środa, 31 grudnia 2014

Jerzy Milian Trio – Baazaar (Polish Jazz Vol.17) (2014)

Jerzy Milian Trio

Jerzy Milian - vibraphone, marimba
Jacek Bednarek - bass, gidjak
Grzegorz Gierłowski - drums
Ewan Wanat - voclas
Janusz Mych - flute


GAD 017

By Adam Baruch

This is a newly remastered reissue of the debut album by Polish Jazz vibraphonist/composer Jerzy Milian, which was originally released in 1969 as part of the legendary Polish Jazz Series by the state owned Polskie Nagrania/Muza label. The album was recorded in a trio format, with Milian playing vibraphone and marimba, bassist Jacek Bednarek (who also plays the oriental gidjak on one tune) and drummer Grzegorz Gierłowski. Two members of the legendary Polish vocal quartet NOVI: Ewa Wanat (who adds vocals on five tracks) and Janusz Mych (who adds flute on one track) also participate in the recording. The original album presents eight original compositions, seven of which are composed by Milian and one is co-composed by him and Krzysztof Komeda. This expanded edition adds four tracks, recorded couple of years earlier for the Polish Radio, two of which are his original compositions, one is his arrangement of a Kurt Weil song and another is his arrangement of a Frederic Chopin nocturne.

Milian, who started his career on the Polish Jazz scene about fifteen years before this album was recorded, first came into prominence as a member of several ensembles led by Krzysztof Komeda. It was Komeda who persuaded Milian to drop the piano as his main instrument and switch to the vibraphone, thus enabling him to become a member of his ensembles. Later on Milian developed a prolific international career as a vibraphonist and as a composer, being one of the best known Polish Jazz musicians outside of Poland. Many of his achievements are documented by the ongoing archival "Jerzy Milian Tapes" series released by GAD Records, which also released this reissue.

In retrospect this is definitely one of the most idiosyncratic albums in the Polish Jazz Series, presenting one of the first occurrences of the Polish/European Chamber Jazz, which was an amalgam of modern Classical and Cool Jazz elements with many different less audible influences, like early World Music, Free Jazz, Ambient (before it was even called that) and others. The vocal parts by Wanat are completely spine-chilling, typical of her brilliant and unique style, which was the crucial ingredients of the NOVI magnetism. It is definitely a must to all Polish Jazz enthusiasts, wherever they might be on this globe (and beyond).

This album was already reissued a decade earlier, without the bonus tracks, but the entire run of CD reissues (incomplete by the way) of the original Polish Jazz Series LPs disappeared immediately after being released. The fact that these recordings are unavailable is shameful, and a sad testimony to the fact that State owned Cultural treasures are simply being disgracefully completely wasted!

wtorek, 30 grudnia 2014

3FoNIA Jacek Mazurkiewicz Solo - Chosen Poems (2014)

3FoNIA Jacek Mazurkiewicz

Jacek Mazurkiewicz - contrabass, piezo fork synth, looper

Chosen Poems

Multikulti MPLE 002

By Dirk Blasejezak

This is a solo album by a double bass player! You can not repeat this often enough. You should also make it aware to yourself with each piece anew! Here stands a man with his bass and plays - and while he plays, he turns a lot of knobs and buttons on many small units, which he has arranged around himself. But in the end it remains a solo album. Jacek Mazurkiewicz plays these pieces also live, so it's not that he's using a 4- or 8-track-recorder to overdub everything neatly in succession - these are the outpourings of a live recorded, and enormously talented musician.

We could hear his talent only on a few albums yet, for instance on Andrzej Przybielski's "Tren Zalobny" in 2011 or on the album "Roots" by Maciej Trifonidis published in the same year. This year he has only worked on two albums so far, which I enjoyed very differently: The trio with Rob Brown and Daniel Levin ("Day In The Life Of A City") could not really convince me, while the new Pulsarus is for me one of the best records of 2014. Otherwise, there are only very few recordings with Jacek Mazurkiewicz I know of: some live recordings or short videos (eg. a great one with Mikołaj Trzaska). The more amazing it seems that he chooses a solo album as the first album under his own name. But maybe that makes sense, as the complexity, he creates on his own makes it difficult to imagine how this could be complemented by other musicians.

For the listener this album is quite demanding too if you want to understand how the individual pieces were created. The album kicks off with a relatively sophisticated piece about "Lady Midday" (Południca), which clearly shows that Jacek Mazurkiewicz feels at home in free jazz and avant-garde as well. The following two pieces give the audience a little rest, in particular "For people like you" could be a perfect entry point for lovers of the "classical" double bass. After these it gets more free again; his homage to Zbigniew Karkowski might represent a challenge for many - this clearly demonstrates his affairs in avant-garde. Here again, one must always keep in mind that this is a solo album!

The recording technique can be observed particularly well in "For you," one of my favorite tracks on this album. He begins (and ends) with an strongly accelerated sequence of the then following ostinato bass, which he fades in slowly after the intro in order to develop the actual piece over this bass line. With more and more voices coming he weaves those looped voices into an increasingly complex web that has a very meditative effect (at least on me). There are certainly very different opinions on the use of the looper in music, I've seen some very disappointing concerts using it, but Jacek Mazurkiewicz does not used it to simply underpin a beat, instead he plays with the loops, he distorts and alters them and turns the transformed loops into an additional instrument. A very nice documentation of his approach can be seen in the video below.

Unfortunately, the album already ends after two more rather futuristic, and quieter pieces. I would have liked some more of this. I really hope we get to hear more, and that he finds some like-minded musicians with whom he can produce equally unstrained modern music.

poniedziałek, 29 grudnia 2014

Alex Band – The Eccentric (2014)

Alex Band

Aleksander Maliszewski - leader

The Eccentric

GAD 015

By Adam Baruch

This is a reissue of the second album by the Polish Big Band ensemble Alex Band, which was one of very few bands active in Eastern Europe playing instrumental Brass Rock and mixing Jazz-Rock Fusion, Funk and Soul. The band was founded and led by Aleksander Maliszewski and on this album included a nine-piece brass section and a seven-piece rhythm section, with three keyboardists, i.e. a seventeen-piece (including the leader) band – definitely a unique lineup, especially so in Poland which at the time was still very much behind the Iron Curtain. The music was produced at two recording sessions, held six months apart, and released by the Polish Jazz Society's record label Helicon in late October 1981 just in time for the annual Jazz Jamboree Festival. Of course shortly thereafter the Martial Law was declared in Poland and all things cultural were washed down the drain into the Vistula River. The album included six original compositions, all by the band members, and for this reissue was expanded by three bonus tracks, all of which are studio outtakes from the album's sessions.

