środa, 31 października 2012

Iiro Rantala - My History Of Jazz (2012)

Iiro Rantala - piano

Lars Danielsson - bass & cello
Morten Lund - drums
Adam Baldych - violin

My History Of Jazz (2012)

That old discussion has broken out again: What is jazz? Who does it belong to? Where does it begin? The latter of these questions is at least not an issue for the Finnish pianist Iiro Rantala: "Johann Sebastian Bach and his music came into my life when I was six." So it comes as no surprise that Bach ties up his new ACT album "My History Of Jazz" - Rantala's personal history of the music that captivated him when he was 13 is embedded in the classically rendered aria: "Ever since then I always wanted to become an improviser, composer, stage performer and bandleader". A universal concept shown on the five greatly varied improvisations on the Goldberg Variations, upon which Rantala threads the album like a string of pearls.

“My History Of Jazz" is the logical counterpart to Rantala's ACT debut "Lost Heroes", on which he built a unique personal monument to past musical paragons and kindred spirits – so unique, in fact, that it won him Germany’s most important music awards, the “Echo Jazz” and the annual “German Record Critics Award”, amongst others. There too, the Finnish classical composers Jean Sibelius and Pekka Pohjola were of course also among the inspirations, as were the entirely dissimilar jazz piano legends Art Tatum, Erroll Garner and Michel Petrucciani. This time, great composers find their way into Rantala's kingdom, like George Gershwin ("Liza"), Kurt Weill ("September Song"), Duke Ellington and his valve trombonist Juan Tizol ("Caravan"), Thelonious Monk ("Eronel") and the Swedish cool jazz saxophonist Lars Gullin ("Danny’s Dream").

With "My History Of Jazz" Rantala places himself at the head of a new pianist generation that liberates itself from the inflated cult of the "all new" and instead returns to build on the old jazz tradition of studying the great inventors of the genre, of admiring them and of using them for one's own sound. "The great thing about being a musician is that you don't have to invent everything yourself," Rantala says. "You can listen to the people who were there before you and learn from them. Many people ask me what my influences are, who I like and who I've arranged for myself. I've always been very open-minded about that."

The five Rantala compositions on “My History of Jazz” are perhaps the hardest to get out of your head. Whether reanimating the romantic jazz tradition in "Americans In Paris" – which itself is based on the German and French Impressionists – or whether breaking down the swingbob rhythmic from hot to modern jazz as in "Bob Hardy"; whether he gives his minimalistic answer to the Nordic jazz revolution of recent years in the stirring "Smoothie", which is perhaps the catchiest tune on the album, or whether he makes his contribution to the escapist piano solos of the moment with "What Comes Up, Must Come Down"; even when he embraces pop with "Uplift".

Rantala always impressively demonstrates that he is a talented stylist, one who breaks down styles and reconstitutes them – borne by unrivalled technology. And that with an unprecedented versatility that he explains as follows: "I was never devoted to blues piano or what people call "mainstream jazz". That is why that is missing on "my history of jazz". Apart from that I don't think anybody can complain about a lack of stylistic variety on the album: There's baroque, ragtime, bebop and swing to be heard on it, Scandinavian melancholia, ballads with a French character, fusion, smooth jazz and even tango."

For this unique mix of various moods, focused entirely on melodies, Rantala found congenial comrades-in-arms: the delicate Danish drummer Morten Lund, who has proven his extensive understanding of jazz with, for example, Italians like Enrico Rava, Paolo Fresu and Stefano Bollani. Then there is the bassist, cellist and ACT star Lars Danielsson, who brings an unmistakable voice to the strings. And finally the most recent ACT discovery Adam Baldych, the violinist with not only classical training but also perhaps the biggest variety of tone qualities and the strongest expressiveness that jazz has ever had – just lend an ear to his plucked intro to "Smoothie".

For piano enthusiasts it may be a bonus that Rantala makes use of two other, fantastic pianos on this album, alongside the Steinway from Tia Dia Studios in Sweden's Mölnlycke: "September Song" resounds from Alfred Brendel's Steinway D, "Caravan" from the Bösendorfer Imperial from the Montreux Jazz Festival. That too awakens associations, and so Rantala's "my history of jazz" can be rounded off as one man's response to the much-discussed questions of the time: When a creative spirit condenses the history of music into one moment with outstanding mastery of his instrument, jazz can be the new classical.

source: ACT press release

01 Aria / Goldberg Variation No. I 4:42
02 Liza (George Gershwin) 2:55
03 Goldberg Improvisation II 0:52
04 Caravan (Juan Tizol) 6:55
05 Eronel (Thelonious Monk) 4:18
06 Goldberg Improvisation III 1:06
07 Americans In Paris 4:30
08 Bob Hardy 4:36
09 Goldberg Improvisation IV 1:27
10 September Song (Kurt Weill) 3:49
11 Danny’s Dream (Lars Gullin) 5:06
12 Goldberg Improvisation V 1:29
13 Smoothie 4:35
14 Goldberg Improvisation VI 2:44
15 What Comes Up, Must Come Down 4:34
16 Uplift 4:29
17 Aria 2:22

Premiere of "When Where" by Jerzy Milian annouced for 8th December 2012!!!

15 rare and unpublished tracks from one of Poland’s seminal jazz musicians. Upbeat grooves, dreamy bossa novas plus some fine easy listening tunes. Fiery trumpets, sweet saxophones and witty vibraphone solos – all this and more encompassed in fifteen short musical forms recorded with Günther Gollasch’s big band throughout the 1970s.

The signature sound of Jerzy Milian’s vibraphone (heard most notably in the recordings of Krzysztof Komeda and Jan Ptaszyn Wróblewski) has managed to grasp the attention of jazz devotees all over the globe for nearly half a century. Yet Milian is also an esteemed composer and an arranger of skill and imagination whose talent and ingenuity were recognised by many, including the Jazzanova collective. While the artist’s solo discography is rather scant, all of his releases are much sought for (and even more paid for!). The „Jerzy Milian Tapes” series will feature a profusion of lost and unreleased recordings, all retaining a strong flavour of many different shades of jazz. And yes, it was all written by the man alone!

The tracks have been exquisitely remastered and are accompanied by a lavish booklet featuring previously unseen photos and the artist’s amusing reminiscences (also in English). A must-have for all the fans of the Polish jazz and big band grooves!

source: GAD Records

wtorek, 30 października 2012

Jazz and Experimental Music From Poland in the UK!!!

