Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Novi Singers – Five, Four, Three (2015)

Novi Singers

Ewa Wanat - vocals
Janusz Mych - vocals
Waldemar Parzyński - vocals
and others

Five, Four, Three

GAD 025



By Adam Baruch

This is the fifth album by the Polish Jazz vocal ensemble Novi Singers, recorded after the ensemble's founder/leader/primary composer/arranger Bernard Kawka left Poland for the greener pastures of the Big Apple, following a whole wave of his compatriots, like Michal Urbaniak, Urszula Dudziak, Adam Makowicz and others. Kawka's departure seemed to have little impact on the remaining three members of the ensemble: Ewa Wanat, Janusz Mych and Waldemar Parzyński. They immediately embarked upon the recording of this album, which as usual included original material, composed by Parzynski (seven of the nine compositions on this album) and Mych (the other two compositions). Three of the compositions included also lyrics (in English).

The ensemble was accompanied by an instrumental combo, which featured top Polish Jazz musicians: keyboardist Wojciech Karolak, guitarist Marek Bliziński, bassist Paweł Jarzębski and drummer Czesław Bartkowski, and the Polish Radio Jazz Studio Orchestra conducted by Jan Ptaszyn Wróblewski. In addition to the original album, this remastered edition includes four bonus tracks, two of which feature the vocalist Tomasz Ochalski, who expanded the ensemble to the original quartet lineup for a brief period. The original album was released only three years after it was recorded, which was an example of how political bureaucracy dictated the fate of musicians behind the Iron Curtain.

Musically this album was a continuation of the fantastic work they did on the previous releases, but the stress of loosing their leader and the confusion that followed is pretty obvious. The selection of material and inclusion of songs is obviously a step towards commercialism, but the album still presents several top-notch numbers, beautifully and skillfully executed, which stand up to par with their earlier work. But overall the glory days of Novi Singers were over and although they would record a couple of additional albums, they were moving further away from the revolutionary and innovative vocal achievements of their early days.

Considering the fact that this music has been unavailable for such a long time this is definitely another project by GAD Records, which deserves to be praised. Novi Singers fans will find this an indispensable part of their collection and hopefully we will get a complete set of Novi Singers reissues sometime in the future.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Jerzy Milian – Jerzy Milian 80 (2015)

Jerzy Milian

Jerzy Milian - vibraphone
and others

Jerzy Milian 80

GAD 026





By Adam Baruch

Vibraphonist/composer/arranger/bandleader and one of the Godfathers of modern Polish Jazz, Jerzy Milian, celebrated his eightieth birthday in April 2015 and this limited birthday edition album is a celebration of his outstanding lifelong career, emphasizing his talents as a composer. The fourteen tracks recorded in Poland and abroad between 1956 and 2004, present original compositions by Milian performed in diverse settings ranging from small combos to Big Bands/Orchestras and showcasing his talents as composer, arranger and instrumentalist.

The music ranges from Jazz compositions to popular music pieces, all elegantly arranged and performed, and tells the story of Milian's life as a continuous soundtrack, which is a great fun to listen to and a tribute to his creativity. Since nine of the tracks on this album are previously unreleased, this is also a significant addition to the available discography of Milian's work and a historical document of the development of Polish Jazz.

Additionally, this is also a superb introduction to Milian's work for people who are not yet familiar with his music and therefore a wonderful window to his world. Wholeheartedly recommended!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Enter Music Festival 2015


Na piątej edycji poznańskiego festiwalu, w dn. 2–3 czerwca wystąpią m.in. Leszek Możdżer, Ambrose Akinmusire, Michael Wollny, Tamar Halperin, Atom String Quartet.

