sobota, 27 lipca 2013

Polish Jazz 2013 Mid-Year Round-Up!!!

At the end of the year we usually provide our readers with Polish-Jazz Blog Top Ten of Best Albums in a given year (check our 2012 Top Ten list). However first half o this year 2013 was so abundant in exceptionally good albums that we decided to provide you with Mid-Year Report containing Top Five of Best Albums released in this period picked up by our regular staff. How good these six months have been for Polish jazz can be proved by significant number of equally good albums that did not find their place on these three lists. We hope they will surface on our Top Ten list which we will publish for you in December.

Tomasz Łuczak

Obara International - "Komeda"
Wacław Zimpel Quartet - "Stone Fog"
Mikrokolektyw - "Absent Minded"
Nor Cold - "Nor Cold"
Shofar - "Ha-Huncvot"

Adam Baruch

RGG - "Szymanowski"
Irek Wojtczak - "The Bees' Knees"
Kuba Stankiewicz - "Kilar"
Marek Jakubowski Trio - "My Own"
Lichtański Sound Lab - "Live"

Maciej Nowotny

czwartek, 25 lipca 2013

Obara International - Komeda (2013) *****

Obara International (band)

Maciej Obara – alto saxophone
Dominik Wania - piano
Ole Morten Vågan – double bass
Gard Nilssen – drums

Komeda (2013)

By Monika Okrój

It’s not a secret that Scandinavia has always been a fascination for Polish saxophonist Maciej Obara, especially in recent times when he started to look in his music for the "cooler means of expression". It was therefore a happy coincidence when during the Take Five: Europe meeting in 2012 his musical path crossed with two Norwegians: double bassist Ole Morten Vågan and drummer Gard Nielssen.

His decision to record the music of legendary Krzysztof Komeda seems to be natural. On the one hand Komeda is a point of reference for any jazz musician in Poland and to establish himself on our scene it is mandatory to record his music. Moreover Obara and pianist Dominik Wania were lucky to have some personal connection to Komeda as they both collaborated with Tomasz Stańko, a favourite trumpeter of Komeda, in his New Balladyna Project where they also played some of Komeda’s compositions. The same goes for the “Vikings” who were ready or even keen on to take up a role of some of such illustrious Scandinavian players like Rune Carlsson or Bernt Rosengren who used to appear on some of the most significant Komeda’s recordings.

But let’s go back to the music on this album which comprises five long up to 20-minutes tracks which nonetheless are highly expressive, keeping listener’s attention from very first to last second due to abundance of original ideas and great communication between players. The album begins with "Litania": an impressionistic introduction spreading a palette of "cool" sounds with delicate support by the rhythm section whose selectivity is striking. Dominik Wania in particular, as much here as anywhere else on this album, shows his awesome pianistic potential: his intuition, subtlety, feeling of a form and a certain kind of playfulness are simply beyond a praise.

Next "Etiudy Baletowe-Introdukcja” starts with a energetic drum solo of Gard Nilsen announcing an up-tempo character of this tune. And again our attention turns to Wania who masterfully plays with convention and texture, sounding at times with a blues roughness and occasionally giving also rhythmic puzzles to the bassist. He follows the groove by pushing himself in-between aggressive plucking of doublebass strings with surprising passages, repetitions and harmonic returns which though still firmly in the jazz tradition go beyond it at the same time. 

"Walter P-38" is a track from a film etude with the music of Komeda illustrating a detective story. The evocative leitmotif played by Obara exemplifies well his exceptional timbre and expression which astounds me throughout this album. Unlike on his other projects, especially early ones, his tone is fully controlled, aware of what his partners are doing and, the most important of all, it gained this specific, Komeda blues characteristic. Next, another movie track, is a tune from Swedish movie "Kattorna" (“The Cats”, 1965). This tune is feisty and surprisingly courageous as for theme about female love. Like actresses in this film, the music shows predator claws on misleadingly soft creatures, mixing latin rhythms with a hot African beat. Gard Nilsen now in cooperation with his compatriot create a vibrant, fiery base, reminding me of sultry duos of William Parker and Hamid Drake.

The sound of Scandinavia can also be heard in “Komeda’s Medley” featuring bits of “Cages”, “Astigmatic” and “Svantetic” compositions. They are particularly present in airy “Cages” with its unhurried saxophone theme. Then this nostalgic ballad gives place to vigorous "Astigmatic", where the rough melody quickly loops time and again and the band’s music spins like a broken record. Finally “Svantetic” comes (both tunes from the legendary album “Astigmatic”, 1965) and the music is reaching its climax in sophisticated, hardbop solos of all musicians paying their tribute to Komeda’s genius and confirming Maciej Obara’s own words - its a dream team, a powerful trampoline to the international scene. 


Litania, Etiuda Baletowa, Walter P-38, Kattorna, Cages-Astigmatic-Svantetic

poniedziałek, 22 lipca 2013

Nor Cold - Nor Cold (2013) ****

Nor Cold (band)

Olgierd Dokalski - trumpet, project concept
Wojciech Kwapisiński - guitar
Oori Shalev - drums, percussion
Zeger Vandenbussche - saxophones, clarinet, Jew's harp

Nor Cold (2013)

By Maciej Nowotny

Of all usual blah blah blah (exceptionally ill-thought and bad-written) provided to us by recording label (in this case Multikulti) only two descriptions of this music deserve to be taken seriously: "pain" and "euphoria". These may very well be keywords to describe any music aspiring to something more than just another piece of usual, overwhelming pop shit. If you are fed up with all-copying-one-after-another mainstream culture (and jazz!) and want to fly away to off-world of alternate music you should definitely reach out for this disc. Instead of a mirage of Hollywood "happy ends" it offers simply boundless sadness. Instead of popularity of mass media prostitutes of Paris Hilton or Rihanna kind, it proposes a glimpse of euphoria, of exultation, of satori.

