Friday, December 31, 2010

Jazzy New Year 2011 wishes !!!/ some thoughts on 2010 poll

While the new review is ready to be posted I will postpone it till tomorrow and take this chance to share some thoughts or things I'm proud of.

 This it the first blog I've ever done so I don't really know whether these numbers are good or not, all  I know is that they are very satisfying to begin with. The number of visits reached 1.000 after 1 month and 1 day of activity, the number of 2.000 visits is very likely to be reached withing next 24 hours wchich means (after another 1/2 month). I would like to thank all visitors - meaning all of You, for taking their time to check this blog and Invite You to participate more and leave comments (we all love comments :) don't we)

I'm proud to say also that I've been invited to participate in El Intruso-The 3nd New Creative Music Critics Poll 2010 poll by forward-thinking Elintruso portal (unfortunately spanish-speaking readers only can fully appreiciate its content but the resuls and list of participants in 2009 poll is impressive).

Any kind of "Best of" list is subjected to many problematic issues:
-how to compare products of art at all? It's no competition at first place, why make it one? And obviously it's extremely subjective even if You're trying to do Your best to not favour Your personal favourites (who gained Your trust with music created previously and weren't necessarily as compelling in 2010).

-it's impossible to track all new releases, any lists one makes is by far more influenced by what one did NOT listen to than by what he DID hear.

-especially in case of 'instrument' section - I'm far more impressed by live events (again influenced by both what I was able and NOT able to see) so, how do You compare concerts and recordings, how can You ignore impressive live statements even if the recordings are not that spectacular?

-it's easily forgotten that true evolution of Jazz and Improvised Music happens on stage, not so much in the recording studio, because of the production cycle, cd releases are also far behind the 'real' act. Thus the poll of 2010 actually says more about 2009 and so on. (point presented already in "Hera" review about Waclaw Zimpel - all his recent recordings are among best published in 2010 making strong his case for musician of the year - all those were recorded in 2009 while Waclaw has now moved already to new projects).

-it's too easy to forget cds released in the beginning of the year (Satoko Fujii Ma-Do Quartet release comes to my mind).

-it's equally easy to miss the most recent releases (november, december) that don't have time to get
enough recognition before the end of the year.

-most probably I will get to know as many cds from 2010 after the poll closes as during the entire year (even if I managed to listen to fair amount of new albums). It's easy to imagine that I will find cds released in 2010 in far future, that, had I know them now, would change the list entirely.

Neverthelless all those "Best of" lists are most of all a lot fun, we do love lists (as much as comments maybe :) don't we? It's also great source of information about worthwile recent music, when treated as usefull guidelines, not as a definitive and undiscussable statement.

The deadline for El Intruso poll is 15th January so by that time You can expect my annotated list here.

I want to wish everybody a great year! Full of excitement, happiness, passion and spiced up with great music.
Happy New Year and All That Jazz :)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

John Edwards - Volume [PSI]

John Edwards - double bass

PSI 2008

I've been planning to write about this for some time now. And the story that can tell more about the music than the actual review (that follows) goes like this:
John Edwards played in Krakow recently with Phall Fatale band (great concert, I'm crossing my fingers for their first release, to come out in 2011) and he was the only one to bring any cds to the gig - two copies of his solo outing "Volume". I was reluctant at first, biting my nails for many reasons. I have only a couple of solo bass records in my collection, solo performance is not only particularly difficult to play, but quite often hard to listen to. It turns into impressive technique show-off that serves mainly as and educational presentation for other instrumentalists, or into sonic exploration that, while still impressive,  is too hermetic to really get into, leaving the listener cold, or yet again is so full of abandonment and exhibitionism that it lacks any kind of self-control on the part of musician. And, while improvised music doesn't really care for those standards, solo record being made on an instrument that plays usually supportive role in the music doesn't really make it easier.
The first set of the concert was good and I gradually started to take seriously the idea of getting the cd, half jokingly bargaining with my friend on who should get it and whether it was or not the case of overinvesting before the other concerts coming soon (during the break the other copy was bought so there was only one remaining). All those worries were instantly erased when John Edwards played his solo in the middle of the 2nd set. I jumped off my seat over the row of chairs, run to the bar and make sure the remaining copy goes to me.