Following its critically acclaimed launch last year, Jazz and Experimental Music from Poland returns to present the next generation of Polish contemporary music to London audiences. Taking place at various venues in north and east London the festival showcases groundbreaking acts producing challenging, experimental and improvised music. This year’s programme celebrates artistic collaboration across jazz, classical and improvised music with new commissions plus workshops, residencies, soundwalks, talks, field recording sessions and an exhibition.

The festival aims to bring inspiring experimental music from Poland to new audiences as well as challenging established fans with innovative new approaches. This intensive four-day music experience begins at The Forge with Postatemczak/Kusiolek, whose performances straddle jazz, folk and beyond on accordion and saxophone. The second part of the evening will present a performance by Vocal Constructivists and their unique interpretation of Boguslaw Schaeffer’s graphic scores plus a new commission from outstanding composer Jan Duszynski.

The festival continues with a night of improvisation at the Vortex with percussionist Hubert Zemler’s performing his latest album Moped followed by Rafal Mazur’s acoustic bass guitar solo performance and Marcin Masecki on solo piano and harpsichord. As part of the festival’s collaboration between the UK and Poland the evening finishes with a performance by hot young UK vibes player Jim Hart.

The Queen of Hoxton plays host to the superb Paris Tetris, one of the most exciting bands to come out of Poland who combine avant art pop with modern underground genres as guitar noise and a generous dose of humour. Expect music with an affinity to The Pixies, The Ex, Tom Waits, Klaus Nomi, Micachu and the Shapes, Deerhoof and Angelo Badalamenti's collaboration with David Lynch...

The Festival closes at the brand new venue The Hackney Cut with a performance by Kacper Ziemianin, Patrick Farmer and Krzysztof Topolski. The performance is a result of a long-term collaboration responding to the phenomena of wild, or absent, sound in urban areas of London and Tricity (Poland). The artists have studied the diverse social and natural aspects of each metropolis through sound in order to develop new understandings of both environments. (...) The project also involves the creation of a sound installation that will be accompanied by learning and participation events including workshops, soundwalks, artist talks that will happen during and shortly after the festival. This will be followed by Levity; “At first glance, a classic jazz trio, after first listening something completely opposite - it’s the hottest and most unpredictable „trademark” on our national improvisational playground.” Kajetan Prochyra (www.jazzarium.pl) 

Jazz and Experimental Music From Poland 2012 is funded by Arts Council England, Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, and Polish Cultural Institute in London.  Produced by Deconstruction Project a non-profit arts organisation that promotes Polish contemporary culture in UK.


SUNDAY 25.11.2012
The Forge, 7.30pm

Paweł Postaremczak (saxophones)  / Robert Kusiołek (accordion)
Vocal Constructivists – choir a capella

MONDAY 26.11.2012
Vortex Jazz Club, 7.30pm

Hubert Zelmer – solo percussion
Rafał Mazur  - solo bass
Marcin Masecki – solo piano and harpsichord
Jim Hart – solo vibraphone

TUESDAY 27.11.2012
Queen of Hoxton, 7.30pm

Paris Tetris - band

WEDNESDAY 28.11.2012
The Hackney Cut, 7.30pm

Patrick Farmer/Krzysztof Topolski/Kacper Ziemianin
Levity - band

poniedziałek, 29 października 2012

Imagination Quartet – Imagination Quartet (2011)

Michal Soltan - guitar
Damian Pinkowski - saxophone
Dariusz Switalski - bass
Maciej Dziedzic - drums


By Adam Baruch

This is the excellent eponymous debut album by the young Polish Jazz-Rock / Fusion group Imagination Quartet, which comprises of guitarist Michal Soltan, saxophonist Damian Pinkowski, bassist Dariusz Switalski and drummer Maciej Dziedzic. The album includes eleven original compositions, seven by Soltan, two by Dziedzic, one co-composed by these two and one credited to the entire quartet.

The group's music is an interesting mixture of Fusion and Modern Jazz, which allows for a wider degree of freedom in the improvisation than the rigid constraints of straight-forward Fusion. As a result the album is full of surprisingly interesting moments and unexpected ventures. In spite of the fact that these are young and relatively inexperienced musicians, the level of performance and stylistic sophistication is quite surprising. That, combined with some first-rate compositions and the youthful vigor turns this album into a most pleasurable listening experience. As usual, most of the solo performances are by the two front-men (guitar and sax), but the members of the rhythm section get some splendid opportunities to shine as well.

As far as debut albums go, this is definitely a very promising one, which will hopefully be followed by more mature statements on the future. Judging by the overall excellent level of this release, Imagination Quartet has all the necessary ingredients to make things happen.

This album is recommended to all Fusion fans, which are open-minded enough to accept a different approach to the genre, which digs deeper than most contemporary releases on the scene. Definitely worth investigation!

Leszek Kulakowski – Piano Concerto / Sketches For Jazz Trio & Symphony Orchestra (2012)

Leszek Kulakowski - piano / composer
Bogdan Kulakowski - piano
Piotr Kulakowski - bass
Jacek Pelc - drums

Baltic Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra
Szymon Bywalec - conductor

DUX 0387

By Adam Baruch

Polish pianist / composer Leszek Kulakowski is undoubtedly one of his country's most idiosyncratic musical personalities, spearheading and representing the continuous love affair between Jazz and Classical music in his country. Considering the fact that most Polish Jazz musicians are graduates of musical academic institutions, some of them with Classical as well as Jazz studies behind them, it is hardly surprising that the amalgamation of these two genres happens quite often on the Polish scene. Some Polish Jazz musicians play their interpretations of Classical compositions, most often those by the Polish pianist / composer Frederic Chopin; others utilize Classical music methods, devices and techniques in their Jazz compositions; and yet others compose large scale compositions, often involving entire symphonic orchestras, like the music by Kulakowski included herein.

This album includes two separate works by Kulakowski, both involving piano and a symphony orchestra: his "Piano Concerto" and the "Sketches For Jazz Trio & Symphony Orchestra". The piano concerto is performed by his brother Bogdan Kulakowski as the soloist and the sketches are performed by a piano trio, this time with the composer in the piano chair, with bassist Piotr Kulakowski and drummer Jacek Pelc. Both works are performed with the Baltic Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra in Gdansk conducted by Szymon Bywalec. The music was recorded live at the Baltic Philharmonic in Gdansk during the Komeda Jazz Festival.

