autumn Trees
3. Chcialbym Sie Czegos Napić
4. Shadow Of Your Smile
5. Bye Bye Chorus
6. Genealogy

Simple Acoustic Trio - Habanera (2000)

Simple Acoustic Trio

Marcin Wasilewski - piano
Sławomir Kurkiewicz - double-bass
Michał Miśkiewicz - drums

Habanera (2000)

This is the 4th album by the Polish Jazz ensemble Simple Acoustic Trio, which consists of pianist Marcin Wasilewski, bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michal Miskiewicz. Of the eight tracks on this album five were composed by Wasilewski, one by Kurkiewicz, another by the Polish Jazz legend Tomasz Stanko, who employed the trio as his rhythm section for several years and finally the title track by Spanish composer Miguel Blanco.

Recorded just before the trio recorded the three seminal albums for the ECM label with Stanko (as his sidemen), this album is definitely a turning point, which marks their arrival at the level of musical champions, paralleled only by very few other Jazz musicians in general and piano trios in particular. This was also their last album to be released on a Polish label, as they were about to be enlisted to the ECM roster as a trio in the days that followed.

Personally I love this transitory album and in many respects it is my favorite album by the trio, as it finds them completely mature and fully developed on one hand and still enthusiastic, hungry and burning on the other. As a result this album includes some of their best performances, which are full of elegance, virtuosity and sophistication, but at the same time are more relaxed and less constrained than their future work. Of course these are marvelous and devilishly talented musicians, so everything they do tends to be both perfect and beautiful, but these last glimpses of their youth and innocence are truly precious to me.

Whichever way one looks at this album, it remains a milestone of Polish Jazz, a superb opener for the 21st Century European Jazz and a must in any decent record collection. Since the ensemble managed to become an integral part of the history of Jazz piano trio, this album becomes an essential piece of the infinite puzzle called Jazz, which we love so much. Essential stuff!

By Adam Baruch

Tracklisting: 1. Habanera Excentrica (M. Angelo Blanco) [09:21] 2.Without Them (M. Wasilewski) [08:31] 3. Tamara (S. Kurkiewicz) [07:03] 4. Green Sky (T. Stańko) [06:00] 5. Furiozi (M. Wasilewski) [08:31] 6. Stravinsky (M. Wasilewski) [09:38] 7. Simple Song (M. Wasilewski) [03:35] 8.Simple Jungle (M. Wasilewski) [08:57] 

piątek, 24 sierpnia 2012

Kraków Jazz Autumn

The seventh annual edition of Krakow Jazz Autumn – a festival which over these years has become one of the most important events on the Polish improvised music map as well as one of the key festivals in Europe – is now a fact.

As is the case every year, the guests invited to participate are the most important figures in this musical discipline. Both artists lauded throughout the decades as legends and also artists who are yet to reach their apogee on the musical map. So the opportunity will arise for a close encounter with the great Peter Brötzmann, who will be giving an account of himself during the festival in three completely different incarnations, in the ensembles Defibrillator and Damage Is Done, co-created with free jazz legend Joe McPhee, and in a joint project featuring musicians from Turkey. Another event particularly worthy of note is the Barry Guy concerts. Polish music lovers are fully aware of what Barry Guy is capable of. A great improviser, double bass virtuoso and extremely highly rated interpreter of early music in such ensembles as those of Christopher Hogwood. This is not thefirst time after all that he will be standing on a Krakow stage. Two years ago, he came over with small groups and chamber ensembles, including the splendid Fernandez/Guy/Lopez trio and a duo with his violinist wife Maya Homburger. Now, over four days we’ll be able to witness the artistic activities of his principal group, the New Orchestra, which is another creative and completely dazzling development of the already legendary London Jazz Composers Orchestra.

Peter Brötzmann and Barry Guy represent the European scene. But there will also be legends from over the pond. At one concert, the famous DKV Trio, i.e. an ensemble created by Ken Vandermark, Kent Kessler and Hamid Drake, will be appearing on the stage of the Alchemia club. Over the last few years, it has not been easy to hear this group live, not only in Poland but also in Europe as a whole. All three gentlemen are engaged in their own projects and have only appeared sporadically as the DKV Trio. For five years, they have not released a single album, even though their concerts over this period have been meticulously recorded and archived. The ensemble’s Krakow concert coincides with the international premiere of a multi-disc release documenting these actual five years of concert activity, which will be released by the inestimable Kraków-based publishing label, Not Two Records.

