środa, 30 września 2020

EABS - Slavic Spirits (2019)


Marek Pędziwiatr - piano, fender rhodes, minimoog, korg, roland
Olaf Węgier - tenor saxophone
Tenderlonious - flute, saxophone
Jakub Kurek - trumpet
Vojto Monteur - electric guitar
Paweł Stachowiak - bass guitar
Marcin Rak - drums
Spisek Jednego - percussion

Slavic Spirits


By Adam Baruch

A couple of years ago (in 2017) a young Polish Jazz ensemble from Wrocław, called EABS, released their debut album "Repetitions (Letters To Krzysztof Komeda)" which created quite a stir in the local jazz swamp. Subsequently the ensemble released a couple of LPs with material still connected to Krzysztof Komeda's music, which together with the debut they call the "Komeda Triptych". The original septet lineup: keyboardist Marek Pędziwiatr, drummer Marcin Rak, guitarist Vojto Monteur, bassist Paweł Stachowiak, trumpeter Jakub Kurek, saxophonist Olaf Węgier and percussionist also in charge of sound fx Spisek Jednego (a.k.a. Piotr Skorupski) was expanded to an octet with the inclusion of British flautist/saxophonist Tenderlonious (a.k.a. Ed Cawthorne), which released their genuine second album. It presents original compositions by the band members, two by Pędziwiatr, one each by Stachowiak and Monteur and three collective compositions; altogether seven tracks lasting just under forty four minutes. More about the music later…

Similarly to the debut, the Limited Edition of this album includes an extensive essay by Sebastian Jóźwiak, the executive producer of the album, who is an organic member of the ensemble, their spokesman and sort of spiritual guru. The almost 300 pages long massive essay (in bilingual Polish/English version) printed in a book form is in fact an integral part of the release and presents the intellectual / historic / philosophical aspects of the subject matter, complimenting the musical content of the album, which as the title suggests tries to explore the "Slavic Spirit" in a multi-plane analysis attempt. More about the book later…

My reaction to the debut album was somewhat reserved but overall encouraging. I clearly stated my subjective pros and cons but I obviously misjudged the hysterical/hyperbolical/fanatical hype that was created around that album at the time of its release by what can be collectively called the Polish Jazz media and beyond. I refused, as always, to follow the crowd and pay allegiance to vox populi that claimed the album was a Godsend and a monumental event on the Polish Jazz scene, which I found overtly exaggerated. The predicted wave of internet hate that followed was a small price to pay for my intellectual liberty. Considering the average level of professionalism in contemporary Polish Jazz musical journalism and criticism, which is sadly inversely proportional to the level of the music itself, and the omnipresent herd mentality which dominates it, I have always proudly maintained an independent point of view, helped by the geographical distance and total lack of dependence on the social/economic/political and even religious constrains acting upon people living in Poland. Therefore I admit that I was quite surprised to find a copy of the album in my daily heap of albums arriving in the mail - which I interpret as a sign of trust in every case when someone asks for my opinion.

Whenever I write a review of an album recorded by Polish musicians and/or composed by Polish composers there is a high probability that the phrases "Polish lyricism" or "Polish melancholy" might appear within the text, which is only natural since Polish Music generally across all genres, but especially so within the Polish Jazz idiom, offers a spirituality which is probably indescribable in words (see "Dancing about Architecture"), but is very easily recognizable while listening to it. With this album EABS go on a journey of discovery of this particular musical Polishness, which they expand into musical Slavic Spirituality. Although Poles and the various ethnic Polish minorities are of course part of the Slavic peoples, they are in fact a minority within the Slavic global identity and therefore perhaps this generalization is slightly overstretched. Nevertheless the idea is to define the Slavic Spirituality musically, by the music on this album, as well as by the text which examines its other aspects.

The music is diametrically different from what the ensemble offered on their debut. It does not include any vocal parts, no Hip Hop, almost no electronics except for some limited sound effects, in short it makes an almost complete about-face towards mainstream melodic Jazz, which features extended soloing by the keyboards, the saxophones and the trumpet. The three short collective improvisations serve as introductions to the extended main compositions that follow. The four main compositions are developed slowly towards a final climax featuring group improvisation. The melodic themes are undoubtedly lyrical and melancholic, well structured and admittedly beautiful.

That said the question arises if this music is an epitome, a classic/archetypical example of Polish Jazz, which defines its Slavic Spirituality? In all fairness I feel that such a lofty ambition would be beyond the true scope of this music. I'd even say that any attempt to define an entire Cultural aesthetics by one piece of music, regardless how ingenious it might be, is a priori futile.

The text accompanying the album is however much closer to the goal it sets before the reader. It is by no means a scholarly, academic research, impeccably organized and proposing a deterministic outcome. It is a complete opposite; a collection of personal (or rather collective) reflections on the subject of ethnic spirituality, historic processes, religious believes and myths, Paganism and Christianity and many others. The development of contemporary Polish music and its connection to the Slavic Spirituality is approached via an examination of the key personalities that shaped its fate, most extensively Czesław Niemen (a deeply spiritual person) in the chapter entitled "Inspirations". The opening track and each of the four main compositions on the album has a chapter dedicated to it, which explains in depth the Slavic believes, cults and deities connected to the names of the tracks.

Although reading the entire text is challenging, it is also intellectually rewarding and highly educational, full of facts and ideas which probably never occurred to most people before coming across it. The chapter dealing with the Slavic aspects of Polish music is a must read to all connoisseurs, especially the younger ones who did not experience that music during their lifetime. The most important aspect of the text is that is does not try to indoctrinate or impose any views or ideologies on the reader. It presents an impressive collection of facts and views, but leaves the interpretation of the above to the reader himself.

If anybody got finally here, it is time to summarize; this is a very ambitious project, which combines excellent music with well written text related to the subject the music and the text are dedicated to. The music is enjoyable and accessible, superbly performed and offering a rewarding listening experience, which many listeners might enjoy repeatedly. Probably fewer people will have the stamina required to read the entire test attentively, although it is most highly recommended. Overall a splendid piece of dedicated work, which hopefully this time will be appreciated for what it is but not unnecessarily overhyped, which can only case grief and damage in the long term. Well done Gentlemen!

poniedziałek, 28 września 2020

Kasia Pietrzko Trio - Ephemeral Pleasures (2020)

Kasia Pietrzko Trio

Kasia Pietrzko - piano
Andrzej Święs - doube bass
Piotr Budniak - drums

Ephemeral Pleasures


By Adam Baruch

This is the second album by Polish pianist/composer Katarzyna Pietrzko recorded again in a classic piano trio setting, this time with veteran bassist Andrzej Święs and young drummer Piotr Budniak. The album presents ten pieces, four composed by Pietrzko, one by Święs and five are not credited and are assumably improvised by the trio. The music was recorded at the excellent Monochrom Studio. The names of the rhythm section musicians and the name of the recording engineer are not mentioned on the cover art, and the CD is a CD-R, which somewhat spoil the fun.

