niedziela, 29 grudnia 2013

Michael J. Smith – Geomusic III-PL (2009) ***1/2

Michael J. Smith - piano
Zbigniew Namyslowski - saxophone, cello, flute
Jacek Bednarek - bass

ANEX 313

By Adam Baruch

This is one of the most unusual (at the time) albums recorded in Poland and one of the first Free Jazz / Improvised Music recordings. It was recorded during a tour in Poland by American born (resident also partly in Europe) Jazz / Contemporary Music composer Michael J. Smith, who was accompanied by Poland's top Jazz personality, saxophonist Zbigniew Namyslowski and bassist Jacek Bednarek. Namyslowski surprisingly plays not only saxophone but also cello and flute, which of course is quite surprising. The album consists of seven original compositions, all by Smith.

At the time of the recording Smith was in the early stages of developing his musical ideology, which he called "Geomusic" and several of his recordings were entitled using this idiom. Later on he would become a well known music scholar, composer and innovator, mostly in the fields of electronic music. He is still active today.

The music included here is a wonderful example of early Improvised Music, involving minimal melodic notation and based on careful interaction between the musician, mutual respect and virtuosity of the participants. Namyslowski, who usually played much more conventional music as far as form and structure were concerned, is the focal personality here and his cello playing is simply outstanding and outrageously original. The music lost absolutely nothing of its originality and pioneering spirit over the years.

Although Free Jazz and Improvised Music are today a substantial part of the Polish Jazz scene, almost four decades earlier it was quite rare and the fact that this music was released at all at the time is a miracle. The new generation of Polish improvisers should dig this album out and give it a proper listen, as it certainly is worth studying, as much as listening today.

Side Note: The Poljazz label, which originally released this album, was active for 20 years (between 1972 and 1991) and was owned by the Polish Jazz Society. Considering the fact that the music industry in the Socialist State was centralized and totally controlled, with just one State owned music company producing all the albums, the possibilities to record and release Jazz albums were extremely limited. Poljazz was conceived and founded in order to allow for many more Jazz (and other) albums to be released independently from the State owned Polskie Nagrania / Muza and as such revolutionized the music industry at the time, being the only such enterprise in Eastern Europe. The Polish label Anex reissued many of the original Poljazz albums on CD, bringing this fabulous music back to life.

sobota, 28 grudnia 2013

Slawomir Kulpowicz – Three Etudes / Prasad In Mangalore (2009) ***1/2

Slawomir Kulpowicz - piano
Jarooslaw Smietana - guitar
Witold Szczurek - bass
Krzysztof Przybylowicz - percussion
Jerzy Bartz - percussion
Jose Torres - percussion

ANEX 319

Following the demise of The Quartet, Polish Jazz pianist / composer Slawomir Kulpowicz founded a new ensemble, which he called In-Formation. Over time several different versions of In-Formation existed, including a duo, a piano trio, quartet and even sextet. In-Formation recorded two albums and later took part in the recording of this album, which was eventually released as a Kulpowicz solo album. The album consists of three solo piano pieces recorded for the Polish Radio and three pieces recorded live by In-Formation during the Jazz Jamboree Festival with guitarist Jaroslaw Smietana, bassist Witold Szczurek (a.k.a. Vitold Rek) and percussionists Krzysztof Przybylowicz, Jerzy Bartz and Jose Torres.

All the music was composed by Kulpowicz and is a direct continuation of his John Coltrane / McCoy Tyner influenced style presented earlier by The Quartet. But in time the music becomes more contemplative and also more personal, as evident mostly on the solo piano pieces. In parallel the Indian and other World Music influences are trickling in steadily and can be already clearly heard herein. The In-Formation pieces are truly superb and present the group as a great vehicle for the Kulpowicz compositions. They also expose Smietana as the first rate player he always was, regardless of the setting.

In retrospect this is a great document of the Polish Jazz scene in the early 1980s and an important part of the legacy Kulpowicz left behind him, which should serve as an endless source of inspiration to new generations of Polish Jazz players. Definitely worth investigating!

Side Note: The Poljazz label, which originally released this album, was active for 20 years (between 1972 and 1991) and was owned by the Polish Jazz Society. Considering the fact that the music industry in the Socialist State was centralized and totally controlled, with just one State owned music company producing all the albums, the possibilities to record and release Jazz albums were extremely limited. Poljazz was conceived and founded in order to allow for many more Jazz (and other) albums to be released independently from the State owned Polskie Nagrania / Muza and as such revolutionized the music industry at the time, being the only such enterprise in Eastern Europe. The Polish label Anex reissued many of the original Poljazz albums on CD, bringing this fabulous music back to life.

Quartet – The Quartet (2009) ****1/2

Tomasz Szukalski - saxophone
Slawomir Kulpowicz - piano
Pawel Jarzebski - bass
Janusz Stefanski - drums

ANEX 302

By Adam Baruch

The Quartet was formed by the rhythm section of Zbigniew Namyslowski's so called "third quartet", i.e. pianist Slawomir Kulpowicz, bassist Pawel Jarzebski and drummer Janusz Stefanski, with the addition of saxophonist Tomasz Szukalski, one of Poland's all-time greatest Jazz musicians and a spectacular player of rare quality. Although Szukalski naturally dominated the sound of the ensemble, it was Kulpowicz who was the spiritual leader and the sole composer of all the original material they performed. Spiritually the music was soaked in the John Coltrane legacy, with Szukalski playing lengthy "wall of sound" solos, supported passionately by the rhythm section, with Kulpowicz vamping a la McCoy Tyner, Jarzebski delivering virtuosic bass parts and Stefanski raising all hell behind it all, which engulfed the overall effect with incredible power and overwhelming strength of expression, similar in character to the Coltrane late period recordings.

In spite of the fact that The Quartet was undoubtedly the most important Polish Jazz ensemble in the late 1970s, their recorded legacy is truly pitiful and includes this live album recorded in 1978 and their sole studio album, recorded in Finland in 1979 and released by the tiny independent Finnish label Leo Records (which released also two albums by Tomasz Stanko from the same period). Therefore the double CD full of superb archival radio and concert recordings by this ensemble, also entitled simply "The Quartet", released in 2013 by Polskie Radio is an absolute marvel and a must have for every Polish / European Jazz connoisseur.