My impulsive reaction was definitely rewarded. While it is as demanding as one could imagine, it is also a total sound experience. John plays, bows, plucks, strums, bangs not only on strings but uses the entire body of the instrument, often drumming with his fingers on it, and he's not afraid of anything to get the sound he wants, may it be squeeky, screeching, swooshing, metallic, wailing, reverbing, echoing, in fact may it be almost anything You can imagine. His virtuoso technique is as commanding as is his immagination. His use of extended techniques is awe-inspiring, but what is more important is the sense of direction, the narrative line, dramatic, even theatrical in his sound gestures. The improvs can be light in sound, with harp-like sound ("Pin Drop"), or full of down-to-earth, woody sound of powerfully plucked strings ("Sprung") where spontaneously created groove is quite infectious, but this is obviously oversimplyfied description as "Sprung" moves freely within dynamic range and features parts where traditional walking and plucking disappears completely to make space for other modes of expression. John can sound like two players at once, playing with both hands on the neck of the instrument, or playing over simultanous drum-line (like in "Saddle" where his aliquot stringing sounds like a thumb-piano). Shrilling sounds of enourmous, vibrating and boiling with overtones (incredible how many shades can one tone have) arco playing in "Tunnel" will have Your less-inclined-to-free-sound-flatmates running.

This recording, while extremely personal and demanding (and deserving of) a focused listen, is also worthy of highest recommendation. It is spirited (even when playing is physical), it is intense and powerful (even when notes are spare and tone is light), it's extremelty sincere and uncompromising. It's a presentation of musical adventure where musicianship of highest order (Edwards is indeed a virtuoso of the instrument) is met by limitless imagination to create improvisations of striking power. Hipnotic and captivating, if sometimes quite scary. If You can appreciate this video, this cd belongs in Your collection.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Have Yourself a Merry Jazzy Christmas

Probably next posts will be coming only after the weekend.
I want to thank every visisitor for taking his time and checking this blog.
Want to wish You all a lot of warmth, happiness and peace in those next days of Christmas time, as well as in the new 2011 year (there will be time to say it again). And whole lot of new exciting sounds. (I've been good this year, I hope Santa is bringing me a cd or two, have You been good?)

This is also the time of the year when You can get back to so much good music :) . Ella, Frank, Louis, all the greatest are singing and swinging:
Although it's been said, many times, many ways, Merry Christmas
to You

Jazz Alchemist

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hera (Waclaw Zimpel, Pawel Postaremczak, Ksawery Wojcinski, Pawel Szpura) - Hera [Multikulti]

Waclaw Zimpel - clarinet, bass clarinet, tarogato, fujara flute
Pawel Postaremczak - soprano, tenor sax
Ksawery Wojcinski - double bass
Pawel Szpura - drums

Multikulti 2010

I've been waiting very impatient for this one. Not only I am a big fan of Waclaw Zimpel (which I have expressed writing for Diapazon about The Light's concert or his duo cd with Tim Daisy back in 2008) but It's also been hard to ignore all the extrememly positive feedback I've been hearing about this release (from likes of Marek Winiarski from Not Two, other friends in Krakow who were able to see the recent concert or from Stef's blog - even if I had refrained myself from reading the review before listening to cd, It was impossible not to see the 5-star rating). So it is little to say that my expectations were high.

Recent releases by Waclaw Zimpel (The Light "Afekty"; Undivided "Passion") showcase his considerable grow as a leader and composer. All those (including "Hera") not only base on composed material, but search for musical representation of powerfull, vital emotions, taking inspirations from ethnic rituals and emotions themselves (The Light) and two most crucial roots of modern Western Culture - Bible (Undivided) and Antic mythology (Hera). This multiplicity is united in Zimpel's vision, with all the music unfolding itself as in suite, not only on the level of single album, but I think all those three could be placed together. While the cd releases were separated, the recording sessions were very close, with Hera being recorded just 1 week before "Passion" (01.04.2009 and 08.04.2009) and the trio session taking place just 2 months before.

