Friday, August 26, 2016

3D: Dąbrowski/Davis/Drury - Vermilion Tree (2014)

3D: Dąbrowski/Davis/Drury

Tomasz Dąbrowski - trumpet
Kris Davis - piano
Andrew Drury - drums

Vermilion Tree


By Eyal Hareuveni

The international 3D trio was initiated by Polish, Denmark-based rising trumpeter Tomasz Dąbrowski during his 2012 visit to New York that already yielded a duo with drummer Tyshawn Sorey ("Steps", For Tune, 2013). Canadian, New York-based pianist Kris Davis and American drummer (with Nordic roots) Andrew Drury join Dąbrowski in a set of eight concise, snapshot-like duo and trio improvisations that blur the distinction with written compositions. The five longer compositions penned by Dąbrowski (plus one by Drury), all emphasize Dąbrowski's beautiful sound. 

Dąbrowski's aesthetics are praised in the liner notes by saxophonist Lotte Anker, trumpeters Axel Dorner and the Americans Ralph Alessi and Nate Wooley. All emphasize his personal voice "that is an extension, not a recreation of a tradition". Davis and Drury, no doubt, share a similar spirit. All three are informed by the past but aim for the future, open to experiment and search with forms, atmosphere, rhythm and sounds. Still, the adventurous spirit of search and discovery is channeled with an impressive focus and imagination to music making, through supportive and playful interplay that is often articulated in contemplative and lyrical motifs. 

Drury's powerful composition "Modules" pushes the envelope further. It alternates between an intense and conflictual opening that challenges Dąbrowski to follow dense, rhythmic clusters of sounds produced by Davis and Drury, and a sudden turn to a subtle, almost silent meditation on sounds, embracing gentle and weird ones alike. Dąbrowski's "Mattock Phrasemonger" is a moving, melancholic piece that highlights his poetic, emotional power and the spare manner that Davis and Drury outline Dąbrowski's flights. His "Ruddy Rudi" sketches a more experimental and dramatic exploration of a search after a form and "Apricot, apricot" is one of the few pieces that has a linear narrative. Highly impressive. Another testimony to the unique and original voice of Dąbrowski.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Niechęć - Niechęć (2016)


Tomasz Wielechowski - piano, synth
Maciej Zwierzchowski - saxophones
Rafał Błaszczak - guitar
Jacek Szabrański - guitar
Piotr Łukaszewski - guitar
Karolina Rec - cello
Maciej Szczepański - bass
Sebastian Witkowski - dub, electronics
Michał Kaczorek - drums



By Geno Thackara

It's a strange fact of life: to some degree or other, we've all got some little inexplicable deep-down attraction to things unsettling. There's no shortage of art in any medium that's based on confronting discomfort or even ugliness. It's the reason people are drawn to things like gargoyles and, I don't know, probably scrapple or Marmite. Warsaw's Niechęć (no, don't even ask me how to pronounce that) not only understands but embraces the idea-the name means "animosity" in English, so there's already a hint up front for those who recognize it. Their self-titled release fearlessly lets their imp of the perverse off the leash with fierce and wicked results. You could call it fusion for the nuthouse, like electric experimental jazz with a gothic-horror twist. 

Of course it won't be everyone's dish of mazurka. That creepy child or doll (I'm not even sure which) on the cover gives a visual hint of what's to come, and the semi-dub groove and harsh stabbing organ of "Koniec" immediately does the same for the ears. There's a cinematic quality that makes the album sound like a score for some imaginary arthouse movie-particularly something unapologetically surreal. The band spins hypnotic improv grooves and off-the-wall noise, dabbling in the trippy ambience of acid jazz and noisy freak-outs of krautrock. The production is similarly abrasive and often loud to the point of occasional brickwalling; it can be especially uncomfortable in headphones, but that's really of a piece with the whole presentation. 

