Monday, November 4, 2013

Jerzy Milian – Stratus Nimbus (2013) ****

Jerzy Milian - composer

GAD 009

By Adam Baruch

The Polish GAD Records label has become a treasure chest of archival recordings by Polish Jazz and Rock artists and in the short period of time since 2010, when the label released its first album, it established its position on the market as a dedicated and reliable source of interesting material. This album follows the already established pattern and is the third volume of archival material by legendary Polish Jazz vibraphonist / composer Jerzy Milian, one of the forefathers of modern Polish Jazz.

The material collected here was recorded over a period of several years in the 1980s by the Belgian (Radio & TV) BRT Jazz Orchestra, directed by Etienne Verschueren, which included many excellent players, some known also internationally. Milian worked previously with this orchestra in the late 1960 and this was his second spell with them. He wasn't the only Polish musician working with this orchestra, as saxophonist / composer Jan Ptaszyn Wroblewski also recorded an album with them in 1976 entitled "Skleroptak".

The music, all composed by Milian, includes six orchestral suites of varying length, one of which turns into an oratorio with the addition of a choir, which sings a poem by the American poet T.S. Eliot. The music is quite impressive, with a firm melodic content and elaborate orchestral arrangements, which allow for solo spots. It is less adventurous material than some of Milian's earlier compositions, but lacks nothing as far as compositional skills, flair and elegance are concerned. The orchestra performs the music spotlessly and with grace and as a result this is a wonderful Big Band / orchestral album, which reflects well on Milian's talent and vision. It is also a great example of European Big Band / orchestral sound and style, which varies considerably from its American counterparts.

In retrospect these recordings are a sad reminder of the Big Band form, which is almost extinct today in comparison to its hay days. With the impossible economics behind keeping a Big Band performing and touring and a dwindling public funding, most Big Bands, including the one present here, were eventually disbanded. Signs of a disappearing Culture. "Luckily, the recordings remain" concludes Michal Wilczynski, the owner of GAD Records, in the booklet and I concur wholeheartedly.

With remastered and restored sound and informative booklet (including text in English), this album is definitely worth checking out by any connoisseur of European Jazz, looking for another perspective.

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