The titles on the album refer to cities where in ancient temples You could find an iconic representation of Hera. "Monreale" starts with light percussion work and then introduces solemnly and slowly minor intervals (played unisono or intertwined betweem bass clarinet and tenor saxophone - great sounding frontline). The piece is split in half, first with Waclaw solo, slowly getting momentum, rising, full of drama, over great, feverish arco playing by Ksawery and pulse-everywhere toms courtesy of Szpura, then replaced by Pawel's expansive and expressive sax lines over busy, boiling rhythm section (plucked bass, lot of crashed plates). The piece is closed with cerebral, faithfull to gregorian original, unisono reading of "Tantum Ergo" with it's slow melody shining over frenzy rhythm section. Over next pieces You'll travel between joy and sadness, between peace and war, undersung lyricism and raging expressivity, You'll hear instruments singing their joy, cry their rage and passion, weep their misery, anguish. As a final piece, no doubt a nod in honour of Trio X and Joe McPhee, You'll hear the traditional "Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child", a version that is definitely not traditional, vibrating with emotions, dense and captivating.

The emotional depth of this playing doesn't overshadow the musical discipline, the composer's general idea. The personal statements, expressive soloing, don't overpower the ensemble sound. And possible this is the greatest quality of recent Zimpel's recordings - with all the emotions presented You are taken by the passion, the emotional content presented in the perforfmance, but You get swept by the grandeur of the vision, by epic panorama of the big picture, the unity and the richness of the project that gives You the concept-album the likes of which jazz has not seen to many.

A piece from the album is featured in the special Easter playlist from 02.04.2012.

1. With both "Passion" and "Hera" and participation in "Ircha" (about which maybe soon) Waclaw Zimpel should be high on the all kinds of 'best of 2010' lists, I will comment on it soon, but this case is great example of how problematic all kinds of polls are - all three releases (and "Afekty" by The Light trio) were recorded in 2009.
2. While it's not main focus of the blog, I'm glad and it seems only fitting that among first reviews posted polish labels (Not Two, Multikulti, Ars Cameralis) and polish musicians (Maciej Obara, Hera Quartet) are presented.
3.. While I know that this blog is getting some visits, I can't tell if it's been actually read since posts remain comment-less. The whole 'best of 2010' discussion are already started in many places, we'll join them soon, but wanted to ask, too see if any reaction will be provoked:
what are Your favourite concept-albums? Obviously not only Jazz goes, especially since the whole notion of concept-album is more part of rock music.

Jazz it up :)

While new review should be coming soon (I'm thinking tomorrow morning maybe). I wanted to share 2 things with everyone

1. congratulations to Waclaw Zimpel, Bobby Few, Mark Tokar and Klaus Kugel - their "Passion" won the Best New Ears 2010 poll on Stef's FreeJazz blog :). You can read about it here.

2. I justo loooove this video, jazz needs more good promotion like this. Smile everyone :)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Here Comes ... Jazz Alchemist on "air" (8pm CET)

Ok, I have to say that I'm still struggling. I would want to play at least some pieces from the 'supposed to be' last week playlist - with Wadada Leo Smith and Joe Fonda birthdays on it. I would want to play something from recently reviewed cds ("Morning Glory" and "Varpai"). But on the other hand, as usual in this time of year, I also feel very much like giving in carelessly into Christmas spirit. With Frank and Ella and Muppets and Rudolph and Santa singing swinging songs and wishing You a peaceful time. What would You like to hear?

At the end decided to try my best to do all of those things so here's the playlist:

