Friday, March 28, 2014

Various Artists – Polish Radio Jazz Archives Vol.13 (2014) ****

Zbigniew Namyslowski - saxophone
Wlodek Gulgowski - piano
Tadeusz Wojcik - bass
Czeslaw Bartkowski - drums

and others


By Adam Baruch

This is the thirteenth installment in the new series of releases initiated by the Polish Radio, which presents archive Jazz recordings. Radio recordings are always a fabulous source of remarkable material, and as far as Polish Jazz history is concerned, the Polish Radio, which was a state monopoly for 45 years, recorded over time a plethora of invaluable material, which apart from the albums released by the Polskie Nagrania record company (also a state monopoly), is the only available additional source of Polish Jazz recordings. For many years Polish Radio recorded concerts presented during Poland's most important Jazz venues, including the annual Jazz Jamboree Festival and many other festivals as well.

The material collected here presents a second volume of recordings made in 1963 during the sixth Jazz Jamboree festival in Warsaw. It starts with two lengthy tracks, both treatments of classic Jazz standards, by the legendary American saxophonist Johnny Griffin and his quartet. Prior to this recordings Griffin, like many of his Afro-American colleagues, moved to Europe, where Jazz was experiencing an explosive development and was considered an Art Form and racial discrimination was almost completely absent. The quartet includes fellow American pianist Kenny Drew, who settled in Europe a couple of years earlier, Dutch guitarist Wim Overgaauw and Dutch bassist Ruud Jacobs. Followers of this series are of course aware of the fact that the eleventh volume already presents a double CD with material recorded by Griffin at the same festival with the same musicians. Personally I'd have preferred to have that release expanded into a triple CD set and have all the Griffin sessions together, but I'm not the series' editor.

Next come three tracks by the Danish trumpeter Allan Botschinsky and his quintet with American born saxophonist Ray Pitts, who moved to Denmark in 1962, pianist Atti Bjoern (name most probably miss spelt), bassist Benny Nielsen and American drummer Robert Joseph (real name Robert Joseph Durham or Bobby Durham as he was known to all – Polskie Radio should have known this, especially since I already made this comment / correction on the a.m. Griffin album – please read people! The music is all original and includes two compositions by Pitts and one by Botschinsky. It is typical bee bop, well played, especially by the leader who was a first rate trumpeter, but not extraordinary in any sense.

The two tracks closing the album are the most interesting for the Polish Jazz fans and they present the Zbigniew Namyslowski quartet with pianist Wlodek Gulgowski, bassist Tadeusz Wojcik and drummer Czeslaw Bartkowski, the same quartet that would record several months later in Britain the legendary album "Lola", the first significant exposure of Polish Jazz behind the Iron Curtain. Both are original compositions by Namyslowski, the first would be the title track of the British LP and the second seems to be the only appearance of this composition on record. These are the initial steps of the first golden decade of Polish Jazz, and as such their documentation is priceless, as is the music.

The beautifully restored sound quality is excellent and the warm ambience of the analog recording is a true joy. As usual with this series, which is very reasonably priced, I miss the presence of "in depth" liner notes / booklet, which should convey the circumstances at which this music was recorded and its importance to the development of Jazz in Poland. Nevertheless this is an absolutely essential piece of Jazz history which every Jazz fan will surely consider an absolute must.

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