Although this is by far not the first attempt of its kind to merge Jazz and Classical music, the music on this album is quite surprising, principally as far as the attempt to create a bona fide Classical composition, especially in the case of the piano concerto, rather than a more "entertaining" mixture of the genres, which could be much more accessible to the average listener. There have been very few attempts to compose a piano concerto, soaked with Jazz undertones and yet so typically Classical in approach and structure. The obvious example of George Gershwin's Piano Concerto in F (and his other works) comes to mind immediately, not suggesting any direct links between these works, but as a point of reference. The composer seems certainly to be able to create a fully organic, although stylistically retrograde, piece of Classical music, which is moving and aesthetically fulfilling. The Jazz citations, chords and references will be of course more obvious to listeners with a Jazz background rather than to those with a strict Classical one, but both should be able to immensely enjoy the music.

The sketches are definitely more "entertaining", with easily recognizable melody lines and fine lyrical atmosphere, lush string accompaniment and nice orchestral "outbursts" always in the right places. This is an elegant and intelligent piece of music, and although less original than the piano concerto, it has its own merits, especially the wonderful balance and integration between the trio and the orchestra, which is usually the weakest link of this type of musical encounters.

The performances are quite excellent, both those by the soloists and by the orchestra. The live recording is somewhat mushy and lacking definition, but mostly well balanced, but that is a matter for fineschmeckers to deliberate upon; most listeners should be utterly satisfied with the sonic quality, on top of their admiration of the musical contents.

This album is an excellent testimony as to the versatility, quality and artistic ability of the Polish Jazz scene, which has truly very little competition elsewhere. Of course it is another superb addition to the musical legacy of Leszek Kulakowski, who is surely about to take all his admirers by surprise again sometime in the near future. Kudos Maestro!

niedziela, 28 października 2012

Walter Norris & Leszek Możdżer - The Last Set – Live at the A-Trane (2012)

Walter Norris & Leszek Możdżer

Walter Norris - piano
Leszek Możdżer - piano

The Last Set – Live at the A-Trane (2012)

The American pianist Walter Norris (1931-2011) ranks among the great but quiet heroes of his art. Before his death in 2011, he recorded a magical concert with the star pianist of Polish jazz, Leszek Możdżer, at the Berlin jazz club “A-Trane” on two separate pianos. It remains the last recording of Walter Norris and to pay tribute to this outstanding artist, a year on from his passing ACT releases The Last Set – Live at the A-Trane.

It was in Berlin where Walter Norris first met Leszek Możdżer who recollects, It was in the 90’s and I was still a teenager when I listened to the music of Walter Norris for the first time at a friend’s flat in Berlin. I was fascinated by the intensity and originality of Walter’s playing from the first moment on and ten years later he came to a concert of mine at the Berlin Polish Institute. We quickly got to know each other and I was deeply impressed by his personality, openness and helpfulness.

Możdżer then suggested Norris and him collaborate for a couple of concerts in Berlin and Poland. They developed a concept, rehearsed together and, on 2nd November 2008, played live for the first time on two pianos at the Berlin jazz club A-Trane, a place where Walter was a regular musical guest. The concert became one of these rare, great experiences for everyone involved – full of true music, deep but making everyone smile with bliss at the same time. Możdżer recalls. The concert remained their only collaboration: On the night of October 29, 2011, Walter Norris died in his home in Berlin at the age of 79.

In the words of Leszek Możdżer, Walter didn’t have a big career, he just played music. He was a true artist, though he often shone in the background, and it is about time someone drew attention to him. ‘The Last Set’ – Live at the A-Trane is the impressive and worthy legacy of a unique musician full of curiosity, versatility, persuasiveness, a strong attitude and technical brilliance.

source: ACT (press release)

1. Tactics, Leszek Możdżer
2 . From Another Star, Walter Norris
3. Head Set Trance, Leszek Możdżer
4. Reflective, Walter Norris
5. Spider Web, Aladar Pege
6. Nefertiti, Wayne Shorter
7. Postscript Blues, Walter Norris

Pure Phase Ensemble - Live at SpaceFest! (2012)

Pure Phase Ensemble

Raymond Dickaty (musical director) - tenor sax, flute
Karol Schwarz - guitar, vocal, synthesizers
Jaime Harding - lead vocals
Joanna Kuźma - lead & backing vocals, tambourine
Piotr Pawlak - guitar
Antoni Budziński - guitar
Borys Kossakowski - Crumar keyboard, guitar
Artur Tobolski - bass guitar
Kamil Szuszkiewicz - trumpet
Tomasz Gadecki - baritone sax
Tomasz Żukowski - drums, percussion
Michał Goran Miegoń - electronic beats (synthesizers), guitar
Jachi - analogue synthesizers support

Live at SpaceFest! (2012)

By Maciej Nowotny

I REALLY wonder what made so many of my colleagues journalists and critics to universally praise such a horrible fad as this record is! It can be described in just five words: a poor imitation of U2. Thanks mainly to British vocalist Jaime Harding who ridicoulously imitates Bono. Polish (mainly) instrumental support does a bit better though I MUST ask what the artists of caliber of Kamil Szuszkiewicz or Tomek Gadecki are doing on this catastrophic session? Guys, you should be more careful when selecting projects. Noblesse oblige! You cannot participate in something so utterly hopeless as people might start to think that you are equally deaf as its protagonists...

LXMP & Kazuhisa Uchihashi - Broken Strings (2012); LXMP & Chad Popple - Lost Tuba (2012)

OK, here in Poland I am kind of known for my inclination towards free jazz. Not only that! I am often despised for embracing sometimes too eagerly anything which is surprising, forward-thinking and creative. Yet, it doesn't mean that I will buy ANYTHING which is wrapped-up as modern, improvised music. Unfortunately most of it is simply bad or even very bad. To say the truth it is much more bad music in so-called avantgarde than in mainstream. These days it is really difficult to find completely hopeless mainstream album. But with new things critics and audience often feel awkward about delivering harsh judgements. 

