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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Oh Poland .... A Roundup

By Stef  

The Polish jazz scene is without a doubt one of the most vibrant in the world, with many musicians, festivals and jazz clubs in all major cities. And then a great variety of jazz labels, of which Not Two, MultiKulti and Fennomedia, are the ones most featured on this blog. It is impossible to give an overview of everything that is being published. I will give a very sketchy overview, with emphasis on those albums I like best, and with Youtube or soundcloud links so that the interested listener can judge for herself or himself.

The Polish jazz scene of course brings music in the whole spectrum, from traditional jazz to the most avant-garde. I will of course only focus on the most adventurous ones.


Marcin Malinowski - The Dreams And Prayers Of Isaac The Blind (MultiKulti, 2012) ***½

Written in 1994 by Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov, Polish clarinettist Marcin Malinowski brings his own version of the klezmer opus. Malinowski is accompanied by Dorota Roszkowska and Ewa Kaszuba on violin, Michał Piwowarczyk on viola, and Aleksandra Kuczewska cello.

This is klezmer music integrated with classical music, beautiful, full of passion and Malinowski's clarinet-playing is staggeringly good.

It is an excellent and worthwhile recoding but it lacks the shrieking violence of the orginial Kronos Quartet with David Krakauer on clarinet.


  Mazzoll / Janicki / Janicki - Minimalover (2012) ***

A beautiful clarinet trio album, with Jerzy Mazzoll on bass clarinet and on a, b and c clarinets, with Sławek Janicki on double bass, and Qba Janicki on drums and electronics. The result is a carefully paced and moving album, full of the sad compassion that I find so typical in Polish music, alternated by more daring explorations.

Listen and buy from Bandcamp


Paweł Postaremczak,  Ksawery Wójciński & Klaus Kugel - Affinity (MultiKulti, 2012) ****

A trio in the best of post-Coltrane free jazz tradition, with Paweł Postaremczak on soprano and tenor saxophones, Ksawery Wójciński on bass, and Klaus Kugel on drums. One album, three tracks with the longest over 33 minutes, with sounds as soaring and expansive as it gets, wailing, howling, full of lyricism, with unrelenting pulse, and keen focus. The core phrase keeps repeating itself at times throughout the album and creates a good sense of unity. Fans who liked "Undivided" and "Hera" will also enjoy this album. 


Piotr Mełech, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Witold Oleszak &Adam Gołębiewski - Divided By 4 (Multikulti, 2012) ****

The band is Piotr Mełech on clarinet and bass clarinet, Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello, Witold Oleszak on piano and Adam Gołębiewski on drums and percussion. The album brings nine pieces of free improvisation, in which the Polish pointillists leave lots of space for Chicagoan Lonberg-Holm on cello, whose musical vision is actually a very good fit for the band.

We are as far removed now from the klezmer sadness and passionate expansiveness of other Polish bands. What you get here is very down-to-earth, intimate dialogues, of constructing small musical creations without any tradition, just on the basis of the raw materials as they are presented by the instruments themselves, from which they can invent on the spot.


Tomasz Dabrowski - Tom Trio (ILK, 2012) ****½

One of my favorites in the review here is the fascinating trio with your trumpet Tomasz Dąbrowski on his debut album with Danish bassist Nils Bo Davidsen and drummer Anders Mogensen. The trio brings free jazz but strongly rooted in thematic and rhythmic foundations.

Dabrowski's tone is warm and full and the music welcoming. bringing the kind of jazz that makes you happy while keeping the attention going. Not surprisingly the album received very positive reactions in Poland and Dabrowski even received the musical debut of the year award in Poland, and musician of the year award in Finland.

A musician to follow.


Kamil Szuszkiewicz & Marcin Zabrocki - Piece II (Element Works, 2012) ****½

Produced in only 40 handmade copies, you can be very happy if you still can acquire a copy, but I can guarantee that it's worth more than its money and postage. The duo are Kamil Szuszkiewicz on trumpet  and Marcin Zabrocki on baritone saxophone and electronics.