It's a dynamic and audacious performance that can get your foot tapping against its will even as the tones mess with your head. Sinuous Wurlitzer-like keys twine around crazy sax wails and solid electric guitar, sometimes all in the same piece, as with the intense "Atak" or the piano-led "Widzenie". It's easy to get mentally exhausted even before reaching the finale of "Trzeba to Zrobić," but there's an extended jam still in store that goes from ominous groove to wild juiced-up blowout. I suppose it wouldn't have been right to finish off with anything less after the ride Niechęć has already offered up to that point. Many things it may be, but it's never dull.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Pink Freud – Pink Freud Plays Autechre (2016)

Pink Freud

Adam Milwiw-Baron - trumpet, electronics
Karol Gola - baritone saxophone
Wojtek Mazolewski - bass guitar
Rafał Klimczuk - drums

Pink Freud Plays Autechre


By Adam Baruch

Four years after their previous album Polish group Pink Freud, led by bassist Wojtek Mazolewski, hits the market with their ninth album, dedicated, as the title suggests, to the music of the British electronic music duo Autechre. Although the album's booklet gives absolutely no information about the recording or even the band's current lineup, which of course is sloppy, arrogant and plain stupid, a short research on the web will tell us that this is a live recording and the remaining members of the group are trumpeter Adam Milwiw-Baron, saxophonist Karol Gola and drummer Rafał Klimczuk. They perform eight pieces composed by Autechre.

What the booklet does include is a lengthy rant by Mazolewski, who tells the listeners how this album is a realization of a dream, which he has been planning since many years and why he thinks Autechre are the next best thing to silence. Personally I find the music of Autechre terribly boring and comparing them to John Coltrane or Johann Sebastian Bach is a cultural sacrilege

Following the good advice of "don't judge the book by the cover" I was ready to disregard the shortcomings of the album's booklet, giving the music a fair chance, but alas to no avail. The music is simply going nowhere, repeating the simplistic, mechanical rhythmic patterns ad nauseam and saying very little. Milwiw-Baron is of course a very talented player and I have always enjoyed his performances, but he is by far not able to save this album by himself.

Contrary to the hopes that we all developed about Pink Freud returning to playing Jazz, this album takes us again off the target. This repetitive and dull music lacks everything that Jazz stands for: originality, aesthetics and innovation. Better luck next time.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Simon Kanzler – Double Identity (2016)

Simon Kanzler

Simon Kanzler - vibraphone
Elias Stemeseder - piano
Igor Spallati - bass
Max Mucha - bass
Max Andrzejewski - drums
with Chamber Ensemble

Double Identity


By Adam Baruch

This is the second album by German vibraphonist/composer Simon Kanzler, recorded in a quintet setting with pianist Elias Stemeseder, bassists Italian Igor Spallati and Polish Max Mucha and drummer Max Andrzejewski. A chamber ensemble consisting of eight additional players also participates in the recording. The album presents six pieces and a three-part suite which gives the album its name, all composed by Kanzler.

The music is a contemplative form of Improvised avant-garde, very introvert and minimalistic, which deals mostly with the relationships between sound and silence, and the exchanges between the participating musicians. There is no melodic stream in the conventional form, but there is continuance and development. The music happens on three juxtaposed planes, created by the vibes / drums conversation, the piano contributions, which are the only link this music has with the conventional Jazz idiom, and lastly the double bass conversations. By bringing these planes closer or further away from each other and by changing the focus on the specific plane is where the dynamics of this music fluctuates. Volume and emotional wise the music stays almost on the same level throughout the entire duration, which obviously makes this music quite challenging and difficult to follow.

But regardless of the intellectual effort this music demands from the listener, it definitely has its merits, expanding the boundaries of contemporary music. There are many innovative and imaginative moments, which will surprised even the most experienced connoisseurs of contemporary music, and those should find this music as much entertaining and aesthetically pleasing, as educational.

There is no doubt that this music derives a lot of its content and form from contemporary Classical music, especially the suite. In the expanded instrumental form the music keeps its basic characteristics, but becomes much more impressive and evocative, and as such sounding much more emotional than the quintet pieces, which tend to be a bit chilly.

Overall this is another piece of music created by young European musicians, who keep searching for new forms of expression, boldly ignoring limitations and traditionalism, which keeps music stagnant. Kudos to the WhyPlayJazz label for serving as a faithful home to these visionary souls, spreading their musical gospel to the world.

Friday, August 19, 2016

kIRk - Zła Krew (2013)


Paweł Bartnik - electronics
Olgierd Dokalski - trumpet
Filip Kalinowski - gramophones

Zła Krew

IGN 008

By Sebastian Niemczyk

Wystarczy spojrzeć na tytuły nagrań, żeby stwierdzić, że muzycy kIRk podczas sesji nagraniowej przepełnieni byli złą karmą. Ciągle posługują się elektroniką, gramofonami i trąbką, tyle że w porównaniu do dotychczasowych dokonań – "bardziej". Pozwolili sobie na więcej śmiałych eksperymentów, ale jednocześnie zadbali, by wszystkie fragmenty składały się na bardzo zwartą, spójną i złowrogą całość. Oparcie na improwizacji jest nie do przecenienia w budowie gęstej atmosfery ciągłego niepokoju, nie wróżącej nic dobrego nieprzewidywalności, w pozostawianiu piekących niedopowiedzeń.