Also on this year’s KJA festival stage, we will be able to hear one of the co-creators of the European improvised music scene, the British Trevor Watts. Yet another legend will be performing in the New Orchestra – grand magician of the saxophone, Evan Parker, who is also British – and he will be joined by representatives of the Polish scene, including Mikołaj Trzaska, who requires no recommendation, the young group, Mikrokolektyw, who are releasing on the famous Chicagoan label Delmark Records and up and coming star of improvised music, Wracław Zimpel, with his Hera group and special guest  Hamid Drake.

Krakow Jazz Autumn 2012 first and foremost stands for exquisite concerts by big stars. But not only! There will also be film screenings of films on jazz-connected themes and improvised music which you would struggle to find even on the programmes of the Polish documentary film festivals, a vernissage featuring the photos of Ziga Koritnik and a conference, Contemporary Music Agenda 2012, which will be devoted to jazz and improvised music from around the world, and will involve eminent journalists from All About Jazz, Down Beat and The Wire, as well as the organisers of the famous festivals Nickelsdorf Kontrontationen, Music Unlimited in Wels and Musik Kultur St. Johann.

So Krakow Jazz Autumn 2012 is a festival of music, the spoken word and image at the service of the grand and by no means limited art of improvisation!

Detailed program of the festival: http://www.kjj-festiwal.pl/

Aga Zaryan - Looking Walking Being (Blue Note, 2010)

Aga Zaryan - Vocal

David Doruzka - Guitar
Michal Baranski - Bass
Lukasz Zyta - Drums
Munyungo Jackson - Percussion

Looking Walking Being (2010)

This is the 5th album by Polish Jazz vocalist Aga Zaryan and her first release on the legendary Blue Note label, a first ever by a Polish artist. This album marks a new stage in Zaryan's career, characterized by performing original material especially composed for her by pianist / composer Michal Tokaj (six of the twelve songs on the album) and Czech guitarist / composer David Doruzka (four songs), both actively playing on this album. One additional song was composed by guitarist / composer Larry Koonse, who accompanied Zaryan on her earlier recordings and another one is by the great and sadly recently departed Polish bassist / composer Zbigniew Wegehaupt. Apart from Tokaj and Doruzka the other accompanying musicians include bassist Michal Baranski, drummer Lukasz Zyta and percussionist Munyungo Jackson.

Zaryan also takes charge of writing the lyrics for seven of the album's songs with the remaining five being poems by the marvelous British-born American poetess Denise Levertov. The lyricism of Zaryan's texts and the intricacy of Levertov's modern and deeply moving poetry give the album a clear artistic direction, which draws from the beautiful tradition of combining music and poetry, especially the Jazz & Poetry movement, which flourished in the 1960s.

The music is a perfect match to the complex lyrics, fluidly and gently carrying the singer's words on the waves of sound. It is mostly lyrical as well, reflective and introvert, but energetic enough to prevent an overall morose atmosphere, which many "serious" musical projects suffer from. Obviously this kind of music requires serious and repetitive listening to uncover its complex content and allow intimate contact, but its obvious beauty is quite obvious from the very first exposure to it. This is both intellectual and emotional music, a rare quality indeed, especially these days.

Zaryan's performances as well as the accompaniment are both an absolute bliss. As usual she cooperates with her musicians on levels rarely achieved elsewhere, making the best of their respective talents and abilities. Doruzka, who is the main soloist, plays some of the finest guitar I've heard in a long time and Zaryan's obvious love for the guitar is commendable, as most singers prefer to use the piano as the main supportive instrument. The album, which was recorded in Warsaw and Los Angeles over a period of several months, displays an overall level of musicianship and recording / production as well as sonic quality, which are simply extraordinary.

There is no doubt that Zaryan and her cohorts deserve an honorable place on the Polish Jazz scene as much as being a part of world's Jazz elite with the Blue Note as their home base. Buying this album is definitely a no brainer and I can't imagine money better spent that this. A must!