The music is beautifully performed and recorded, with a very unique sound and ambience, which sets it apart from almost anything else recorded at the time in Eastern Europe. On this album the brass parts are more extensive than on the debut album and feature intricate arrangements, similar to the arrangements of modern American Big Bands active at the time. In retrospect this music still sounds fresh and vital, as it was at the time of the recording. Considering the very high level of the compositions and a marvelous execution, there is no way this music will be ever outdated.

Reissuing this jewel is another credit to the GAD Records label, which time after time manages to uncover yet another glorious glimpse of the past that in most cases was completely forgotten till now. The music on this album is a first-class example of skillful arrangements and brilliant recording, which should be studied by today's music students.

Of course this is also a historic document of utmost importance and an integral part of the long and winding road that Polish Jazz travelled on over the years. Keeping this music available should be supported by the Polish State, since it has a whole Ministry (of Culture and National Heritage) to do so, sadly very little is done on that level and it is, as always, up to private parties, like Michal Wilczynski, the man behind the GAD Records, to do the work of love which keeps Polish Culture alive and remembered. Thank you!

niedziela, 28 grudnia 2014

Komeda - Nagrania pierwsze

Krzysztof Komeda Trzciński

Krzysztof Komeda - piano

with various groups

Krzysztof Komeda W Polskim Radiu Vol.01 – Nagrania Pierwsze 1952-1960


By Maciej Nowotny

Chciałbym Państwa prosić o rzecz niemożliwą: na chwilę zapomnijcie jak wielkim jazzmanem Komeda był! Bo w roku 1952, skąd pochodzi pierwsze nagranie na tej płycie Krzysztof Trzciński jest po prostu jednym z wielu i nic nie zapowiada jego przyszłej sławy. Jak właściwie wykształcił się ten indywidualny styl, który otworzył mu drzwi kariery? Odpowiedż na to pytanie jest trudna, bo jego brzmienie nie jest tak charakterystyczne jak na przykład Billa Evansa, z którym najwięcej ma wspólnego. Na jego określenie często używa się takich przymiotników jak “poetycki”, “liryczny” czy “słowiański”.

To jednak są opisy na poziomie intuicji, przeczuć, a może nawet fantazji? Dlatego tak się ucieszyłem, gdy trafił w moje ręce ten krążek. Jest na nim zapisany jakby na zamówienie, etap po etapie, najwcześniejszy okres kariery Komedy. Od pierwszego zespołu jaki tworzył z Witoldem Kujawskim, kolegą jeszcze z Ostrowa Wielkopolskiego, poprzez Melomanów, Sextet i różne epizodyczne składy. I nagle objawienie, jasność, pewność że odpowiedź mam przed swoimi uszami. Bo mamy tutaj Komedę jakiego mniej znamy: muzyka jednego z wielu, grającego niemal wyłącznie aż za dobrze znane standardy, a jednak…

Od samego początku to jest ten Komeda, którego muzyka nie przestaje zdumiewać, mimo że w tym roku mija 45 lat od jego śmierci. Nie chodzi wyłącznie o talent wykonawczy, bo wirtuzoem Komeda nigdy nie był ani nie miał ambicji nim być. Nie chodzi o talent kompozytorski, bo jeszcze nie zdążył się on objawić, a jedyny nie standard na tej płycie “That Second” napisany wspólnie z J.P, Wróblewskim w niczym nie zapowiada wspaniałych kompozycji z przyszłości. Chodzi o osobowość, o indywidualność, o własną drogę.

W zawierusze wydawałoby się całkowicie przewidywalnego grania wystarczy jedno uderzenie Komedy w klawisz, jeden dźwięk, nie, nawet nie dźwięk, lecz pauza, cisza w zgiełku innych instrumentów, by nagle muzyka wprawiła nas w zdziwienie. To już nie jest ten sam standard tysiące razy grany przez innnych, to nie jest zwykła polska kopia wielkich amerykańskich combo, to początek ścieżki, która poprzez Sopot, granie z gigantami polskiej i skandynawskiej sceny, kwartet ze Stańką, wreszcie współpracę z Polańskim zawiedzie Komedę na szczyt, do Hollywood, do śmierci i... nieśmiertelności. (liner notes)

English review

czwartek, 25 grudnia 2014

Polish Jazz TOP TEN 2014 by Maciej Nowotny

This year we publish four individual lists of best albums of 2014. Today we want to present you Maciej Nowotny's (Editor-in-Chief) choice:

Polish Jazz TOP TEN 2014 by Maciej Nowotny:

1. Sebastian Zawadzki – Luminescence
2. Wacław Zimpel To Tu Orchestra – Nature Moves
3. Grzegorz Karnas Trio feat. Miklos Lukacs – Vanga
4. Jachna/Tarwid/Karch – Sundial
5. Dąbrowski/Davis/Drury – Vermilion Tree
6. Trzy Tony – Efekt Księżyca
7. Grażyna Auguścik Orchestar - Inspired By Lutosławski
8. Uri Caine/Ksawery Wójciński/Robert Rasz – Szpilman
9. Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet – Polka
10. Bałdych & Herman Duo Art – The New Tradition

Wojciech Jachna

Kuba Płużek – First Album

Michał Urbaniak Group - Inactin

Zawsze byłem sceptyczny wobec solowych płyt w jazzie, ale w tym roku nasi muzycy - zwłaszcza młodzi - wybili mi ten sceptycyzm całkowicie z głowy. Solo nagrali swoje albumy m.in. Piotr Orzechowski, Jacek Mazurkiewicz, Ksawery Wójciński, Paweł Szamburski, Kuba Płużek, Kuba Stankiewicz i Hubert Zemler - każda z nich po prostu wspaniała i godna by znaleźć się w mojej dziesiątce. I nie przypadkiem na czele mojej listy jest właśnie jeden z tych wyjątkowych albumów nagranych w tym roku solo przez - co jeszcze bardziej niezwykłe! - debiutanta Sebastiana Zawadzkiego!

środa, 24 grudnia 2014

Polish Jazz TOP TEN 2014 by Mateusz Magierowski

This year we publish four individual lists of best albums of 2014. Today we want to present you Mateusz Magierowski's choice:

Mateusz Magierowski TOP TEN Polish Jazz 2014:

Wojciech Jachna

Jachna/Tarwid/Karch – Sundial

Polish Radio Jazz Archives Vol. 18 - Free Cooperation 

Very high level of the polish jazz mainstream records.

wtorek, 23 grudnia 2014

Polish Jazz TOP TEN 2014 by Adam Baruch

This year we publish four individual lists of best albums of 2014. Yesterday you could read the list assembled by Tomasz Łuczak and today we want to present you Adam Baruch's choice:

Adam Baruch TOP TEN Polish Jazz 2014:

Jan Smoczyński

Jachna/Tarwid/Karch – Sundial

Polish Radio Jazz Archives Vol. 18 - Free Cooperation 

Singer Jazz Festival

poniedziałek, 22 grudnia 2014

Polish Jazz TOP TEN 2014 by Tomek Łuczak

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 four separate lists arranged by Maciej Nowotny, Mateusz Magierowski, Tomek Łuczak and Adam Baruch, who all constitute our editorial office. On four consecutive days we we will publish our separate individual lists. 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 2014.