Pietrzko debuted a couple of years earlier with an excellent album, which introduced her as a new player on the local scene and a promising composer and which was warmly received. The decisive strength of the debut was the strength of the compositions rather than the actual piano playing ability.

This sophomore effort moves from the modern mainstream Jazz environment into a much more open territory. The five compositions are still melody based, but the melodic content is less emphasized and the improvisations take over. The five improvised "Episodes" are all naturally dedicated to free expression. As a result the album is overtly less melodic, and as such loses much of the charm of the debut, taking the pianist into a much more treacherous territory, undermining the pianist's capabilities.

Pietrzko piano playing did not develop significantly since the debut and is still somewhat limited, which results in the rhythm section de facto taking over the proceedings, especially Święs, who dominates the performances with his excellent, but very strong presence, emphasized by the bass being rather high up in the mix. Overall this is an interesting and ambitious effort, which shows the young pianist exploring new ground and growing, which is commendable. The result is somewhat uneven and less coherent, but Pietrzko is certainly an important new arrival worth being watched.

niedziela, 27 września 2020

Festiwal Jazz & Literatura 2020 !!!

Jazz & Literatura to kolejny festiwal, który pomimo trudnego czasu dla kultury, odbędzie się z udziałem publiczności. Od 18 do 22 października zapraszamy na pięć koncertów oraz nietypowe spotkanie literackie. W Miejskim Domu Kultury Batory czeka nas "Tribute To Tomasz Stańko" oraz "Remembering Kosz". Jeden to hołd dla giganta polskiego jazzu, a drugi dla tragicznie zmarłej wschodzącej gwiazdy jazzu, oba w pięknym wykonaniu, pierwszy - kwartetu Piotra Schmidta, drugi - zespołu RGG. W programie festiwalu również dwa koncerty solowe: nieokiełznany improwizator, genialny pianista Piotr Orzechowski vel Pianohooligan zagra w Chorzowskim Centrum Kultury, a charyzmatyczny singer-songwriter z Australii, Phillip Bracken, zahipnotyzuje swoim głosem widownię w Parku Tradycji w Siemianowicach Śląskich.

Prawdziwą perłą w koronie będzie występ ikony polskiego jazzu, niesamowitego Jana Ptaszyna Wróblewskiego i jego znakomitego sekstetu ze wspaniałym projektem "Komeda. Moja słodka europejska ojczyzna". Koncert legendarnego Ptaszyna odbędzie w Chorzowskim Centrum Kultury. Dodatkowo, wspólnie z akcją Wolność Czytania, uczcimy Rok Leopolda Tyrmanda. W Galerii Sztuki Muzycznej i Obrazu będziemy gościć redaktora naczelnego Jazz Forum, Pawła Brodowskiego, któremu Tyrmand udzielił ostatniego przed śmiercią wywiadu.

Festiwal Jazz & Literatura jest wspólną inicjatywą Miejskiego Domu Kultury Batory reprezentowanego przez Dyrektora Sylwestra Paprockiego oraz Agencji New Talents’ Resources Marzena Anioł i powstał w porozumieniu z Miastem Chorzów. Współorganizatorami tegorocznej edycji są: Miasto Chorzów, Chorzowskie Centrum Kultury, Siemianowickie Centrum Kultury - Park Tradycji, Wolność Czytania 2020 oraz Galeria Sztuki Muzycznej i Obrazu.

18-22 października 2020

18.10.2020 (niedziela), godz. 19.00
Phillip Bracken

Siemianowickie Centrum Kultury – Park Tradycji
ul. E. Orzeszkowej 12
Siemianowice Śląskie
Bilety: 30 PLN

19.10.2020 (poniedziałek), godz. 19.00
Piotr Schmidt Quartet feat. Wojciech Niedziela - Tribute to Tomasz Stańko

Miejski Dom Kultury BATORY
ul. Stefana Batorego 6
Bilety: 25 PLN

20.10.2020 (wtorek), godz. 19.00
Piotr Orzechowski "Pianohooligan"

Chorzowskie Centrum Kultury
Ul. Sienkiewicza 3
Bilety: 20/25 PLN

21.10.2020 (środa), godz. 17.00
Paweł Brodowski o Tyrmandzie i jazzie

Galeria Sztuki Muzycznej i Obrazu
Rynek 1/ Pawilon A
Bilety: wstęp wolny – wymagana rejestracja miejsca

21.10.2020 (środa) godz. 19.00
Jan Ptaszyn Wróblewski Sextet - Komeda. Moja słodka europejska ojczyzna

Chorzowskie Centrum Kultury
ul. Sienkiewicza 3
Bilety: 99 PLN

22.10.2020, godz. 19.00
RGG - Remembering Kosz

Miejski Dom Kultury BATORY
ul. Stefana Batorego 6
Bilety: 25 PLN

sobota, 26 września 2020

Degenerative 4. Spontaneous Music Festival 2020 !!!

W czasach wszechogarniającej zarazy organizacja kilkudniowego festiwalu, nawet w obszarze jakże niszowej muzyki swobodnie improwizowanej, graniczy z zaawansowanym stadium szaleństwa. Dragon Social Club i Trybuna Muzyki Spontanicznej nie złożyły jednak broni i - przy zachowaniu nadzwyczajnego reżimu sanitarnego - podjęły się przeprowadzenia kolejnej edycji Spontaneous Music Festiwal. Na scenie poznańskiego klubu Dragon, od 9 do 11 października, pojawią się muzycy z Barcelony, Londynu, Amsterdamu, Wrocławia, Warszawy, Zielonej Góry i Poznania! Zapraszamy serdecznie! 