Following the ensemble's breakdown in mid-1980, the Polish Jazz scene will never again experience this kind of music, so close in spirit, sound and emotion to the epicenter of Modern Jazz created by Coltrane. The Quartet's brief three and a half years period was the closest ever moment in which Polish Jazz would become very close to American Jazz of a decade earlier, both in spirit and in practice. The Quartet somehow managed to put aside the omnipresent Polish melancholy and lyricism, which dictates most of the unique music created under the Polish Jazz banner. Usually, when Polish Jazz musicians try to imitate their idols from across the pond, they fail rather miserably, with The Quartet being the only exception, which proves the rule.

Young Polish Jazz musicians should study this music note by note – this is universally sublime document of human expression, freedom and power of creation, which happens rarely. Inspired by Coltrane's music, this creation sparks a life of its own, which stands shoulder to shoulder with the original, without any inferiority complexes whatsoever. It is not a copy of the source; it is a thankful gratitude for the inspiration itself.

Side Note: The Poljazz label, which originally released this album, was active for 20 years (between 1972 and 1991) and was owned by the Polish Jazz Society. Considering the fact that the music industry in the Socialist State was centralized and totally controlled, with just one State owned music company producing all the albums, the possibilities to record and release Jazz albums were extremely limited. Poljazz was conceived and founded in order to allow for many more Jazz (and other) albums to be released independently from the State owned Polskie Nagrania / Muza and as such revolutionized the music industry at the time, being the only such enterprise in Eastern Europe. The Polish label Anex reissued many of the original Poljazz albums on CD, bringing this fabulous music back to life.

poniedziałek, 23 grudnia 2013


2. Fortuna/Dys – Tropy 18
3. Mikrokolektyw – Absent Minded 15
4. Power Of The Horns – Alaman 14
5. RGG – Szymanowski 11
6. High Definition – Hopasa 10
7. Marcin Masecki – Polonezy 9
8. Wacław Zimpel Quartet – Stone Fog 8
9. Magnolia Acoustic Quartet – Boozer 7
10. Mazolewski/Gonzalez Quintet – Shaman 6


In all richness of different human types in Polish jazz there has been yet nobody similar like young trumpeter Damasiewicz. His imagination is boundless, his spirit free, his leadership charismatic and all these personal qualites of him reflect themselves in his music. He was the author of some of most interesting recordings of the year 2013 and one to be closely followed in future. (MN)
In spite of his young age Fortuna already established his position on the top of the Polish Jazz scene. He released several albums in the last year covering a diverse spectrum of music styles, genres and directions, from modern mainstream, free and even electronic music, all of which were excellent. And he plays some nasty trumpet like nobody else... (AB)

Dominik Wania
Only in 2013 pianist Dominik Wania released five albums, each of them bearing stamp of his individuality. His main asset is versatility which enables him to feel good as much in free jazz, rhythmical electro-jazz or in his own interpretations of Ravel miniatures. All of his recordings were characterized by the highest artistic level. (TL)


If there exists an accurate definition of ‘searching mainstream’ the music of N.S.I. Quartet may very well personify it. In their debut album we can find both solid technique, respect toward tradition, original compositions, good interplay AND open structure, breaking up well known schemes and spontaneity. (TL)

High Definition Quartet - "Hopasa" 
This release epitomizes everything that is great about Polish Jazz - it is excellent in every respect, it proves that a next generation of the musicians is already here, it shows that innovation is possible and not everything was already said, it is bold, uncompromising and honest. (AB)

International Jazzpocalypse - "Live in Torun" 
Every now and then there happens in Polish jazz a debut so good that it heralds the emergence of strong and unique personality that may join those who give direction to this music in our country. This is case with this album featuring among other fabulously talented artists young pianist Sebastian Zawadzki of whom I am sure we will hear more in years to come. (MN)


ForTune Records
The recording label ForTune which has been started in 2013 already managed to scoop up five out of ten albums on our Polish Jazz 2013 Top Ten list. They seem to have targeted and long-term strategy and if continue to pursue it this Warsaw-based company may become a publishing giant in few years time. (TL)

Classics Meet Jazz
The revival of interest in classics especially among young generation was a leading phenomenon in our jazz this year. It was a true marvel to observe how through their creative re-processing of the music of Bach, Lutosławski, Penderecki, Ravel, Scarlatti, Szymanowski and others it emerged as actual, fresh and inspiring. (MN)

Poeple Behind the Scenes
It goes to all the people behind the scenes, who make Polish Jazz happen but are rarely thanked and acknowledged: festival organizers, record producers, studio engineers, teachers at the music academies, managers, journalists, photographers, radio people, arrangers, club owners, and yes... music critics. Without these people there would be no scene and don't you forget it! (AB)

niedziela, 22 grudnia 2013

Marcin Gawdzis Quintet - Shadows Of Autumn (2013) ***1/2

Marcin Gawdzis Quintet

Marcin Gawdzis - trumpet
Dominik Bukowski - vibraphone
Szymon Łukowski - saxophone
Maciej Sadowski - double bass
Tomasz Sowiński - drums

Shadows Of Autumn (2013)

By Maciej Nowotny

The trumpeter Marcin Gawdzis is a well-known figure on Tri-City mainstream jazz scene. He collaborated with bassist Piotr Lemanczyk, vocalist Krystyna Stańko and with a collective of musicians from Elbląg who recorded together as a band under name of Special Jazz Sextet. As much as in above mentioned collaborations as on his debut album titled "Shadows of the Autumn" Gawdzis shows himself as an admirer of classical jazz. He is never tempted to cross borders of this genre, to experimentate, to surprise. There is also nothing new here in terms of compositions as only one of them - "Autumn Ana" - is penned by Gawdzis. Rest of them - "Autumn in New York" by V. Duke, "Fantasy in "D" by C. Walton, "After you've gone" byH. Creamer & T. Layton, "How insensitive by A.C.Jobim, "Time after time" by J. Styne and "Cherokee" by R. Noble - are all well-known standard, performed countless times by innumerable musicians.