1. Joe Fonda - The Other Side Of Things (birthday on 16.12)
2. Wadada Leo Smith & Ed Blackwell - The Blue Mountain's Son Drummer (Wadada's birthday on 18.12; new release - Kabell Records 2010)
3. Augusti Fernandez / Barry Guy / Ramon Lopez - La nina de la calla Ibiza (from this album)
4. Andre Pabarciute / Mark Tokar / Klaus Kugel - Varpai (from that album)
5. Andre Pabarciute / Mark Tokar / Klaus Kugel - Archaic Glimpses
6. Mikrokolektyw - Running Without Effort (concert in Klub Re took place 14.12, unfortunately I wasn't there)
7. Augusti Fernandez / Barry Guy / Ramon Lopez - Zahori
8. Wadada Leo Smith - Uprising (version from "Kulture Jazz")
9. Wadada Leo Smith & Ed Blackwell - Uprising
10. Augusti Fernandez / Barry Guy / Ramon Lopez - An Anonymous Soul

and then we give into Christmas spirit with just a couple of evergreens :)
11. Jeff Beck - Amazing Grace
12. Dianne Reeves - Christmas Waltz
13. Frank Sinatra - We Wish You a Merry Christmas
14. Ella Fitzgerald - Christmas Song

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Agustí Fernández, Barry Guy, Ramón López - Morning Glory (+ Live in New York) [Maya]

Morning Glory

Agustí Fernández - Piano 

Barry Guy - Double Bass 

Ramón López - Drums and Percussion

 Maya Recordings 2010

I'll start by sharing a short story, not of music itself, but of my perception of music.
When I started listening to jazz (not so long time ago) piano trios used to be mine favourite. I would listen to as much as I could get my hands on, and marvel at the pianist ability, speed, excellent technique. This playing, while great, would most often resolve around the central figure of solo player on piano, and backing rhythm section. After my ears and brain were introduced to freeer kind of jazz,  piano trio format somehow began to represent in my mind the most mainstream instrumental setting, that doesn't allow musicians the freedom I want to them to have, that limits most strictly the music in terms of harmony, that allows only chromatic scale sounds,  that executes most formally the soloist-rhythm section divison (piano trio would be opposed to in this scheme by pianoless trios that represents the most important vehicle for free music). I stopped listening to trios, finding most of the releases mere copies of old masters like Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans - never surprising (not concerning a particular solo or piece but the general format), never innovative, quite often provoking 'booooring' and 'that was played a million times already' yawns. 
Fortunately some fairly recent piano trio releases ("Farmers By Nature" with Craig Taborn and "More is Less" with Michael Wintsch come to my mind first) made my reevaluate my position on piano trios showing clearly that it is still possible to create in this format music that is fresh, innovative, immaginative, surprising. That there are still new stories to tell and new ways to tell them. So, while I'm always bit suspicious and cautious when it's about piano trio, I slowly get to appreciate this format again.
Although in case of this trio there was no actuall risk-taking involved (so maybe the whole introduction is a bit pointless) since I had both the pleasure of seeing this band live once (2009 Autumn Jazz Festival in Krakow) as listening to their first release ("Aurora" - Maya Recordings 2005).

I don't think it's a coincidence that the album shares its title with a composition Bill Evans used to play. While Augusti does create some abstract labirynths in some of the improvised parts, it's surprising how lyrical and touching he's playing can be. Barry adds some beautifull tones to the whole palette, definitely putting to use the teachings of classical music he's playing now a lot (some of the compositions also, I would say, hint towards those inspirations, like "Zahori'", check also the bass line in this piece), he's control of pitch, clarity of phrasing is one to admire (as I did a lot this year). Ramon gives You light touches, lot of texture, delicate, very nuanced and spare playing (mallets on toms, soft hits on plates, hand-played percussion).

On "Morning Glory" You'll find 6 compositions (all Augusti)  interlayered with 6 group improvisations, which gives it nice balance to start with. This is not fire music You could expect from those musicians, although it's not exactly ballad playing either. Instead You get music that transcends many confines. Some parts of group-credited pieces present playing that is so united it is hard to believe they were not composed ("The Magical Chorus"). Compositions, on the other hand, leave enough space for group-improvisation that would be completely off on main(stream) lands but is so much in place when at open sea. It is subtle and gentle without being soft, It is lyrical and passionate without being cheap. It is mysterious and indirect without being hermetic and inaccessible. Celebral but not distant. Exuberant and modest. Peaceful and meditative without loosing a darker and more dramatic, improvisational claw ("Perpetuum Mobile", "Benito (Jordi Benito in absentia)").