Czwarta edycja międzynarodowego Festiwalu Muzyki Spontanicznej odbędzie się tym razem pod hasłem Degenerative, które odnosi się rzecz jasna do istoty części muzyki, jaka będzie zaprezentowana na scenie festiwalowej, ale także pokrętnie stara się oddać naszą bezradność wobec rzeczywistości czasów zarazy.

Główną postacią imprezy będzie wenezuelski saksofonista, improwizator i kompozytor - El Pricto. Muzyk od wielu lat rezydujący w Barcelonie, jest najważniejszą postacią tamtejszej, jakże interesującej, sceny muzyki kreatywnej - zarówno improwizowanej, jak i notyfikowanej muzyki współczesnej. Jest także szefem wydawnictwa płytowego Discordian Records.

El Pricto zaprezentuje na scenie Dragona dwa całkowicie autorskie projekty. Pierwszym z nich będzie improwizowana interpretacja muzyki klasycznej pod hasłem Degenerative Music. Artysta przekładał będzie klasyczne partytury, m.in. Fryderyka Chopina i Karola Szymanowskiego, na język improwizacji i dyrygował rozbudowaną personalnie Orkiestrą Festiwalową, którą utworzą muzycy zagraniczni i polscy zaproszeni na Festiwal. W innym przedsięwzięciu El Pricto zaprezentuje - specjalnie napisaną na potrzeby poznańskiego wydarzenia - kompozycję dla improwizującego kwintetu gitar elektrycznych, także złożonego z muzyków zagranicznych i polskich. Ponadto Wenezuelczyka usłyszymy w improwizujących składach - w trio Hung Mung i duecie General Ludd. Pojawi się także w jednym z utworzonych na potrzeby festiwalu składów "ad hoc", tradycyjnie konfigurowanych przez organizatorów z muzyków, którzy nigdy wcześniej nie grali za sobą.

Drugim niezwykle ważnym wydarzeniem festiwalu będzie urodzinowy koncert polskiego pianisty Witolda Oleszaka. Artysta, który latem skończył 50 lat, zaprosił na specjalny koncert dwóch wybitnych, legendarnych muzyków brytyjskich - Johna Edwardsa i Marka Sandersa

Poza wyżej wymienionymi muzykami, w trakcie trzech dni festiwalowych - w przeróżnych układach personalnych - wystąpią: brytyjski saksofonista Colin Webster, holenderski gitarzysta Jasper Stadhouders, kolejni goście z Barcelony - perkusista Vasco Trilla oraz gitarzysta Diego Caicedo oraz jak zwykle rozbudowana załoga polskich muzyków: gitarzyści Hubert Kostkiewicz, Michał Sember i Paweł Doskocz, saksofoniści Piotr Łyszkiewicz i Michał Giżycki, skrzypek Ostap Mańko, perkusiści - Wojtek Kurek i Michał Joniec oraz last, but not least - trębaczka Weronika Kulesza-Gryszczuk

czwartek, 24 września 2020

Joachim Kühn/Mateusz Smoczyński - Speaking Sound (2020)

Joachim Kühn/Mateusz Smoczyński

Joachim Kühn - piano
Mateusz Smoczyński - violin

Speaking Sound

ACT 9630-2

By Adam Baruch

This is another wonderful duo album by German pianist/composer Joachim Kühn this time which brilliant young Polish violinist Mateusz Smoczyński. The album was released as part of the "Duo Art" series by the German ACT label, which cultivates the "Art of the Duo" Jazz tradition. The album presents nine pieces, five of which were composed by Kühn, one co-composed by him and Smoczyński, one is an adaptation of Classical composition by George Gurdjieff, one by French accordionist/composer Vincent Peirani and finally one by Rabih Abou-Khalil.

The music makes it immediately apparent that although obviously improvised, it is first and foremost chamber in character and heavily laden with Classical Music influences. The emerging Jazz-Classical Fusion is one of the finest examples of the idiom, completely unique and aesthetically innovative. Although followers of Smoczyński's career will not be surprised by this deep relationship with Classical Music, for Kühn's followers this is indeed a great surprise, as his ties with Avant-Garde/Improvised Music are way more "natural" that those with Classical Music exposed on this album. Surprisingly Kühn's chameleonic ability to fit in every situation works here as well and one might be easily fooled into thinking that he is a veteran Classical pianist, which by the way is exactly what his career was supposed to be in his early days before he discovered Jazz. 

The age difference between Kühn (born 1944) and Smoczyński (born 1984) is similarly completely insignificant as well, and both players perform in perfect musical and spiritual unity, as expected from such distinguished Artists. They both toy lovingly with the compositions, taking them often quite far-off from their origins at times and staying close to the notes on other occasions. Kühn sprinkles the proceedings with brilliant but brief Free Jazz arpeggios, and Smoczyński inserts some Polish Folklore fragments, which makes the music a great fun to listen to.

But as usual in the intimate duo setting, the music is first and foremost about the dialogue these two Artists are able to create while performing. As someone who happens to know them both in person, the magic that does take place here is completely natural, as they are both as sweet and loving as they sound. The wonderful photograph included on the album's artwork says it all - Mateusz is looking with obvious respect and admiration at the Master and Joachim smiles kindly in return, like a grandfather proud of his grandchild.

As I have stated so many times, the duo is the ideal musical unit; it is the minimal environment which produces interplay and telepathic communication between the musicians, which is the essence of collective performance. On the other hands it is free of the limitations imposed by performing in a larger environment, which a priori limit the level of the intimacy. This album is such a beautiful expression of the power of a duo that I can hardly think of a better one.

I have been lucky to follow closely the career of Mateusz Smoczyński since his early steps on the musical scene and feel a great pride in his success. Obviously seeing Joachim Kühn, who has been a part of the Soundtrack Of My Life since forever, being active and productive today is a no lesser joy. Bless you both for this sublime music!

wtorek, 22 września 2020

Zbigniew Lewandowski - Zbigniew Lewandowski (2020)

Zbigniew Lewandowski

Andrzej Przybielski - trumpet
Piotr Baron - saxophone
Andrzej Olejniczak - saxophone
Paweł Ścierański - guitar
Krzysztof Ścierański - bass guitar
Mieczysław Jurecki - bass guitar
Jose Torres - percussion
Zbigniew Lewandowski - drums, synth

Zbigniew Lewandowski

GAD 121

By Adam Baruch

This is a reissue of the debut album by Polish Jazz drummer / composer / bandleader Zbigniew Lewandowski, originally released on the legendary Poljazz label. The music was recorded in 1983 during two sessions separated by several months, with two lineups. The first lineup was a quintet which included alongside Lewandowski also iconic trumpeter Andrzej Przybielski, saxophonist Piotr Baron, guitarist Paweł Ścierański and bass guitarist Krzysztof Ścierański. The second lineup was extended to an octet and included also saxophonist Andrzej Olejniczak, second bass guitarist Mieczysław Jurecki and percussionist Jose Torres. The original LP presented six tracks but this remastered edition was expanded by two additional tracks from the first session, previously unissued. All the compositions were by the musicians participating in the recording except for one standard.