But it does not in any way diminish the value of this music. Standards in jazz were always only point-of-departure for musicians do display their individual and creativity. Perhaps there is little of the latter on this album but plenty of the former thanks to excellent musicians who took part in this session. Vibraphonist Dominik Bukowski, saxophonist Szymon Łukowski, doublebasist Maciej Sadowski and drummer Tomasz Sowiński are all very gifted musicians who make this "old" music sound fresh. To summarize what has been said up to this point, although nothing groundbreaking this issue brings fully satisfactory music who should especially appeal to those for whom jazz is still, and first of all, the music of Miles Davis, John Coltrane or Bill Evans.

sobota, 21 grudnia 2013

Monika Borzym - My Place (2013) ****

Monika Borzym - vocal

My Place (2013)

By Maciej Nowotny

Two years ago Monika Borzym debuted with album "Girl Talk" (2011) which was unbelievably good for a girl just over her twenty. It announced arrival to our scene of a talent of caliber not seen in Poland for decades. Her second disc "My Place" (2013) confirms thoroughly how gifted she is as it sounds much better than first one marking important step in the development of this already fully accomplished singer.

"My Place" contains mostly original compositions written by Borzym in cooperation with pianist Mateusz Obijalski. These are mostlty simple songs which however are so unpretentious and pretty that it is impossible no to hum them to himself long after actual rehearsal of the album. As her first recording this one was produced by Matt Pierson who made a great job indeed as music sounds on par with the best albums released in the US or elsewhere. Additionally album features Borzym's interpretations of Rihanna's hit single "Only Girl (in the World)", "The Quiet Crowd" by Patrick Watson and Kenny Rankin's "In the Name of Love".

The names of musicians Borzym hired for this session do indeed make the heart of every true jazz lover beat harder. Drummer Kenny Wollesen and bassist Tony Scherr constitute regular rhythm section of legendary American guitarist Bill Frisell who did not took part in this recording but instead of him we can hear here the guitar of John Scofield and Larry Campbell. Saxophonist Chris Potter and trumpeter Randy Brecker, both coming from the first division of jazz musicians, complement this stellar supporting band. 

Although for me and many others in Poland Borzym's has been until recently completely unknown she is very well educated. She started learning piano in music school in Warsaw at the age of 8, the instrument which she eventuality changed for vocal studies. The turning point in her education was scholarship she was granted at University of Miami Frost School of Music "where she studied in classes of jazz musicians, such as Lisanne Lyons, Dante Luciani, Chuck Bergeron, Larry Lapin and Greg Gisbert" (source: wikipedia). She now resides in Los Angeles and although she frequently visits Poland she obviously hopes for making international career.

And basing on her outstanding musicality and incredible vocal talent her hopes are fully justified. Although rooted in jazz her singing on "My Place" is clearly steering towards neo-soul and even pop music territory. But personally I don't see anything wrong with it as she does so with great elegance and class. Placing herself somewhere between Erykah Badu and Adele she has clearly a style of her own and she seems determined enough to be able (with a a stroke of luck!) to achieve great things in future.

piątek, 20 grudnia 2013

Braces Are Beautiful - Los Vaqueros En La Cocina (2013) ***

Braces Are Beautiful (band)

Jacek Steinbrich - guitars, Philicorda organ, mini Korg, kalimba, recorder, percussion (4)
Tim O’Flaherty - bass guitar, drums
Łukasz Szulc - percussion (1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10)

Los Vaqueros En La Cocina (2013)

Braces Are Beautiful A musical project started by Jacek in 2008, it has since then gone through various transmutations, from jazz and prepared music to punk, blues and free jazz. On this record Jacek, along with help from Tim and Łukasz, presents songs which he has created specially for the Polish-American-Spanish co-production Los Vaqueros en la Cocina, a film about one individual’s 19th-C. battle with consumerism, as seen within the context of a crisis in the management of culinary resources. The music, a mosaic of surf rock, free, trash country, western punk and hip hop, contains elements of minimalist, Jamaican and ethnic sounds.

Jacek Steinbrich - His musical interests range from minimalism, jazz, free jazz, classical, contemporary, and prepared music to blues, dance, punk and film soundtracks. Talented at various stringed instruments, not to mention a keyboardist who occasionally dabbles in percussion too, Jacek has written music for the band JoaoBAB and is a founder of the free jazz project Re.mus. A finalist in the competition CAGE 1, 2, 3 (Poland, 2012), he has also collaborated with many different artists, including Olgierd Dokalski and Wojtek Kwapisiński, as well as other musicians from the worlds of improvisation, jazz, and free jazz in Dublin.

Tim O’Flaherty - He first came into contact with planet earth at the age of 8, when he finally got his hands on a clarinet. Since then Tim has also used saxophone, bass and drums on his various trips into the stratosphere – especially during 15 years as a member of the New York band A Stillwater Satellite. His quest to learn the Polish language later brought him to Lublin, Poland, where, as a bassist, he has collaborated with the group JoaoBAB as well as participated in the final of the competition CAGE 1, 2, 3. He is currently a translator and English teacher living in Warsaw.

Łukasz Szulc (aka Senhor Efebo) - An African and Latin American culture enthusiast, as well as DJ, percussionist, and passionate promoter of the all-embracing concept of “tropical music,” Senhor has collaborated with various Polish collectives, including Soulservice and Uratujmy Afrobeat (“Let’s Save Afrobeat”). In 2003, he, along with other percussion enthusiasts, founded the rhythm ensemble (batucada) Sambasim, which has toured both throughout Poland and abroad. In 2009 he supported the composer and guitarist Wagner Barbosa and his group, the Barbosa Trio, on tour. Between January and February 2010 he participated in the project Brazil Cantado, along with the pianist Kuba Pałys and the guitarist To Brandileone. During 2012 he supported the acoustic group Open Source as well as the band JoaoBAB. He currently plays in clubs, bars, pubs and anywhere else his brand of percussion-heavy music is welcome.