02.06

19:30 Sorin Zlat Trio
21:00 Mateusz Pospieszalski - Pamiętnik z Powstania Warszawskiego, z gościnnym udziałem Anny Marii Jopek i Adama Nowaka
22.30 Leszek Możdżer - Bal w Operze

03.06

19:30 Leszek Możdżer/Dominik Bukowski/Atom String Quartet
21:00 Ambrose Akinmusire Quartet
22:30 Michael Wollny/Tamar Halperin feat. Hanno Busch

Na mały jubileusz festiwalu Leszek Możdżer, dyrektor artystyczny, zaryzykował wprowadzenie nowych akcentów. Enter 2015 to festiwal słów i dźwięków. Będzie miał swoich bohaterów nie tylko w osobach instrumentalistów, którzy ponad świetnym warsztatem, uosabiają to, co w muzyce najważniejsze - wolność, polot, wyobraźnię, abstrakcyjne myślenie - ale wraz z aktorami i wokalistami zabierze nas w świat polskiej poezji. Świat, w którym rządzi słowo.

W tym roku na scenie nad jeziorem spotkają się nie tylko artyści czerpiący z tradycji jazzowej, np. Ambrose Akinmusire i Sorin Zlat, czy poszukujący poza jego głównym nurtem wibrafonista Dominik Bukowski i klawesynistka Tamar Halperin, ale też śpiewający aktorzy, którzy na co dzień pracują z polskim słowem.

Pierwszego dnia festiwalu na scenie nad jeziorem wystąpi łącznie ponad 40 artystów. Wieczór wypełni poezja Tuwima i Białoszewskiego. Dwa muzyczne spektakle stworzą dyptyk, dzięki któremu będzie można spojrzeć na polską historię i rzeczywistość z dwóch kontrastujących ze sobą punktów widzenia. Poemat Juliana Tuwima „Bal w Operze” do muzyki Leszka Możdżera zaprezentują artyści wrocławskiego Teatru Capitol, którzy w premierowej obsadzie wraz z kompozytorem wykonają koncertową wersję „Balu”, dla której emocjonalną przeciwwagą będzie koncert „Białoszewski 44” z muzyką Mateusza Pospieszalskiego, z udziałem Kingi Preis i Adama Nowaka z zespołu Raz, Dwa, Trzy. Pospieszalski w swojej złożonej kompozycji sięga po różnorodne formy muzyki: nawiązuje do barokowej polifonii czy litanii i prowadzi ją aż po brzmienia zupełnie nowoczesne po to, żeby jak najpełniej wyrazić słowo poety.

Ponownie w świat abstrakcji zabierze nas koncert kwartetu Ambrosego Akinmusire, który uczył się gry kompozycji i muzyki od Herbie’ego Hancocka, Wayne’a Shortera i Terence’a Blancharda i stworzył znakomity, świetnie zgrany, mocno osadzony w jazzowej tradycji zespół, który zachwyca jazzową publiczność na całym świecie.

Drugi dzień festiwalu rozpocznie się z pozoru klasycznie. Leszek Możdżer wraz z Dominikiem Bukowskim i fenomenalnym Atom String Quartet zagrają kompozycje pianisty napisane na wibrafon i kwartet smyczkowy. Artyści po raz kolejny zabiorą głos w sprawie unieważnienia granicy oddzielającej świat muzyki klasycznej od świata muzyki jazzowej. Po tym spotkaniu wirtuozów z których każdy jest osobnym unikatowym muzycznym światem, możemy się spodziewać mnóstwa barw i spontaniczności ale przede wszystkich wyrafinowanego, szlachetnego brzmienia i radości muzykowania.

Ostatni koncert urodzinowej edycji będzie miłym odniesieniem do wcześniejszych festiwali, na których, w różnych konfiguracjach, pojawiał się już Michael Wollny. Tym razem usłyszymy go w bajecznym duecie na fortepian i klawesyn, wraz z urzekającą Tamar Haperin, w specjalnie wznowionym programie, który zachwycił Leszka Możdżera na Festiwalu Jazz Baltica 2010. „Wunderkammer” to transowa, hipnotyzująca podróż po systemie tonalnym, w którym instrumenty strunowe stają się swoistym medium zadającym pytanie, na które odpowiedź może dać tylko proces zanurzenia się w tu i teraz. Tajemnicza, intrygująca, na swój sposób rytualna muzyczna forma będzie idealnym zakończeniem piątej edycji Enter Music Festival.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Jerzy Milian – Semiramida (2015)