By all this I don't want to say that it is flawless in itself. On contrary! It is much here to be improved. For example level of recording is difficult to appraise. Recording label only sent us music in mp3 which sounds played on my Marantz KI Signature Hi-Fi rather flat and lacking of space. Also, to be entirely honest, the musicians are not virtuoso or music exceptionally complicated and original. But all these imperfections are more than counterbalanced by incredible emotionalism, authenticity and spontaneity thanks to which this album by far surpasses many other CDs released in this year 2013. 

Before we move to the conclusion and usual mantra of "wholeheartedly recommended" or "must-listen" let me give you few facts about this project. Nor Cold is a collective of four musicians of which young trumpeter Olgierd Dokalski is probably the best known, at least to Polish audience. Co-founder of two interesting bands: Kirk and Daktari he is walking on free side of jazz if such a labeling has any sense at all in the beginning of XXI century. Distinctive feature of his art is continuous interest in Jewish music which is also present on this recording in delicate references to Sephardic songs of Balkan Jews. 

Another Polish musician involved in this project is guitarist Wojtek Kwapisiński who collaborated with Dokalski in Kirk and also co-created interesting ethnojazz duo Gamid Group. They are supported by Belgian saxophonist Zeger Vandenbussche and Israeli drummer Oori Shalev, currently residing in Berlin. Their input deserves as much accolade as that of Polish musicians since this music is first of all collective effort. Unlike mainstream jazz we have here no usual collection of solos and supporting rhythm section but rather well thought-out story, developing logically one piece after another. Yet, as I said before, this solid frame is filled up with emotions of such intensity that it leaves us with impression of total freedom, if not in form than at least in spirit.

All in all, this is of course "wholeheartedly recommended" and "must-listen", but on top of these so-much-worn-out adjectives there is here simply exceptional passion of artists involved in creation of this music. It made a listening to this album an experience special and rare. 

czwartek, 18 lipca 2013

Jachna/Buhl - Tapes (2013) ***1/2


Wojtek Jachna - trumpet, flugelhorn, electronics
Jacek Buhl - drums, percussion

Tapes (2013)

By Stef Gijssels

Last year I praised the Polish duo of Wojtek Jachna on trumpet and Jacek Buhl on drums for their skills, yet I thought they could do better in finding a more personal style and more coherency in their musical vision, and that's exactly how they have improved, as if they had read this blog, which of course might be the case. The only counterargument is that the music on this album contains a collection of older material, dating from 2009 and 2010.

Anyway, it is fun to listen to, innovative in its construction of multilayered sounds, with sometimes joyful trumpet phrases à la Rob Mazurek, lots of electronically distorted and looped sounds, carefully structured pieces, with the occasional high energy drumming and lots of "nu jazz" influences and sometimes weird but fun adventures in avant territory.

Despite the collection of loose recordings, the album brings a lot of variation and a strong unity of strange beauty, and since it is absolutely free, also in financial terms, the value offering is excellent. My advice for the next album (if they read this), is to ask money for the download. The music is more than worth it.

Can be downloaded from here

Maciek Pysz Trio – Insight (2013) ****

Maciek Pysz - guitar
Yuri Goloubev - bass
Asaf Sirkis - drums

33 RECORDS 231

By Adam Baruch

This is one of those unexpected pleasant surprises that arrive in my mail box from time to time, which are not only musical delights but also have a personal aspect, closing one of the infinite connections woven during my life as a Jazz activist. Maciek Pysz is a Polish guitarist / composer resident in London since 2003 and is considered as one of the most interesting upcoming players on the scene. His cohorts are Russian bassist Yuri Goloubev, a classically trained player living now in Milan, and Israeli drummer Asaf Sirkis, also resident in London, considered as one of the best players around. Of course Sirkis is one of the many "kids on the block" that grew up under my wings and received their first recording opportunity on my record label, hence I consider him as one of my "musical children" spread all over the world.

The trio performs nine original compositions, all by Pysz (one co-composed with the Italian guitarist Gianluca Corona), who was also in charge of the exquisite arrangements. The music is a wonderful amalgam of influences mixing Jazzy improvisations with multicultural backgrounds including Gypsy, Flamenco, Latin and Brazilian folklore and European Classical music. Rhythmic influences also touch upon Middle Eastern pulsations. Together these elements are wonderfully interwoven, producing a completely unique musical identity, which belongs to the guitar based Jazz-World Fusion universe pioneered by such luminaries as Al Di Meola, Ralph Towner or John McLaughlin, among others. Without any exaggeration, this music is every bit as good as the music created by these great Masters.