By Adam Baruch

01 Cherry Tree Avenue 2:42
02 Looking, Walking, Being 4:48
03 Let Me 5:02
04 For The New Year, 1981 4:02
05 The Stars Are As Lonely As Us 5:06
06 Seeking My Love 7:42
07 February Evening In New York 4:04
08 My Name 5:53
09 Temptation Game 6:32
10 Wanting The Moon 5:23
11 What Is This Thing Called Happiness ? 4:39
12 The Thread 6:36

czwartek, 23 sierpnia 2012

Bothur Skolik Kowalewski Trio - Ramblin (Multikulti, 2012)

Bothur Skolik Kowalewski Trio

Jarek Bothur - tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet
Arek Skolik - drums, percussion
Adam Kowalewski - bass

Ramblin (Multikulti, 2012)

I am often whimsical as far as new mainstream jazz recordings are concerned. I complain about recurrence of chords, melodies, themes so redundant that make their rehearsal best pillow for sleep rather than music compelling someone to dance, to bouce, to live. Therefore when I looked at this album's tracklist comprising all standards, from Ornette Coleman's "Round Trip" through Billy Strayhorn's  "Chelsea Bridge" to Thelonius Monk's "Ligh Blue", all so well known, I was very afraid about what this music would be. Why afraid? Because I very much respect all musicians of whom this trio consists:  young saxophonist Jarek Bothur whose debut disc "Lilla Chezquiz" (2010) made a very good impression on me and a dream-team rhythm section consisting of veteran doublebassist Adam Kowalewski and drummer Arek Skolik.

But with first sounds coming from my beloved Tannoy speakers this big ice mountain of apprehension began to melt away one note after another. This is all the more remarkable because there is completely nothing new in this trio interpretations of all these standards. Its freshness lays in intimate, loving and direct relationship these musicians keep with this material. It may be compared with bonds existing in old marriage which nonetheless years passing manages to make their union ever so deeper and more meaningful. One rehearsal after another I learn to apreciate this trio authencity, dedication and love towards jazz!

By Maciej Nowotny


1. Round Trip [Ornette Coleman]
2. Crepuscule with Nellie [Thelonious Monk]
3. Diverse [Charlie Parker]
4. Flamingo [Ted Grouya]
5. Chelsea Bridge [Billy Strayhorn]
6. Tico Tico [Zequinha de Abreu]
7. Light Blue [Thelonious Monk]

Aga Zaryan - Picking Up The Pieces (2007)

Aga Zarvan - vocals
Nolan Shaheed  - trumpet
Larry Koonse - guitar
Darek "Oles" Oleszkiewicz - doublebass
Darryl Munyungo Jackson - drums, percussion

Picking Up The Pieces (2007)

This is the 2nd album by the undeniable present-day diva of Polish Jazz, vocalist Aga Zaryan. Recorded almost five years after the debut album, which is an agonizingly long break especially in the initial stage of her career, the album is both a conceptual continuation of the debut and a giant step in her artistic development. The eleven tracks are again predominantly standards with just two originals: one by guitarist Larry Koonse with lyrics by Zaryan and the other by bassist Darek Oleszkiewicz. Koonse and Oleszkiewicz are the main accompanying musicians with percussionist Munyungo Jackson and cornet player Nolan Shaheed contributing on some tracks.

Musically the album is much more challenging than the debut, especially in view of the fact that Zaryan gives up the security of the usual piano-led quartet as her support group and presents mostly a series of intimate duets with the bassist or the guitarist or trios with both of them present. As already mentioned, only a few tracks are further ornamented with percussion or cornet sounds. Her rapport and affinity with her cohorts is absolutely stunning and deeply moving, being examples of the rare intimacy and telepathic musical cooperation like that of pianist Bill Evans and bassist Scott LaFaro.

The overall relaxed and intimate atmosphere hides of course a multitude of exquisite instants of sheer musical joy and there are absolutely no dull moments here from start to finish. One can hardly decide what to savor first: the beauty of the music, the sophistication of simplicity, the twists and idiosyncrasies, the elegance or the charm. Whichever way one looks at this music, it is utterly fascinating without a trace of being a cliché or a déjà vu.

