Sunday, December 1, 2019

Soundcheck – Martin Luther: Suite For Jazz Quartet (2019)


Maciej Kociński - saxophone
Krzysztof Dys - piano
Andrzej Święs - double bass
Krzysztof Szmańda - drums

Martin Luther: Suite For Jazz Quartet

AUDIO CAVE 2019/012

By Adam Baruch

This is the fifth (although by my count the sixth) album by the excellent Polish Jazz quartet Soundcheck led by saxophonist/composer Maciej Kociński with pianist Krzysztof Dys, bassist Andrzej Święs and drummer Krzysztof Szmańda. It presents a six-part suite dedicated to the great reformist Martin Luther and one additional bonus tracks, all composed by the leader.

The album marks the return to "active duty" by the quartet, which was almost completely absent from the scene in the last seven years of so, with their last recordings dated 2012 (including also Kociński's debut solo album recorded and released that same year). Since their formation in 2002 and the release of their debut album on 2005, Soundcheck experienced a meteoric rise to stardom, reaching the status of one of the very best young Polish/European Jazz ensembles, and therefore their disappearance from the scene was as mysterious as it was heartrending.

I was glad to see Kociński's name popping up on two Polish Jazz albums recorded in 2018, and this album under the quartet's moniker is a happy occasion, although the music was recorded back in 2015 and was a part of Kociński's Ph.D. thesis rather than a planned full fledged release. In the liner notes Kociński talks about his emotional and intellectual involvement with Luther's ideas and teachings, both those about the religious and the social ideology behind the reformation.

Musically the album is noticeably more reflective and reserved that the quartet's earlier work, full of lyrical melodic themes, which are slowly developed by the quartet. It is also more constrained and allows less free improvisation, mostly staying on a firm melodic ground. The individual performances by the quartet members, although as brilliant as always, are less extrovert and flashy, displaying mostly concentration and elegance. Make no mistake, these are some of Polish Jazz best players today, but this recording in definitely not intended to show off and speaks strongly to true connoisseurs rather than Jazz adventurers.

Personally I love this music, but considering the rapid progress and the incredible level of contemporary Polish Jazz scene, its density, competitiveness and incredible overflow of superb recordings, this album could be endangered by the tendency to be overlooked. Seven years in such circumstances could be significant and Jazz "critics"/listeners unfamiliar with the quartet's legacy and Artistic scope could probably miss the point, as it happens way too often. Hopefully that will not happen in this case. Glad to see you back, hoping for a real new album to be recorded and released ASAP and wishing you all the best, as always. What a great soundcheck this is. ;)

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