But the excellent compositions and arrangements are also accompanied by superb performances. All three players are obvious virtuosi, each capable of astounding performance, and when combined are capable of truly wondrous music making. Pysz has a superb technique but even more so a deep feeling. The acoustic / classical guitar laughs and weeps, switches between cheerful lightheadedness and moody melancholy. The single notes and the chords are always in harmonious relation to each other and to the two other musicians. Goloubev is already quite famous as a classical player, but his performances here show that his feel and respect for Jazz are of no lesser magnitude. Sirkis, who "holds his horses" and intelligently fits his percussive magic to the delicate acoustic surroundings, simply binds the entire musical experience into a complete and perfect artistic message.

As if all the above was not enough, the album is also superbly recorded, with an astonishing sonic ambience and dynamics of the highest quality, which turns the experience of listening to the music into a true delight. This is obviously "guitar heaven" for guitar buffs, but any true music connoisseur should find this album extraordinary in every sense. Wholeheartedly recommended!

(Editor) This album is available for purchase, among many other interesting releases, at recording label: 33 RECORDS.

piątek, 12 lipca 2013

An On Bast / Maciej Fortuna – Live (2013) ***1/2

An On Bast - electronics
Maciej Fortuna - trumpet


By Adam Baruch

This is the second album by the Polish duo, which consists of ambient / electronic music artists An On Bast (a.k.a. Anna Suda) and Jazz trumpeter / composer Maciej Fortuna. The album includes ten tracks which were composed and conceived by the duo, all recorded live on two different occasions. The last track is a tribute to the memory of the great Polish Jazz trumpeter / composer Andrzej Przybielski, who died in February 2011.

This album continues the direction set up by the duo's debut album, which combines electronic / synthesized ambient vistas with trumpet solos stating the melodic elements of the music. Although not completely innovative, this music differs from most similar projects since it involves a virtuosic player like Fortuna, who is capable of lengthy and complex improvisations, keeping a clear tone and superb fluency at all times. Although this music is not very easy to listen to, requiring maximal attention blended with fruitful imagination, it speaks to a wider population of listeners than the very limited Jazz audience. Ambient / electronic music gained quite a following in the last decades and therefore there is a good chance this music might be appealing to them as well.

Of course the trumpet parts played by Fortuna are the focus of this music, as the melodic sounds he produces are what the human ear is used to, much more so than the ambient sounds in the background. And yet an experienced listener quickly discovers the symbiotic relationship between these two layers, which enables the existence of one only in the presence of the other. The combined sound is dense, engaging and aesthetically pleasing, even at its darkest moments.

The fact that Fortuna is engaged in this project in parallel to his numerous other, mostly Jazz oriented activities proves his diversity as an artist and his open-mindedness, which is often quite limited among other players. Overall this is a project that deserves to be heard and praised for bridging the cross-genre gaps and exploring uncharted territory.

This is definitely worth investigating, especially for the more adventurous listeners, who are willing to take certain risks in order to gain new experiences.

Maciej Fortuna Trio – At Home (2013) ****

Maciej Fortuna - trumpet
Piotr Lemanczyk - bass
Krzysztof Gradziuk - drums


By Adam Baruch

This is the fourth album by the Polish Jazz trumpeter / composer Maciej Fortuna, who emerges as one of the leaders of the local scene in the second decade of the 21st Century. His prolific activity as a player and recording artist is unprecedented and his rapid development as a musician and composer, as documented by his frequent recordings, is simply astounding.

This album is a "home" recording in a trio format, with the same lineup that recorded Fortuna's previous album "Sahjia", which features the brilliant and by now veteran bassist Piotr Lemanczyk and the excellent drummer Krzysztof Gradziuk (of RGG fame). The material includes eleven original compositions, seven of which are by the leader and the remaining four (which are parts of a four-piece suite, the first of which features vocals by Marta Podulka) are credited to the trio.

Following a period of touring together, this trio is a prime example of team cooperation and collective effort, which results in the outcome being much more than a sum of its parts. One should hardly look at this music as a leader with a supporting rhythm section; on the contrary Fortuna puts his ego away in order to construct a unit, which performs as one. Obviously there is also plenty of superb soloing here, as appropriate for a Jazz recording; Lemanczyk plays way beyond a typical role required by a bassist; his lyricism and sublime feel of harmony create a whole layer of background sounds parallel to trumpet lines, Gradziuk hardly ever keeps time per se, using his kit as a melodic environment and less so as a rhythmic tool and Fortuna is of course phenomenal as a soloist, with a beautiful tone and breathtaking arpeggios. His playing is changing over time to become similar to the great Jazz trumpeters of the past, even somewhat similar to early Tomasz Stanko, but much more polished technically.

The most important characteristic of the wonderful music presented here is its minimalism and modesty. There is so much lyricism and melancholy in Fortuna's compositions that they become probably the most genuine extensions of the Polish Jazz legacy that first started in the 1960s. It's not a conscious attempt to play "retro" oriented music, au contraire it is completely up to date, and yet, at least for me, it carries on the tradition more than most other Polish Jazz ensembles do at the moment. There is also more freedom here than in Fortuna's earlier recordings, without loosing any of the coherence and clarity his music is blessed with. This melody based Free Jazz is after all the ideal mixture of everything Jazz is all about: a perfect marriage of discipline and liberty.

This is a remarkable album by all standards and it is a pleasure to follow the development of such talented Artists, who are like a tree bearing better and better fruit year after year. There is nothing else one can do but raise one's hat in salute and hope for the next harvest. God bless you guys for sharing this music with us.