In retrospect this is definitely a milestone recording in the history of contemporary Polish Jazz music and Aga Zaryan's illustrious career so far. It remains a timeless beauty and a favorite album, which I intend to revisit time and again. Extraordinary!

Side Note: This album was originally recorded in Los Angeles in 2006 and released the same year on an independent label. This version of the album is released on Blue Note in 2010, after the legendary Jazz label signed Aga Zaryan as the first Polish Jazz artist in its roster. The sound quality is simply marvelous!

By Adam Baruch

1. Day Dream
2. Throw It Away
3. Picking Up The Pieces
4. Woman's Work
5. Answer Me
6. The Man I Love
7. Here's to Life
8. It Might As Well Be Spring
9. Sophisticated Lady
10. Suzanne
11. Tender As a Rose

środa, 22 sierpnia 2012

Ircha Clarinet Quartet - Zikaron, Lefanay (2012)

Ircha Clarinet Quartet

Mikołaj Trzaska - bass clarinet
Wacław Zimpel - clarinete, toragato, bass clarinet
Michał Górczyński - bass clarinet
Paweł Szamburski - clarinete, bass clarinet

Zikaron - Lefanay (2012)

Majority of what people treat as jazz is not jazz in my eyes/ears. Jazz is becoming (does English grammar allow such a use of Present Continues with this verb?) more and more spiritual affair for me. It is the most serious of all my entertaiments. And I enjoy as much its seriousness as its playful character. Yet to succesfully mould those two elements in album or during concert is extremely rare indeed! I rehearse perhaps thousands of records every year and pay visit to tens of concerts but at the end of year I can barely name 10 albums or concerts that could be included into this "spiritual" category. This CD however enters this exclusive category effortlessly. And it enters not only into category of the best of albums of 2012 but in fact of the best of couple of last years.

Its uniqness manifests itself in number of aspects. It is third release by Ircha Clarinet Quartet after "Lark Uprising" (2010) and "Watching Edvard" (2011). For all these albums the same line-up of musicians is responsible: Mikołaj Trzaska, Wacław Zimpel, Michał Górczyński, Paweł Szamburski (although it should be noted that on their first disc legendary Joe McPhee appeared as a guest). It is obvious that this third album by this collective benefits greatly by experience they gathered by performing concerts together for this whole period. If quality of jazz may be measured by depth of interplay between members of the band this recording is very good example of that. There are moments when it is difficult to discern who is playing. They sound as if one, homogenous being using some strange four-pipes-differently-tuned-instrument!

Although Zimpel (check for example his latest "Where My Complete Beloved Is"), Górczyński (in Masecki's "Chopin Chopin Chopin"), Szamburski ("Przed Południem, Przed Zmierzchem") are cream-of-the-cream of young Polish jazz it is Mikołaj Trzaska who few years ago gave this ensamble the direction. The legend of Polish yass, this self-taught saxophonist has gone a long way from being an amateur despised by many professional musicians to being one of the greatests of Polish jazz along with Komeda, Namysłowski, Stańko, Seifert and others.

But he also went a long way personally when few years ago he publicly declared his Jewish roots and consciously started to explore this side of his background. The result surpassed all expectations! What we got here is neither mainstream or free jazz, or avantgarde, or folk, or Klezmer, or classic music, though it can very well fit into all these categories. But at the same time it is also something more: the art that trasgresses  artificial boundaries of music genres and first of all transcends tragic history of Polish Jews proving that it is possible to say something new, fresh and inspiring on this so intensively exploited field...

By Maciej Nowotny

1. Night Fly To The City
2. Red Shoes
3. Builder-Block Pampim
4. Upper Trias Caspian Fuge
5. Inner Uprising / Akhtamar
6. In Side Your Bely
7. Climbing And Sliding / Nigun Number 115

Aga Zaryan - My Lullaby (2002)

Aga Zaryan – vocals

Tomasz Szukalski – tenor sax
Michał Tokaj – piano
Darek Oleszkiewicz – bass
Łukasz Żyta – drums

My Lullaby (2002)

This is the debut album by the undeniable present-day diva of Polish Jazz, vocalist Aga Zaryan. Recorded over a decade ago, when Zaryan was completely anonymous, it exhibits for the first time an outstanding talent, fresh and innocent on one hand and remarkably mature and daring on the other. Backed up by a classic Jazz quartet, Zaryan performs ten standards, which were arranged by pianist Michal Tokaj. The other quartet members are veteran Polish Jazz saxophonist Tomasz Szukalski, bassist extraordinaire Darek Oleszkiewicz and drummer Lukasz Zyta.

