Sunday, May 6, 2018

Piotr Wojtasik – Tribute To Akwarium (2017)

Piotr Wojtasik

Piotr Wojtasik - trumpet, flugelhorn
Sebastian Sołdrzyński - trumpet, flugelhorn
Dominik Wania - piano
Leszek Możdżer - keys, fender rhodes
Viktor Toth - alto saxophone, ocarina
Marcin Kaletka - tenor saxophone

Marek Kądziela - guitar
Igor Pietraszewski - shakuhachi, pungs
Darek Oleszkiewicz - double bass
Eric Allen - drums
Jakub Miarczyński - percussion

Tribute To Akwarium


By Adam Baruch

This is a sensational album by veteran Polish Jazz trumpeter/composer Piotr Wojtasik recorded with a large ensemble which comprises of some of Poland's top Jazz musicians and a few guests from outside of Poland. In addition to the leader who plays trumpet and flugelhorn the other musicians are: trumpeter Sebastian Sołdrzyński, shakuhachi and other wind instruments player Igor Pietraszewski, saxophonists Viktor Toth (Hungary) and Marcin Kaletka, keyboardists Leszek Możdżer and Dominik Wania, guitarist Marek Kądziela, bassist Darek Oleszkiewicz, drummer Eric Allen (USA resident in Poland) and percussionist Jakub Miarczyński. Two female vocalists are featured on one of the tunes.

The album presents a five part suite composed and arranged by Wojtasik and dedicated to the memory of the legendary Warsaw Jazz club Akwarium (active between 1977 and 2000), which used to be the Mecca of Polish Jazz in the past. A sixth bonus track is also included, which offers an alternate version of one of the suite's parts. The music was recorded at the RecPublica Studios and engineered by Łukasz Olejarczyk, who as usual stood up to the challenge.

I recently had the opportunity to hear this music performed live at its premiere concert at the Silesian Jazz Festival in Katowice, with a slightly different lineup, and the impact of the music was truly astounding. This studio version is of course much tamer and orderly, so in some respects it sounds quite differently, but of course it is no less remarkable. Wojtasik managed to combine several sub-genres of the Jazz idiom into one coherent piece of music, which presents a kaleidoscope of modern Jazz, pointing to its many sources from Bebop through Jazz-Rock Fusion to electronics. Based on strong melodic themes but allowing a lot of freedom to the individual musicians to explore and probe, this is a wonderful example of modern Mainstream Jazz, which manages to be fascinating, unexpected and searching.

The individual performances are all great, as expected from this level of musicians. Kądziela's guitar parts are the nicest surprise as he manages to transform the last part of the suite into a modern day "Bitches Brew" ambiance, which should make Miles Davis happily turn in his grave. Możdżer's synthesizer parts are somewhat tedious, especially in comparison to what Paweł Tomaszewski managed to come up with during the concert. Of course Dominik Wania plays some stunning piano parts and it is interesting to hear him in a large ensemble setting. But overall everybody plays their heart out and the result is simply superb.

It is great to see (and hear) that Wojtasik is still in great shape as a player/composer/bandleader and as a friend I wish him many years of good health and creativity. He can certainly be proud of his achievement here and I look forward to hear more of his work soon. His blessed work as an educator at the Katowice Music Academy is of course no less important, but seeing him play is a true Jazz experience. Te old lion is still capable of a mighty roar, which the younger lions are happy to return. Wholeheartedly recommended!

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