środa, 10 lipca 2013

Dominik Wania Trio - Ravel (2013) ****

Dominik Wania Trio

Dominik Wania – piano
Max Mucha – bass
Dawid Fortuna – drums

Ravel (2013)

This album by a pianist Dominik Wania is nominally his debut. But in fact Wania is already fully matured artistic personality. Quick overview of recordings in which he took part in last couple of years is at the same time the testimony to stunning renaissance of Polish jazz: Piotr Baron's  "Jazz na Hrade", Maciej Obara's  "Equilibrium", Bronisław Suchanek's "Sketches In Blue" or Jacek Kochan's  “Filing the Profile” and “Man of No Words” are all creme-de-creme of jazz in Poland in recent times which are unimaginable without Dominik's creative contribution. Indeed by participation in above mentioned and other projects Wania has won such an esteem that his debut may be easily described as one of most anticipated in Polish jazz in last couple of years. 

No less promising are musicians invited by Wania to this project: drummer Dawid Fortuna and double bassist Max Mucha are among Polish top young jazz players on their respective instruments. Fortuna has become known to our audience through collaboration with the pianist Paweł Kaczmarczyk, while Mucha recorded with veteran drummer Arek Skolik, another talented youth saxophonist Jarek Bothur and in two interesting bands: New Bone and Inner Spaces. Not bad for a guy being just 22 years old...

As title suggests the CD is dedicated to Maurice Ravel. Ravel's importance for classical music far exceeds the fame of his best known composition "Bolero". He was one of so-called 'French impressionists', together with Claude Debussy and Eric Satie, who at turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries created music which, although often sophisticated, sounded deliberately rather simply, because its main goal was to speak through emotions. What is interesting in Wania approach to this material is that he carefully avoided playing this music literally as it was written by its composer. He treated material indeed very loosely, picking up scratches of melodies, harmonies but most of all emotions which Ravel strived to evoke.

The effect is extraordinary! Although recognizable Ravel, it is above all fresh and spoken in language of modern mainstream jazz. Vibrant with energy, exuberantly bop in its rhythm, it is nonetheless played with a great attention to detail and incredible technical proficiency. I must say that it is a true feast for any jazz lover who, as I am, was raised on the classical music. That's why I believe this album fully deserves to be placed among best Polish jazz recordings of year 2013 being the important part of recent movement of young jazz musicians towards re-interpreting anew classical music. In this context such powerful projects shall be mentioned as "Szymanowski" by RGG, "Polonezy" by Marcin Masecki or "Experiment: Penderecki" by Piotr Orzechowski. Clearly Dominik Wania's "Ravel" deserves  to be put among these elite albums because of originality of concept and of level of its execution.

wtorek, 9 lipca 2013

Mikrokolektyw - Absent Minded (2013) ****


Artur Majewski - trumpet, cornets, electronics
Kuba Suchar - drums, percussion, electronics

Absent Minded (2013)

By Stephan Moore

Well it's been three years since we heard the dynamic and creative duo Mikroklektyw. They have been working in various forms with their respective collaborative groups, but finally we get hear their dense, expansive imagination again on "Absent Minded".

"Absent Minded" delves deeper into the rabbit hole of sound as the duo completely restructure our thoughts on what jazz and sound sculpture can be. A slightly less emphasis on the electronics from it's predecessor,  "Revisit", Mikrokolektyw are still exploring melodies that burst out of spontaneity than structure. "Thistle Soup" and "Crazy Idea" a great sources improvisation exploding into melody before you know it. Majewski provides sharp notes that are juxtaposed to Suchar blistering pace and while at first seem completely unrelated slow unravel to showcase a beautiful picture of sound and space. "Fossil Stairway" is the one track that does hearken back to Revisit's electronic elements. A cascade of sound, almost like air raids. This, all the while, Majewski and Suchar are weaving between the noise with pattens that set a rough but fun path for the listener to follow. Fun might the other way to describe "Little Warrior" in which the tribal elements of this piece reminded me of Les Baxter, Raymond Scott, Don Cherry shoved in a room with Chris & Cosey (of Throbbing Gristle) and told to make beautiful music. This is what they might come up with. Intriguing, beat-driven, exotic and masterfully executed.

"Absent Minded" is great follow up to "Revisit". And Mikrokolektyw have shown that they are a duo with layers of ideas and will continue to challenge our conceptions. Once again, for me, they have made one the best albums of this year.

poniedziałek, 8 lipca 2013

LXMP - Back To The Future Shock (2013) ***1/2

LXMP  (duo)

Piotr Zabrodzki – Korg Mono/Poly, Korg Delta, Korg MS-20, Alesis QS6, Akai VX-73, Minimoog, Talkbox, Programming

Macio Moretti – drums, Korg MS-20, MicroKorg, Vocoder, Dutch Hardcore

Back To The Future Shock (2013) 

By Maciej Nowotny

LXMP is band consisting basically of bassist Piotr Zabrodzki and drummer Macio Moretti. But on every release they are also accompanied by a 'guest star'. On their first album "Broken Strings" they invited Japanese guitarist Kazuhisa Uchihashi, on second "Lost Tuba" - American drummer and keyboardist Chad Poppe and on third "The Posenburg Concertos" - Japanese guitarist Tabata Mitsuru.

