Sunday, April 18, 2021

Gembalski/Iwański/Majchrzak/Zduniak - 1999 Harmolodic Odyssey (2020)

Gembalski / Iwański / Majchrzak / Zduniak

Henryk Gembalski - violin
Janusz Yanina Iwański - guitar
Krzysztof Majchrzak - bass
Michał Zduniak - drums

1999 Harmolodic Odyssey

MTJ 11977

By Adam Baruch

This is an archival album by a Polish Jazz quartet comprising of violinist Henryk Gembalski, guitarist Janusz Yanina Iwański, bassist Krzysztof Majchrzak and drummer Michał Zduniak. The album presents five lengthy improvised pieces, co-credited to the participating musicians. The music was recorded live and waited for over twenty years to be finally released. It is dedicated to the memory of Zduniak, who sadly passed in 2006.

Polish political martyrology created the "cursed soldiers" idiom to commemorate the lesser known heroes of the struggle for independence, but many Polish Culture champions, who acted over the years on the margins of the Polish post WWII State sanctioned mainstream Culture never won the proper recognition, neither collectively as a movement nor individually as fighters for intellectual freedom. Polish Jazz is of course no different. In parallel to the Jazz activities overseen by the State recognized Polish Jazz Society, which controlled the local scene with an iron fist, many less conformist Jazz musicians managed to create their own, mostly Avant-Garde oriented facet of Polish Jazz, which enjoyed many creative peaks. People like Andrzej Mitan, Andrzej Przybielski and many others were almost completely anonymous on the Polish Jazz scene for decades, and even today are known only to a handful of hardcore specialists.

The musicians on this album also belong to the league, which operated mostly on the outskirts of the Polish Jazz mainstream, taking part in ensembles like Labirynt, Tie Break, Free Cooperation and others, playing exactly what they wanted to, regardless if it fit any "party line" or not, and often suffering the consequences.

The music is a mixture of Fusion and Avant-Garde, or Avant-Garde Jazz-Rock Fusion, which is a wonderful amalgam of the four individual voices, with diverse stylistic accents, which creates a forceful statement, losing nothing of its intensity and innovation over time. Between Gembalski, who represents the Free Jazz approach, Iwański, who is a Rocker at heart, Majchrzak, who is a Fusion kicks-ass and Zduniak, who is simply a brilliant drummer beyond classification, the music is a highly concentrated exchange of individual soloing and ensemble playing, which although demanding, is unique and superbly uplifting, with energies equaling an erupting volcano.

Overall this is excellent document of the lesser travelled path of Polish Jazz, that rightfully deserves to be a part of the documented history of the genre. Good to see it finally available and hopefully more of such hidden gems will float to the surface. It would be a Cultural crime to have this music doomed as forgotten.

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