The fact that Zaryan received her primary school education in UK enables her to sing in English, free from a foreign accent, which often annoys English-speaking audiences. But the lack of a foreign accent is by far not what is so remarkable about this album. It is the choice of material and the highly personal interpretation of the songs, which is strikingly original and aesthetically pleasing. She is able to twist and turn the familiar tunes around her small finger so to speak, with ease and elegance which is simply charming and highly sophisticated.

Another forte of the album is Zaryan's extraordinary rapport with the quartet members, especially with bass player Darek Oleszkiewicz. Several of the tunes are by and large duets between the vocals and the bass and those are simply breathtaking. Szukalski is an ideal partner as well, constructing concise but wonderfully structured solos, always brilliantly complimenting the music. The entire quartet does a truly beautiful job, supporting the singer without overshadowing her for even a single moment. Such wonderful balance between a vocalist and her group is extremely rare and contributes immensely to the overall success of this recording.

In retrospect one can easily hear all the elements, which over time amalgamated into present day Aga Zaryan and her outstanding abilities. This debut album remains a timeless beauty and a favorite album, which I intend to revisit time and again. Extraordinary!

Side Note: This album was originally recorded in Warsaw in 2001 and released in 2002 on an independent label. This version of the album is a 2007 remaster, released on Blue Note in 2010, after the legendary Jazz label signed Aga Zaryan as the first Polish Jazz artist in its roster. The sound quality is simply marvelous!

By Adam Baruch

Tracklisting: 1. To See A World; 2. Waltz For Debby; 3. I’ve Got The World On A String; 4. My Lullaby; 5. You And The Night And The Music; 6. I Put A Spell On You; 7. Never Said (Chan’s Song)/Trust Me; 8. Still We Dream (Ugly Beauty); 9. I Hear Music; 10. Polka Dots And Moonbeams 

niedziela, 19 sierpnia 2012

Helmut Nadolski - Muzyka Morza (2010); Kiedy Umiera Człowiek (2012)

Helmut Nadolski

Helmut Nadolski - double bass
Michael Rayher - prepared piano

Muzyka Morza (2010)

Helmut Nadolski 

Kiedy Umiera Człowiek (2012)

(Editor) Helmut Nadolski music is centered around his unique personality and thrives on verges between art and spirituality. He recently has released two new albums after  a long break. In this text Alicja Dylewska covers the exceptional atmospehere that accompanies his concerts and makes meeting between him and audience so special.

Czesław Niemen used to call him: "the master of his instrument who has created his own music characterized by extraordinary strength; a sensitive artist endowed with vivid imagination; a musician who paints his music using his deep, personal vision". Yet Helmut Nadolski, who is often called as "magus of a double bass",  is by no means well-known to the wide audience. Being recognized as a leading Polish avant-garde artist of '70 he managed to mark his presence playing on a few albums. The most important ones are "Four Dialogues with Coscience" (1973), "Meditations" (1975), "New Musik from Poland” H. Nadolski" (1979) and "Jubilaire Orchestra" (1983).

Using symbolism of pictures, sound and words, the artist creates a mystical dimension in his performances. The music composed by the bassist has no definitions. It occurs at the moment when the instrument produces a sound in the manner that the creator wants to, here and now. To some extent the spectacle sublimity is created by artist’s black suit and his white double-bass which the musician treats with affection by calling it 'my girl-friend' when he takes it out of the double bass a robe and introduces it to the audience.

Since the '90 Nadolski has realized performance called "Mobile" which combines different forms of art - image, music and meditation. In such a way he appeared during the 7th Mózg Festival concert. At the beginning he presented a piece of his poetry followed by music illustrated by the moving ocean waves shown at the background.