The music, influenced by the revolutionary work of Miles Davis, has a distinct Fusion tinge, but is very far from an attempt to copy the great Master. Przybielski, aged thirty-nine at the time of the recording, was already Poland's most idiosyncratic Jazz musician and trumpet Genius. He displays the full range of his abilities, and the fact that the music is Fusion oriented, offers a rare opportunity to hear him in that specific idiom, rather than within his "usual" Avant-Garde environment. His performances on this album are amongst the most extensive documents of his playing, including his weird sense of humor. In retrospect this album emphasizes the devastating loss Polish Jazz suffered with his untimely death in 2011. I had the immense luck and pleasure to produce the album "The Book Of Job", just a couple of years after this recording was made, which also featured Przybielski at his absolute best.

Baron, only twenty-two years old at the time, also contributes wonderfully to the album's overall ambience, offering his compositions, most of the arrangements and excellent soloing. The rest of the players were already more experienced and their professionalism and obvious talents are clearly evident in the resulting music. Overall this is a momentous recording, perhaps one of the most important Polish Jazz albums from the 1980s, and beyond. Polish Jazz/Fusion fans should be grateful to GAD Records for resurrecting this gem and saving it from oblivion. Brilliant stuff!

niedziela, 20 września 2020

Lonker See - Hamza (2020)

Lonker See

Tomasz Gadecki - saxophones
Bartosz Borowski - guitar
Joanna Kucharska - bass, vocal
Michał Gos - drums, percussion



This is the fourth album by Polish quartet Lonker See, which comprises of vocalist/bassist Joanna Kucharska, guitarist Bartosz Borowski, drummer Michał Gos and saxophonist Tomasz Gadecki. The album presents seven original compositions, not credited on the album's artwork and assumed to be co-composed by the quartet members, with all lyrics by Kucharska.

The music is a mixture of Psychedelic Rock. Progressive Rock, Trance and Free Jazz, which although hardly innovative (I mean five decades ago this was a highly fashionable music), has a unique character. The meeting between Rock musicians and the Avant-Garde saxophonist works very well and the fact that they are able to find a common language is of course commendable.

However, music that is based on drone-like, repetitive simplistic melody lines, even when spiced by fiery improvisations, eventually becomes somewhat boring. It may be hype for the young listeners, who are exposed to it for the first time and ignorant of musical legacy, but for listeners familiar with this formula since decades it might be less enthusiastic. In spite of the obvious superb playing by Gadecki, the overall result leaves me cold.

It also appears that in the last couple of years or so more and more European ensembles are drown into this specific creative formula, which personally quite puzzles me, especially in view of the limitations this specific approach presents. There is only place in such narrow idiom for the absolutely best. In short this album has a very specific character, but fails to evoke neither emotional nor intellectual excitement as far as I am concerned. But this is only me of course.

sobota, 19 września 2020

Przemysław Chmiel Quartet - Witchcraft - premiera nowej płyty w Fundacji Słuchaj

Przemysław Chmiel - saksofon tenorowy i sopranowy, klarnet
Mateusz Gramburg - fortepian
Piotr Narajowski - kontrabas
Michał Szeligowski - perkusja

Kwartet Przemysława Chmiela to zespół, który złożony jest ze studentów Wydziałów Jazzu katowickiej oraz krakowskiej Akademii Muzycznej. Formacja wykonuje kompozycje lidera będące z jednej strony utworami zawierającymi fragmenty skomponowane i zaaranżowane, z drugiej silnie odwołujące się do estetyki otwartej, spontanicznej improwizacji. W swojej sztuce muzycy z równą atencją pochylają się nad tym, co w jazzie należy do jego wielkiej historii, jak również nad tym wszystkim, co niesie ze sobą nieskrępowana ograniczeniami stylów sztuka improwizacji.

Debiutancka płyta kwartetu, zatytułowana "Witchcraft" ukaże się nakładem Fundacji Słuchaj - premiera zaplanowana jest na 30 września 2020 roku. Patronatem medialnym objęły ją: portal Jazzarium, TVP Kultura oraz blog Polish-Jazz.blogspot.

Przemysław Chmiel - saksofonista grający na saksofonie sopranowym i tenorowym. Absolwent ZPSM im. Fryderyka Chopina w Warszawie (",Bednarskiej") w klasie saksofonu Łukasza Poprawskiego. Obecnie student Akademii Muzycznej im. Karola Szymanowskiego w Katowicach w klasie Marcina Kaletki.

Zdobywca II Miejsca na IX Międzynarodowym Konkursie Improwizacji Jazzowej w Katowicach w 2019 roku. Laureat Pierwszej Nagrody w kategorii Solo na Tarnów Jazz Contest 2018. W tymże roku roku, wraz z autorskim Przemysław Chmiel Quartet, zdobył II Miejsce na 2018 Blue Note Poznań Competition. Z zespołem Natalii Kordiak natomiast, zdobył II miejsce na Tarnów Jazz Contest 2017.

W 2019 roku ukazały się dwa albumy z udziałem Przemysława Chmiela. Pierwszy z nich to "Bajka" formacji Natalia Kordiak Quintet. Premiera albumu - wydanego w słowackiej wytwórni HevHetia - odbyła się w czeskiej Pradze w ramach festiwalu Voicingers on Tour. "Bajka" zebrała świetne recenzje, znalazła się w wielu zestawieniach najlepszych płyt 2019 roku oraz została nominowana do nagrody Fryderyk w kategorii "Fonograficzny debiut roku - jazz". Drugą z płyt jest ,"Słowo na T." zespołu Sabina Meck Sextet (SJ Records). Album także zebrał świetne recenzje i uznany został za jedną z najlepszych wokalnych płyt 2019 roku.

czwartek, 17 września 2020

Joachim Mencel - Brooklyn Eye (2020)

Joachim Mencel

Joachim Mencel - piano, hurdy-gurdy
Steve Cardenas - guitar
Scott Colley - bass
Rudy Royston - drums

Brooklyn Eye

ORIGIN 82806 

By Adam Baruch

This is an album by Polish Jazz pianist/composer Joachim Mencel, recorded in US with three American musicians: guitarist Steve Cardenas, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Rudy Royston. The album presents ten original compositions, all by Mencel. In addition to the piano, Mencel also plays the hurdy-gurdy, which is usually associated with Folk music in many European Cultures, and is very rarely used in Jazz, but not entirely unheard off.