(sorce: press release)


środa, 18 grudnia 2013

Polish Jazz TOP TEN 2013 by Maciej Nowotny

When back in 2009 I started this blog it began as typical online diary whereI posted texts about few CDs I bought for my private collection. At that time I was shy of making any end-of-the-year top lists as I felt I only was able to listen to a fraction of what was produced with participation of Polish artists. But with blog rapidly growing I have found myself in unique position of being one of few persons in this country to actually listen to (nearly) ALL jazz releases which can be attributed as belonging to Polish jazz! Since then I decided that making such a list, though I am not great enthusiast of them, to certain degree is my obligation.

You will not find on this list great names of Polish musicians who in this year released new albums. Tomasz Stańko, Leszek Możdżer, Aga Zaryan, Anna Maria Jopek or Adam Pierończyk - they all recorded good CDs this year but what is astonishing as far as Polish jazz is concerned - there were many totally unknown (at least to international audience) artists who recorded albums equally or even more interesting than those considered to be stars. A selection of them (by far not all!) you will find on my personal Polish Jazz TOP TEN 2013 list:

1. Marcin Masecki - Polonezy 

HeFi Quartet feat. Krzesimir Dębski - Live (2013)

Leszek Hefi Wiśniowski - flute, saxophone
Paweł Kaczmarczyk - keyboards
Tomasz Kupiec - bass
Bartek Staromiejski - drums
Krzesimir Dębski - violin


By Adam Baruch

This is the third album by young Polish Jazz flautist / saxophonist / composer Leszek HeFi Wiśniowski, this one being released under the moniker of his current HeFi Quartet, which also includes the fabulous keyboardist Paweł Kaczmarczyk, bassist Tomasz Kupiec and drummer Bartek Staromiejski. The music includes one studio track (from 2013), three live radio tracks (from 2012) and six live concert tracks (from 2011), which also feature the veteran violinist Krzesimir Dębski. All the music was composed by Wisniowski except one track which is credited to the entire group and one which is a traditional folklore tune.

The music is exciting Modern mainstream with some World Music influences, a bit of Fusion and other ingredients, all well amalgamated compositionally and beautifully executed. The first part of the album (the radio/studio recordings) is mostly calm and relaxed, whereas the second part (the concert recordings) with Dębski is much more energetic, loud and expressive, with Dębski's input being quite dominant. Overall the music is truly excellent, but the album suffers a bit from being a somewhat hectic collection of music recorded under different circumstances rather than an integral statement.

Wiśniowski also makes a mistake of employing/inviting musicians, who are simply excellent, which sadly makes him the least impressive player of them all, even if he's the leader. Kaczmarczyk completely "steals" the show with his superb solos, which are all simply brilliant, both technically and emotionally. The rhythm section also performs beautifully, way beyond just supporting the soloist, but actually contributing actively to the process of creating the music. These young musicians have already quite a lot of experience performing and even recordings behind them, which is immediately noticeable. Dębski, as already mentioned, is a veteran with a very flamboyant style of playing. As a result the leader's solos really sound rather pale in comparison.

Nevertheless this is still a very strong album, which many Jazz listeners will enjoy immensely. Not too complex and yet interesting and versatile stylistically, this is definitely something worth listening to and at the same time accessible to a relatively wide range of connoisseurs.

wtorek, 17 grudnia 2013

Fusion Generation Project – No Fusion (2013) ***1/2

Dariusz Petera - keyboards
Krzysztof Lenczowski - guitar
Lukasz Jan Jozwiak - bass
Krzysztof Kwiatkowski - drums


By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by young Polish quartet called Fusion Generation Project, which consists of keyboardist Dariusz Petera, guitarist / cellist Krzysztof Lenczowski, bassist Lukasz Jan Jozwiak and drummer Krzysztof Kwiatkowski. They perform nine original compositions, six of which are by Petera and the rest are one each by the other three quartet members. Saxophonist Marcin Kajper and American trumpeter Michael Patches Stewart appear as guest on a few tracks.

The music is a nice brand of Jazz-Rock Fusion, on the lighter side of the genre almost touching on instrumental Pop occasionally. The tunes are very melodic and pretty straight-forward, but the level of performances as well as the general atmosphere of the album is quite excellent. There are also a few nice surprises, for example when the guitarist plays the cello out of the blue, and other less enjoyable ones when the album starts with a long drums solo track. The keyboardist, who is also the principal composer of the material, is the Jazziest player in the quartet, whereas the guitarist (at least when playing the guitar) is a definite Rocker. The excellent rhythm section is quite Funky on the other hand, so the overall effect works well, without taking any major risks.

The usage of the sax and trumpet seem a bit out of place as the band sounds pretty balanced as a quartet and loses the focus with the addition of the brass. Stewart's solos, although adequate, seem out of place stylistically and sort of misguided. But overall the music is good fun and a nice listen, especially when driving.

I'd prefer that such talented musicians would have played a more adventurous and challenging music altogether, but each to his choices and the future will tell where does all this lead. In the meantime this album will surely find many satisfied listeners.

poniedziałek, 16 grudnia 2013

niedziela, 15 grudnia 2013

Polish Jazz TOP TEN 2013 by Tomek Luczak

As usual at the end of the year we publish our lists of best (?) recordings released in the given calendar year in which Polish musicians have participated. This list is the effect of combining three separate lists arranged by myself, Tomek Łuczak and Adam Baruch who all constitute our editorial office. On three consecutive days we we will publish our separate individual lists and then our final list with some new featuresthat will be added to TOP TEN for the first time. We hope that this will be a lot of fun for our readers and eventually it will also help you to get a grip of what was the most interesting in Polish Jazz in year 2013. 