Music of LXMP is all about the deconstruction. Deconstruction is European idea originating from analytical approach of Bacon and Descartes but in its modern form was popularized by anthropologist Claude Levi Stauss. In last century it become omnipresent being applied in philosophy, sociology, psychology and also in art: most of all in literature, painting and music. Sonorism, punctualism, dodecaphony, serialism and other similar genres can be seen as the emanation of this idea. Irrespective of all differences between them they share one common feature: they were unanimously hated by the audience which boycotted any concert hall or orchestra which dare to play it.

Eventually all this movement come down to popular music as evidenced by such projects as LXMP. But the problem with deconstruction is that it cannot stand on its own. Without some base, foundation and reference it is meaningless like bones without flesh. That is the case with first two albums by this band which I criticized thoroughly in this review. I was so discouraged by them that I passed third one but when I've seen the title of their fourth release, clearly referring to the legendary Herbie Hancock's disk from 1983, I decided to give them 'second chance'.

"The Future Shock" is one of the most famous Hancock's albums, partly due to the huge commercial success of the hit song "Rock It". The result of cooperation with Bill Laswell and bunch of other musicians it was influenced as much by pop as by funk and electronic dance music of that era. The connoisseurs of Hancock's recordings however do not value it particularly high and to be honest the time treated this album rather cruelly. But that was exactly what LXMP needed to implement their deconstruction method successfully: material was easy to transform and the language simple to distort.

The result of such a transformation turned up to be a little bit funny, perhaps odd but... fresh! Its appeal reminds me a little a charm of old Monty Python sketches. Lovely but hopelessly old school. But are we not lately kind of fascinated by old school clothes, cars, behaviors? Perhaps that is just my overstatement but is it not a respect or even love that shines through all this irony present on this album? Respect and love toward music long-forgotten, seriously outdated but in its kind perfect, composed and performed on level often unattainable in present decadent times? That's at least what I like to imagine during repeated rehearsals of this material which prove something more than pitiful waste of time as was the case with first two albums of this duo. 

Finally let me add that like on previous discs Zabrodzki/Moretti invited a guest for his recordiding in person of Thymme Jones from band called Cheer-Accident who plays drums on the title track.

1. Rockit
2. Future Shock
3. TFS
4. Earth Beat
5. Autodrive
6. Rough
7. Rockit (Mega Mix)*

sobota, 6 lipca 2013

Kapela Yanina – The Searchers For Something… (2002) ****

Janusz Yanina Iwanski - guitar
Lukasz Kluczniak - saxophone
Marcin Lamch - bass
Przemyslaw Pacan - drums


By Adam Baruch

This is the second recording by the Polish Jazz-Rock Fusion quartet Kapela Yanina led by the veteran guitarist / composer Janusz Yanina Iwanski with saxophonist Lukasz Kluczniak, bassist Marcin Lamch and drummer Przemyslaw Pacan. They perform eight compositions, six of which are originals by Iwanski, one is a group composition by all four players and the remaining one is by Krzysztof Komeda.

Stylistically and musically this album is a direct continuation of their debut effort called "2001", which was recorded a couple of years earlier. It uses the same formula of playing long and extended improvisations, with the saxophone being the leading voice, and the guitar setting up the background, playing almost ambient chords and the rhythm section supporting the free / ambient structures with steady Funk / Rock oriented pulsations. The overall effect of this music is truly unique, combining seemingly incompatible elements into one coherent whole. In comparison with the debut, this album is more open and less constrained, but of course looses the element of surprise (or rather shock) which of course every new direction, musical or otherwise, is able to achieve only once.

Listeners familiar with Polish Jazz are able to compare the version of Komeda's "Kattorna" performed here with the original recording by the composer on his legendary "Astigmatic" album, recorded 35 years earlier. Of course, depending on the listener's taste and open-mindedness the comparison might result in a verdict anywhere between sacrilegious to genius. Whatever the result, it's pretty obvious that this is simply excellent music any way one looks at it. Although roughly belonging to the Jazz-Rock Fusion genre, it goes much further beyond what is usually considered as part of that genre, adding elements of Free improvisation, Rock fierceness, Far East meditative moods and a plethora of other, probably mostly subconscious revelations.

In retrospect is clear that Kapela Yanina was one of the most interesting groups, which were active on the Polish Jazz scene over time. The two early albums and the additional album they recorded following a ten years long break, "Yanina Free Wave", all belong to the canon of Polish Jazz recordings.

This is an important piece of the puzzle, which is Polish Jazz, and anybody interested in it should definitely have this album in their collection. Apparently this album is still available and therefore I urge everybody to grab a copy ASAP, as this is definitely too good to be missed. Act now or be repentant later!

piątek, 5 lipca 2013

Kapela Yanina – 2001 (1999) ****1/2

Janusz Yanina Iwanski - guitar
Lukasz Kluczniak - saxophone
Maricn Lamch - bass
Przemyslaw Pacan - drums


By Adam Baruch

This is the debut recording by the Polish Jazz-Rock Fusion quartet Kapela Yanina led by the veteran guitarist / composer Janusz Yanina Iwanski with saxophonist Lukasz Kluczniak, bassist Marcin Lamch and drummer Przemyslaw Pacan. They perform 8 compositions, five of which are originals by Iwanski, two are group compositions by Kluczniak / Pacan / Lamch (known together as the Kapela Trio) and the remaining one is by John Coltrane.