On the album's lines notes Mencel describes the making of this album and the fact that it was recorded in America with American musicians as "the fulfillment of his long-standing dream" and "his dream come true". He also describes childhood memories and feelings about America and "American way of life", which of course are shared by many Poles who grew up behind the Iron Curtain during the Socialist regime (yours truly included), for whom America was a symbol of Freedom and prosperity. Some of us did grow up in the years that followed to witness that dream being shattered.

The music is in part pretty straightforward mainstream Jazz, as appropriate for a Polish version of "American Jazz". Mencel writes nice, solid melodies, which serve as vehicles for the quartet's performances. The musicians are all seasoned veterans and do everything that is expected of them. Mencel plays nice melodic piano phrases, as does Cardenas, and the music flows pretty uneventfully, with the rhythm sections counting the time.

Some other pieces are however distinctly different, more open and less constrained by melodic continuity, which allows the musicians to stretch out and include some breathing space between the notes. In other cases the melodies include more Polish lyricism and even melancholy, taking the music into a more ambitious direction, both harmonically and rhythmically.

The truly unusual moments arrive when Mencel switches to play the hurdy-gurdy, which sounds for a less trained ear like a violin or viola. He uses the instrument to improvise and play solo parts, which of course is, as already mentioned, pretty unique. As a result the music becomes much closer to the European aesthetics, with shades of folkloristic nuances. The delicate hurdy-gurdy/guitar duo piece is a wonderful example of a moment when the magic indeed happens.

Overall this is a mixed bag with some wonderful moments and some less exciting ones, but all obviously very professionally performed and to some degree innovative, as far as the use of the hurdy-gurdy is concerned. Therefore if the mainstream pieces were replaced by more of the hurdy-gurdy/World Music explorations, the album would have been much more coherent and rewarding, as well as less "American".

wtorek, 15 września 2020

Jerzy Milian - Cutting (2020)

Jerzy Milian

Jerzy Milian - vibraphone
Rundfunk-Tanzorchester Berlin


GAD 123

This is the ninth installment of the archival series released by GAD Records, which presents the work of Polish Jazz vibraphonist / composer / bandleader Jerzy Milian. This chapter is dedicated to Milian's recordings from 1970s, done in East Berlin (then DDR) with the Rundfunk Tanzorchester Berlin, conducted by Gunter Gollasch, which included the best East German musicians, such as saxophonist Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky, trumpeter Joachim Grasswurm, trombonist Hubert Katzenbeisser, saxophonist/clarinetist Werner Schmidt, pianist Horst Pawliczak, bassist Klaus Koch, drummer Wolfgang Winkler and others. The orchestra performs sixteen compositions by Milian, also arranged by him.

The music is typical orchestral Jazz, based on the wonderful compositions and brilliant arrangements by Milian, which offer a mixture of relatively easier pieces with some Funk, Swing and even Big Beat inclinations, but also more advanced ones bordering on Anat-Garde, altogether a wonderful example of modern European Jazz, reflecting Milian's fascination with the Third Stream idiom. These orchestral pieces are obviously more "well behaved" in comparison to the music Milian composed for small combos, but still complex enough to rise a brow fifty years later. The orchestra included many excellent instrumentalists (Petrowsky among them), who performed the difficult music without a hitch, and therefore the result is still awe inspiring

Milian's compositions are absolutely brilliant and remain completely valid, often sounding as if composed today. Sophisticated, elegant, clever and beautifully structured, this music is alive and kicking as it was at the time it was created. Overall this is an incredible piece of Polish/European Jazz history, which absolutely deserves to be heard and studied. With Milian's passing it is even more important to document his work and bring it to the public. For orchestral Jazz and East European Jazz enthusiasts this album and all the albums released in this archival series are an absolute must!

niedziela, 13 września 2020

Marcin Olak - Music From Non​-​Existent Movies (2020)

Marcin Olak

Marcin Olak - guitars, loops

Music From Non-Existent Movies


By Jędrzej Janicki

Lata temu Karin Stanek radośnie wyśpiewywała, że chłopiec z gitarą byłby dla niej parą. Pierwszym skojarzeniem przy tej piosence jest jakiś radosny jegomość podgrywający akordy przy ognisku. Widoczek taki rzecz jasna niewątpliwie byłby jak najbardziej urokliwy, jednak relacja muzyka z gitarą może wyglądać również w zgoła odmienny sposób. Przybierać może ona również formę technicznej perfekcji (z doświadczenia wiem, jak dalekiej wszelkim domorosłym gitarzystom) oraz zatopienia się w każdym dźwięku. Właśnie taką ścieżką podąża gitarzysta i kompozytor Marcin Olak. Jego ostatnia solowa płyta o wdzięcznym tytule "Music From Non-Existent Movies" to znakomite ukazanie tego, jak wiele wydobyć można z tego pozornie skromnego instrumentu.

Uczciwie stwierdzić trzeba, że jest to specyficzna płyta wydana w bardzo specyficznym czasie. Jeszcze nigdy granie w pojedynkę nie brzmiało tak dojmująco aktualnie jak w czasach izolacji związanej z pandemią. Oprócz wszelkich negatywów związanych z tą sytuacją wskazać można jeden jej pozytyw - okoliczności te dają każdemu muzykowi więcej czasu na prywatne i intymne obcowanie ze swoim instrumentem w zaciszu domowym. Właśnie trochę takie uczucie podglądania mistrza ze swoim ukochanym obiektem mam podczas słuchania albumu Olaka. 