The music flowing slowly and subtly was shimmering and shifting as waves of calm ocean. The mood  resembled the state we experience when slowly awakening from (or to) dreams. It was a way of making the audience friendly with scenes which were to appear. The artist was briskly moving the bow making the strings tremble, intuitively and harmoniously tuning them to the characteristic behaviour of element of water. Occasionally he was breaking off the soothing climate by harsh, low sounds, transforming music line into faster tempo. Then waves at the background were becoming more vivid as if they were inspired to live on their own.

Tones got faster and more powerful, creating the dark atmosphere of depth which eventually was to become quiet after a while only to merge with the picture of calm water. The spectacle reached its climax when Helmut Nadolski, the magus himself, raised his white double bass and by holding it (her)  high let her fly over the stage as in some ritual dance. 

It was an amazing performance finished by metallic sounds of bells banging against one another while being shaken by the artist who at the end dropped them on the floor.

By Alicja Dylewska

Switch On Quintet - Our Car Will Never Stop (2010)

Switch On Quintet

Maciej Fortuna – trąbka, fluegelhorn
Marcin Kajper – saksofony
Jakub Kujawa – gitary
Michał Rybka – gitara basowa
Bogumił Romanowski – perkusja

Our Car Will Never Stop (2010)

Maciej Fortuna is one of these young musicians which has made recent years on Polish jazz so exciting. In a very short time he recorded such great albums as mainstream "Lost Keys" (2010) and "Solar Ring" (2012) or experimental "1" (2012). Highly acclaimed by critics and beginning to be recognized by local audience he quickly has become a force to be reckoned with in our music.

This album shortly pre-dates "Lost Keys" and may be seen as kind of test made before album. Music is well played and tunes are diversified but Fortuna yet stays a bit withdrawn, not enough self-assured to step fully forward as a leader. It is obvious that through recordings like this one he gathered strenght for this big leap forward he made just few months later. In fact the music on this disc sounds as if he had just started to bounce and occasionally fly away... For such moments it is really worthy to listen to this album.

By Maciej Nowotny

Track listing:
1 Remember The Dog
2 Parap
3 4KT
4 Mr Mijagi
5 Don't Scare The Butterfly
6 Reunite
7 About Missing
8 Our Car Will Never Stop
9 Lost In Saigon
10 Locker One
11 Night

Nicolas Simion feat. Tomasz Stanko & Jamey Haddad - Unfinished Square (2009)

Nicolas Simion feat. Tomasz Stanko & Jamey Haddar

Tomasz Stańko - trumpet
Nicals Simion - tenor & soprano saxophone, tarogato
Nils Wogram - trombone
Ed Schuller - bass
Jamey Haddad - drums, percussion
Andreas Mayerhofer - keybaords
Piotr Wojtasik - trumpet (9)

Unfinished Square (2009)

Until this record Nicola Simion was completely uknown to me. But after its rehearsal I can only say that he is musician of major calibre. He plays here on saxophones and tarogato. He posseses his own unique sound on those instruments which though kept within limits of typical jazz language is simultanously saturated with beautiful Balkan notes of his native Romania. His unique voice therefore goes very well along with equally characteristic sound of Polish superstar trumpeter Tomasz Stańko. Light as a feather  lines by Stańko interweave itself beautifully with Simion coarse and dramatic blows.

But those two heroes are not alone. Others musicians are not less interesting and contribute greatly to complexity and depth of this music. Drummer Ed Schuller is a legend as much as World music star percussionist Jamey Haddad who collaborated once with Paul Simon. Yet trombonist Nils Wolgram, keyboardist Andreas Mayerhofer and another Polish trumpeter Piotr Wojtasik (who apperas on 9th song) provide simply stellar background for Simion and Stańko. All in all this music being subtle mixture of mainstream jazz, world music with Balkan (Romanian) roots and occasionally set free by Stańko adventuorous lines is great pleasure to rehearse. 