Tomek Łuczak TOP TEN Polish Jazz 2014:

1. Wacław Zimpel To Tu Orchestra – Nature Moves
2. Jachna/Tarwid/Karch – Sundial
3. Dąbrowski/Davis/Drury – Vermilion Tree
4. Innercity Ensemble – II
5. Malerai/Goldstein/Masecki – Preparing To Dance-New Yiddish Songs
6. Piotr Wojtasik Quartet – Amazing Twelve
7. ELMA – Hic Et Nunc
8. Second Exit – Spoon
9. Piotr Damasiewicz Quartet – Mnemotaksja
10. Piotr Lemańczyk Quartet North – Baltic Dance

Wojciech Jachna

Kuba Płużek – First Album

Polish Radio Jazz Archives Vol. 14 – Jazz Jamboree 63’ Vol. 03

Creativity and quality of the vocal albums with Grażyna Auguścik Orchestar, ELMA, Grzegorz Karnas, Wojciech Myrczek, Krystyna Stańko, Sylwia Białas as examples.

czwartek, 18 grudnia 2014



1. Jachna/Tarwid/Karch – Sundial 32
2. Wacław Zimpel To Tu Orchestra – Nature Moves 24
3. ELMA – Hic Et Nunc 15
4. Grażyna Auguścik Orchestar – Inspired By Lutosławski 14
5. Piotr Wojtasik Quartet – Amazing Twelve 13
6. Dąbrowski/Davis/Drury – Vermilion Tree 12
7. Maciej Fortuna/Krzysztof Dys – Maciejewski Variations 11
8. Piotr Damasiewicz Quartet – Mnemotaksja 10
9. Sebastian Zawadzki – Luminescence 9
10. Grzegorz Karnas Trio feat. Miklos Lukacs – Vanga 8


Wojtek Jachna

It could be a surprise to many as Wojtek likes to keep low profile. But in purely artistic terms we find him this year in so many, so diverse and so excellent projects (among them the best albums of our list) that this was easy and unanimous choice:

Jachna/Tarwid/Karch - Sundial
Innercity Ensemble – II 

Kuba Płużek – First Album



This one was quite hard this year with so much things going on our scene. But we would like to register following phenomena:

- an astounding number and quality of solo albums. Among many those by Piotr Orzechowski, Jacek Mazurkiewicz, Ksawery Wójciński, Paweł Szamburski, Kuba Płużek, Kuba Stankiewicz and Hubert Zemler all deserving the highest accolade,

- creativity and quality of the vocal albums with Grażyna Auguścik Orchestar, ELMA, Grzegorz Karnas, Krystyna Stańko, Sylwia Białas as examples,

- great number and outstanding quality of numerous jazz festivals organized in our country (Bielska Jesień Jazzowa, Made in Chicago, Krakowska Jesień Jazzowa, Jazztopad, Warsaw Summer Jazz Days, Enter Jazz Festival, Jazzart, Singer Jazz Festival to name just a few).

wtorek, 16 grudnia 2014

Adam Pierończyk Quartet – A-Trane Nights (2014)

Adam Pierończyk Quartet

Adam Pierończyk - tenor & soprano saxophones
Adrian Mears - trombone, didgeridoo
Anthony Cox - double bass
Krzysztof Dziedzic - drums

A-Trane Nights


By Adam Baruch

This is an "archival" album by the veteran Polish Jazz saxophonist/composer Adam Pierończyk and his quartet, which also includes Australian (living in Germany) trombonist/didgeridoo player Adrian Mears, American bassist Anthony Cox and Polish drummer Krzysztof Dziedzic. The music was recorded live at the Berlin A-Trane International Jazz Club (hence the title) in 2008, immediately following the studio recording of the same material, which was released a couple of years later as "El Buscador" on the German Jazzwerkstatt label, on which Pierończyk releases his albums in the last few years. The album presents eight original compositions, seven of which were composed by Pieronczyk and one which was co-composed by Pierończyk and Mears, exactly the same as the studio album and in almost identical sequence.

Naturally these live versions are expanded and provide a much broader basis both for individual explorations and ensemble interplay. Three of the pieces have a duration of over fifteen minutes and two others of over ten minutes, which obviously emphasizes the relaxed atmosphere and creative frame of mind of the quartet members at the time.

The music is quite deceiving, as it does sound a bit simplistic at first, but careful listening reveals a depth much beyond the exterior layer of the melodic themes in each of the pieces. There is an intrinsic dimension of freedom in this music, which never actually crosses over to the avant-garde or even free form, but is sufficiently removed from straightforward mainstream to be both aesthetically elegant and intellectually intriguing. As I have already said on previous occasions, Pierończyk seems to have developed a niche of his own within modern Jazz, which came to full fruition on his recent solo saxophone album "The Planet Of Eternal Life".

The sound of the quartet is another challenge; a pianoless saxophone and trombone/didgeridoo fronted ensemble is obviously significantly less "user friendly" than a traditional harmonically supported lineup. But whatever is lost from the absence of the piano is gained by the sonic space stretched between the brass instruments. The "air" or empty space plays a significant role in the overall effect the quartet members achieve collectively as a group.

Of course the individual performances are all quite splendid. Pierończyk has a superbly mellow tone, which contrasts nicely with the somewhat rough trombone and didgeridoo sound. The soloists are supported admirably by the rhythm section, which of course is solid like a rock and flexible like a breeze. Big kudos is due to For Tune for putting this music out and saving it from getting stale and lost in the tunnels of history, as it surely deserves to see the light of day and make the music lovers happy!

poniedziałek, 15 grudnia 2014

Maciej Fortuna/Krzysztof Dys - Maciejewski Variations (2014)

Maciej Fortuna/Krzysztof Dys

Maciej Fortuna - trumpet
Krzysztof Dys - piano

Maciejewski Variations

DUX 1151

By Mateusz Magierowski

Ostatnimi czasy jazzmani znad Wisły zwykli coraz częściej w swojej twórczości nawiązywać do bogatego dorobku polskich kompozytorów muzyki poważnej. Szczególnie budujące są przynajmniej trzy aspekty tego zjawiska. Po pierwsze, podstawowym punktem odniesienia przestaje być odczytany już chyba przez polskich jazzmanów na każdy możliwy sposób Fryderyk Chopin, a bodźcem w procesie twórczym stają się dlań chociażby dokonania Witolda Lutosławskiego czy Krzysztofa Pendereckiego. Po drugie, ich utwory nie zostają odczytane literalnie, ale pełnią jedynie rolę zapalnika i katalizatora w procesie własnej działalności improwizatorskiej. Po trzecie - grupę muzyków zainspirowanych bardziej współczesnym dorobkiem polskiej muzyki klasycznej tworzą przede wszystkim jazzmani wciąż mniej lub bardziej młodzi – od Piotra Orzechowskiego i jego realizowanych solo ("Penderecki: Experiment") lub w kwartecie High Definition ("Bukoliki" Lutosławskiego) przedsięwzięciach poczynając, na Macieju Garbowskim i jego projektach z RGG Trio (album "Szymanowski") czy Lutosławski Collective kończąc. 