The melodies are simply beautiful, stunning. The interplay so deep and intimate, the harmonies and textures rich. And music so full of emotions, so deeply felt that it goes straight to your soul and grabs You by Your heart (and I could go on with the praisies for a long time). Some say that the hardest thing to play are ballads, and It is indeed rare to find this kind of playing. Where slow tempos and lyricism don't make You yawn and lull away but dream awake.

To make the release even better there is a bonus free disc included - "Live in New York" that documents concert versions of some of the compositions that were originally played on the trio's first release "Aurora" (4 pieces by Augusti, and my beloved, haunting "Odyssey" by Barry Guy), a traditional theme ("No Ni No' ") arranged by Augusti and a hand-breaking tempo read of "Rounds" by Marillyn Crispell (important collaborator of Barry in the past, the one who named Augusti her successor in Barry Guy New Orchestra). As musicians search for new layers of emotional depth and levels of intimiacy playing, You will find as much  (if not more) to appreciate on this bonus disc as on the main one, which makes this release a double treat success. Even if You don't like piano trios as much as me, You owe it to yourself to give this one a try.

ps. This music is to dream awake, so it's best served in the evening :)
ps2. You can find on YouTube great quality videos from concert in Zurich from 2007, with some of the pieces coming from "Aurora" that are also on the "Live in New York" bonus cd in this release.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

André / Tokar / Kugel - VARPAI [Nemu Records]

André Pabarciute - voice
Mark Tokar - double bass
Klaus Kugel - percussions

Nemu Records 2010

I grabbed this one after the Zimpel/Tokar/Kugel/Kusiolek concert during the Silent Movie Festival. And definitely find no reason to regret this decision, even if I'm not such a big fan of vocals in improvised music. 

This is musical journey into the centre of the earth. Peaceful, meditative, with lots of extended techniques, little 'melody' but all sound, very organic and natural. Stripping the instruments (including the voice) of all expected notions of how it "should" be used. The silence and the resonance of the long-gone sounds are here as important as the sounds themselves.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

MaMuGe 3 (Maciej Obara, John Lindberg, Harvey Sorgen) - Three [Ars Cameralis]

MaMuGe 3 - Three

Maciej Obara - alto sax
John Lindberg - double bass
Harvey Sorgen - drums

Ars Cameralis 2010

I 've been planning to write about this cd since I got it after the trio's concert in Katowice about 1 month ago, couple of days before starting the blog, but then got swamped by all the concerts around and couldn't really find any time to sit down and pour something on black and white. So (trying to look for positive) since today's radio program was cancelled I might as well try to finish this text.

Both John Lindberg and Harvey Sorgen need little introduction, first is known from many recordings with Anthony Braxto or, lately, Wadada Leo Smith, the latter can be heard on many recordings by Fonda-Stevens group. On the occasion of a concert with this band in Katowice he met Maciej Obara and thus began their friendship. When Maciej was in New York, Harvey took him to Woodstock where they recorded this album. 

Maciej Obara is definitely one of the most promising new talents on polish jazz scene, one who is not afraid of challenges like playing with much more experienced and acknowledged musicians than himself. Which is a great sign since jazz music can't really exist without ambition and challenging yourself (not to be mistaken with being too cocky). 