Jerzy Milian

Jerzy Milian - vibraphone
Jacek Bednarek - bass
Jacek Ostaszewski - bass
Grzegorz Gierłowski - drums

Semiramida

GAD 024



By Adam Baruch

This is the fourth 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 the Milian trio, which was his basic platform in the mid to late 1960s and which was eventually used to record his formal debut album "Bazaar" in 1969. This album collects the recordings made by the trio during four consecutive editions of the Jazz Jamboree Festival in the years 1966-1969. The trio included bassist Jacek Bednarek, who was replaced in 1969 by Jacek Ostaszewski, and drummer Grzegorz Gierlowski. On the 1969 recordings the violinist Marian Siejka is also present. The album comprises of eleven compositions, five of which are Milian originals and one is co-composed by Milian and Ostaszewski, two are by Bednarek and the remaining three are standards.

Almost fifty years later a retrospective analysis of these recordings clearly shows how revolutionary and ahead of their time they were then and how relevant they still are now. The vibraphone trio by itself was quite a unique concept at the time with only very few parallels, and combined with the highly unusual musical approach led by Milian, which combined Cool, Third Stream and Polish Romanticism, presented the listener with an intellectual challenge of the highest degree. Additionally the World Music influence added by both Bednarek and Ostaszewski (the latter was about to start the legendary group Ossian soon after), was also utterly innovative at the time. It is fascinating to hear the progress from the first track of this album to the last, which turns out to be almost completely Free Form.

The album is also a powerful showcase of the incredible talents of two legendary Polish Jazz bassists, as these trio recordings allow us to hear their incredible contributions upfront. Gierlowski also plays beautifully and of course Milian's playing is phenomenal, but that is hardly surprising.

These live recordings suffer from minor sonic quality problems, even after they have been well remastered, but vibraphone always presents quite a challenge and considering the conditions available behind the Iron Curtain at the time it is miraculous this music sounds as it does. Overall this is another important addition to the recorded history of Polish Jazz, which should not be missed. Hopefully more gems like this one will be made available to the eagerly awaiting fans.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Mulasta Trio – Live In Green Eye (2009)

Mulasta Trio

Tomasz Mucha - violin
Lasse Lindgren - bass
Bartek Staromiejski - drums

Live In Green Eye

BCD 23




By Adam Baruch

This is a live recording by the Mulasta Trio, which consists of Polish Jazz violinist Tomasz Mucha, Finnish bassist Lasse Lindgren and Polish drummer Bartek Staromiejski. They perform seven compositions, four of which are originals by Mucha, one is a Finnish tune, one is a standard and finally the last one is a folk tune arranged by Lindgren.

The music is performed almost completely acoustically, which is very different from most contemporary Jazz violin recordings, which sound mostly electric. This acoustic approach is reminiscent of early Jazz violin recordings before violin was almost completely drawn into Fusion. Although improvised and swinging, the overall result is not exactly within the mainstream Jazz boundaries and includes also World Music elements. The atmosphere is very relaxed and the musicians obviously have a great fun playing together.

The essence of the music is based on the intimate exchanges between the violin and the bass, with both instruments playing alongside constantly. This wonderful dialogue is the absolute highlight of this recording. Both Mucha and Lindgren perform with virtuosity and finesse, which definitely deserves to be discovered. Staromiejski respectfully accompanies the two soloists trying not to interfere with their performances and does a perfect job in that respect. Mucha's compositions are all rounded and wonderfully lyrical, fitting elegantly this setting.

Overall this is a beautiful, graceful and delicate album, which is sadly little known and surely deserves a wider exposure. Although the Polish Jazz violin already holds a proud position in that music's history, this acoustic variety surely deserves also to be a part of that heritage. I'd surely love to hear more of this kind of music in the future.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Bartlomiej Oles/Tomasz Dabrowski – Chapters (2015)