Do tej grupy zaliczyć również należy Macieja Fortunę i Krzysztofa Dysa, którzy przed rokiem zachwycili świetnym krążkiem "Tropy", bowiem w końcówce bieżącego roku na sklepowe półki trafiła wydana nakładem DUX Recording Producers płyta "Maciejewski Variations". Podczas gdy na "Tropach" pretekstem do improwizowanego dialogu były przygotowane uprzednio przez pianistę i trębacza tematy, na ich najnowszym albumie analogiczną funkcję pełnią struktury kompozycji Romana Maciejewskiego - twórcy docenianego przez Szymanowskiego i Rubinsteina, ale jednocześnie pozostającego w cieniu innych współczesnych polskich kompozytorów - Pendereckiego, Lutosławskiego i Góreckiego.

Materiał zapisany na krążku "Maciejewski Variations" został zarejestrowany 18 i 19 sierpnia bieżącego roku w kościele pod wezwaniem Miłosierdzia Bożego w Trzęsaczu - tym samym, w którym nagrywano również wspomniane "Tropy". Na tym nie kończą się analogie pomiędzy dwiema ostatnimi płytami duetu, spośród których najistotniejszą jest jakość wykonywanej muzyki. W wariacjach Dysa i Fortuny na temat twórczości Maciejewskiego kameralistyczna, nastrojowa oszczędność splata się z ujętym w koncepcyjne karby żywiołem improwizowania. Efektem tego mariażu staje się charakterystyczna dla muzyki duetu brzmieniowa specyfika, kreująca aurę przesyconą zarówno melancholijną kontemplacyjnością, jak i mroczną dramaturgią, przywodzącą na myśl inny świetny, nagrany w sakralnej przestrzeni duetowy krążek - "Gottland" Tomasza Stańki i Nilsa Landgrena. Analogia ta nie była zapewne żadną miarą intencją Fortuny i Dysa, którzy starają się zaznaczyć swój kolektywny głos na polskiej scenie improwizowanej, co zasłużenie udaje im się w coraz większym stopniu. To bez wątpienia od początku do końca ich własny głos, bo nawet jeśli - jak ma to miejsce w przypadku "Maciejewski Variations" - sięgają w poszukiwaniu inspiracji do dorobku innych twórców, nie traktują ich odtwórczo i czołobitnie, czego dowodem prócz samej muzyki jest również sama okładka albumu. Można się spierać, czy improwizacji jest na "Maciejewski Variations" więcej, czy też mniej niż na "Tropach" - dla mnie najistotniejszy jest fakt, że Fortuna i Dys konsekwentnie podążając obraną drogą stworzyli kolejną frapującą muzyczną propozycję, wartą nie tyle wielokrotnego odsłuchu, co niejednokrotnego się w nią wsłuchania.

niedziela, 14 grudnia 2014

Grażyna Auguścik Orchestar – Inspired By Lutosławski (2014)

Grażyna Auguścik Orchestar

Grażyna Auguścik - vocals
Jan Smoczyński Trio
Janusz Prusinowski Trio
Atom String Quartet

Inspired By Lutosławski


By Adam Baruch

This extraordinary album is a superb example of intelligent contemporary music, which is completely unlimited by the imaginary bounds set up by genres and other labeling concepts. Polish vocalist Grażyna Auguścik embarked on this ambitious project with the help of some of the most important musicians on the Polish scene, who cover a wide scope of stylistic spheres including Classical Music, Folklore and Jazz, all of which have been already visited by her during her prolific career.

The music combines Polish Folk songs and the work of the esteemed Polish modern Classical composer Witold Lutosławski, which were based on or inspired by Polish Folklore. Lutosławski, like all the composers living and working behind the Iron Curtain, was forced (directly or indirectly) by the regimes ruling Eastern Europe at the time, to include folkloristic motives in his compositions, often completely artificially and against all aesthetic or compositional reasoning. The refusal to do so would effectively mean an artistic ban by the authorities and in extreme cases political persecution. The compositions included here were created by Lutoslawski in the 1950s, the most oppressive period in the Socialist era, and for many years thereafter were considered as his less important and definitely less appreciated works. However, in retrospect the composer's genius obviously overcame the obstacles and this music turns out to be a completely relevant component of his grand legacy.

Auguścik combined forces with the brilliant keyboardist/composer/arranger Jan Smoczyński, who was entrusted with the enormous task of arranging all the music, both the Classical and Folklore pieces, and than participate in the recording, as well as being the sound engineer, since the recording took place in his now legendary Studio Tokarnia, with spectacular sonic results, as usual in his case. In many respects this album is as much a credit to Auguścik as it is to Jan Smoczyński. The research of the Polish Folklore as well as the leadership of the ensemble performing the folk songs was left in the hands of violinist Janusz Prusinowski.

Overall twelve musicians take part in the entire project in addition to Auguścik, who sings the lead vocals: the Jan Smoczyński Trio (with bassist Wojciech Pulcyn, drummer Tomasz Waldowski and vocalist Sylwia Smoczyńska), the Janusz Prusinowski Trio (with clarinetist Michał Żak, percussionist Piotr Piszczatowski and bassist Piotr Zgorzelski) and Poland's most celebrated string quartet, the Atom String Quartet (violinists Dawid Lubowicz and Mateusz Smoczyński, violist Michał Zaborski and cellist Krzysztof Lenczowski).

The album comprises of twelve pieces (and a radio edit bonus), ranging from "pure" folklore songs, which were the original songs upon which Lutoslawski based his compositions, to more arranged pieces of folk songs and Lutosławski's pieces performed by the ensemble and finally to a quite Jazzy songs based on folkloristic motifs. In spite of the variety and wealth of the musical material the album creates a coherent and aesthetically pleasing outcome, which is a music connoisseur's wet dream. The beautiful arrangements, passionate performance and depth of respect for the Polish musical tradition and legacy are all combined herein with truly spectacular results.

Auguścik takes a step back from the limelight on this album, preferring to play the role of an integrator rather than the leading person. She sings beautifully, as always, but with less spectacular attitude, almost leaving out completely her Jazzy improvisations and vocalese acrobatics, which are her trademarks. This is a very courageous artistic decision, for which she deserves a lot of respect.

