Monday, November 9, 2015

Graal – Czarne 13 (2015)


Antoni Gralak - trumpet
Bronek Duży - trombone
Klaudiusz Kłosek - trumpet
Alek Korecki - saxophone
Marek Pospieszalski - saxophone
Locko Richter - bass
Ola Rzepka - drums
Arek Skolik - drums
Darek Sprawka - tuba
Jacek Szymkiewicz - vocals

Czarne 13


By Adam Baruch

This is the sixth album by the cult Polish ensemble Graal, founded and led by the legendary trumpeter/composer/bandleader Antoni Gralak, who is also known for his involvement in such pivotal Polish ensembles as Free Cooperation, Young Power, Tie Break, Woo Boo Doo, Yeshe and others. This album, recorded four years before it finally gets to be released, presents ten songs, all composed by Gralak and the ensemble with lyrics by the ensemble's vocalist Jacek Szymkiewicz. Two radio edits of two of the songs on this album are added as bonus tracks. In addition to Gralak, who also plays tuba and Szymkiewicz, who also plays acoustic guitar, the other members of Graal are: trombonist Bronek Duży, trumpeter Klaudiusz Kłosek, saxophonists Aleksander Korecki and Marek Pospieszalski, bass guitarist Locko Richter, drummers Ola Rzepka and Arek Skolik and finally tuba and trombone player Darek Sprawka; altogether ten musicians.

The music of Graal is a strange amalgam of Rock and Jazz-Rock Fusion, with elements of cabaret and theatrics. The "songs" are often full of dramatic exclamations and theatrical displays of emotion, and the "free" lyrics add to the overall atmosphere of "controlled anarchy". The huge brass section sounds at times like a street marching band, or Balkan brass ensemble, or typical Brass-Rock section, constantly changing its ambiance. The sound is rather muffled and often creates an impression of a live recording. The rhythm section sets a groovy paste, with funky bass guitar in charge of the bottom parts and the drums keeping the mayhem in check. The lead vocals are always up front and the brass is always in the background, which makes the solo parts somewhat less prominent in the overall sound, but those are all well worth being discovered by careful listening.

The solitary instrumental piece on this album is perhaps the most powerful glimpse to the essence of this ensemble, with the multilayered brass parts creating a mini-suite which is both beautifully organized and free at the same time; a wonderful example of contemporary music. Gralak has a gift of creating stuff, which is always unique and exists outside of the Polish Jazz/Fusion scenes, being a typical Lone Ranger. This music simply creates a universe of its own, which is incomparable to anything else happing on the local scene or anywhere else for that matter. Since this is a typical ensemble project, there are few displays of Gralak's virtuosic ability as a trumpeter, but it is his leadership that holds this project together.

Whether one loves or hates this music, one thing is sure: it's impossible to say indifferent to it, which is already a huge achievement in comparison to most of the music created today. Gralak is one of those people who make the Polish music scene worth following and admiring!

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