Gitarzysta absolutnie niczego nie udowadnia i nie szafuje swoimi niemałymi możliwościami technicznymi. Z mniej lub bardziej oczywistych dźwięków buduje intrygujące i niejednoznaczne struktury. Niespotykaną wartość tej płyty stanowią jednak pewne momenty nietypowego zawahania. Te krótkie chwile napięcia nie wynikają rzecz jasna z wątpliwości Olaka co do tego, jaki zagrać kolejny dźwięk, lecz raczej z kontemplowania i zachwytu nad pojedynczą frazą. Marcin gra jakiś fragment, a potem do niego wraca, delikatnie go zmieniając i czasami poruszając się w obszarze eksperymentu i zabawy z instrumentem. Muzyk przepięknie usuwa się w cień, zostawiając wiele przestrzeni, by w pełni wybrzmiewała sama gitara.   

Każdy dźwięk na "Music From Non-Existent Movies" przepełniony jest elegancją i wysublimowanym, klasycyzującym, sznytem. Samotność człowieka z gitarą w tym konkretnym przypadku stanowi synonim bardzo przyjemnych (przyjemnością nie najprostszą) wrażeń po stronie odbiorcy. Nagranie to wymaga dużego skupienia, lecz w dobie szalejącej wciąż zarazy o dłuższe chyba nawet chwile zadumy o wiele łatwiej. Tak czy inaczej, "Music From Non-Existent Movies" to wyjątkowo ciekawa propozycja nie tylko dla gitarowych maniaków. 

sobota, 12 września 2020

Piotr Rodowicz i Przyjaciele - Razem Na Tej Ziemi (2020)

Piotr Rodowicz i Przyjaciele

Bogdan Hołownia - piano
Jarosław Bothur - saxophone
Ryszard Borowski - flute
Mark Waggoner - guitar
Piotr Rodowicz - bass
Kazimierz Jonkisz - drums
Wojciech Puszek - piano (3)
Pancho Campos - percussion (3)

Razem Na Tej Ziemi


By Adam Baruch

This is an album by veteran Polish Jazz bassist/composer Piotr Rodowicz recorded with a bunch of "friends" like pianist Bogdan Hołownia, flautist Ryszard Borowski, saxophonist Jarosław Bothur, guitarist Mark Waggoner and drummer Kazimierz Jonkisz. The album presents ten original pieces (one in two versions), seven composed by Rodowicz and three by Hołownia.

The music is all strictly melodic mainstream Jazz, on the lighter side of the idiom, but the compositions are solid and well crafted, and in the hands of these veteran performers they are all also splendidly executed.

Although this is not the kind of Jazz I tend to listen to on an everyday basis, I firmly believe that it is a legitimate part of the genre, especially since it is accessible to a much wider audience than just the hardcore Jazz buffs. As long as the music has an intrinsic artistic value, is honest and professionally executed, it is fine with me, regardless of what the Jazz snobs my say. Overall this is a lightweight, pleasant listening experience, with Jazzy flavor and a solid entertainment value. Recommended for listeners with such inclinations!

piątek, 11 września 2020

Tomasz Licak - Trouble Hunting (2012)

Tomasz Licak

Tomasz Licak - tenor saxophone, clarinet
Sven Dam Meinild - alto & tenor saxophones
Tomasz Dąbrowski - trumpet, balkan horn
Adi Zukanović - rhodes, keys
Richard Andersson - electric bass
Anders Provis - drums

Trouble Hunting


By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by the Polish/Danish ensemble Trouble Hunting led by Polish saxophonist/composer Tomasz Licak and including Polish trumpeter Tomasz Dąbrowski, Danish saxophonist Sven Dam Meinild, Bosnian keyboardist Adi Zukanovic, Danish bassist Richard Andersson and drummer Anders Provis. The album presents six original compositions, all by Licak.

The music is typical young European Jazz, which combines composed and freely improvised music, with an emphasis on group improvisation and freedom of expression. Despite the advanced explorations, the music manages to stay coherent and tamed, which allows to the inquisitive listener to hear every little nuance of the individual contributions by the musicians.

The ambience of the music combines the Polish melancholy with the Scandinavian minimalism, which works out splendidly. Despite the young age of these musicians, they all already show signs of their musical personality. Listening to this album almost a decade after it was recorded gives a wonderful perspective on the musical achievements of Licak, Dąbrowski and Meinild, who made numerous other recordings since and solidified their personas.

The album is also a document of the bond that was created between young Polish, Danish and other European musicians around the Odense Music Academy, which created an entire circle of musicians who cooperate actively since their meeting as students, being one of the creative foci of contemporary European Jazz.

This album withstands the test of time splendidly and sounds every bit as interesting as it did at the time of its release. It is definitely worth revisiting and European Free Jazz/Improvised Music connoisseurs should definitely try and get a copy before this album (like so many others) disappears into oblivion. Great stuff!

środa, 9 września 2020

The Owl feat. Pablo Held - Improcode - premiera nowej płyty w Fundacji Słuchaj

Marcin Hałat - skrzypce
Maciej Garbowski - kontrabas
Krzysztof Gradziuk - perkusja
Pablo Held - fortepian

Marcin Hałat, skrzypek i improwizator, prezentuje kolejny autorski album, który współtworzą czołowi muzycy europejskiej sceny jazzowej. Druga płyta tria The Owl z gościnnym udziałem niemieckiego pianisty Pablo Helda zawiera 9 utworów. Wydawnictwo zatytułowane "Improcode" tworzą: Marcin Hałat, Maciej Garbowski, Krzysztof Gradziuk oraz wspomniany znakomity pianista Pablo Held. Płyta wydana nakładem Fundacji Słuchaj, będzie miała swoją oficjalną premierę w dniu 15.09.2020 r.

"Improcode" to zaskakujący album, w którym splata się wizja muzyki współczesnej w odniesieniu do wysublimowanej formy wiolinistyki. Płyta zawiera wiele różnych koncepcji dialogu i czterostronnych rozmów w obrębie tej stylistyki. Dużo jest w niej wolności i przestrzeni, która charakteryzuje zarówno współczesne idiomy jazzowe, jak i klasyczne. Indywidualny kod The Owl odznacza się niekonwencjonalnym podejściem do muzyki improwizowanej, a kiedy Marcin Hałat staje naprzeciw współgrających indywidualności, muzyka nabiera wyjątkowego znaczenia.