There is no doubt that this is definitely one of the most important and beautiful albums released in Poland in 2014, a "complete" multi-layered, multi-faced effort involving the talents of many wonderful musicians and setting a golden standard for future projects, which will be very difficult to match end even more so to rise above. Polish music scene and Polish Culture is glorified by this project, which should make all Poles proud. Being realistic, however, it will probably reach only e very limited scope of listeners, which of course is tragic. My deepest thanks to everybody involved in this project for the pleasure it causes to this humble listener.

sobota, 13 grudnia 2014

Pianohooligan – 15 Studies For The Oberek (2014)


Piotr Orzechowski - piano

15 Studies For The Oberek

DECCA 602547119124

By Adam Baruch

Polish pianist/composer Piotr Orzechowski (a.k.a. Pianohooligan) returns with the annual (third time in a row) display of his musical vision, which hovers above the usual genre definitions, practically ignoring all conventions and boundaries and creates his own unique musical universe. This time the theme of his explorations is the Polish folk dance called oberek, which is the most lively and least restricted of the Polish folk dances and therefore also the most open to interpretation or even improvisation. The album presents fifteen relatively short solo piano pieces, called "studies" organized into five series of three pieces each. Each of the series has its own subtitle and focuses on a different aspect of the dance. The music is magnificently recorded at the Polish Radio's Concert Studio in Warsaw with Ewa Guziolek-Tubelewicz presiding at the console.

Of course in this case, the oberek is more of an inspiration or a point of reference, rather than an actual source, as usual with Orzechowski, whose multi-dimensional compositional concept expands well beyond the actual structure of the dance. Listeners not familiar with the oberek might of course never recognize the subtle references, but that should not diminish in any way the aesthetic elegance of this music in any way, as it obviously has a life of its own regardless of its inspiration.

It would be superfluous to sing the paeans about Orzechowski's talents both as a composer and performer, which have already seen the light of day both in my previous reviews of his work and countless other critiques. In his case, which is very rare indeed, the general acceptance of his virtues is not a sign of blind public hysteria but a true admiration of his qualities. With this album he manages, yet again, to surprise, excite and move the listener, which is probably the greatest gift an Artist is blessed with. All we can do is to express our gratitude.

For the third time in a row an album by Orzechowski is one of the best albums released in Poland in a particular year (2014 in this case), which is simply unprecedented. Chapeau Maestro!

piątek, 12 grudnia 2014

Myrczek & Tomaszewski – Love Revisited (2014)

Myrczek & Tomaszewski

Wojciech Myrczek - vocals
Paweł Tomaszewski - piano

Love Revisited


By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by the Polish Jazz duo: vocalist Wojciech Myrczek and pianist Paweł Tomaszewski. Myrczek recorded his debut album three years earlier while he was still a student at the Katowice Academy of Music, where he is now a member of the faculty. Tomaszewski, a graduate of the same Academy, is a seasoned and much respected pianist with an impressive recorded legacy, mostly as a sideman. The album presents ten classic vocal standards performed by the duo, recorded in a Swiss studio with astounding sonic quality.

In many respects this is the most surprising album released on the Polish Jazz scene in 2014. I mean the sheer chutzpah of these two guys fooling around with the holy grail of Jazz vocals? Who do they think they are? The trifling comparison often quoted in the duo's PR material and other reviews referencing this album to the archetypal Tony Bennett & Bill Evans albums from 1975 & 1977 is completely counterproductive in this case. This music sounds nothing like the referenced albums, which of course is all for the good, since letting the bygones be bygones is the only way to get anywhere.

Initially the album has everything working against it. The Polish Jazz male vocalists are few and far between, and with rare exceptions are all quite insignificant. The standards all feature lyrics in English and Polish vocalist singing in English usually simply stink (again with very few exceptions). But most importantly: the concept of this duo, which places a vocalist, who uses conventional (well mostly) techniques against a pianist who plays completely unconventionally, often pretty wildly and freely, is absolutely atypical for a vocals/piano setting.

And yet, against all odds, this album is simply a gem from start to finish. Myrczek arises as a gifted vocal magician, able to use a wide vocabulary of possibilities, from crooning sweetness to improvised scat, vocalese and imitating bass lines vocally. It is obvious that he is having a great time and there is no tension (other that creative tension of course) limiting his performances. Although there is not much innovation as far as Jazz singing is concerned, with obvious references ranging from Kurt Elling to Bobby McFerrin, the overall effect of his singing is simply irresistible. There is also an obvious pinch of humor omnipresent herein, most evident when Myrczek recites a fragment of a book in the Polish language in the middle of one of the songs. Even his English accent and pronunciation are only very slightly off, which can be considered as charming, rather than disturbing.

Tomaszewski, in complete contrast to Myrczek, treats the music completely on his own terms, playing anything but what would normally be expected of him and taking liberties with the melodies, the chords and even the time, which although must have been very difficult for Myrczek to sing along with, is wonderfully effective, creating a much more expressive result than the usual vocals/piano setting. Comparing his work on his earlier recordings, including those featuring vocalists, his playing here is the more adventurous and daring than ever. His work on this album definitely marks him as one of the Polish Jazz pianists who deserve a much wider exposure than what he enjoys currently.

So here we are again; the Polish Jazz scene is able to come up with another pleasant surprise, which is pretty astonishing, considering the overly excellent level of music released in Poland. The music this album offers is nothing but pure joy, elegance, class and panache, all of the highest caliber. It is definitely one of the nicest releases of 2014, which should stay with the listeners for many years to come.

Another surprising element is the fact that this album was released by the For Tune label, which is usually associated with avant-garde and other alternative music forms. It is heartwarming to see that the label recognized the fact that seemingly conventional music can also be challenging and adventurous. The album is the label's debut on the new "pink" series (the exact meaning of the various colors of their releases is kept in deep secret), and regardless of the "pinkness", will be very had to beat.

czwartek, 11 grudnia 2014

Łukasz Borowicki Trio – People, Cats & Obstacles (2014)

Łukasz Borowicki Trio

Łukasz Borowicki - guitar
Mariusz Praśniewski - double bass
Kasper Tom Christiansen - drums

People, Cats & Obstacles


By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by young Polish Jazz guitarist/composer Łukasz Borowicki, recorded in a trio format with Polish bassist Mariusz Praśniewski and Danish drummer and frequent collaborator with Polish musicians Kasper Tom Christiansen. Both Borowicki and Prasniewski studied at the Academy of Music in Odense (Denmark), as did many of Poland's young Jazz musicians in recent years. The album presents nine original compositions recorded by the trio and a bonus track which is a solo guitar piece, all composed by Borowicki.

The music is a surprising amalgam of many different elements, which create a unique musical perception, fascinating and absorbing right from the onset. Borowicki has a distinctive guitar sound, which is raw and distorted, somewhat similar to early John McLaughlin's efforts. The melodies, or rather melodic fragments, are quirky and unstable, changing rapidly and continuously, and yet producing an overall coherent compositional whole. The same applies to the frequent tempo changes and improvisational approaches, which move within one piece between tightly knit interplay and completely free form, spacey improvisation. The overall effect of this unusual music is definitely fascinating and completely fresh. Considering the fact that guitar is the most popular instrument on this planet, it takes a truly ingenious musician to create something new with it, such as Borowicki manages to do in this case.