By Maciej Nowotny

Samples of music available  here: http://www.musicline.de/de/player_flash/6421966000080/0/6/50/product

Track listing:
1. Lullaby
2. Doina from Maramuresh
3. Fighting Song
4. Carol Song
5. Choral
6. Toba
7. Adagio
8. Now Is the Question
9. Byzantinian Chant (for Richard Tieber)

sobota, 18 sierpnia 2012

Radek Nowicki Quartet - Live (Jazz Forum, 2007)

Radek Nowicki Quartet 

Radek Nowicki - soprano saxophone
Michał Tokaj - piano
Michał Jaros - double bass
Michał Miśkiewicz - drums

Live (Jazz Forum, 2007)

On releasing his CD, Nowicki was aged thirty-one—exactly the same age as Coltrane at the time of his first original album. A pure coincidence and, of course, of no particular significance, and yet it seems like a good omen. After all, if this somewhat accidental record is so good, then what might we expect from those that are meticulously planned... In any case, this is a very mature debut, not only in respect to his performance skills […] and compositional talent. We should also emphasise Nowicki’s general approach to music, his way of thinking and treating jazz […]. Nowicki’s compositions lead to open structures. Aerial and Moonrose are characterised by an aesthetically effective, rough-edged lyricism […] 

By Adam Poprawa, Odra

Track listing:
1. Aerial (Radek Nowicki) 13:14
2. Footprints (Wayne Shorter) 15:26
3. Moonrose (Radek Nowicki) 11:36
4. ESP (Wayne Shorter) 09:28

Bester Quartet - Metamorphoses (Tzadik, 2012)

Bester Quartet

Jarosław Bester - bajan
Jarosław Tyrała - skrzypce
Oleg Dyyak - bajan, klarnet, duduk, instrumenty perkucyjne
Mikołaj Pospieszalski - kontrabas
special guest: Tomasz Ziętek - trąbka

Metamorphoses (Tzadik, 2012)

A mainstay of Radical Jewish Culture since ’97 and one of the most consistently rewarding groups out of the New Jewish Renaissance, Bester Quartet (formerly The Cracow Klezmer Band) has released no less that six CDs of brilliant New Jewish music on Tzadik. The group is made up of four instrumentalists, classically trained musicians and performs a vast stylistic range that borrows from classical, jazz and vanguard music, including contemporary chamber music where improvisation constitutes a foundation to build on some unique instrumental forms. Distinguished by a daring repertoire and a virtuosity that is always at the service of the music itself, they have performed in some of the most prestigious venues in the world. Their newest CD Metamorphoses is one of their very best, original compositions that combine a dramatic sound, classical precision and the excitement of improvisation with the Jewish tradition.

source: tzadik.com

Track listing:
1. Hope
2. The time of freedom
3. The magic casket
4. The life of a man - a tribute to Astor Piazzolla
5. Metamorphoses
6. The God - forsaken
7. The fantasia
8. Prologue
9. Solitude
10. The spectre

środa, 15 sierpnia 2012

Simple Acoustic Trio - Live in Getxo (1996)

Simple Acoustic Trio

Marcin Wasilewski - piano
Sławomir Kurkiewicz - double-bass
Michał Miśkiewicz - drums 

Live in Getxo (1996)

Marcin Wasilewski, Michał Miśkiewicz i Sławomir Kurkiewicz has become famous since they started to play with Tomasz Stańko. But their careers began many years before and this disc is good example of that since it precedes their albums with famous Polish trumpeter by five years. And it is marking at the same time important stage in their career as its recording was a prize for winning in the contest at jazz festival in Spanish Getxo in 1996. When I talked to Marcin Wasilewski he said this win made whole band ecstatic and for the first time they seriously started to believe that great career they always dreamt of was possible.

Rehearsing this music after so many years remains fully satisfactory experience. While doing that the words of Tomasz Stańko came to my mind stating that few times in his life he found any band of musicians so talented as Wasilewski, Miśkiewicz and Kurkiewicz. Stańko said: "They were playing perfectly from the beginning. That was incredible! Especially when you bear in mind that when we met each other they were just sixteen or eighteen years old boys..". Saying that one must realize that there is big difference between this music and one we can find on Marcin Wasilewski Trio last albums. Over years their playing gained in space, in depth and... in significance. Nowadays they are no more Simple Acoustic Trio as since they record for ECM the name of band changed to Marcin Wasilewski Trio but in the meantime they become simply one of the best jazz trios in the world...