Bartłomiej Oleś/Tomasz Dąbrowski

Bartłomiej Oleś - drums
Tomasz Dąbrowski - trumpet

Chapters

FENOMMEDIA 012




By Adam Baruch

Trumpet/drums duo recordings are a very special chapter in Jazz history and they include some fascinating interplays recorded over time by American Jazz musicians, such as the legendary Don Cherry/Ed Blackwell or Max Roach/Dizzy Gillespie recordings. Some American/European trumpet/drums duos are also worth mentioning, such as the Leo Smith/Gunter Sommer, Dave Douglas/Han Bennink or Bill Dixon/Tony Oxley, documented on their respective recordings. On the contemporary Polish Jazz scene this relatively rare pairing of instruments seems to be quite favorable, with such excellent examples like Wojciech Jachna/Jacek Buhl, Artur Majewski/Kuba Suchar and others. Trumpeter/composer Tomasz Dąbrowski already has one trumpet/drums album under his arm, recorded with the American drummer Tyshawn Sorey and now he joins the brilliant drummer/composer Bartłomiej Oleś in a new trumpet/drums duo, captured on this album.

Bartłomiej Oleś is of course known to all Polish Jazz connoisseurs as half of the Oleś Brothers rhythm section, which in time achieved a legendary status as one of the best modern Jazz rhythm sections around, but this album focuses on his work as composer. Of the ten pieces presented on this album, Oles composed eight, and co-composed one with Dąbrowski, with the remaining piece, which closes the set, being a Thelonious Monk composition.

In comparison to the trumpet/drums albums listed in the opening paragraph, this recording is definitely the most lyrical and deeply melodic of them all. Oleś demonstrated his lyricism and love of melody over the years in the numerous compositions he contributed to the vast Oleś Brothers recorded legacy. Additionally, his treatment of the drums as a melodic instrument has always been his particular trademark, as he almost never simply sets a rhythm but rather plays the drums in par with his musical partners in various ensembles. The intimacy of just two instruments is an ideal opportunity to place these compositional and performance qualities at the center of the listener's attention.

Dąbrowski, whose meteoric rise to fame is fully justified, seems to be an ideal partner aiding Oleś to achieve his goals. His virtuosic attack, combined with the intrinsic lyricism, turn his trumpet into a seemingly unlimited tool able to express an enormously diverse set of emotions, from whisper to shout, anger to joy, despair to mellow melancholy. Playing side by side with Oleś, who is of course more experienced and mature, pushed Dąbrowski really hard to reach and than cross his limits, which resulted in the best performance of his life so far. Oleś managed to catalyze and crystallize Dąbrowski's unique style and mannerism, molding them into a perfect musical entity.

There is so much music on this album that a true comprehension and appreciation of it requires several listening sessions even for the most experienced music lovers. Peeling off the layers of aesthetic and emotional essence captured herein by these two Masters is a delightful and rewarding experience. There is no doubt that this is a monumental achievement in every sense and a model of lofty, almost spiritual communication between an Artist and his audience.

Personally I have a deep satisfaction from the fact that I have always considered these two musicians as representatives of what is best about Polish Culture in general and Polish Jazz in particular: honesty, consistency and a proper usage of a God given talent. Thank you both for such a wonderful gift!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Jachna/Buhl - Synthomathic (2015)

Jachna/Buhl

Wojciech Jachna - trumpet, flugelhorn, electronics
Jacek Buhl - drums, percussion
guest: DJ Yaki (3,5)

Synthomathic

Requiem 87/2015



By Piotr Wojdat

Trębacz Wojciech Jachna oraz perkusista Jacek Buhl idą za ciosem, wydając drugą płytę w barwach wytwórni Requiem Records. To zarazem ich piąty krążek w szybko rozrastającej się dyskografii, która charakteryzuje się w miarę równym, wysokim poziomem artystycznym. Zeszłoroczne wydawnictwo zatytułowane "Atropina" stało pod znakiem minimalizmu. Na ten fakt wpłynęło nie tylko oszczędne instrumentarium (jak zawsze w przypadku tego duetu), ale też sposób rejestracji wspomnianego dzieła. Gwoli kronikarskiej powinności przypomnijmy, że płyta została zarejestrowana na strychu Biblioteki Miejskiej w Bydgoszczy przy pomocy 4-śladowego Tascama, co znacząco wpłynęło na jej surowe brzmienie.