The leader gets a most sympathetic support from his cohorts; Praśniewski is a wonderfully melodic player, who against all odds manages to keep the surreal paste of change this music demands, supporting the guitar every inch of the way. Christiansen, who is already a well seasoned musician and a superb composer on his own, is an ideal partner completing the trio. He plays sparingly and unobtrusively, but is right where he is needed at all times.

In conclusion, this is a first class debut effort, which shows an enormous potential and talent that Borowicki represents which hopefully will mature and develop further in time. As a result of this album, he immediately becomes a worthy candidate to become one of the top Jazz guitar players in his country, a position which at the moment is rather sparingly populated.

środa, 10 grudnia 2014

Andrzej Olejniczak – New Sax Concertos (2014)

Andrzej Olejniczak

Andrzej Olejniczak - saxophone
with Polish Radio Orchestra

New Sax Concertos


By Adam Baruch

This is a wonderful album by Polish (living in Spain) Jazz saxophonist Andrzej Olejniczak, who performs three "borderline" pieces bridging Jazz and Classical music, which feature the saxophone as the leading instrument. The album was recorded live with Olejniczak performing the music with the Polish Radio Orchestra conducted by Krzesimir Debski. Drummer Lukasz Zyta is featured as co-soloist on one track.

The first piece, entitled "Focus Suite", was written by American composer Eddie Sauter specifically for saxophonist Stan Getz, who recorded the suite in 1961 on the album entitled "Focus", which to this day remains as one of the most revered Jazz recordings of all times. The original recording features Getz supported by a Jazz piano trio (pianist Steve Kuhn, bassist John Neves and drummer Roy Haynes) and a small string ensemble, with the music beautifully arranged by Sauter.

The second piece, entitled "Sax Concerto For Soprano Saxophone And Symphony Orchestra, was written by American composer Mark Kuss in 2006.

The third piece, entitled "Jazz Concerto For Saxophone And Orchestra", was written by Polish violinist/composer/conductor Krzesimir Debski in 2008. Debski and Olejniczak were both members of the legendary Polish Jazz ensemble String Connection, which was active in the 1980s. The concerto was written for Olejniczak and incorporates many of the themes that appeared on the albums String Connection recorded at the time and the solo saxophone parts are based on transcriptions of the violin solos played by Debski at the time. In many respects this concerto symbolizes the closing of a time loop bringing the two great musicians together again.

The music is excellently performed by Olejniczak, who has a beautiful tone and superb technique. Although most of the music here is composed, there are plenty of opportunities for Olejniczak to express his own improvised passages, making this entire performance a once in a lifetime event. The orchestra is also top notch, supporting the soloist with elegance and obvious sympathy.

Fans of Jazz-Classical fusion will find this music right up their alley, but listeners of both Classical Music and Jazz should find this music worth their attention, especially in view of its aesthetic merits. Warmly recommended!

wtorek, 9 grudnia 2014

Riverloam Trio – Inem Gortn (2014)

Riverloam Trio

Mikołaj Trzaska - alto saxophone, clarinet & bass clarinet
Olie Brice - double bass
Mark Sanders - drums

Inem Gortn

FMR 374

By Adam Baruch

This is the second album by the Riverloam Trio, which consists of Polish Improvised Music legend, saxophonist/clarinetists Mikołaj Trzaska and two British musicians from the same sphere: bassist Olie Brice and drummer Mark Sanders. The trio's live debut released a couple of years earlier (as a double LP – no CD release so far) was very warmly received at the time and this studio effort should solidify their reputation. The album consists of seven original compositions, all credited to the trio members.

With dozens of albums behind him, it is increasingly difficult to describe each specific new project involving Trzaska and remain open-minded and focused enough to pinpoint the often subtle differences between the various parts of such an immense body of work. However, from the very first notes on this album it becomes perfectly clear that this is one of the most expressive and emotional settings that Trzaska is involved with lately. His playing and improvising is simply overwhelming and it is quite obvious that this happens due to the superb rapport between him and the rhythm section, especially so with Brice, whose arco work is simply stunning (nothing wrong with his pizzicato of course) and their duets are the absolute highlights of this album.

Trzaska switches between the saxophone, clarinet and bass clarinet, as he often does these days, to achieve a different mood and power of expression. The rhythm section follows his lead amicably, adjusting the volume and intensity of their performances to the lead instrument, which is a sign of mutual respect and solidarity, which are unfortunately often forgotten in the Improvised Music environment. Sanders, who is a seasoned improviser, always finds just the proper percussive ambience to support Trzaska and Brice and elegantly takes a step back when they get involved in intimate duos.

Personally I think this is an ideal Improvised Music album, which keeps the anarchy well in check, shows the individual expressions of the musicians involved and glues them together to create a whole greater than the sum of its ingredients. Emotionally and artistically this is definitely one of the best albums Trzaska recorded in his long and impressive career.

This music is also beautifully recorded, with a perfect balance between the instruments and a wonderful room ambience, which enables the listener to hear every little detail of the entire sonic contents. Improvised Music recording sadly often suffer from poor recording quality and this one is an example of how things should be done and how important it is to be able to hear absolutely everything. All that remains is to thank these wonderful Artists for their gift to us, mere mortals, who have the privilege to enjoy this music. Well done indeed, gentlemen!

poniedziałek, 8 grudnia 2014

Paweł Szamburski – Ceratitis Capitata (2014)

Paweł Szamburski

Paweł Szamburski - clarinet, bass clarinet

Ceratitis Capitata


By Adam Baruch

This is the debut solo album by the Polish Jazz clarinetists/composer Paweł Szamburski, one of the pillars of the local avant-garde / Improvised Music scene, known from many different projects with a wide range of musicians, including the clarinet quartet Ircha led by Mikołaj Trzaska. The album comprises of five tracks, each dedicated to one of the religious movements originating in the Mediterranean. The music was recorded in a church and the solo clarinet sound emphasized and transformed by the church's natural echo and ambience create a sacred, mystical atmosphere.

In complete contrast to what people familiar with Szamburski's earlier recordings nigh expect, this music is completely and absolutely spiritual, melodic, lyrical and enchantingly beautiful, a total antidote to the avant-garde/Free Jazz idiom, associated with his "usual reputation". In many respects this music sounds more like a prayer than an artistic expression, but on the other hand perhaps art is always a form of prayer? Of course listeners familiar with sacred music originating form the Mediterranean region will be able to identify traces of it in this music, but Szamburski manages to turn them into an integral part of his own creation. Listening to the is music, at least in my case, turned out to be a deeply moving experience, and considering the fact that the album lasts only for about half an hour, I listened to it repeatedly several times, wishing to sustain the calm and serenity it inspires.