The eight tracks are fully improvised and of an astonishing beauty, slow, deliberate, cautious, bluesy and sad. My favorite of the lot.


Krzystof Topolski & Tomasz Szwelnik - Polymer (2012) ****

Percussionist Krzystof Topolski is also known as Arszyn, and here we find him in the company of Tomasz Szwelnik on piano, yamha DX7 and tablteop guitar for minimalist explorations into the nature of music. The two lengthy tracks move into dark territories, with crackling noises and weird sonic backdrops. 


You can listen to the duo on Bandcamp.


Witold Oleszak & Roger Turner - Over The Title (Free Form Association, 2012) ****

On the same side of the avant-garde spectrum we find pianist Witold Oleszak with British percussionist Roger Turner. The pianist has his own personal style of percussive playing and at times it is hard to discern between piano and percussion, as the music erupts from both instruments in sudden short blasts, in rapid-fire reaction to each other, or more ongoing rumbling. This is free improv in its purest form, very "in the moment" with no preconceptions or plans, yet very intense.


Allright. And now to a few other bifurcations in the Polish musical roads - interesting new music with some unique qualities.


Male Instrumenty - Katarynka (2012) ***½

Małe Instrumenty means "small Instruments" and the band describes itself as "exploring new sounds using a wide array of small instruments", like toys from today and from older times. The music is comparable, with influences from traditional folk culture, jazz and street music, but brought in a playful new way. The music at times reminds me of the great Belgian band from the seventies, Aksak Maboul.

The musicians are Pawel Romanczuk, Marcin Ożóg, Tomasz Orszulak, Jędrzej Kuziela and Maciej Bączyk.

Listen to the music on Bandcamp


The Intuition Orchestra - Fromm (2012) ***½

The Inuition Orchestra is the brainchild of Ryszard Wojciul on sax, clarinet, flute, keyboards and vocals.

Other members are  Bolesław Błaszczyk on piano, cello, and keyboards, Jacek Alka ondrums, Marcin Olak on guitar, Marcin Krzyżanowski on cello, Piotr Gliński on percussion, Monika Szulińska on percussion, Marcin Szczyciński on double bass. Special guests on this album are vocalist Grażyna Auguścik and tuba-player Zdzisław Piernik.

The band brings a fine mixture of sonic exploration with madness and musical fun and a clear search for beauty - sometimes all quite conflicting concepts yet the band manages to bring this to a good end.


Sing Sing Penelope - This Is The Music (Serpent, 2012) ***

Sing Sing Penelope has been a mainstay of new Polish jazz, mixing rock, ambiant and electronics into their sounds.

The band is Rafał Gorzycki on drums, Wojciech Jachna on trumpet, Aleksander Kamiński on soprano sax, Tomasz Glazik on bass clarinet and tenor sax, Daniel Mackiewicz on Rhodes piano, organs and percussion, Patryk Węcławek on bass guitar, and with special guests DJ Strangefruit on live electronics and Sebastian Gruchot on violin.

It is all very nice, and often genre-bending, but the whole could have benefited from some intensity and energy.


 kIRK - Zła krew (InnerGuN, 2013) ****

kIRK takes all this a step further, and you can argue strongly that this is not jazz, but then what is it? The trio is Paweł Bartnik on electronic instruments, Olgierd Dokalski on trumpet and Filip Kalinowski on turntables. The band brings a fusion between jazz and trip-hop. Nils Petter Molvaer and nu jazz are not too far away at moments. Enjoyable and daring.


And is there more? Yes, there certainly is, but I think I've given you the titles of some nice albums illustrating the various roads that Polish jazz is engaged in - you can still expect new albums by Mikolaj Trzaska being reviewed soon, a new Tomasz Stanko maybe, a new one with Waclaw Zimpel.