"Synthomathic" przy pierwszym odsłuchu nie odsłania odmiennego konceptu na kolejny album Jachny i Buhla. Obcujemy z muzyką opartą na treściwych dialogach trąbki i perkusji, których paletę barw i odcieni poszerza umiejętnie stosowana elektronika. Dominuje melancholijna atmosfera, a zarysy melodii stają się mniej oczywiste poprzez ukazanie ich w morzu pogłosów i transowych zapętleń.

To, co jednak różni "Synthomathic" od poprzedniczki, to większa dbałość o szczegóły w procesie postprodukcji. Duża w tym zasługa realizatora nagrań - Artura Maćkowiaka. Gdy się dobrze wsłuchać w utwory w rodzaju “Dabi sajko” czy “Drezyna”, można też wychwycić nowe wątki w twórczości bydgoskiego duetu. Opierają się one na bardziej śmiałym eksperymentowaniu z elektroniką, co w wymienionych dwóch przypadkach jest efektem zaproszenia na sesję DJ Yakiego.

Najnowszy album Wojciecha Jachny i Jacka Buhla należy jednak traktować bardziej jako kontynuację obranej ścieżki artystycznej niż poszukiwanie nowych rozwiązań brzmieniowych. Efektem tych zamierzeń jest dojrzałe i zapamiętywalne dzieło, do którego wraca się z dużą przyjemnością.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Wojciech Majewski – Opowiesc (2009)

Wojciech Majewski

Wojciech Majewski - piano
Robert Majewski - trumpet
Tomasz Szukalski - saxophone
Jacek Niedziela - bass
Krzysztof Dziedzic - drums

Opowieść

4EVERMUSIC 130


By Adam Baruch

This is the third album by Polish Jazz pianist/composer Wojciech Majewski, recorded in a classic quintet format with trumpeter Robert Majewski (Wojciech's brother), saxophonist Tomasz Szukalski, bassist Jacek Niedziela and drummer Krzysztof Dziedzic. The album presents a solo piano piece which is followed by a seven-part Jazz suite performed by the quintet. It was recorded at the Studio Tokarnia and engineered by Jan Smoczynski, with superb sonic quality, as expected.

The music is all kept within the mainstream tradition, with certain Classical Music accents, but those are quite marginal. The melodic themes are basically vehicles for extended solos played by the quintet members. It is hard to follow the "suite" concept musically, as it lacks a clear coherence, but nevertheless the music is interesting and flows gently from one part of the suite to the next. There are the obvious Polish Jazz characteristics, like lyricism and melancholy, in which this music is completely drenched, clearly defining its origin and tradition.

The true forte of this album is the incredible musicianship, which is not surprising considering these are some of the best and most experienced second generation Polish Jazz musicians. Especially interesting is the presence of Szukalski as this is one of the last recordings in which he participated before his tragic death. The album is full of superb solos and ensemble performances, which are truly inspired. Majewski dedicates this album to the memory of his Father, the legendary Polish Jazz trumpeter Henryk Majewski, who died shortly before this music was recorded.

Overall this is an interesting experiment in composing an extended Jazz suite-like composition, beautifully performed by first class musicians, an effort which deserves to be heard by Jazz connoisseurs all over the world.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Andrzej Jagodzinski Trio – Muzyka Polska (2011)


Andrzej Jagodziński Trio

Andrzej Jagodziński - piano
Adam Cegielski - bass
Czesław Bartkowski - drums
Grażyna Auguścik - vocals
and others

Muzyka Polska

PRIVATE EDITION


By Adam Baruch

This is a beautiful and very ambitious album by Polish Jazz pianist/composer Andrzej Jagodziński and his trio with bassist Adam Cegielski and drummer Czesław Bartkowski, also involving the great vocalist Grażyna Auguścik and two Classical Music soloists: flautist Jadwiga Kotnowska and harpist Anna Sikorzak-Olek, as well as the AUKSO String Orchestra conducted by Marek Moś. The album presents a seven part Jazz suite for piano trio, voice, string orchestra and soloist, which attempts to "define" what "Polish Music" means in general and especially in the Jazz context as what we understand under the term "Polish Jazz". Five parts of the suite are based on Polish Folk tunes, one is a Krzysztof Komeda composition and one is a tune composed by Marcin Januszkiewicz. Jagodziński and Auguścik arranged the vocal parts and Jagodziński wrote the elaborate piano trio/string orchestra arrangements.