Tomek Łuczak TOP TEN Polish Jazz 2013:

1. Obara International – Komeda 

Please, find HERE also our last year Polish Jazz Top Ten 2012. On top of that we also want to direct your attention to Polish Jazz Project 2013 managed by Tomek which comprises full list of all jazz recordings featuring Polish artists released in 2013.

sobota, 14 grudnia 2013

An On Bast/Maciej Fortuna – Electroacoustic Transcription Of Film Music By Krzysztof Penderecki (2013) ****

An On Blast - live electronics, trumpet processing
Maciej Fortuna - trumpet, live electronics, trumpet processing, miscellaneous

FM 013


This is the third 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 thirteen tracks, which were composed and conceived by the duo, all inspired by music composed by the Polish Classical composer Maestro Krzysztof Penderecki, which was either composed as soundtrack music for cinematographic productions or used in such capacity. The album also includes a DVD, which presents six short videos by visual artist Pawel Wypych, based on six tracks present on the CD, which visualize the music using black & white animations and collages.

Penderecki's involvement with film music is relatively less acknowledged in comparison to his large scale symphonic works, but it has always been some of the most impressive and dramatic of its kind and accompanied some of the best films by some of the most important directors, like David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese, Andrzej Wajda and others.

This is by far the most complex and advanced project realized to date by the duo, which shows another perspective as well as another depth of their music. The personal and artistic courage to undertake a project like this one is to be admired and encouraged. After generations of Polish Jazz repeatedly dealing with the music of Frederic Chopin, often ad nauseam, the young and bold Polish Jazz lions discover contemporary Polish Classical music as the source of their inspiration. In 2012 the pianist Piotr Orzechowski released a sensational album with his interpretation of music by Maestro Penderecki ("Experiment: Penderecki") and now this album does it again, no less boldly one may add. Other Jazz albums, for example with music by Wojciech Kilar, were also released lately. This is definitely a refreshing trend.

The music included herein is truly overwhelming. Listeners with little or no experience with electronic music or the usage of electronic effects might find it initially strange and a bit difficult, but a couple of listening sessions should break the ice. An On Bast uses an array of different sound effects to create a rich and diverse background upon which Fortuna adds his incredible trumpet passages. These two elements: the electronic and the acoustic, work perfectly together to create a deeply atmospheric musical creation, floating in the infinite sonoric space.

Album after album and step after step Fortuna builds up a body of work that is most impressive and simply can not be ignored. His immense talent and versatility, as demonstrated herein in the collaboration with contemporary musical vocabulary, is awe-inspiring. The level of intellectual and emotional dialogue between these two young artists is a ray of hope in this dark age where most things seem to be simply fading out. Thank you!

piątek, 13 grudnia 2013

Anna Gadt – Breathing (2013) ****

Anna Gadt - vocals
Łukasz Ojdana - piano
Maciej Garbowski - bass
Krzysztof Gradziuk - drums

UNIVERSAL 602537564392

By Adam Baruch

This is the third album by Polish Jazz vocalist Anna Gadt (a.k.a. Ania Stepniewska) and her first collaboration with the fabulous RGG trio: pianist Lukasz Ojdana, bassist Maciej Garbowski and drummer Krzysztof Gradziuk. The album consists of eleven original songs, ten of which were composed by Gadt and nine of which feature her lyrics, all in English. The tenth song uses a quote by American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, combined with another quote by American opera singer Beverly Sills, with the entire quote credited only to Emerson? The remaining song was composed by Garbowski and features lyrics by Polish poet Miron Bialoszewski. The album was recorded at Poland's finest recording facility, Studio Tokarnia, engineered as usual by the man with a pair of best ears in Poland, the studio owner Jan Smoczynski.

At the first glance this album had the potential to achieve the status of one of the best Polish Jazz recording in 2013: the finest Polish Jazz piano trio active on the scene, fascinating music, highly sensitive vocal delivery, superb sound quality, in short a dream come true. Sadly this potential proved to be unfulfilled as a result of committing one single mistake, the same unforgivable mistake which hunts the Polish Jazz vocal scene consistently since decades, namely the unexplainable desire to sing in English. Why on earth would anybody, who is not a natural English speaker, want to sing in that langue is a total mystery to me? It is plainly obvious that the articulation, the pronunciation and the accent will be always against you, so why even try? Time after time all Polish Jazz vocalist fall into the same trap and nobody's learning; what a pity. This album is no different; the vocals sung in English sound odd, unnatural and even bizarre at times. As if to prove the case, the only song with the Polish lyrics is simply heavenly and untouchable, as are the moments when Gadt is utilizing wordless vocalese. On the bright side, the music composed by Gadt is simply excellent from start to finish. Intelligent, atmospheric, versatile, moving, in short she made no mistakes whatsoever in that department and deserves all the praise.

Of course there are plenty of wonderful moments left to be enjoyed. The trio plays delightfully from start to finish and stands up to the challenge of accompanying a singer, which is quite different and in many respects more difficult that playing by themselves. Together with their astounding album "Szymanowski" released earlier this year, these two recordings firmly reassure their prime and unchallenged standing, which withstood the ground shaking personnel change they went through. They are simply beyond words. The way the trio improvises "around" the songs Gadt composed is simply a genius at work. In spite of the problem created by singing in English, Gadt is obviously a great vocalist, with exquisite sensibility, musicality and musical intelligence. All these qualities come through against all odds in these circumstances. One can only imagine what a brilliant, superb album this would be if she had decided to use Polish lyrics.

All things considered this is an amazing album after all, even magnificent at times. A magnificent failure? Well not quite, simply just another step on the long way which has no beaten tracks and leads to a place worth going. You win some, you lose some, c'est la vie…

czwartek, 12 grudnia 2013

Switch On Quintet – Our Car Will Never Stop (2010) ****

Maciej Fortuna - trumpet
Marcin Kajper - saxophone
Jakub Kujawa - guitar
Michal Rybka - bass
Bogumil Romanowski - drums

FM 003

By Adam Baruch

This is an excellent debut album by Polish Jazz-Rock Fusion Switch On Quintet which comprises of young musicians making their early stepson the local scene: trumpeter Maciej Fortuna, saxophonist Marcin Kajper, guitarist Jakub Kujawa, bassist Michal Rybka and drummer Bogumil Romanowski. They perform eleven original compositions, four by Romanowski, three by Fortuna, three by Kajper / Kujawa and the remaining one by Kajper. Keyboardist Michal Szlempo guests on selected tracks.

