Friday, June 27, 2014

Piotr Damasiewicz Quartet - Mnemotaksja (2014)

Piotr Damasiewicz - trumpet
Gerard Lebik - tenor saxophone, contralto clarinet
Maciej Garbowski - double bass
Wojciech Romanowski - drums


By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by the Polish Jazz quartet led by trumpeter / composer Piotr Damasiewicz, which also includes saxophonist Gerard Lebik, bassist Maciej Garbowski and drummer Wojciech Romanowski. The music was conceived and created around 2008 / 2009, when the quartet played and rehearsed inside the Baptist Church in the center of Wroclaw, and where it was also eventually recorded live but without audience. It was available as an obscure private edition in a CD-R version and finally got its long overdue formal release, after a careful remix and sonic improvement by the excellent For Tune label. The album consists of ten original compositions, nine of which are by Damasiewicz and one by Garbowski.

There is no doubt that Damasiewicz manages to establish a well deserved position as one of the top young Polish Jazz trumpeters on the contemporary scene, which is not by any means self-understandable considering the truly fierce competition and incredible flow of talent in that area. It is worth to compare this album with the trio recording Garbowski and Damasiewicz made at about the same time, called "Elements", which to some extent has a similar atmosphere.

Stylistically the album sounds quite "retro", resembling the glorious moments when modern Polish Jazz was at the first peak of its aesthetic and artistic development, led by the Godfathers of the genre like Krzysztof Komeda, Tomasz Stanko and others. The compositions are very much in the same mood as the music played then: romantic, minimalistic, delicate and full of lyricism and intrinsic melancholy. The same elements that made that music created half a Century ago completely eternal and outside of the time scale, are at work here as well. This music might have been made any time between the 1960s and now and would have fitted perfectly, being simply aloof from fads and fashions.

The performances are also exceptional in every respect, both individually and collectively. Everything is kept in a relaxed, but disciplined mode, with conversation between the musicians being kept at the epicenter. The solos are inconspicuous, emerging slowly from the melodic heads, gently prompted by the superb rhythm section, which demonstrates an incredible affinity towards the music at all times, being as much creative as the two horns every step of the way. Garbowski has already an established record as one of the leading Polish Jazz bassists, but Romanowski, who also cooperates with another superb Polish Jazz trumpeter, Artur Majewski, is a true discovery herein.

Overall this is definitely one of the strongest and most significant statements on the Polish Jazz scene in the last decade, even though Damasiewicz has moved on in the meantime towards more improvised music beyond any stylistic conventions. Even if this album should remain as his only contribution to modern Polish Jazz in the true sense of the Jazz tradition, it will still be a remarkable achievement. This is also one of the most remarkable albums in the fast growing catalogue of the For Tune label, certainly from a historic perspective. Undoubtedly this is an album every true connoisseur of Jazz will cherish in his collection and return to repeatedly.

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