I am less cautious and I want to say openly: both these records are total artistic failure. There is nothing in this music but chaos. There is no idea, no coherence and no skills. I am VERY disappointed especially because of pianist Piotr Zabrodzki. He is best known from very good avant pop band called Baaba (check "Disco Externo"). But I liked him the most from small niche projects like excellent "Nemanga" with tubist Zdzisław Piernik or amazing "Trylobit" in duo with Artur Lawrenz.

Music on these two albums (being parts of even larger project... God saves us!!!) is taking an aesthetique from punk rock and pretends to be free in spirit but in fact it is just idealess cacophony. There was a lot of noise on above mentioned previous projects by Zabrodzki too but I was hoping he will develop his musical language and be able to deliver some original message. Nothing like this happened on these two CDs. Just more banging, more mindless hitting on drum set (the only thing in which Macio Moretti excels). If that is the direction in which LXMP is driving, this is LAST trip I wanted to make with them...

LXMP & Kazuhisa Uchihashi

Kazuhisa Uchihashi - guitar
Piotr Zabrodzki - bass
Macio Moretti - drums

Broken Strings (2012)

LXMP & Chad Popple 

Chad Popple - drums/vibraphone
Piotr Zabrodzki - bass
Macio Moretti - drums 

 Lost Tuba (2012)

sobota, 27 października 2012

Mud Cavaliers & The International School Of Traditional Music Ensemble - Scenes Of Infinity (2012)

Mud Cavaliers & The International School Of Traditional Music Ensemble 

Kawalerowie Błotni & Zespół Międzynarodowej Szkoły Muzyki Tradycyjnej 

Krzysztof Knittel – composer and instrumentalist (electronic instruments),
Jerzy Kornowicz – composer and pianist,
Ryszard Latecki – alternative improviser - trumpeter,
Mieczysław Litwiński – composer, multi-instrumentalist and singer,
Tadeusz Sudnik – improviser (electronic instruments),
Tadeusz Wielecki - composer and double bassist.

Scenes Of Infinity (2012)

Sceny z bezkresu (2012)

By Maciej Nowotny

If we look at the present state of music which was once called "jazz" we come to the conclusion that its most vital elements are spontaneity and freedom expressing itself in improvisation. Since we find this element not only if jazz but also in folk music and, surprisingly, in contemporary classical music, all these genres more and more blend together creating one music of OUR time. This CD is based on Polish folk but it utilizes all kinds of modern tools to make it sound fresh and unexpected. It is a certain surprise how well it succeeds in this task. Surprise because young Polish musicians rather seldom dare take on Polish folk in such a forward-thinking and unorthodox manner. 

The ensemble named Kawalerowie Błotni (Mud Cavaliers) dates back to 2001 when it was founded on the initiative of Jerzy Kornowicz. Apart from the founder it now comprises Krzysztof Knittel, Ryszard Latecki, Mieczysław Litwiński, Tadeusz Sudnik and Tadeusz Wielecki - these guys has very mixed background. Most of them have some some experience in composition (Knittel being best known of all of them) but they are also excellent classical music instrumentalists and some of them are connected to jazz like for example Tadeusz Sudnik who is known from cooperation with Tomasz Stańko (check "Live At Montreux" or "Peyotl").

At the and of the day what we got here are old Polish folk songs transformed with refined tools of modern classical music enlivened with techniques and attitudes of free jazz. It is truly amazing that out of such an entangled background music so coherent and yet so fresh emerged! I can recommended it to anyone who looks in music for something creative and yet unheard. From this point of view it is definitely brilliant stuff...

Finally let me add that "Scenes Of Infinity" were commisionad by the famous International Festival of Contemporary Music – Warsaw Autumn and was record in collaboration with the International School of Traditional Music Ensemble based in Lublin and formed in 1991 by Jan Bernard and Monika Mamińska. Since then it is contribuiting to revival of musical inheretince of the Kresy (Eastern Poland, Belarus, Ukraine and Russia).

Atom String Quartet - Places (Kayax, 2012) by Steve Mossberg

Atom String Quartet

Dawid Lubowicz - violin
Mateusz Smoczyński - violin
Michał Zaborski - viola
Krzysztof Lenczowski - cello

Places (Kayax, 2012)

By Steve Mossberg

As players from classical backgrounds become more skilled improvisers, listeners have the great fortune of hearing jazz played using a wider range of instruments. Thanks to the innovations of John Zorn’s small string groups and swinging quartets from Turtle Island to Radio String Quartet Vienna, the days of an improvising string quartet as an oddity are past. On its latest release “Places” the young Polish Atom String Quartet gets a chance to add another chapter to the jazz string story.

 The good news is that the Atom boys play their pants off. Indeed, all the elements of a top-tier classical string quartet are there. The ensemble sound is big and rich, the rhythmic connections and phrasing are in perfect sync, everybody plays with light speed lyricism, and they’ve got intonation and dynamic shading most young groups would kill for. Likewise, there are no technical flaws in the improvisation department, with David Lubowicz regularly showing impressive runs in the 70s Jean-Luc Ponty style and Krzysztof Lenczowki playing cello basslines and solos with rhythmic and motivic invention on tracks like “Fade Out” and “Irish Pub.”

The bad news is that transferring the jazz sound to string quartet is no longer an innovative act in itself, and while the album often sounds good, it rarely stretches into the unknown or shows much stylistic individuality. We’ve come along way from the eighties and Kronos Quartet’s pubescent noodling over stiff blues charts, but its entirely expected that a string group can write and play well at this point. The surprises on “Places” come in the clever arrangements on the aforementioned “Irish Pub,” and slick classical/world fusion on “Song For Mario” and the cleverly written “Fugato & Allegrina.” Aside from these catchy melodic moments, there’s not a lot of the compositional or improvisational risk taking that are so important in contemporary jazz.

The group generally manages to avoid clichés as they try their hands at many different jazz angles, but they fall into a pit on “LaTina.” The idea of throwing a salsa or Brazilian feel in on a tune with a Spanish pun in the name has been played out since the early sixties, and when the montuno feel as stiff as it is here, it’s better avoided. Likewise, the cover of Chick Corea’s “Spain” is a real miss, capturing neither the lyricism of Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez” or the composer’s drive and rhythmic brinkmanship.

Nonetheless, “Places” is a solid jazz record, played by excellent musicians. If these guys were a typical straight-ahead quartet it would be pleasing and proficient, and it probably catches the ear a bit more due to its instrumentation. The question is, how can the Atom String Quartet step beyond the impressive string group level and into the realm of jazz greatness?