Marcin Hałat - skrzypek, improwizator, poruszający się między muzyką klasyczną, jazzową i improwizowaną. Urodzony w Beskidzie Śląskim w 1981 r. w rodzinie o bogatych tradycjach muzycznych. Jako mały chłopiec dorasta w otoczeniu muzyki ludowej, muzyki Fryderyka Chopina i dobiegających z radia dźwięków amerykańskiego jazzu. W wieku siedmiu lat rozpoczyna naukę w Szkole Muzycznej w Katowicach. Jego talent improwizacyjny odkrywa i zaprasza do współpracy Adam Makowicz. Marcin Hałat wybiera studia na Wydziale Jazzu i Muzyki Rozrywkowej Akademii Muzycznej w Katowicach pod kierunkiem skrzypka Henryka Gembalskiego oraz na Wydziale Instrumentalnym Akademii Muzycznej w Krakowie w klasie Roberta Kabary. Nawiązuje współpracę z Orkiestrą Stołecznego Królewskiego Miasta Krakowa Sinfonietta Cracovia, z którą bierze udział w licznych krajowych i międzynarodowych nagraniach, koncertach i festiwalach.

Pracuje z najwybitniejszymi dyrygentami, są wśród nich: Krzysztof Penderecki, Jerzy Maksymiuk, Christoph Eschenbach, Lorin Maazel, Valery Gergiev, Lawrence Foster, John Axelrood, Rafael Payare i Jurjen Hempel, oraz nagrywa dla takich wytwórni jak Sony Classical, DUX i Tv Arte. Jednocześnie realizuje wiele własnych projektów muzycznych - od muzyki ludowej, przez muzykę kameralną i muzykę improwizowaną. Współpracował z takimi artystami, jak: Grażyna Auguścik, Dorota Miśkiewicz, Włodzimierz Nahorny, Pianohooligan Piotr Orzechowski, Dominik Wania, Pablo Held, Adzik Sandecki, Joszko Broda i Atom String Quartet.

Jest liderem tria The Owl, które tworzy wraz z Krzysztofem Gradziukiem i Maciejem Garbowskim. W 2017 roku ich debiutancki album "On The Way" został wydany przez Fundację Słuchaj i doceniony zarówno w Polsce, jak i za granicą. Marcin Hałat jest stypendystą Ministra Kultury i Marszałka Województwa Śląskiego. Obecnie pracuje na stanowisku adiunkta w Instytucie Muzyki w Cieszynie Uniwersytetu Śląskiego w Katowicach.

poniedziałek, 7 września 2020

Wojtczak/Piotrowicz - Plastic Poetry (2019)


Irek Wojtczak - tenor & soprano saxophones
Kamil Piotrowicz - piano

Plastic Poetry


By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by the Polish Jazz duo comprising of the veteran saxophonist Irek Wojtczak (aged fifty) and young pianist Kamil Piotrowicz (aged twenty seven). The album presents ten tracks, which are connected into an improvised suite. Wojtczak is credited as a composer of one of the pieces and Piotrowicz of two, with the rest being co-composed/spontaneously improvised.

The duet setting is one of the most difficult and demanding Jazz environments, but at the same time one of the most rewarding, and which has earned a status of a sub-idiom called "Art of the Duo" over time. I am happy to say that this wonderful album certainly deserves an honorable place within that idiom.

Wojtczak, who already earned a respected position on the Polish Jazz scene over the years, is no surprise as his consistent excellence is part of his persona. Piotrowicz, on the other hand, recorded his debut album as a leader just three years earlier (2015) and travelled a marvelous journey at the speed of light between his early days characterized by mainstream Jazz to his current position at the spearhead of Improvised Music/Avant-Garde explorations. Therefore this particular get-together reflects the meeting between two consecutive generations of the Polish Jazz scene, where the representatives of both generations have absolutely no problem creating shoulder to shoulder in perfect tandem and without any inferiority complex involved.

Duo is all about conversation and mutual respect and this music is a wonderful example of such human/Artistic relationship. The music, although obviously improvised, sounds often as if it was completely composed and rehearsed for ages, reflecting the perfect understanding and almost telepathic communication between the two musicians. It is also perfectly harmonically structured and offers a continuous line of coherent musical development.

Overall this is a wonderful piece of music which although highly improvised offers a serene, richly textured musical journey, that can be enjoyed by a relatively wide circle of open-minded listeners. The inventiveness and virtuosity of these two superb musicians is a gift we can now share. This is definitely one of the strongest Polish Jazz releases in 2019 and is obviously wholeheartedly recommended!

sobota, 5 września 2020

Krzysztof Baranowski Trio - Live At Radio Katowice (2020)

Krzysztof Baranowski Trio

Mateusz Kaszuba - piano
Krzysztof Baranowski - bass
Patryk Dobosz - drums

Live At Radio Katowice

PRK 0140

By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by Polish Jazz guitarist/bassist Krzysztof Baranowski recorded live in a classic piano trio format with pianist Mateusz Kaszuba and drummer Patryk Dobosz. The album presents eight pieces, six of which are original compositions by Baranowski and two are standards.

Although Baranowski's primary instrument is the guitar, the trio won a prize at one of the Polish Jazz festivals and led to recording of this album, which finds him playing the bass on his debut recording, rather than guitar. The music is all well within modern mainstream Jazz boundaries, based on solid and highly lyrical melodies, typical of Polish Jazz. Baranowski certainly has a lot to offer as a composer and his compositions are well rounded and beautifully crafted. A few shades and touches of Frederic Chopin's toolbox made me smile.

The performance is less spectacular, but certainly up to the excellent standard expected from the young Polish Jazz musicians, I have not heard Kaszuba on any recordings nor have I listened to him live, so my knowledge about him is very limited, but he certainly is an able player, obviously in the early days of his career, showing promising potential and already a remarkable skill. Dobosz on the other hand is already a highly experienced performer, with a bunch of recordings under his arm, which is immediately evident. Baranowski, although a novice as far as recording is concerned, shows an excellent feel and skill in his role as a bassist, which of course immediately raises the interest in his guitar playing.

Overall this is an impressive debut album, which again stresses the fact that young Polish Jazz players pop up on the scene like mushrooms after the rain, with a continuous stream of talent and creativity, which of course is a wonderful blessing.

piątek, 4 września 2020

Joachim Mencel - Brooklyn Eye - premiera nowej płyty

Joachim Mencel - fortepian, lira korbowa
Steve Cardenas - gitara
Scott Colley - kontrabas
Rudy Royston - perkusja

W dniu 18.09.2020 r. będzie miała miejsce oficjalna premiera nowej płyty pianisty Joachima Mencla. Album zostanie wydany przez amerykańską wytwórnię Origin Records.

