Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Rafal Rokicki Trio – Chopin Revisited (2014)

Rafał Rokicki Trio

Rafał Rokicki - piano
Michał Kapczuk - double bass
Paweł Dobrowolski - drums

Chopin Revisited

ELLYAH 808114

By Adam Baruch

This is the second album by Polish Jazz pianist/composer Rafał Rokicki, recorded in a classic piano trio format with bassist Michał Kapczuk and drummer Paweł Dobrowolski. As the title suggests, the album presents seven compositions by Frederic Chopin, transformed into the Jazz setting.

Since Polish Jazz musicians "discovered" the music of Chopin as a source of inspiration, more or less a couple of decades ago, hundreds of Jazz albums with Chopin's music were recorded and released in Poland over time. Such multitude usually has some adverse effects, reaching a stage when some people seeing a new album in that specific niche react with a: "Please, not another Chopin Jazz album…". Not that God forbid we have anything against Chopin or even Chopin Jazz, but what else can be said and done after everybody who is anybody already tried to present their point of view on the subject.

Therefore this album lands on a most perilous ground, where it will be, willingly or unwillingly, compared to all its predecessors placing it face to face with the best out there. Rokicki and his cohorts should have thought about that and perhaps they did and said: "what the heck, we'll try anyway…" Be as it may, unfortunately vis-a-vis the best Chopin Jazz out there, this album simply does not compare well. Not that there is anything badly wrong with it, it is simply not up to par with the others.

The biggest problem with this album is the liberty with which Rokicki approaches Chopin's music as an arranger. His particular approach is to move away from the original, mostly simplifying, or even worse trivializing the phenomenal original music. The result sounds somewhat like a New Age doodling, which is meant not to bother anybody – more or less the complete opposite of what Chopin's music is all about.

Now this music is pretty and very well played. The rhythm section, with veteran and highly professional players, does its job perfectly, but again mostly unobtrusively. Yes, the album has its moments, and is rather well recorded, so not everything is lost. I suppose enthusiasts of the easy Jazz will love this stuff to bits, but I'm not sure is Chopin himself is so excited about this revisit?

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