Szamburski deserves to be praised not only for his talents, but also for his integrity and courage to express himself without any inhibitions, showing his innermost feelings and sharing them with his listeners. Free Jazz and freely improvised music often serve, contrary to what some people might think, as paraphernalia to hide the musician's emotions rather than express them. The music Szamburski brings forward herein is simply so pure and bare, that it hides nothing.

This album is undoubtedly one of the best recordings I have heard so far this year and I recommend it wholeheartedly, especially to all the cynics and misanthropes among us; perhaps listening to this music could serve as a wake up call for some of them at least. Since this album was released as a numbered limited edition of 500 copies, grab it ASAP anywhere you can, before it becomes unavailable.

niedziela, 7 grudnia 2014

Magnolia Acoustic Quartet – Cinderella (2014)

Magnolia Acoustic Quartet

Szymon Nidzworski - tenor & soprano saxophones
Kuba Sokołowski - piano
Mateusz Dobosz - double bass
Patryk Dobosz - drums



By Adam Baruch

This is the second album by Polish Jazz ensemble Magnolia Acoustic Quartet, which comprises of saxophonist Szymon Nidzworski, pianist Kuba Sokołowski and the brotherly rhythm section: bassist Mateusz Dobosz and drummer Patryk Dobosz. They perform six original compositions, all by Sokolowski (with one of the tunes inspired by a Yoko Ono piece).

This album faces a series of obstacles: the "second album" syndrome, the fact that the guest musicians on their debut album are not present here, the fact that the music is entirely "home made", and so on. The only thing in common is the fact that this album was also recorded live.

In comparison to its predecessor, musically this album is characterized by a much spacey, less melodic and freer approach, sometimes almost minimalistic. Most importantly the music is much more open and allows for delicate and intimate conversations between the quartet members. Although recorded just a short time apart, the quartet seems to be much mature, with the youthful energy and vivacity being replaced by elegant thoughtfulness. Of course this might result for some listeners/critics to evaluate this album as less impressive and immediate, but personally I happen to think that is simply different, but still very impressive.

I have already mentioned the Dobosz Brothers as potential candidates to the title of upcoming sibling rhythm section in Polish Jazz. Their performances here are no less convincing and they are definitely worth of close attention. Sokołowski plays a much more extensive role on this album that previously, which allows us to discover his subtle lyricism. Nidzworski is the true free spirit, pushing the boundaries of the quartet constantly towards terra incognita.

Overall this is another impressive achievement of a very promising young ensemble, which managed to overcome the a.m. obstacles with flying colors. Yes, this album is more challenging and less immediately likeable that the excellent debut, but patience has its rewards, which in this case are truly worth waiting for. Well done!

sobota, 6 grudnia 2014

Koniec roku na bogato!!!

Końcówka roku w jazzie zawsze jest najmocniejsza, ale to, co się dzieje w tym roku, głównie za sprawą wytwórni For Tune, przechodzi wszelkie pojęcie! Zasadniczo powinno mnie to cieszyć, ale podobnie jak Wy lubię ponarzekać, dlatego powiem, że ta sytuacja ma też pewne swoje minusy. Na przykład chcemy tak jak zwykle 15 grudnia tuż przez Świętami przedstawić nasz TOP TEN 2014 (sprawdźcie nasze dziesiątki z poprzednich lat: 2013, 2012), a tymczasem ciągle docierają do nas nowe krążki i to tak dobre, że mogą bardzo poważnie namieszać w naszym zestawieniu. Rzućcie chociażby okiem na te kilka albumów, które otrzymałem w ostatnich dniach:

Doprawdy płyta jedna ciekawsza od drugiej! Nowa BAABA to jak zwykle jeden z najbardziej inspirujących projektów z pogranicza muzyki popularnej i improwizowanej. Bardzo długo oczekiwana (ponad dekadę!) nowa płyta trio Michała Tokaja też nie zawodzi. Agnieszka Wilczyńska przypomina piosenki Wojciecha Młynarskiego (czyli jednak to prawda, że młode kobiety mają słabość do Starszych Panów). Następny po rewelacyjnym zeszłorocznym projekt duetu Maciej Fortuna/Krzysztof Dys z muzyką Romana Maciejewskiego. Niezwykle mocna propozycja dla wielbicieli awangardy od trio Trzy Tony (Tomasz Pawlicki, Mateusz Szwankowski i Jacek Buhl). Wreszcie na koniec nowe oberki od jednego z najbardziej interesujących pianistów młodego pokolenia, Piotra Orzechowskiego. A to tylko mała część tego, co zostało wydane w ostatnich tygodniach! Śledźcie publikowane codziennie przez nas teksty, aby dowiedzieć się więcej na temat tych i innych propozycji.

Nie samymi płytami człowiek jednak żyje. Od czasu do czasu trzeba się oderwać od głośników i klawiatury laptopa, aby spotkać się z przyjaciółmi i o czym pogadać? Oczywiście o muzyce (no i trochę o dupie Maryni oczywiście)! Tym razem okazja była niecodzienna, bo oto z Aomori położonego na północnym krańcu największej japońskiej wyspy Honsiu przyjechał do Polski Yoshinori Shirao. Moja z nim znajomość zadaje kłam tezie, że Facebook niszczy relacje międzyludzkie. Może i niszczy, ale też i niekiedy tworzy. Bo z Yoshinorim znaliśmy się od kilku lat na fejsie i po kilku latach takiej luźnej znajomości spotkaliśmy się w realu czując się przy tym jak starzy kumple. Przedtem Yoshinori odwiedził Wrocław (wpadł na Jazztopad), Katowice i Kraków, gdzie spotykał się z miłym przyjęciem polskich znajomych, wśród których było wielu naszych artystów. Wreszcie zjechał do "stolycy", gdzie Wasz skromny felietonista zabrał go najpierw na piwo i pizzę do Pardon To Tu, potem na czekoladę do Wedla, dalej na Foksal na kolejne piwo, wódkę, a potem to już niezbyt dokładnie pamiętam, co się działo... Muzycznym powodem wizyty w naszym kraju było wydanie przez Yoshinoriego książki zatytułowanej "Central European Music Steps Ahead!!", w której opisuje muzykę z naszego regionu, a polski jazz ma w tym przeglądzie szczególnie eksponowane miejsce.