Good record.

Track listing:
1. Na Siedem (Dawid Lubowicz) 5:35
2. Irish Pub (Krzysztof Lenczowski) 5:13
3. Iława (Krzysztof Lenczowski) 7:28
4. Fugato & Allegrina (Krzysztof Lenczowski/Mateusz Smoczyński) 6:30
5. Too Late (Michał Zaborski) 6:40
6. LaTina (Krzysztof Lenczowski) 3:45
7. Spain (Chick Corea arr. Krzysztof Lenczowski) 5:29
8. Song for Mario (Krzysztof Lenczowski) 6:12
9. Zakopane (Mateusz Smoczyński) 7:27
10. Fade Out (Michał Zaborski) 5:42

piątek, 26 października 2012

Janusz Zdunek / Marienburg – Miasto Nic (2008)

Janusz Zdunek - trumpet
Mariusz Godzina - bass clarinet
Ireneusz Kaczmar - bass
Rafal Baca - drums

OKNO 102

By Adam Baruch

This is the 2nd album by Polish trumpeter / keyboardist / composer Janusz Zdunek and his ensemble Marienburg, which usually includes bassist Ireneusz Kaczmar and drummer Rafal Baca, but here also includes the bass clarinet player Mariusz Godzina. The seven tracks on the album were all composed by Zdunek.

Faithfull to the principles of the Yass movement, which flourished in Poland in the 1990s and still has a significant following today, Zdunek creates instrumental music which mixes elements of Jazz, Rock and other genres, which serve as a foundation for expanded improvisation, which in turn is kept well within the basic melody lines and original chord changes. The rhythmic patters are often funky and even danceable (well, depending of how many substances were consumed) but always stable and repetitive, with minimal, if any, change within one particular tune. The intrinsic tension between the rigid framework and the improvised motifs is basically what makes this music tick.

Zdunek is obviously a very proficient trumpeter and his technical skills are remarkable, but this kind of music makes it difficult to fully appreciate them. This music is more about atmosphere and ambience than outward expression, and should be accepted for what it is.

This kind of music usually divides the audiences into the love it / hate it camps with very few listeners left in the limbo, which is perfectly fine. So if you know this music and belong to any of the a.m. crowds, there is little that can be added here. If you don't know this music, you owe it to yourself to try it out, in case it's exactly what the doctor prescribed in your case.

Piotr Lemanczyk – Follow The Soul (2003)

Piotr Lemanczyk - bass
Janusz Muniak - saxophone
Przemek Dyakowski - saxophone
Wojciech Staroniewicz - saxophone
Maciej Sikala - saxophone
Dariusz Herbasz - saxophone
Maciej Grzywacz - guitar
Dominik Bukowski - vibraphone
Tomasz Sowinski - drums


By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album as a leader by Polish Jazz bassist / composer Piotr Lemanczyk. It was recorded by several different lineups, mostly quartets, with the following participants: saxophonists Janusz Muniak, Przemek Dyakowski, Wojciech Staroniewicz, Maciej Sikala and Dariusz Herbosz, guitarist Maciej Grzywacz, vibraphonist Dominik Bukowski and drummer Tomasz Sowinski. Of the seven tracks on the album, six are original compositions by Lemanczyk and one is a standard.

The music is kept well within the modern Jazz mainstream, but the excellent compositions and performances create a superb piece of Jazz music, which should satisfy every sensitive listener. The use of the vibraphone instead of the usual piano gives the entire recording a "cool" ambience, which suits the music perfectly. The leader gets several solo spots, which emphasize his beautiful tone and sensitivity, rather than needless pyrotechnics.

As usual with Polish Jazz albums, the music is the center of the attention, in spite of the truly excellent playing, which is beyond reproach from start to finish. The melodic content and the rhythmic structures are simply incredible and a source of real joy.

Overall this album is a perfect example of what mainstream Jazz is all about and should be greatly enjoyed by any Jazz connoisseur anywhere in the world. Highly recommended!

Janusz Zdunek / 4 Syfon – Baterie (2001)

Janusz Zdunek - trumpet
Tomasz Glazik - saxophone
Wladyslaw Refling - bass
Jacek Buhl - drums
Krzysztof Gruse - vocals


By Adam Baruch

This is the 3rd album by Polish Jazz trumpeter / composer Janusz Zdunek and his quartet called 4 Syfon, which also included saxophonist Tomasz Glazik, bassist Wladyslaw Refling and drummer Jacek Buhl. Of the fifteen relatively short tracks on this album, six were composed by Zdunek, three by Buhl, another three (or in fact one repeated three times) by guest vocalist Krzysztof Gruse, one by Refling, one is a folk tune and the remaining one is by Krzysztof Komeda, the Godfather of Polish Jazz.

Although recorded after the heyday of the Polish Yass movement, which happened in the late 1990s, Zdunek continues the nonchalant, almost Punk attitude towards Jazz on this album. Based on simple, repetitive rhythm patterns, which originate mostly in Rock, the melody and the improvisation is played on top, sometimes by one instrument and sometimes by both soloists. A few tracks are pretty "free" (written, not surprisingly by Buhl, who would be drawn towards the Free Jazz movement later on in his career), but they are definitely exceptions.

The group's treatment of the Komeda tune is perhaps the most typical example of the idea behind this music; rhythmic simplicity and improvisation on top, with some Rap elements and overall atmosphere of "we do our thing and don't give a fuck what you think about it". Strangely enough it works just fine. It's pretty obvious that these are greatly talented musicians, trying very hard not to show it.

Over a decade after it was recorded, this music definitely lost some of its initial innovative approach and edge, but most of it still sounds pretty cool today. Not for everybody, but there are enough weirdoes out there to enjoy this stuff immensely forever.

Piotr Baron – Jazz At Prague Castle (2012)

Piotr Baron - saxophone
Adam Milwiw-Baron - trumpet
Dominik Wania - piano
Maciej Adamczak - bass
Przemyslaw Jarosz - drums


By Adam Baruch

This album presents a live recording by the great Polish Jazz saxophonist / composer Piotr Baron and his quintet, which also includes trumpeter Adam Milwiw-Baron (his son), pianist Dominik Wania, bassist Maciej Adamczak and drummer Przemyslaw Jarosz. The music was recorded at the beautiful Prague Castle, which holds Jazz concerts of the highest standard, which are also recorded and released on CD by the Czech Multisonic label. The album includes only three expanded performances, two composed by Baron (both appeared on his superb last album "Kaddish") and one is an arrangement of a 14th century Polish Easter song. Two of the tracks are almost 30 minutes long and the third is almost 20 minutes long.

