Monday, December 2, 2013

In-Formation – In-Formation Trio (2013) ****1/2

Slawomir Kulpowicz - piano
Witold Szczurek - bass
Czeslaw Bartkowski - drums


By Adam Baruch

This is the second 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.

Following the demise of The Quartet, Kulpowicz founded a new ensemble, which he called In-Formation. Over time several different versions of In-Formation existed, including a duo, the basic piano trio, presented here, quartet and even sextet. In retrospect the trio proved to be the most successful incarnation of the group. It included bassist Witold Szczurek (a.k.a. Vitold Rek) and legendary drummer Czeslaw Bartkowski. The same trio also served as the rhythm section of the Tomasz Stanko quartet in the early 1980s, recording with him two most impressive albums: "Music 81" and "A I J" (both recorded at the same session).

In-Formation recorded two albums for the Poljazz label, the second of which is partly (three tracks) also included here. The rest of the album (five more tracks) originates in two radio sessions recorded earlier in the same year. 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. Of course the trio's music is much less intense sonically than the quartet's massive sound, but not less complex or spiritually evolved. Kulpowicz carries, as expected, most of the load, producing his usual vamped chords and dense cadenzas of amazing fluency and virtuosity. The rhythm section supports him splendidly, with Rek emphasizing the melody riffs and Bartkowski providing the swinging drive carrying the music in fast forward most of the album's duration.

The piano trio, which is the ultimate Jazz showcase, was quite a neglected Art form at the time this music was recorded. Therefore these recordings are even more special, as there was no other parallel outfit on the Polish Jazz scene at the time. Of course the piano trio would triumphantly return and re-appear on the Jazz scene later on, including of course the local Polish scene, but at that particular time In-Formation trio was completely unique.

This album is not only a great example of the Jazz piano trio Art, but also a very important document of the development of the Polish Jazz scene. Of course it's an absolute must have for all Polish Jazz connoisseurs and collectors, but every piano trio buff around the globe should find this quite a treat. Great stuff!

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