Płyta "Brooklyn Eye" jest realizacją marzenia, aby nagrać płytę inspirowaną Ameryką i aby zrobić to w Nowym Jorku, wspólnie z muzykami amerykańskimi. Repertuar płyty składa się wyłącznie z moich kompozycji. Wszystkie nawiązują do przeżyć związanych z amerykańską muzyką i kulturą, inspirowane są również moimi podróżami po USA i wszelkimi impresjami oraz inspiracjami związanymi z amerykańskim sposobem życia.

Część utworów powstała dawno temu i grałem je w zupełnie innych opracowaniach, a niektóre napisałem specjalnie na tą sesję i wykonałem je po raz pierwszy w studio. Niektóre utwory wykonuję na fortepianie, a inne na lirze korbowej. Lira w jazzie to precedens. W Polsce ten instrument po wielu latach zapomnienia wraca do łask przeważnie w wykonawstwie muzyki dawnej czy ludowej. Ja natomiast staram się znaleźć dla niego zupełnie nowe zastosowania. Próbuję znaleźć jego jazzowy głos i brzmienie.

Największą inspiracją w tych poszukiwaniach jest dla mnie muzyka wspaniałego krakowskiego kompozytora i skrzypka Zbigniewa Seiferta. Sam zresztą kiedyś grałem na skrzypcach i po latach zacząłem tęsknić do możliwości modulowania dźwięku w trakcie jego trwania oraz do grania w stroju nietemperowanym. Takie możliwości daje mi lira. Na płycie gram na niej zarówno tematy utworów jak i improwizacje, a także akompaniamenty. Wyjątkowym momentem płyty jest utwór "Photosynthesis" zagrany tylko w duecie liry z gitarą. W połączeniu tych dwóch instrumentów udało się uzyskać niespotykane, bardzo oryginalne brzmienie. Skład mojego zespołu to również zestaw marzeń, to wspaniali muzycy. Słucham i podziwiam ich muzykę, i zespoły, w których grają od wielu lat.

W pierwszym dniu naszej sesji nagraniowej Rudy Royston zawiadomił nas o pożarze w katedrze Notre Dame w Paryżu. Z jednej strony musieliśmy utrzymać potrzebną koncentrację by grać jak najlepiej, ale pomiędzy utworami oglądaliśmy zdjęcia z Paryża i wszyscy byliśmy bardzo przejęci rozgrywającym się tam dramatem. To doświadczenie przemijania z pewnością miało wpływ na muzykę, którą zarejestrowaliśmy.

Joachim Mencel

czwartek, 3 września 2020

NUDA. - NUDA (2020)


Michał Milczarek - guitar
Marcin Albert Steczkowski - cornet
Marcin Jadach - double bass
Michał Bryndal - drums



By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by Polish quartet NUDA. (Eng. Boredom), which includes cornetist Marcin Albert Steczkowski, guitarist Michał Milczarek, bassist Marcin Jadach and drummer Michał Bryndal. The album presents eight original compositions, all co-credited to all four members of the quartet.

The members of the quartet come from very different backgrounds, between almost mainstream Jazz, via Jazz-Rock Fusion to Avant-Garde Jazz, but the music on this album is mostly improvised and rather free, with limited melodic contents. The overall approach is very minimalistic and the music plays around with sound and silence, creating imaginary, almost ambient soundscapes.

Although the cornet and guitar are at the front line, the quartet distributes equal weight between all four players, which is very effective. The rhythm section often plays in a completely different space-time continuum than the soloing instruments, and even creates polyrhythmic diversity between the bass and the drums. Therefore at times all four musicians play seemingly "inconsistently" between each other, but highly creatively and artistically.

There is no doubt that the album manages to present a fresh, highly unconventional approach to music making and has a lot to offer together to an open-minded listener. The concept needs perhaps a bit of refining and the short playing time (just above half an hour) needs expanding, which can all bee achieved on the next album. Overall this is a splendid debut effort and a most welcome fresh breath of air. Well done!

wtorek, 1 września 2020

Liquid Quintet - Flux (2019)

Liquid Quintet

Agustí Fernández - piano
Artur Majewski - trumpet
Albert Cirera - saxophones
Rafał Mazur - bass
Ramon Prats - drums


FSR 2019/17

By Adam Baruch

This is a live recording, captured during the 12th Ad Libitum Festival in Warsaw, by the Liquid Quintet, one of several Improvising Music ensembles under the "Liquid" moniker, led by Spanish pianist Agustí Fernández. The other members of the quintet are Spanish saxophonist Albert Cirera and drummer Ramon Prats, who together with Fernandez constitute the Liquid Trio, and Polish trumpeter Artur Majewski and bassist Rafał Mazur. The album presents five tracks, all co-credited to the five musicians taking part in the music-making process, as appropriate for the idiom.

Fernández, who is undoubtedly the most internationally recognized representative of the Spanish musical Avant-Garde, is a most prolific artist with a huge number (around 100) of recordings as a leader and sideman, probably more than any other European Improvised Music activist. There is nothing wrong with this fact per se, but it does create certain "cautiousness" upon approaching his recordings. The connection between him and the Polish Avant-Garde is quite natural and produced several earlier fruitful meetings, including the participation of Mazur on several occasions.

The music is exactly what one would expect from such spontaneous performance; a continuous barrage of notes exchanged between the quintet members, which vary in intensity from hardly audible to overwhelming, creating, as the title suggests, a prolonged flux of energy and sound. There us an obvious affinity and musical conversation between the quintet members, but with a complete lack of melody, harmony and structure, this music can be considered as "digestible" only by the very innate circle of hardcore Improvised Music/Avant-Garde connoisseurs, which of course is perfectly fine.

All five musicians are excellent instrumentalist, which can be heard by a trained-ear listener. Although the concept of soloing is nonexistent in a group improvisation idiom as such, there are many moments where just one musicians is left "up front" by his cohorts and is able to articulate his statement more recognizably on top of the quiet background improvisations. But of course the telepathic communication between the musicians is the essence.

Improvised music is very similar to nonfigurative visual arts; the combination of colors and shapes either convinces the person looking at it or doesn't, which is often mood dependent. This music is offered to the listener on the exact same principle: take it or leave it. Count me in.

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