Friday, May 1, 2015

Nahorny Sextet - Chopin Genius Loci (2010)

Nahorny Sextet

Włodzimierz Nahorny - piano
Dorota Miśkiewicz - vocals
Henryk Gembalski - violin
Wojciech Staroniewicz - saxophone
Mariusz Bogdanowicz - bass
Piotr Biskupski - drums

Chopin Genius Loci


By Adam Baruch

The veteran Polish Jazz pianist/saxophonist/composer Włodzimierz Nahorny, one of the Godfathers of the post-WWII Polish Jazz scene, manages continuously to display a phenomenal vitality and unprecedented imagination, often much superior to those of his colleagues, often decades younger than himself. This album is a wonderful proof of exactly these qualities. Recorded in a sextet setting, with vocalist/violinist Dorota Miśkiewicz, violinist Henryk Gembalski, saxophonist Wojciech Staroniewicz, bassist Mariusz Bogdanowicz and drummer Piotr Biskupski, Nahorny presents a set of Jazz transcriptions of eight pieces by the Polish composer Frederic Chopin, three pieces by a lesser known 20th Century Polish composer Roman Maciejewski and one piece by Karol Szymanowski. In addition one original composition by Nahorny is also included.

Polish Jazz suffers terribly from overexploitation of Chopin's music, which varies in quality from brilliant (rarely) to completely banal (most of the time). Therefore another attempt to interpret Chopin in the Jazz context is always a perilous undertaking. Nahorny's bold and far fetching approach results in transcriptions, which although quote the original music, move very far away from the source during their execution, being in fact completely new and whole pieces of music, which Nahorny even names anew, giving the source as a reference only. Although such liberties might appear sometimes as to audacious, in Nahorny's case they are fully justified and simply brilliant.

The eleven transcriptions, spread over two CDs, are all fascinating musically and serve as wonderful vehicles for the musicians to display their respective talents. Miśkiewicz sings some great vocalese, at times even almost free form, using lyrics on just one piece. Gembalski plays some scorching violin passages and Staroniewicz, as always, charms with his beautiful saxophone tone. The rhythm section keeps the music together with flair and elegance, pushing it ahead with just the right amount of energy. And last but not least Nahorny's piano serves as glue between the Classical and the Swinging elements, bridging and bonding everything together.

Although seemingly positioned well within the mainstream Jazz boundaries (except for the Classical references of course), this music displays quite a lot of freedom and unexpected ventures into less programmatic areas, sometimes almost touching upon Free/Avant Garde idioms, which of course is nothing new as far as Nahorny's music is concerned. This album is a living proof that the Jazz-Classical Fusion can avoid pastiche, cliché and kitsch, and simply bite!

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