By the turn of the Century (and the Millennium as well) Polish Jazz was entering a new and exciting period. The first decade (the 1990s) of the country's political freedom influenced Jazz potently and led to the development of the Yass phenomenon, which was primarily an expression of rebellion against tradition and destruction of limitations and formulas, which ruled previously for decades. Although aesthetically Yass was rather rough and often limited musically, its main contribution was the openness, especially among the younger Polish Jazz players, which allowed for cross genre / cross Culture exploration and experimentation.

Kapela Yanina exemplifies splendidly this new direction. Iwanski, a Blues, Rock and Jazz influenced player, manages to create a perfect new amalgam by inviting a saxophonist, who plays almost completely Free, a bassist, who is the personification of Funk and a drummer, who is steady as a Rock (pun intended). Together they are simply unstoppable and the music they create sweeps everything aside like a bulldozer. Just imagine John Coltrane and Jimmy Hendrix blowing their chops together.

Iwanski has a completely unique approach to his instrument. He plays only occasional solos, where he uses notes, but most of the time he plays chords, which are sustained, distorted and twisted and create complex, almost keyboards-like ambient background, which features the saxophonist as the main soloist. It is exceptional for a leader to give up his ego and allow someone else to play the first fiddle. Kluczniak is simply superb and plays with such confidence and fluidity, that one would never guess his age at the time this music was recorded. The fact that he remains relatively unknown to this very day is a travesty. The rhythm section is simply perfect, playing just what is right, from soft and delicate touches to a hurricane like storm at the climatic moments.

Kapela Yanina was one of the most interesting groups, which were active on the Polish Jazz scene at the time. They managed to record one more album, called "The Searchers For Something…" a couple years later and then after an almost ten years long break they reunited and recorded the excellent "Yanina Free Wave" album. The fact that all these three albums received little attention is simply beyond comprehension, as they all belong to the canon of Polish Jazz recordings.

This is an important piece of the puzzle, which is Polish Jazz, and anybody interested in it should definitely have this album in their collection. Apparently this album is still available and therefore I urge everybody to grab a copy ASAP, as this is definitely too good to be missed. Act now or be repentant later!

Zbigniew Namyslowski / Remy Filipovitch – Go! (2003) ***1/2

Zbigniew Namyslowski - saxophone
Remy Filipovitch - saxophone
Krzysztof Herdzin - piano
Olgierd Walicki - bass
Grzegorz Grzyb - drums

ALBUM 66919

By Adam Baruch

This is a recording by Polish Jazz veteran Zbigniew Namyslowski and his quartet: pianist Krzysztof Herdzin, bassist Olgierd Walicki and drummer Grzegorz Grzyb, with the Lithuanian saxophonist Remy Filipovitch as a co-leader. They perform nine original compositions, six of which are by Namyslowski and the remaining three by Filipovitch.

Although excellently played by all the musicians involved, the album brings little adventure to the listeners. Namyslowski's compositions are brilliant, but they are not new and were recorded previously on other albums. The two saxophonists cooperate very little except for a few unisono statements of the themes, soloing separately and not playing against each other or soloing together or even exchanging licks. Therefore the whole idea of a double-sax front line seems to be missed completely here.

Nevertheless this is still Namyslowski and a bunch of first-class players so the music sounds great and is a classic example of European modern mainstream Jazz at its best. With two saxophones up front the rhythm section gets naturally a bit less opportunity to shine, but Herdzin manages to squeeze in a few very nice piano solos. Walicki and Grzyb support the soloists steadfastly, as always.

Perhaps not the strongest album in Namyslowski's lifelong and legendary legacy, but then again nothing he should regret or be ashamed of. Polish Jazz fans will find this a pleasant addition to their collection.

czwartek, 4 lipca 2013

Mazolewski/Gonzalez Quintet - Shaman (2013) ****1/2

Mazolewski/Gonzalez Quintet 

Dennis Gonzalez - trumpet, cornet, mouth percussion, voices
Joanna Duda - piano
Marek Pospieszalski - tenor saxophone, alto clarinet
Wojtek Mazolewski - double bass, voices
Jerzy Rogiewicz - drums, percussion

Shaman (2013)

By Ken Shimamoto

Like Don Cherry, Dallas-based trumpeter Dennis Gonzalez's music is organic, spiritual, and cathartic. Wherever he travels, he carries with him a repertoire of tunes he's played with musicians from all over the world, along with an aura of family and community. Last year, he and Polish bassist Wojtek Mazolewski collaborated on two stellar releases, the 7-inch "Wind Streaks in Syrtis Major" and the 12-inch EP "Bandoleros en Gdansk". Now, on "Shaman", released by the new Polish label ForTune, the two men co-lead a quintet with tenorman Marek Pospieszalski (another returnee from the aforementioned dates), the astonishing pianist Joanna Duda (who plays with Mazolewski in his quintet), and drummer Jerzy Rogiewicz (from the group Levity Trio).

The program on "Shaman" consists of two compositions each by Gonzalez and Mazolewski, and two by pianist Krysztof Komeda, a pioneer of modern jazz in Poland who composed soundtracks for the films of Roman Polanski (most notably "Rosemary's Baby") and died tragically after sustaining a head injury in Los Angeles, 1968. The opening "Astigmatic" was the title track from Komeda's groundbreaking jazz album from 1965. Its opening fanfare leads into a pensive solo from Mazolewski. The horns play a mournful theme in unison over an active rhythm section, then follow it with solo statements. Pospieszalski has an acrid tone, like Archie Shepp's, and spins off ideas with drummer Rogiewicz shadowing him every step of the way. Gonzalez is always a melodist first, with his own burnished sound, but he also uses velocity to build excitement and release tension. The piece evolves into a dialogue between the horns, with wordless vocalizations slipping in as the music builds to an intense conclusion.