Rewelacyjny utwór tytułowy może posłużyć za wzór, gdzie na surowym, fizycznym pulsie, kojarzącym się z "New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges" Colina Stetsona, kształtuje się rzeczywistość, którą znaliśmy dotąd z wytwórni Modern Love. Tak jak podopieczni tego labelu (Andy Stott, Demdike Stare), kIRk brzmi niezwykle nowocześnie i aktualnie. Umacnia swoją pozycję jako jeden z najciekawszych zespołów na globalnej scenie eksperymentalnej. Można to próbować wytłumaczyć niezwykłym wyczuciem w doborze sampli do budowania narracji, dostateczną uwagą poświęconą programowaniu beatów i sekwencji czy dbaniem o spójność konceptu na każdym etapie tworzenia materiału.

Tymczasem nad Brąswałdem zapadł zmrok, skończyła się i ostatnia msza święta, i naprawdę smutna popijawa. Dziadkowie straszą dzieci, że nie mogą spać przy otwartym oknie, bo wtedy czarownice wlecą do pokoju. Chyba że posypie się parapet pieprzem, wówczas wiedźmy zaczną kichać i nie będą nikogo niepokoić. Zapomnijcie. Taka sztuczka nie spowoduje, że "Zła krew" złagodnieje.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Mike Parker's Trio Theory – Alive Out There (2016)

Mike Parker's Trio Theory

Sławomir Pezda - tenor saxophone
Mike Parker - double bass
Frank Parker - drums

Alive Out There


By Mark Corroto

Fans of post-apocalyptic stories need not worry about whether they still will have rock music once the electric grids go down. That is, if we can turn the clocks back to the days when jazz musicians were rockstars. Perhaps the supposition of the band, Mike Parker's Trio Theory, is just that. Kill all the living dead, because this acoustic music is electrifying. 

Parker, an American-born bassist, now living in the jazz-rich city of Kraków, assembled a trio with Polish saxophonist Sławek Pezda and Chicago drummer Frank Parker (Kurt Elling). Pezda performed on Parker's previous recording, the frenzied "Embrace The Wild" (self produced, 2015). Here the trio presents the fruits of a 30 concert/36 day tour of Poland, Romania, and the Czech Republic from the fall of 2015. 

What is immediately apparent, and often the result when the leader is a bassist or drummer, is the sound mix is well balanced. Parker's bass opens "Arctica" with a repeated line, inviting Pezda to play the melody and off they go. The piece balances the theme against a monstrous workout of ferocity. Pezda's tenor saxophone sounds like an amalgam of JD Allen and Mats Gustafsson. Lest we call this free jazz, each piece was composed by the bassist with the changes skillfully handled. "Kobra Kai Dance Remix" (also heard on his previous recording) begins with Frank Parker playing a Clyde Stubblefield beat, and of course, Pezda follows with some Maceo Parker. "Rob Ford 4PM" has much more subtlety than the former crack addict mayor of Toronto ever showed. 

As the title states, it's four PM, and time to party. The pace of the music escalates with saxophone notes intensifying before the crash and the duet between Parker and Parker. The joy here is that the trio can come at you heavy - "Hermit The Dog," with Parker's chest thumping bass pulse - or with the mostly chamber-like sound of "Unwritten," a clement piece that wouldn't be out of place on an ECM session. Rockstars also have sensitive sides.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Dys/Jörgensmann/Marcus – Elements In Candor (2015)


Michael Marcus - Bb & A clarinets
Theo Jörgensmann - Bb clarinet
Krzysztof Dys - piano
Andrzej Święs - double bass
Krzysztof Szmańda - drums

Elements In Candor


By Adam Baruch

This is an album by a Jazz quintet fronted by Polish pianist Krzysztof Dys, German clarinetist Theo Jörgensmann and American clarinetist Michael Marcus, with a Polish rhythm section: bassist Andrzej Święs and drummer Krzysztof Szmańda. Together they perform thirteen original pieces, four composed by Marcus, three by Jorgensmann and one by Dys and the remaining five were co-composed by various combinations of the quintet members.