The concert in introduced by the Czech President Vaclav Klaus, who personally opens all the Jazz venues at the Castle – a lesson to be studied by all Presidents - in which he talks about the meeting between him and Piotr Baron, which led to the invitation to play at the Castle, and the special relationship between the Czech and Polish Jazz scenes over the years – a subject worthy of a book by itself.

The music is deeply spiritual, as is all music made by Baron, reflecting his profoundly personal relation with belief (and not religion, as Baron surely demonstrates a cross-religion / one God approach). Accepting the model (spiritually and musically) of the great Godfather of spiritual Jazz, John Coltrane, Baron develops his music very much in the same direction, but uses his very own language and cultural affiliations, with his Polish roots being openly noticeable.

This is Jazz with a true capital J, music of the highest caliber, which penetrates the listener's heart and shakes his soul. It is absorbing and captivating, breathtakingly beautiful and intellectually intriguing, all at once. There is very little music of such quality being made these days, so this is even more impressive.

Pianist Dominik Wania, who is definitely one of the best Polish Jazz pianists of the young generation, plays some amazing music here and I'm glad that Baron recognized his qualities and allowed him so much space and opportunity to express his amazing talent. But of course all these musicians play divinely, with the leader magically applying his charm, even when not playing.

This music is way beyond recommendation – it is simply a crying shame that every true Jazz lover will probably not have an opportunity to immerse in its magic. If you can, count yourself lucky and blessed!

Side Note: This album is a part of the “Jazz at the Castle” series, which presents live recordings performed at various venues inside the charming Prague Castle, the residence of the President of the Czech Republic. The series was initiated in 2004 by President Vaclav Klaus and symbolizes the respect and love of all things Cultural by the Czech People.

Aga Zaryan – Umiera Piekno (2010)

Aga Zaryan - vocals
Michal Tokaj - piano / composer
Michal Baranski - bass
Lukasz Zyta - drums

EMI  5099909494428

By Adam Baruch

This is the 3rd album by the wonderful Polish Jazz vocalist Aga Zaryan, which marks the beginning of the second phase of her career. It is dramatically different from her two preceding albums in almost every conceivable artistic aspect, retaining only her beautiful vocal expression and the profound connection to Jazz. It is the first album, which finds her singing in the Polish language, her first recording which features string ensemble arrangements, but most importantly it marks the beginning of her love affair with poetry, or more exactly the Jazz & Poetry movement, which has deep roots in the Polish Jazz legacy. All these elements were to become the characteristic features of her future recordings.

The album was recorded in the intimate piano trio setting, with pianist Michal Tokaj, who also wrote the music for all the nine songs included on the album, bassist Michal Baranski and drummer Lukasz Zyta. Some of the songs also feature subtle string arrangements, performed by an excellent large string ensemble expanded with harp and oboe. The album was recorded at the legendary Studio Tokarnia and engineered by Jan Smoczynski, and not surprisingly is simply stunning sonically.

But of course the main focus of this album is the concept behind it, which is to commemorate the tragic 1944 Warsaw Uprising during WW II, which to this day is remembered as one of Polish history's most heartbreaking and frustrating events. The album's title "Umiera Piekno" ("Beauty Is Dying" in Polish), which is also the title of one of the songs, expresses the subject matter most astutely. The lyrics to all the songs on this album are poems written by people who participated in the uprising (and in the case of poetess Krystyna Krahelska, who wrote four of the poems featured here, died while fighting), or others who wrote about the event. The subject matter is deeply moving and intrinsically painful and poignant, especially in view of the fact that the memory of the uprising was neglected and even purposely concealed by the Socialist regime. Zaryan performed the music from this album live during a special concert at the Warsaw Uprising Museum, which was broadcasted live by Polish radio and TV and amassed an incredible crowd of Warsaw's inhabitants and is viewed by many as one of the most significant artistic achievements in the country's cultural life in the last decade. It also resulted in the relatively anonymous Zaryan reaching unprecedented heights of popularity following the event.

In spite of the incredibly intense subject matter, the album turns out to be more melancholic than depressing, with the beautiful melodies and Zaryan's delicate, almost whispered vocals simply enfolding and enchanting the listener and isolating him completely from his surroundings, building gradually an intimate exchange between the singer and her audience. Zaryan is obviously a sorceress putting her magic spells to work on every possible emotional level the listener is exposing, both consciously and subconsciously. As a result the music and the performances by the singer and her cohorts amount to an unprecedented work of Art.

Listeners, who are not familiar with the polish language, need not to worry. The overall effect of this music transcends language barriers with ease and elegance and listening to this album will be a rewarding experience for any sensible human being on this planet.

Side Note: This album was originally recorded in Poland in 2007 and released the same year on an independent label. This version of the album is released on EMI in 2010, after the legendary Jazz label Blue Note (owned by EMI) signed Aga Zaryan as the first Polish Jazz artist in its roster.

czwartek, 25 października 2012

Robert Czech / Sound Smugglers – Robert Czech / Sound Smugglers (2008)

Robert Czech - keyboards
Jacek Mielcarek - saxophone
Maciej Paszek - bass
Marek Sochacki - drums
Krzysztof Scieranski - bass
Bernard Maseli - vibraphone
Marek Raduli - guitar

Karolina Glazer - vocals


By Adam Baruch

This is an album by Polish Jazz keyboardist / composer Robert Czech and his ensemble Sound Smugglers, which includes on this album as core members saxophonist Jacek Mielcarek, bassist Maciej Paszek and drummer Marek Sochacki. Many additional musicians participate as guest artists on some of the tracks, including Polish Jazz icons such as bassist Krzysztof Scieranski or vibraphonist Bernard Maseli. Czech wrote all the ten compositions included here, one of which also features vocals by Karolina Glazer.

Stylistically the music is mostly contemporary Fusion, with strong melodic statements and intervals of extended improvisations, all of which are done professionally and spotlessly. Most impressive solos are delivered by guitarist Marek Raduli and it's a pity he is not featured on more tracks. Although there are no innovations or groundbreaking statements here, this is a very well done mainstream Fusion, which should be enjoyed by all Fusion enthusiasts anywhere in the world.