Duda introduces Gonzalez's "Hymn for Julius Hemphill" with a brief statement, then the composer plays the stately, leisurely-paced modal theme with counterpoint from Pospieszalski. A three-way conversation between the horns and drums ensues before Rogiewicz careens off on a solo that flows organically out of the tune's momentum. Duda's accompaniment, in tandem with Mazolewski's bass, ebbs and flows like the tide while Rogiewicz's drums dart in and out of the groove. Mazolewski's "Suite" features some AACM-like vocal-and-percussion action. In the hands of these skilled communicators, all of this material - whether it's Komeda's "Pushing the Car," from his soundtrack to Polanski's film "Cul-de-Sac", or Gonzalez's "The Matter At Hand," which the trumpeter has previously recorded with a couple of different groups - is transformed, and the performance takes on a life of its own. This is improvised music at its finest.

Jaroslaw Bothur – Lilla Chezquiz (2010)

Jarosław Bothur -saxophone
Kuba Płużek - piano
Max Mucha - bass
Grzegorz Masłowski - drums


By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by Polish Jazz saxophonist/composer Jarosław Bothur, recorded with his quartet, which also includes pianist Kuba Płużek, bassist Max Mucha and drummer Grzegorz Masłowski. The album presents six original compositions by the leader and one composition by the American pianist/composer Phil Markovitz.

I somehow missed this album at the time it was released, but now, having listened to it, I am again completely blown out of my socks by the audacity of these criminally young musicians to produce such a brilliant debut album, a phenomenon happening on the Polish Jazz scene repeatedly and mercilessly. Nobody in the world, who knows anything about Jazz, would have believed these players are in their twenties and still students in a music academy (at the time this music was recorded).

From the first note it's pretty obvious that this album is something "different", which already is significant, as many Jazz albums have a tendency to sound alike. Both the way the music is performed and the actual compositions as strikingly unique, with a very specific chord changes and tonality. Bothur has a wonderful sound in his tenor saxophone and the quartet sounds overall superbly European, somewhat between Scandinavian spacing and Polish melancholy, even on the fast tempo numbers. Pluzek plays some tasty solos and accompanies intelligently and gracefully. I'd love to hear him leading a piano trio. The rhythm section is there all the time behind the soloists, steady as a rock and flexible like molten lava.

The original music (and also the choice of the Markovitz piece, which is relatively little known) proves that the leader has a highly developed pair of ears and excellent taste as far as writing new music is concerned. As already mentioned, the chord changes he uses are intrinsically unlike most others found in other Jazz compositions, which is pretty cool. Overall a superb debut and another set of names to be added to the "watch" list for the future. Well done gentlemen!

środa, 3 lipca 2013

Bester Quartet – The Golden Land (2013) ***1/2

Jaroslaw Bester - bayan
Jaroslaw Tyrala - violin
Oleg Dyyak - clarinet
Mikolaj Pospieszalski - bass
Tomasz Zietek - trumpet
Magdalena Pluta - cello
Marcin Malinowski - bass clarinet


By Adam Baruch

The Polish / Jewish poet / songwriter Mordechai Gebirtig was born, raised and lived in Krakow, where he also found his tragic death from a Nazi bullet in the Krakow Ghetto in 1942. His vast legacy proves he was the preeminent Yiddish songwriter of his time, but more importantly his prophetic vision of the Jewish fate in Europe is truly astounding in retrospect.

This album presents a collection of ten songs written by Gebirtig and performed by the Bester Quartet, a Polish ensemble, which also comes from Krakow. The ensemble was originally formed as the Cracow Klezmer Band in 1997 and later on changed its name to Bester Quartet. The songs were arranged by the leader of the Bester Quartet, accordionist / composer Jaroslaw Bester. The remaining members of the quartet are violinist Jaroslaw Tyrala, multi-instrumentalist Oleg Dyyak and bassist Mikolaj Pospieszalski. On this album the lineup also features three guest musicians: trumpeter Tomasz Zietek, cellist Magdalena Pluta (from Samech) and bass clarinetist Marcin Malinowski.

The Cracow Klezmer Band / Bester Quartet released six (including this one) albums on the prestigious Tzadik label, as part of the "Radical Jewish Culture" series, which marks them as the heroes of the Jewish Cultural Renaissance in Poland, which is now in its second decade. Some people, me included, find this "Renaissance" somewhat perplexing, intriguing and even a bit ridiculous, especially in view of the fact that there are practically no Jews left in Poland and the infamous Polish anti-Semitism is still looming in the background. But a thousand years of Jewish presence in Poland can be still traced and the fact that some artists are interested in preservation of this lost Culture is wonderful regardless of the circumstances.

Bester and his companions are all truly wonderful musicians and his skillful arrangements are delightful and quite sophisticated. I would have enjoyed this music much more if it wasn't pre-sold under the Jewish tag, as honestly there is very little left of the original Eastern-European Jewish feel herein. Yes there are some sentimental violin or clarinet parts, and other typical shticks but overall this is simply some great Jazz-World Fusion, which sounds Argentinean, Parisian, Balkan or whatever, and honestly since I know these songs in their original versions since my early childhood, I'm not sure Gebirtig himself would have recognized them as his own.