The music is a superb fresh approach to Fusion, which balances the Jazzy sound and feel of the brass with the Rocky sound and feel of the electric guitar, which although reminiscent of the legendary Chicago, is completely up to date and kicks ass like mad. To be perfectly honest I haven't heard such great Fusion in a very long time and this album is real treat. What a pity it remains almost completely obscure. These young Polish cats could teach a thing or two to all those wannabe American Fusion players, who constantly flood the marked with Fusion garbage.

As usual on the Polish scene the level of virtuosity displayed by the musicians is astounding, especially in view of their age. Fortuna's fiery solos soar through the air with incredible intensity, Kujawa's distorted guitar rips the air and its Bluesy undertones break your heart and Kajper's saxophone (especially the soprano) twist and turn like a snake on acid. The rhythm section kicks exactly when and where needed, keeping the ride right on time and your feet tapping uncontrollably.

Honestly this is one of the best Fusion albums I've heard in a long time and an absolute joyous musical ride, highly recommended to all Fusion heads out there. Fortuna, who since recording this album produces already a plethora of superb Jazz and other music, shows here his incredible versatility and I hope he'll return to play his chops in a Fusion environment again. Not to be missed!

środa, 11 grudnia 2013

Polish-Jazz blog provides media patronage for new album by Glabulator !!!


Tomasz Glazik - tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, modular
Jacek Buhl - drums, percussion

Jeden Dzień Bez Godzin (2013)

Glabulator was founded in 2005 by Tomek Glazik and Jacek Buhl. Their music is based on improvisation and the experimental sounds of the saxophone, bass clarinet, synthesizer, drums and percussion. Their last performance was in November 2007 at the third edition of the "Muzyka z Mózgu" ("Music of the Brain") festival, which was recorded and repeatedly broadcast by TVP Kultura. It has taken some time for them to re-appear since their last project, but they have now released their debut album "A Day Without Hours", which was recorded in October 2012 at the MÓZG recording Studio in Bydgoszcz. Most of the material consists of the improvisation of the tenor saxophone, bass clarinet and drums. There are also regular pieces using loops and the modular. All this is set in a melancholy, free yass suspension.


01. Przeziębiony słoń
02. Samotne serce
03. Chaotyczny spacer
04. Bob trapezowe oko
05. Linie papilarne
06. Chwilowe zejście
07. Marabut i jego syn
08. Uwertura c-moll
09. Jeden dzień bez godzin
10. Piosenka partyzancka

Mack Goldsbury / Polish Connection – Salt Miners Blues (2010) ***

Mack Goldsbury - saxophone
Maciej Fortuna - trumpet
Reggie Moore - piano
Krzysztof Ciesielski - bass
Roman Slefarski - drums

FM 004

This is a live recording by an American / Polish quintet featuring two veteran US Jazz musicians (both resident in Germany): saxophonist / composer Mack Goldsbury and pianist Reggie Moore with three young Polish Jazz players: trumpeter / composer Maciej Fortuna, bassist Krzysztof Ciesielski and drummer Roman Slefarski. They perform eight original compositions; four by Goldsbury, three by Moore and one by Fortuna.

The music, although original, is pretty standard mainstream Jazz, undistinguishable from myriad of other similar tunes, with the exception of the sole composition by Fortuna, which is more ambitious and stands out as the only piece which is less constrained stylistically and even has a glimpse of freely improvised moments.

After listening to the album for a while it becomes quite apparent that Fortuna is by far the best player in the quintet, with the two Americans simply being mundane and overall unimpressive. It is possible that the informal atmosphere of the recording and the proximity to New Year's festivities made everybody less careful and attentive, as the entire set sounds a bit disorganized. The recording quality is also pretty lax, which does not improve the overall result.

Obviously a learning experience for the young Fortuna, who in the meantime proved himself to be one of the most impressive young lions of Polish Jazz, this is definitely not one his finest moments.

piątek, 6 grudnia 2013

Orzechowski/Masecki/Adamus/Capella Cracoviensis – Bach Rewrite (2013) ****

Piotr Orzechowski - rhodes piano
Marcin Masecki - wurlitzer piano
Jan Tomasz Adamus - conductor
+ Capella Cracoviensis

DECCA 602537545759

By Adam Baruch

This is definitely one of the most intriguing albums released in Poland in 2013; a completely cross-genre innovative project, which should interest a wide range of music connoisseurs. It combines the eternal music of Johann Sebastian Bach with two Polish enfants terribles: pianist / composer Piotr Orzechowski (a.k.a. Pianohooligan) and pianist / composer Marcin Masecki, usually associated with avant-garde Polish Jazz but also know to have flirted with Classical music, contemporary and otherwise. Orzechowski included a Bach prelude on his debut demo album in 2011 and then shook up the Polish music scene in 2012 with the album presenting his interpretations of the music by the celebrated Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki. Masecki performed and recorded many times his interpretations of Classical music pieces earlier on and even recorded in 2012 a complete album covering Bach's "Die Kunst Der Fuge". Therefore this meeting is not really as surprising, as it might appear at the first glance.

The pianists perform three Bach concerti for harpsichord, strings & continuo; each performs one concerto and together they perform a double concerto for two harpsichords. They are accompanied by the Capella Cracoviensis Orchestra conducted by Jan Tomasz Adamus, which specializes in performing early Classical music played on original instruments of the period. The "catch" is that rather than using the harpsichord as intended, Orzechowski uses the Fender Rhodes electric piano and Masecki uses the Wurlitzer electric piano.

Other than the effect of hearing an electric piano accompanied by a Baroque orchestra the album sounds pretty straightforward / "normal" and almost conventional. The big surprises are hidden almost at the very end of each of the concerti, when the pianists perform a "solo" / free improvised section, which of course is not a part of the original concerti (in the double concerto they perform this section together as a duo). This bold and innovative idea is what adds an extra "spark" to what this album offers to its listeners. There is of course also the a.m. disparity between the electric pianos and the orchestra, but after a while it simply vanishes and Bach's music heals this gap quite naturally.