Przegląd moich zeszłotygodniowych jazzowych grzechów i grzeszków kończę na mającym miejsce na warszawskim Mokotowie (prezycyjnie na Służewiu) cyklu koncertów Jazz Dobry Nad Dolinką. Jego spiritus movens jest Jurek Szczerbakow, znany Wam z wieloletniego dyrektorowania w RadioJAZZ.FM, a który postanowił mnie zestresować propozycją poprowadzenia w jego zastępstwie koncertu Ewy (Evah!) Urygi. Zestresować, ponieważ wiele rzeczy już robiłem w polskim jazzie (w prasie, radiu, telewizji), ale jakoś tak się złożyło, że koncertu nie prowadziłem. Wyszedłem zatem na scenę, dostałem reflektorami po oczach i tak byłem spięty, że pomieszałem nazwiska muzyków, zapomniałem powiedzieć 90% rzeczy, które zamierzałem i aby uniknąć totalnej kompromitacji jak najszybciej uciekłem ze sceny robiąc miejsce muzykom. Ci poradzili sobie wyśmienicie i rozkołysali zgromadzoną licznie publiczność programem złożonym tyleż z jazzowych standardów co polskich pastorałek, czyli ogólnie na świąteczną nutę. Opuszczałem wraz z publicznością olśniewająco piękny budynek służewskiego domu kultury (świeżo oddany "na wybory" we wrześniu tego roku), podsłuchując o czym rozmawiają i czy są zadowoleni z koncertu. Z ulgą zauważyłem, że nikt nie zwrócił uwagi na moje nerwy, a główny temat rozmów stanowią świąteczne karpie, pierogi, wizyty teściowych i tym podobne sprawy. Odetchnąłem zatem nieco lżej i pognałem do domu porozmawiać z moimi bliskimi dokładnie o tym samym...

Autor: Maciej Nowotny

piątek, 5 grudnia 2014

Kuba Stankiewicz – The Music Of Victor Young (2014)

Kuba Stankiewicz

Kuba Stankiewicz - piano
Darek Oleszkuewicz - bass
Peter Erskine - drums

The Music Of Victor Young

WARNER CLASSICS 825646200313

By Adam Baruch

The making of this album turned out to be a great journey for everybody involved, full of magic and musical, historical, emotional and educational discoveries, all intertwined and dramatic, which started as a seemingly simple and straightforward task of recording a tribute album to one of America's greatest 20th Century composers and eventually emerged as a virtual bridge between the "old" and "new" continents, linking biographical treasures, personal encounters, unearthed documents and above all the hearts of so many people on both sides of the great "pond", myself included. Kuba Stankiewicz, who is not only a sublime artist but also a wonderful human being, was the catalyst and the driving force behind this project, and his limitless faith, energy and dedication are encapsulated herein. We all hope that the listeners of this enchanting music will join Kuba and all of us in a wondrous adventure.

The biography of Victor Young is surely as dramatic and full of unexpected turns and twists as many of the movies he wrote the musical scores for. Born in Chicago at the turn of the 20th Century, his parents were Polish immigrants of Jewish origin, who had a rich musical background. He was discovered very early as an immensely talented child prodigy, having started to play the violin at the age of six. The tragic early death of his mother influenced the decision to send the ten years old Victor and his sister Helen to the homeland of their ancestors, Poland, where their grandparents still resided, and where he received his formal musical education at the Imperial Music Academy in Warsaw, finishing his studies at the momentous period when Poland received its independence after being occupied and divided between the European Empires for almost a century and a half. Young made quite a career as a virtuoso concert violinist and even managed to play for the Russian Czar Nikolai, which almost cost him his life when the Bolshevik revolution erupted and all people connected to the Czar were promptly dealt with. After a life-threatening encounter in Russia, Young managed to flee to Warsaw, then Paris and later finally returned to his Chicago home.

By mid 1930s Young settled in Hollywood and concentrated on composing music for the motion pictures, in time becoming one of the most successful and prolific representatives of the American Dream. He was nominated 22 times for the Academy Award but his only Oscar was awarded to him posthumously. He died at the ridiculous age of 56 leaving behind him a tremendous legacy of hundreds of film scores and wonderful songs, which are still being performed on an everyday basis. There is hardly a Jazz gig anywhere on this planet, where at least one of his standards is not performed, after having been recorded countless times by every imaginable Jazz performer. And yet at the same time almost nobody on the same planet of ours is aware of the fact that Young's roots lie deeply on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean and his life fits into the "wandering Jew" pattern like a silk glove.

The decade Victor Young spent in Poland, as well as his rich Polish roots, remain almost completely absent from his biography and are totally unknown not only in the USA but sadly also in Poland. Generations of Polish Jazz musicians, who played countless times the Victor Young standards, never even imagined that the person behind this music has such close ties to Poland and its Culture. Kuba Stankiewicz took us all on a discovery trip, walking down the streets of Warsaw where Young and his family lived, which he traced from the documents and correspondence between Young and his family members. Most of these highly personal and fascinating documents and photographs were made available by Young's niece, Helen's daughter, the wonderful Bobbie Hill Fromberg, who lives in LA and who embraced this project wholeheartedly, sharing her extensive family archive with us. I imagine that playing Young's music for Bobbie in her apartment on a piano, that Young bought as a wedding present for his sister, must have been quite a thrilling experience for Kuba and Darek Oleszkiewicz, who was also present at the occasion.

The diploma Victor Young received from the Warsaw Music Academy shows that he studied composition with Roman Statkowski, a completely forgotten Polish composer, who surely deserves to be rediscovered. This led Kuba Stankiewicz to find out more about Statkowski and later on to be enchanted by his profoundly beautiful music. Including one of Statkowski's compositions on this album is therefore completely natural, especially in view of the enormous influence Statkowski had on Young, which in fact is audible, albeit subtly, in several of Young's compositions. But even without the Statkowski influence, it is pretty apparent that although Young was a bona fide American composer for decades, the intrinsic Polish lyricism and melancholy, as well as his Jewish approach to melody, stayed with him for all these years, deeply embedded in his heritage and influenced by the growing-up period he has spent in Poland and learned from Polish educators. And as we were tracking Young's life and music, it didn't take long to se the similarities between his fate and that of several other famous American composers, like Bronislaw Kaper and Henryk Wars, fellow Jewish wanderers, whose Polish roots are almost completely obscured and are waiting to be exposed.

But of course it's the music present on this album, which is after all the center of the listener's attention, regardless of the contextual relevance. Recorded in a classic piano trio format, the most formidable chamber environment available in Jazz, it lovingly presents the music of Young, which although in most cases is well know, also includes some of his lesser known pieces as well as one of Statkowski's beautiful compositions, arranged by Stankiewicz. Accompanied by bassist Darek Oleszkiewicz and formidable American drummer Peter Erskine, Kuba Stankiewicz delivers the music of Young with passion and emotion, but also with great respect. As already mentioned these compositions have been previously recorded countless times and therefore playing them anew presents an enormous challenge. I hope the listeners will find the spark that Kuba, Darek and Peter share with us, respectfully and elegantly, proving that the long journey was worth the effort. Thank you for reading and for listening!

Side Note: The above are my liner notes for this wonderful album. It was an immense pleasure to take part in this project.

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