This kind of music often very easily crosses over to clichés and pointless doodling, which fortunately is successfully avoided here. Therefore although on the lighter side of the Jazz spectrum, this is definitely music worthy of being listened to both for its quality and fun value.

Ireneusz Socha – Polin (2012)

Ireneusz Socha - electronics, drums
Jaroslaw Bester - bayan
Jaroslaw Lipszyc - recitation


By Adam Baruch

This album by veteran Polish avant-garde activist (drummer, vocalist, sound artists, improviser and composer) Ireneusz Socha is dedicated to the convoluted history of Jews in Poland. Since the Middle-Ages, when Jews arrived in Poland and settled there in huge numbers, they developed over the years a magnificent and thriving Jewish culture, but no less importantly they also contributed radically to the development of Polish culture. Hundreds of years of Jewish presence in Poland came abruptly to a horrific end during the Holocaust, leaving Poland almost completely Jew-Free, and burying the Jewish / Polish Culture buried under the ashes of the crematoria. The few remaining Polish Jews left Poland just a couple of decades later, during the repulsive March 1968 political upset.

Since Poland managed to free itself from the Socialist regime by the end of the 1980s, many Polish intellectuals and the tiny Jewish community still present in Poland managed to create an impressive Renaissance of interest in Jewish Culture, slowly unearthing historical evidence of Jewish Cultural life in the past and organizing Jewish Cultural life in the present, with festivals, lectures, museums and many other activities. The overall scope of these activities is quite impressive and often surprising.

The music created by Socha for this album is a collage of electronic sounds and samples, subdivided into nine chapters but playing continuously. Socha also adds some percussion sounds and bayan (type of accordion) player Jaroslaw Bester contributes some folklore-based sound layers. The poet Jaroslaw Lipszyc recites one of his poems, which becomes part of the sound collage. The numerous samples are taken from sound archives and include pre-Holocaust recordings portraying Jewish Culture and other significant sound evidence relevant to the whole project. The entire piece is only slightly over 20 minutes long, but it is very intensive and requires attentive listening.

Avant-garde music can often be dangerously close to senseless cacophony and it's really great to see that Socha's project manages to avoid this trap. It is challenging and demanding, but makes perfect sense both conceptually and sonically. This album is a worthy follow up to Socha's earlier "Sztetlach" project, which shares the same subject matter.

One can only hope that this worthy effort will be eventually discovered by as many listeners as possible!

Olbrzym i Kurdupel - Six Philosophical Games (Electric Eye, 2012) by Dirk Blasejezak

Olbrzym i Kurdupel (duo)

Marcin Bożek - bass guitar
Tomek Gadecki - tenor saxophone

Six Philosophical Games (Electric Eye, 2012)

By Dirk Blasejezak

I have to admit that I didn’t play all the philosophical games on this record … but most. If you only read the track titles - i.e. the game instructions - you most probably get the impression that it’s not meant too seriously, and I wouldn’t call those game “philosophical” either. But the whole concept of the album raises one truly serious philosophical question and that is the one regarding the role of the observer in any art and in music that of the listener in particular. Music is the most transient of arts, it only exists in the moment it’s played - so how you “consume” it makes a difference and this is what the two are probably up to with this record.

Most of the games you have already played - intentionally or not. Everybody listens to music with someone he or she knows well most of the time. And most people have already listened to music in the bath tub or a cosy armchair or danced to it - but did you try that with free jazz or any other form of improvised music? Dancing in particular is fun ...

The game I love most is their first game, although I doubt that many of the listeners are able to fulfill it. I have an e-drum kit at home where I can loop-in any music, and indeed I quite often use it exactly for this “game”. You get a deeper understanding of the music when you try to play along, to become a part of it, because you have to listen differently - is there a beat, who’s leading, what are the others doing, where is the music going, etc. So if you ever get the chance to play this game try it out!

But the music on this album is not only demanding in terms of the tasks the listener has to fulfill, it’s also demanding when it comes to the music itself. Tomasz Gadecki on the baritone saxophone and Marcin Bożek on the bass guitar play some heavy stuff here. What first hits the ear is of course the saxophone. It’s powerful with a warm note, and what separates Tomasz Gadecki from many other free jazz saxophone players is his melodic approach. Only seldom he overblows to the roof or “brötzes”, instead he uses the wide tonal range of his instrument to create appealing music - as free as it gets. 

What I miss a bit especially in the first two games is the bass. When Marcin Bożek is to be heard more in the later tracks you immediately know why these two are happy together as a duo: they accompany each other in a way you won’t achieve easily with more musicians. And one shouldn’t assume that Marcin takes the runt part because of his skills (Olbrzym i Kurdupel means Giant and Runt in Polish), his speed and variability are astonishing. And his understanding for the situation and the direction of play makes him the perfect duo partner for Tomasz Gadecki.

So if you aren’t afraid of some humour in music and like to actively listen to some nice but free music, this album is definitely worth your time! 

Video with interview:

A live recording:

Tracklisting: Game 1 play with us a drummer; Game 2 get into a hot bath and listen with your ...; Game 3 sit comfortably in a cosy armchair, let ...; Game 4 listen to the whole part after a long run; Game 5 listen with someone You know well; Game 6 let's dance solo or in pairs

wtorek, 23 października 2012

Tomasz Dabrowski – Tom Trio (2012)

Tomasz Dabrowski - trumpet
Nils Bo Davidsen - bass
Anders Mogensen - drums

ILK 193

This is the debut album as a leader by the young (28) and upcoming Polish Jazz trumpeter Tomasz Dabrowski, resident in Denmark since several years. In spite of his young age Dabrowski managed to gain quite a lot of experience and exposure, playing with many Polish and later Danish Jazz musicians and recording an impressive number of albums as co-leader and sideman. This album was recorded in the difficult trumpet trio format, with Danish bassist Nils Bo Davidsen and drummer Anders Mogensen. The music comprises of eleven original compositions, all by the leader.