Both pianists and the orchestra perform their roles formidably and the overall effect is pleasing, but not overwhelming. The entire project turns out to be less innovative / challenging that one might expect. The short improvised passages are somewhat alien to the music at large and appear to be more "conceptual" than natural. The orchestra is absolutely perfect and the worm sound of the instruments is a true delight. The sound quality is acceptable, but not sensational. Summa summarum this is a pleasant, interesting album, which tries to bring Bach's music into contemporary environment, which is always commendable. It is not, however, a major / revolutionary concept / achievement.

Side Note: The author of the liner notes accompanying this album keeps rumbling on and on about Wendy Carlos' 1968 album "Switched-On Bach", which was a first of its kind recording of Classical music performed on a Moog synthesizer. I completely fail to see any connection whatsoever between that album and the music included herein. Although innovative, "Switched-On Bach" was after all just a gimmick intended to sell records, which worked very well BTW. Any attempt to uplift its status to a significant masterpiece is simply ridiculous as it connecting it with this album.

czwartek, 5 grudnia 2013

Anna Kaluza / Artur Majewski / Rafal Mazur / Kuba Suchar - Tone Hunting (2013) ****

Anna Kaluza / Artur Majewski / Rafal Mazur / Kuba Suchar

Anna Kaluza - alto sax
Artur Majewski - trumpet
Rafał Mazur - acoustic bass guitar
Kuba Suchar - drums, megaphone

Tone Hunting (2013)

This recording confirms everything you may have heard about the dynamism and richness of the Polish jazz and improvised music scene, more and more a rival of the much talked Scandinavian and Portuguese ones. German alto saxophonist Anna Kaluza met in Wroclaw three of the most important musicians around for an exquisite session of abstract jazz, resulting in this beautiful “Tone Hunting”. Herself a new value in ascension, coming from a collaboration with the London Improvisers Orchestra and the very welcomed creation of the Berlin Improvisers Orchestra, she couldn’t have found more defiant partners.

Artur Majewski is on his way to become one of the most intriguing trumpeters in Europe, judging from his work with drums / trumpet duo Mikrokolektyw, co-led with Suchar and the Foton Quartet. Rafal Mazur is a virtuoso of the acoustic bass guitar, having developed extended techniques of his own for its definitive emancipation as an instrument. Drummer (and also a recognized intermedia artist) Kuba Suchar already crossed Poland’s frontiers, having international partnerships with such different people as Rob Mazurek, Nicole Mitchell, Keith Rowe, Kevin Drumm and Matt Bauder, among others. They’re hunting tones indeed, but hear what they do to get them…

(source: Cleen Feed press release)

środa, 4 grudnia 2013

Slawomir Kulpowicz / Shujaat Khan – Live (2013) ****1/2

Slawomir Kulpowicz - piano
Shujaat Khan - sitar
Arunangshu Chaudhury - tabla
Krzysztof Scieranski - bass


This is the fourth installment in a series of releases documenting the recorded legacy of the great Polish Jazz pianist / composer Slawomir Kulpowicz, most of which is released for the first time. Kulpowicz, who died prematurely in 2008 at the age of 56, was a victim of cancer. He was a member of groups led by the top Polish Jazz players like Zbigniew Namyslowski and Tomasz Stanko and led / co-led his own ensembles like The Quartet, In-Formation and also cooperated with many other musicians over the years. He was an avid follower of John Coltrane's music and kept in touch with Coltrane's wife Alice Coltrane. Following his visit to India, Kulpowicz discovered Indian music and the spiritual aura of India, which became his own.

Kulpowicz visited India for the first time in 1978, when he was a member of the Zbigniew Namyslowski quartet, which played at the Jazz Yatra in Bombay. At the time he met and befriended a young sitar player Shujaat Khan, a descendant of the legendary Khan dynasty of sitar players since hundreds of years. That friendship lasted for almost thirty years as long as Kulpowicz was alive. They played together many times in Poland and abroad. In 1984 Khan visited Poland and recorded a live album with Kulpowicz for the Poljazz label. The last time they played together was in 2006, when Khan visited Poland again, bringing with him the tabla player Arunangshu Chaudhury. Kulpowicz invited the legendary Polish electric bassist Krzysztof Scieranski and the four played together the music presented on this album, which was recorded live at Warsaw Philharmonic Hall.

Considering the fact that European (including Jazz) and Indian music exist on almost completely separate planes, the amalgamation of the two is extremely difficult to achieve. Except for a very few earlier attempts, most importantly the John Mayer / Joe Harriott Indo-Jazz Fusions from the late 1960s / early 1970 and the John McLaughlin's Shakti a decade later, which were groundbreaking and musically just right, most of the other attempts resulted in failures. The music included on this album proves again, that the power of music transcends not only cultural borders but also thousands of years of musical tradition, enabling conversations between musicians originating seemingly from worlds apart.

The album comprises of just three extended pieces, two of which are about half an hour long and the third a quarter of an hour in duration. Named simply "songs", they are improvisations on melodic themes composed by Kulpowicz, performed wonderfully and in perfect harmony by all four musicians. Khan voices the melody at the onset of each piece and then the musicians take extensive solos in turn, with the full quartet returning to the melodic theme several times between the solos. Kulpowicz plays superbly and his solos are simply outstanding statements in the John Coltrane tradition, emphasizing the close relationship between Coltrane's music and the Indian influences, which are often difficult to be discovered in his music, but come to wonderful realization when performed by Kulpowicz. There is so much passion in his playing that one suspect that his premonition as to his fate was already hunting him.

Khan, who since the early meeting with Kulpowicz achieved a Masterly status in Indian music, is an obvious sitar virtuoso and his solos are also breathtaking. Chaudhury and Scieranski, although a priori destined to fulfill a less dominant role in this music, perform both splendidly and their contributions are invaluable. Scieranski especially is to be prized, as his elegant and delicate bass tones manage to keep a perfect balance with his partners and the music which usually exist without the bass foundation so typical in European music.