Nevertheless this music deserves to be heard and can be enjoyed by music connoisseurs anywhere in the world. The level of performances and execution is definitely first-class and there is so much beauty and deep melancholy in this music that nobody should be left cold. Personally some other releases in the Radical Jewish Culture series on Tzadik made a much stronger impact on me than this release, but I can still appreciate the dedication and talent that went into making this recording. A bi gezunt!

wtorek, 2 lipca 2013

Maciej Kądziela - The Opening (2013) ***1/2

Maciej Kądziela

Maciej Kądziela - alto sax
Marek Kądziela - guitar
Richard Anderson - bass
Anders Mogensen - drums
Andreas Bottiger - tenor sax (3)

The Opening (2013)

By Maciej Nowotny

I have already written several times about so-called "Danish Wave" in Polish jazz. It consists of young musicians educated in Music Academy in Odense in Denmark. Names like Tomasz Dąbrowski, Tomasz Licak, Artur Tuźnik or lately Sebatian Zawadzki and Maciej Czajkowski should be mentioned in this context. Among them one of most promising is guitarist Marek Kądziela whose recently released album "Meet Meat" was so good to be our ALBUM OF THE MONTH in June 2013. 

On this record Marek Kądziela is introducing his brother saxophonist Maciej Kądziela. On this noble errand he is accompanied by Scandinavian rhythm section which cannot be praised too highly! Especially drummer Anders Mogensen deserves accolade, as much for his contribution to the music as for tutoring all these young and talented guys. As a Head of Jazz Department at Odense Music Academy he taught them not only how to play well but also how to find themselves a place on highly competitive jazz scene in Poland. The band is completed with double bassist Richard Anderson and, on track 3, by tenor saxophonist Andreas Bottiger.

As far as music is concerned it does not sound at all like debut album! Meticulously played, with all originals composed by the leader, it is well thought-out, coherent and varied piece of music. Although it presents Maciej Kądziela as versatile saxophonist able to play basically everything, it never becomes one-man-show but retains a quality mark of all best jazz recordings that is being work of the collective. On this background shines by not less bright light the fantastic talent of Marek Kądziela. Although on his latest recordings he has already moved beyond what can be called "traditional jazz", on this CD he adapted to more conventional mood of this album (justified taking into account this is a debut). Nonetheless it is difficult not to be under impression of his unique style placing him already among most promising jazz guitarists in this country along with Raphael Rogiński, Rafał Sarnecki or Kamil Pater.

Few tracks from this album:

poniedziałek, 1 lipca 2013

Piotr Baron – Salve Regina (2007) ****

Piotr Baron - saxophone
Leo Smith - trumpet
Darek Oleszkiewicz - bass
Marvin Smith - drums


By Adam Baruch

Music and religion go hand in hand since the early days of human history and religion has always been a major force and inspiration for artistic activity, musical and otherwise. But as far as Jazz is concerned, the obvious links between religion and music have been, more often than not, hidden either subconsciously or purposefully. Polish Jazz saxophonist / composer Piotr Baron is one of the few Jazz artists who wears his religion on his sleeve, openly and consistently voicing his Christian belief, both as a person and an Artists, which is beautifully demonstrated by this album.

As the title suggests this album presents three versions of the "Salve Regina" antiphon, tracing its development over time, starting with its earliest 11th Century incarnation via a 16th and lastly 18th Century ones. In addition the album also includes two traditional religious hymns and two original compositions by Baron, which open and then close the album, both kept in similar spiritual mood as the rest of the album.

But if the subject matter of this music is highly unusual, the actual performances are even more astounding, since the music was recorded in the USA and features a quartet, which also includes the Polish (but resident in US) bassist Darek Oleszkiewicz and two American Free Jazz heroes: trumpeter Leo Smith and drummer Marvin Smith (not related to each other). Nolan Shaheed, who was the sound engineer on this recording, plays cornet on one track. This Polish-American quartet is one of the very few of its kind, which features musicians form two continents and from completely different backgrounds playing highly improvised music, which requires a unity of soul and mind of a higher sphere, which evidently was achieved herein.

This music, although mostly highly improvised, originates in the religious music, stating the melody at the start of each of the tracks and then moves away into the free spirit zone, where the musicians stretch out and make their individual statements as well as improvise collectively. The level of individual performances is obviously stellar, but Baron respectfully takes a step back from the position of the leader, allowing the trumpeter to be the dominant soloist on this album. Oleszkiewicz is simply brilliant, carrying the music almost single-handedly as the steady chord and rhythm indicator, allowing the other players complete freedom. His beautiful tone and solos are simply breathtaking. The drummer also keeps a low profile most of the time, as appropriate for this spiritual music, which has not an iota of aggression or unnecessary haste. When Baron does solo, his superb sound and fluidity wholly complete the music, respectfully wondering in the lyrical plane, which reflects his devotion.

Although not an easy piece of music, this is brilliant artistic experience, which true Jazz connoisseurs should be delighted with anytime anywhere and a superb example of music, which has a meaning way beyond the actual sounds. Thank you, as usual, Mr. Baron!
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