The overall atmosphere of this recording is close to European Free Jazz, although the melodic motifs in most of the compositions are clearer than in most Free from recordings. The resulting music is an interesting amalgam of typical Polish melancholy and lyricism combined with the wonderful Scandinavian virtuosity of stress-free improvisation. The music is interesting, intelligent and provides an ideal vehicle for the trio to express themselves and demonstrate their individual and collective skills. The balance between the melodic content and the freedom, both harmonic and rhythmic, proves that these are both bright and experienced players.

The album is very much an ensemble effort, as all three musicians contribute equally to the result as a whole. Dabrowski plays some very tasty trumpet phrases, which are clearly influenced by the Godfather of Polish Jazz trumpet Tomasz Stanko, but manage to eschew any attempt of copying the Master, forming an individual voice, which will surely further develop in the future. The bassist is spectacular and provides not only the necessary balance and camaraderie to the other trio members, but actually drives the music forward. The level of his technical proficiency and more importantly incredible Jazz feeling is simply astounding. The drummer completes the trio, playing rather less than more, which is a commendable quality, adding some imaginative icing to the cake, staying away from boring rhythmic patterns and skillfully adding his delicate touches.

The album is definitely a first class achievement and an excellent debut effort, which does justice to the leader's abilities and hopefully will serve as an introduction to a long and successful recording career. It is unquestionably one of the best debut albums I heard this year. Now that Dabrowski got me hooked, I will eagerly await his next effort. In the meantime I can only hope that this album gets to as many listeners worldwide, as it truly deserves. Brilliant stuff!

poniedziałek, 22 października 2012

Jarek Smietana - Flowers In Mind (1995)

Jarek Smietana 

Jarek Śmietana - guitars
Andrzej Cudzich - bass
Idris Muhammad - drums

Flowers In Mind (1995)

By Maciej Nowotny

Jarek Śmietana belongs to those "greats" of Polish Jazz. He participated in some of its legendary recordings like on Zbigniew Seifert's "Kilimanjaro" (1978). He also formed his own band Extra Ball which was one of the few interesting bands in 80ties in Poland. However since then he hasn't recorded any album which would really push Polish jazz forward in any way. On the other hand he played a lot of very high quality music, keeping untouched his language as he developed it in late 70ties and 80ties. In fact he even perfected it by inviting, as one of the first in our country, significant foreign musicians to play with. Names like Eddie Henderson, Art Farmer or John Abercrombie could be mentioned here. One of those special guests I appreciate the most is the one present on this album, legendary avantgarde drummer, Idris Muhammad.

Idris Muhammad was born as Leo Morris but as many Amercian jazz musicians in 60ties decided to convert to Islam as a protest against political oppression of Black people in the US (that is at least how he saw it then). What interests us more is that he established fruitful cooperation with one of the most astonishing musician in history of jazz, and one of the most underestimated, that is with pianist Ahmad Jamal. But he played also with Andrew Hill, Pharoah Sanders and Kamal Abdul-Alim to name some of avantgarde jazz projects in which I like him the most. What is important as far as this recording is concerned he was also invited to rhythm sections by legendary jazz guitarists: George Benson and Grant Green. He is supported here on double bass by Andrzej Cudzich who was incredibly talented Polish virtuoso of this instrument who unfortunately died prematurely.

Śmietana uses well stellar support he gets as much from Muhammad as from Cudzich. His play is relaxed, articulation perfect, phrasing light as feather yet incredible expressive. His own composition are no worse than great tunes written by Charlie Parker, Jack DeJohnette, John Scofield, Sam Rivers and... Ornette Coleman. This last one perhaps being the influence of Muhammad as Śmietana rather dislike experimenting in jazz keeping mostly to mainstream. But it doesn't matter really! The playing is awesome, the program captivating, the mood high and I simply must admit that it is not only one of the best Jarek Śmietana recordings I heard but also one of the best guitar jazz albums in Polish jazz history.

1. As Good As Always (c. J. Śmietana) 5:46
2. Bloommdido (c. Ch. Parker) 4:02
3. Flowers In Mind (c. J. Śmietana) 6:40
4. Papa Daddy And Me (c. J. Dejohnette) 5:49
5. Back To The Roots (c. J. Śmietana) 6:55
6. Sometimes In Winter... (c. J. Śmietana) 7:50
7. Eisenhower (c. J. Scofield) 5:33
8. Beatrice (c. S. Rivers) 8:28
9. Blessing (c. O. Coleman) 5:12
10. Untitled Blues (c. unknown, arr.: J. Śmietana) 7:32

sobota, 20 października 2012

Gostrosta - Bum! (2012)

Gostrosta (trio)

Jacek Stromski - big drum, bamboophone, udu, gongs, sham drum, tambours
Kuba Staruszkiewicz - drums, glasses, drum machine, percussion, air
Michał Gos - drums, gongs, percussion, water strings, kalimba

Bum! (2012)

By Maciej Nowotny

This is one of the most interesting recordings in this year 2012! Three young but well known drummers from Tri-City formed this band: Michał Gos, Kuba Staruszkiewicz and Jacek Stromski. Staruszkiewicz name is perhaps most recognizable from his collaboration with Wojtek Mazolewski's Pink Freud (check for example "Monster Of Jazz") as much as in many projects by Tymon Tymański or Leszek Możdżer. Although his drumming is built upon solid rock base he is enough versatile to fit as much in avantgarde as maintream jazz or even pop music. 

Michał Gos is much more consistent and focused mainly on avant jazz. He worked a lot with musicians associated with yass movement like Jerzy Mazzoll or Olo Walicki. But his own projects are among the bravest (and the craziest!) of all music which happens to be realeased in Poland (check for example "Freeyo" or "Jebał Was pies"). Jacek Stromski is the least known of these three on our jazz scene. Up to this moment he worked mostly with rock or indie pop bands but some of them were significant like Apteka, Kury or Poganie.

But all this seems really unimportant when confronted with the music on this CD which is above all free in spirit. Rhythms as created by trio interweave each other saturating music with immense internal energy. Music is coherent and it is possible to imagine some high-octane narration which could accompany it. It certainly would be a little psychedelic story, perhaps self-ironic, at the same time fresh and easy to listen for all kind of audiences, not only focused on jazz. Creative stuff indeed!

Sample of music:

Film about how the music was created with some text spoken in Polish:

Track listing: 1. wd-40; 2. due; 3. c; 4. 4; 5. wu; 6. annapurna; 7. hanami; 8. extreme silence; 9. IX; 10 bum!

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