The music is beautifully recorded and has an outstanding sound quality, especially in view of the fact that it is a live recording. Musically it is one of the finest examples I have ever come across of cross-cultural amalgam that work naturally as "God intended". An absolute must to World-Music enthusiasts and all connoisseurs of great music, regardless of genre, geography or cultural affiliation. Respect!

wtorek, 3 grudnia 2013

Gdzie szukać skarbów czyli o najnowszym krążku Kowalewskiego i Wyleżoła

Adam Kowalewski - kontrabas

Piotr Wyleżoł - fortepian

For You (2013)

“Tam skarb, gdzie serce Twoje” myślałem słuchając najnowszej płyty kontrabasisty Adama Kowalewskiego nagranej w duecie z pianistą Piotrem Wyleżołem, a zatytułowanej “For You”. Dla Ciebie, przez Ciebie, dzięki Tobie, z Tobą, o Tobie, Ty, Du, Vous, You odmieniane przez tysiące przypadków, w setkach języków. W emocji, z którą wymawiamy to słowo zawiera się właściwie to co najpiękniejsze z ducha naszej cywilizacji, co zauważył już Martin Buber i co się skrystalizowało w stworzoną przezeń filozofię dialogu. Lecz jak wyrazić ten zachwyt drugą osobą, tę wdzięczność, tę jej nieodzowność muzyką?

Otóż moim zdaniem żaden inny gatunek nie jest lepiej do tego stworzony niż jazz! W zgiełku symfonicznej orkiestry szept dwóch osób często staje się niesłyszalny. W rockowym ekshibicjonizmie intymność relacji dwojga esploatowana jest nierzadko w sposób pornograficzny. A w popie jej czar jakże często ginie pod ciężarem hipokryzji, sztampy i zgranych do bólu klisz. Lecz w jazzie, jak para ptaków w gnieździe, relacja ja i Ty odnajduje dla siebie idealną muzyczną niszę.

Wśród wielu form jakie może ona przybrać duet fortepianu i kontrabasu należy do tych najbardziej wyszukanych. Nieogarniona paleta dźwięków jaką dysponuje fortepian kontrastuje z ograniczoną ich ilością jaką posiada kontrabas. Lecz oba te instrumenty dorównują sobie jeśli chodzi o bogactwo brzmienia. Pod warunkiem wszakże, że znajdą się w rękach muzyków o najwyższych kwalifikacjach, którzy dodatkowo potrafią siebie nawzajem słuchać. Stąd najlepsze duety tego rodzaju nigdy nie są dziełem debiutantów. By mieć coś dopowiedzenia w tym formacie nie wystarczą entuzjazm, energia i “chęć szczera”. Potrzebna jest dojrzałość, a nawet pewnego rodzaju głębia, tak muzycznej wiedzy jak i relacji między muzykami.

Najbardziej interesujące nagrania tego typu zadzięczamy takiemu na przykład Charlie Hadenowi, z których te dokonane z Hankiem Jonesem i Keithem Jarrettem należą do moich ulubionych. Inne szczególnie przeze mnie cenione zostały dokonane przez Paula Bleya z Gary Peacockiem, Cedara Waltona z Ronem Carterem, Stefano Bollaniego z Aresem Tavolazzim czy wreszcie przez legendarnego Billa Evansa z Eddim Gomezem na albumie zatytułowanym “Intuition”. Jak Państwo widzą wszystko to są nazwiska artystów o ustalonej marce, mających za sobą wiele sukcesów. Czy zatem dla Kowalewskiego i Wyleżoła nie było za wcześnie? Otóż nie! Obaj mają przecież za sobą znaczące kariery. Wyleżoł nie jest tak znany jak Możdżer czy Wasilewski, ale należy do tej garstki pianistów w naszym kraju, która nikogo nie udaje, nie naśladuje, nie imituje i może sobie pozwolić na mówienie własnym językiem. Z kolei Kowalewski od ponad dekady należy do najbardziej rozchwytywanych muzyków sesyjnych w naszym kraju.

Obaj spotkali sie po raz pierwszy ponad dekadę temu, a zwieńczeniem tego okresu była nagrana w 2001 w trio, z udziałem perkusisty Łukasza Żyty, płyta “Yearning”. Potem współpracowali przez dobrych kilka lat grając w zespole towarzyszącym angielskiemu skrzypkowi Nigelowi Kennedyemu. Wreszcie kiedy niedawno przyśpieszenia nabrała kariera samego Wyleżoła nie mogło zabraknąć u jego boku Kowalewskiego, czego dowodem jest jego obecność na wyśmienitej płycie “Live” wydanej w roku 2010. Wkróce potem, w roku 2011, artyści nagrali materiał na “For You”, ale niestety przeleżał on w szufladzie kolejne aż dwa lata czekując na wydawcę. Wydawca polski się nie znalazł, ale w końcu zachwycił się nim Jan Sudzina prowadzący słowacki label “Hevhetia”, który zdecydował się go wydać zyskując w ten sposób prawdziwą perłę w swym katalogu.

Muzyka na płycie nie goni za nowością, nie sili się na eksperymenty, nie ulega modom. Artyści są zakochani w jazzowej tradycji, a ich język zbudowany jest na solidnej podstawie muzyki klasycznej. W rezultacie otrzymujemy materiał cudownie wręcz zagrany, pełen wyśmienitych kompozycji w większości pióra Adama Kowalewskiego, których świeżość polega w głównej mierze na bezpretensjonalności i szczerości wypowiedzi. Napisane przez Kowalewskiego dla ukochanej żony “Cause I love You” czy dla syna “Lullaby for You”, otwierające album, swoim filigranowym pięknem po prostu wbiły mnie w fotel już od pierwszych minut słuchania tej płyty. Chociaż nie jestem wielkim fanem tak zwanego “głównego nurtu”, słucham tej płyty raz po raz i nie mogę się od nie oderwać. Może dlatego, iż czuję jakby została zagrana specjalnie dla mnie...

Autor: Maciej Nowotny
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