Although based on some pre-composed phrases, the music is predominantly freely improvised and belongs to the radical Improvised Music idiom, which of curse is loved by a tiny group of enthusiasts but fails to reach a wider audience. Although the double clarinet front line has a wonderful potential of interplay between these two players, that potential is not realized herein and the music simply makes little if any aesthetic impact.

As already stated many times, Improvised Music might make sense when listened to live, due to the emotional involvement and interaction between the players and the listeners, but only very rarely it is able to carry over that interaction into a recorded document, like an album. This album is a typical case where the music simply fails to communicate and remains remote and cold, as if the musicians were playing to each other, leaving the rest of the world outside.

Even the fact that the clarinet is an instrument I truly love and the musicians involved have all made formidable recordings earlier on, this album simply does not cut it for me. Of course this is only my opinion and others might be able to enjoy this music. Dys, who is one of the most talented and important young Jazz musicians on the Polish scene plays very little on this album, which is another reason why this is a missed opportunity. If the whole album was anything like the last track, the story would have been completely different.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet – Live Polka (2016)

Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet

Joanna Duda - piano
Oskar Torok - trumpet
Marek Pospieszalski - saxophone
Wojtek Mazolewski - double bass
Qba Janicki - drums

Live Polka


By Adam Baruch

This is a live recording by Wojtek Mazolewski and his quintet, which presents live versions of the material recorded for his last studio album entitled "Polka". The lineup is not listed on the album's minimal packaging, so one must assume that it is the same as the lineup which recorded the studio album. The album presents just three compositions from the studio album, with the title track repeated twice, one time lasting for over nineteen minutes and the second time for almost twenty six minutes.

These live versions are dramatically different from the concise studio versions and show the quintet stretching out and playing extensive solo sections, group improvisations and trance like repetitions, which are absent from the studio album. In short this album could be seen as "the other side" of "Polka".

Of course a live album always turns the attention of the listener to the individual players checking out their chops and technical skills. Although these musicians are experienced and talented, they definitely are not up to the challenge to keep the listener captivated for extended periods of time and the album fails in that respect. If one wants listen to long solo bass solos, there are plenty of other bassists to choose from. Perhaps shorter pieces would have worked better? In addition the sound quality of the album is rather hollow and unfocused, which does not help.

The album also shows the punkish attitude of Mazolewski towards his listeners, a hype he has been demonstrating since his Punk and Yass days, which honestly is passé today. The charm of being rebellious works for a while, but eventually what the musician has to offer artistically should kick in, which in Mazolewski's case somehow does not happen too often lately

It is difficult to understand what the reasoning behind releasing this album was. If it means to serve as an invitation to the quintet's live shows, it is definitely not the best advertisement that could have been chosen. This album and the latest Pink Freud album both find Mazolewski away from his best days that are well remembered.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Swingujące 3miasto (series) - Emil Kowalski (2014)

Swingujące 3miasto (series)

Emil Kowalski - clarinet
Leszek Możdżer - piano
Sławek Jaskułke - piano
Dominik Bukowski - vibraphone
Cezary Paciorek - accordion
Piotr Lemańczyk - bass
Janusz Mackiewicz - bass
Tomasz Sowiński - drums
Adam Czerwiński - drums

Emil Kowalski

SMJ 2014

By Robert Ratajczak

Seria płytowa "Swingujące 3miasto" ukazująca się początkowo nakładem wydawnictwa Soliton, a następnie przejęta przez Stowarzyszenie Muzyków Jazzowych Sopot, przypomina, a wielu miłośnikom jazzu dopiero przedstawia, najciekawszych wykonawców w historii pomorskiego jazzu. Jak dotąd pojawiły się na rynku płyty: Antykwintet, Baszta, Flamingo, Rama 111 i Leszek Dranicki (oraz kompilacja "Był Gdańsk" wydana przez Jazz Forum). Inicjatorem i szefem artystycznym tego niezwykle interesującego przedsięwzięcia jest Marcin Jacobson.