The concept behind this album obviously points towards the conclusion that contemporary Polish Music/Polish Jazz are a synthesis of the Polish Folk tradition with contemporary music forms. The Polish Folk tradition is most obviously identified with the Polish Folklore dances, such as kujawiak, mazurka, oberek and others, but also with the intrinsic Polish melancholy and lyricism, which create its unique characteristics, which are instantly recognizable to a trained ear. Regardless of the concept, this album is first and foremost a true celebration of music, crossing and bridging between Folklore, Jazz and Classical Music and doing it in an impressive, intelligent and truly beautiful way. All the parts and ideas fall together into an amazing amalgam, which is a delightful listening experience.

The album is also a wonderful platform to enjoy the individual contributions by the participating musicians. Auguścik again proves that she has very little competition on the local scene and her wonderful sensitivity and power of expression are simply stunning. Her appearance on this album is somewhat prophetic in the sense that her album "Inspired By Lutosławski", which was recorded four years after this one, would deal with the same subject matter. Jagodziński, who also plays accordion on this album, and his trio cohorts, as well as the soloists and orchestra all perform spotlessly and harmoniously, with obvious dedication and joy of creation.

This is the best album by far that Jagodziński recorded during his splendid career, and one of the best attempts to create a coherent musical concept, dedicated to Polish Music. Personally I'd love to see more such attempts done by other musicians. Discovering one's musical roots and traditions is surely preferable to imitating other cultures. This album is a pure delight from start to finish and I recommend it wholeheartedly to every Polish Jazz fan, as it reveals many of the innermost secrets about what Polish Jazz really means.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Przemek Raminiak Quartet – Locomotive (2015)


Przemek Raminiak Quartet

Przemysław Raminiak - keyboards
Jakub Skowroński - saxophone
Bartosz Kucz - bass
Frank Parker - drums

Locomotive

SOLITON 417


By Adam Baruch

This is the first album by Polish Jazz pianist/composer Przemysław Raminiak, following his departure from the seminal Polish piano trio RGG, of which he was a founding member. The album was recorded in a quartet setting and features also saxophonist Jakub Skowroński, bassist Bartosz Kucz and American drummer Frank Parker. The album presents eight original compositions, seven composed by Raminiak and one co-composed by him with Skowroński.

Musically the album presents a complete about face as far as Raminiak's role with RGG is concerned. No more long, contemplative, lyrical and almost free form ambient explorations, but straightforward melodic mainstream, almost smooth Jazz, energetic, vigorous, funky, groovy and danceable. Although at the first moment this can be quite shocking to some of Raminiak's fans, there is basically nothing wrong with changing one's approach, even dramatically. If Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock can do it, why can't Przemyslaw Raminiak do it as well?

This is very immediate music and yet it has many virtues: the melodies are all first-class, the arrangements are slick and professional and the performances are brilliant in that particular milieu. Raminiak plays acoustic and electric piano and a few synthesizers, always with flair and spotless technique, which of course is not surprising. Skowronski is a big surprise with his smooth phrasing and superb melodiousness. The rhythm section plays pretty solid background timekeeping stuff, with beautiful fretless bass playing a few nice solos and drums staying respectfully in the background, as appropriate for this setting. In short this whole thing works like a dream, delivering pleasant, nontrivial and highly satisfactory music, which is a lot of fun to listen to.

Of course Raminiak will be accused of "selling out" and playing rubbish by Polish "music critics", but honestly most of them secretly enjoy this music very much and are simply embarrassed to admit it. As far as fellow musicians are concerned most of them wish they could come up with an album like this one themselves. So here it comes again people: this is a great album for what it is, straightforward uncomplicated good music. We can't eat the same food all the time and we can't listen to the same music all the time – this is definitely a nice alternative, mostly for those who know it all.

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