By Maciej Nowotny

Track listing:
1 Cherry 6:53
2 King Korn 4:40
3 Arpegiatta 7:33
4 Turnaround 7:11
5 Habanera Excentrica 9:39
6 Kattorna 3:19
7 Ballade For Bernt 7:32
8 Quara-Qua Quara-Qua

String Connection - Workoholic (1982)

String Connection (band)

Krzesimir Dębski – violin, piano, Polymoog
Zbigniew Lewandowski – drums
Andrzej Olejniczak – tenor & soprano saxophones
Janusz Skowron – Fender, Hammond, Polymoog
Krzysztof Ścierański – bass guitar

Mirosław Michalak – guitar (1 & 5)
Zdzisław Śróda – trombone (1)

Workoholic (1982)

String Connection is one of the top "stars" of the polish 80'. Playing hundreds of shows (not only in Poland) durring that period and recording few great albums, Krzesimir Dębski's (violin) crew managed to break into hearts of many (not only) jazz fans. Disbandment in 1988 was not yet the end of String Connection - they managed to play few shows in 1998 and decided to return for longer tour in 2011, issuing live album in 2012.

Their compositions are quite "listenable" - lots of beautiful classical influenced melodies by Dębski, strong rhythm section, great piano and sax. Much of that can be experienced on "Bokra", the very first tune from SC first album "Workoholic". Here it is:

There is a lot of dynamic, groovy playing here, still leaving place for calmer moods. The song starts and ends with orchestral-sounding section (faded out in the end), kind of unusual - 3 bars in length makes it feel like being "too short". Afterwards, the main, groovy rhythm appears followed by the melody played together by violin and sax. The tune runs like that into the next section and, after repeating the main groove, calms the mood down - beautiful sax playing here. This softer section leads the way to the soloing cycle. Piano, violing and sax solos are played over the same chordal pattern (8 bars) launched 4 and a half times for each solo - every instrument ends it's part by reaching F# minor chord, on which music morphes into the main groove (plus melody). Second and third solo (violin and sax) start with calming the music down for two turns. After the solos, the main rhythm + melody is repeated as in the begining, along with the next section, making it's way to the ending part.

Score and tab: https://docs.google.com/open?id=0Bw7O1HDkrEexejFJcmwzYlg2ZlU
Score only: https://docs.google.com/open?id=0Bw7O1HDkrEexR3E5TnVkUTJiazQ
Tab only: https://docs.google.com/open?id=0Bw7O1HDkrEexYU5DYUtlOEFhLWM

Krzysztof Ścierański is considered to be one of the best bass players in Poland. Somebody called him "Polish Pastorius" once, but his style is quite different from famous Jaco. Ścierański, a self-taught musician, plays fretted basses (I don't know if he ever played fretless), "digs" stuff like slapping, or harmonics and likes to use bass effects (chorus, reverb, delay and so). The first "big" thing he got involved into was Laboratorium - polish jazz-fusion band of 70'-80', considered by many the best polish fusion band. Before String Connection, Krzysztof played in Zbigniew Namysłowski's fusion outfit called Air Condition and, after SC, lots of great projects, gigs and solo stuff. IMHO the most important bassist in Polish fusion. Just listen to this performance by, mentioned earlier, Air Condition with Namysłowski:

One word of explaination about String Connection album name. As you might notice, there is no such word in English as "Workoholic". "Workaholic" yes, not "Workoholic". Krzesimir Dębski explained in one of his interviews, that he made that word up - there was a trend is polish jazz then to do such things. He wanted to join "work" with "alcoholic", as he considered himself to be addicted to work (if somebody plays rehearsals at 4 a.m., like Dębski did in early stage of SC era, should be IMHO considered workaholic) and didn't know that very similar word already exists. That's why there is a "typo" in the album title.

By Brian The Fire

Track listing:
"Bokra" (K. Dębski) – 7:10
"Cantabile in H-Moll" (K. Dębski) – 6:00
"Kill the Raven" (J. Skowron) – 3:48
"Quasi String Waltz" (K. Dębski) – 3:20
"Workoholic" (K. Dębski) – 4:32
"Seekuh" (K. Ścierański) – 3:10
"Primary" (J. Skowron) – 5:10
"Gutan Dance" (K. Dębski) – 5:30

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