Szósta płyta z serii poświęcona została w całości nagraniom Emila Kowalskiego, zmarłego przedwcześnie w 2008 roku, jednego z najwybitniejszych klarnecistów w dziejach polskiego jazzu. W trakcie swej niezwykle obfitej w rozliczne konstelacje działalności, Kowalski zasilał składy takich formacji, jak Rama 111 czy Seaside Dixieland, oraz współpracował z całą rzeszą jazzowych instrumentalistów, pośród których warto wymienić choćby Eddie'ego Hendersona, Brada Terry'ego, Eda Schullera czy artystów polskich, takich jak Sławek Jaskułke, Leszek Dranicki, Wojciech Niedziela, Dominik Bukowski czy Leszek Możdżer.

Niewątpliwą frajdą dla jazzowych archiwistów są kompozycje Fryderyka Chopina w aranżacji na klarnet, akordeon i w jednym przypadku kontrabas, jakie Emil Kowalski przygotował z myślą o kolejnej płycie. Pozostałe nagrania wybrano z albumów: "Children Of Bird" (1999), "Kolędy" (2002) i "Playing Benny Goodman" (2003). 

Podczas drugiej w zestawie kompozycji Goodmana - "Benny's Buggle" - zwraca uwagę "ciężka" praca kontrabasu, będącego w tym nagraniu niejako wyznacznikiem brzmienia całego utworu. Janusz Mackiewicz funduje nam ponadto w czwartej minucie doskonałą partię solową. Akordeon Cezarego Paciorka świetnie współgra z wibrafonem Dominika Bukowskiego, przekomarzając się z klarnetem lidera. Kunszt Mackiewicza zachwyca w każdym spośród siedmiu nagrań zrealizowanych w składzie z kontrabasem. To właśnie niskie tony basowe wraz z ciężkimi akordami fortepianu Leszka Możdżera i szaleńczą perkusją Adama Czerwińskiego wyznaczają nurt dla linii klarnetu podczas rozimprowizowanego tematu Charlie'ego Parkera "Diverse", zarejestrowanego w Gdańsku w 1999 roku.

Uwagę przyciągają też klasyczne kolędy w aranżacjach Dominika Bukowskiego ("Jezus Malusieńki") i Emila Kowalskiego ("Oj, maluśki, maluśki") zamieszczone na końcu albumu. Wydawać by się mogło, iż w tak ogranych tematach trudno przekazać cokolwiek, czego jeszcze muzyczne ucho nie dostrzegło, a jednak... To po prostu kawałek świetnego jazzowego grania z dominującą rolą zarówno klarnetu, jak i wibrafonu oraz gitary basowej (Piotr Lemańczyk). Doskonałe przypomnienie, a zarazem płytowa wizytówka jednej z najbardziej nieodżałowanych postaci polskiego jazzu, jaką jest Emil Kowalski. Wyjątkowa perełka całej serii "Swingujące 3miasto".

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Malerai/Bargh/Goodarzi – Zin Do Hezaran… (2016)


Michał Górczyński - clarinet, tenor saxophone, tinder, cicer
Dagna Sadkowska - violin
Robert Jędrzejewski - cello
Awa Bargh - vocal
Farzad Goodarzi - percussion, recitation

Zin Do Hezaran…


By Adam Baruch

This is the third album by polish trio Malerai, led by clarinetist/composer Michał Górczyński and also including violinist Dagna Sadkowska and cellist Robert Jędrzejewski. They are joined by vocalist Awa Bargh and percussionist Farzad Goodarzi and together perform a cycle of ten songs composed by Gorczynski, which feature lyrics by the 13th Century Persian poet and mystic Rumi and which have been inspired by the Persian musical traditions and Rumi's poetry.

Górczyński's chameleonic ability to absorb cultural influences and create his unique music inspired by them seems to have no borders. His earlier projects dealt with Jewish and Japanese influences and now he chose the magnificent Persian culture, which is sadly little known in Europe. Such ability is truly remarkable and Górczyński deserves high praise for it.

As usual the music amalgamates the folkloristic motifs with Górczyński's Jazz based improvisations, creating a powerful Jazz-World Fusion. Although the Persian lyrics are probably completely incomprehensible to European listeners, Bargh manages to express them with such heartfelt delivery that they become a part of the overall tapestry and can be enjoyed just on the emotional plane.

As in the case of all good music, listening to this album requires undivided attention and open-mindedness from the listener, who is eventually deeply rewarded. Acceptance and tolerance towards other cultures is definitely a basis for human communication and Górczyński is definitely a Master of the trade in that area. As always, this album is highly recommended to serious listeners, who see in music an opportunity of discovery and deeply emotional as well as intellectual experiences. This is exactly what this album delivers.

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