The music on this release is deeply rooted in free-jazz tradition, to be more precise the one of Ornette Coleman, Obara's sax playing being very melodic but his tone sharp and edgy, precise yet warm, his narration though is very much his own. Most of the material is composed, with three pieces by Maciej, two by John, one by Harvey, "Spiritual Lover" by Andrew Hill and 3 pieces credited to all musicians. All of those are relatively short (the longest track clocking 6:49) still the musicians find the way to fill those few minutes with enough variety and musical development to please Your ears. 
First sounds ("Spiritual Lover") are those of deep bass groove and syncopating drums rolling around it and this will be pretty much how the things will be on some of composed pieces with very much freeboppish, full of interval jumps themes (like "Noodles with Sammy Blues" or "Forage"). Obara's alto shines through with imaginative narration, great rhythmic touch and melodic approach. His sound can get also softer, with bit air to it in slower pieces like "One for Caroll" (beautiful solo intro) or "Multiple Reasons" (with main line reminding of "My Funny Valentine" delicate playing by Maciej, swinging brushes by Harvey and a great bass solo by John, passionate and dramatic).
Nonetheless the short tracks, playing can get quite intense, like on 'Muss influx", "Noodles with Sammy Blues" or "Twix'T D and E" with soaring into high register sax playing (expansive lines, energetic and very much in control tone). The musicianship is absolutely stellar and the interplay fabulous (highlighted by the three improvised pieces which provide great balance to the composed material, leaning on more abstract and 'in the moment' playing). As is expected from this kind of music 'rhythm section' is always right in the middle of the action, pushing forward, often left to do their magic on their own (like ending of "Noodles ...", "T'wixt D and E" or improvised "Dropped Drops"). 
Overall the music is free, passionate, fresh, energetic and imaginative, not innovative but very much personal with great individualites displayed throughout. Highlight of the album is "T'wixt D and E" with a great melodic theme, rolling rhythm section and passionate solo by alto, ending way to soon at 6'49''. This "too soon" could be very much the biggest disadvantage of the album, because I've seen them play those pieces pushing and searching far more outside and inside, and remembering the live performance I have to remind myself that this session was recorded after one (1!) day of rehearsals at the very first meeting of the group. Very highly recommended.

While it can't replace the live experience (concert in Katowice was great, according to musicians the best one of the small tour) it definitely gives a great insight into playing of Maciej Obara (realising so far the 'promise' of his talent) and one can only look forward to new oppotunities to hear him again both in this trio setting as in other contexts.

On Maciej Obara's myspace page You can listen to rhythmic and expressive "Forage" (composition by Sorgen) and "Wolverine Breath" (improvised piece with spare lines by alto, some ephemeric bow-painting brushes by John and distant mallets by Harvey), both coming from this CD.  

The cover is slightly different than the picture presented, with different layout of the written elements, graphic is the same.

Monday, December 13, 2010

cancelled (Jazz Alchemist on the air! :) 8 pm CET. Waiting for You to tune in)

Unfortunately, due to server crash in the studio, radio program is cancelled tonight. Below remains the text that was supposed to introduce today's playlist. Most probably this music will be played next week.

(As usual I am waiting for You at 8 pm CET on Tonight's program is pretty much focused (bit unusual) and we'll celebrate birthdays of Joe Fonda, Wadada Leo Smith mixed with few pieces from Mikrokolektyw's "Revisit" cd on Delmark (they are playing tomorrow in klub Re).

Be sure to add the jazzowy alchemik profile to Your friend list on facebook so we could chat during the program. Tune in!)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Ray Dickaty, Michal Dymny, Tomasz Choloniewski at Cafe Bethel – 9.12

Now this came to my attention at the very last moment (thank Facebook for invitations :) and while both Michal and Tomasz are active on local improvisor's stage in Krakow and I knew their playing, Ray Dickaty was a new name, quick look around the web and I was already curious about hearing improvise a guy who played with a rock band – Spiritualized, and visit to his myspace page reaffirmed my decision to go to the place.

Ray plays tenor, Michal is on electric guitar with an array of strange or common objects (plastick sticks, metal plate, electric razor, comb) and Tomasz, apart from regular drums set, a table full of metal bowls (looking Ikea) and enamel pots (from Olkusz) that played with drumsticks sounds a bit like marimba maybe. They start and guitar puts in the rhythmic drive with fingers drumming the bass strings, then moving to more spare notes, disjointed, abstract. The music gets a nice forward drive provided by Tomasz or Michal, sometimes both, with rock dynamic and its immediacy sometimes coming forward. Great group interplay, sometimes playing some kind of musical catch and run, at other moments longing howls short sound outbursts on saxophone over drone background provided by electric noises on strings. Group moving swiftly between hushed and overblown, melodic labirynths and some simple two or three notes motives, tribal or rock drumming and rhythm-less sounds with pulse all over the place, like dots and lines on some abstract painting. Never staying too long in one place, creating a series of miniatures, divided into pieces (1 st set, 4 improvs), or linking them one to another with some sudden turns and twists (2 nd set, 1 suite-like improv). With saxophone quite often in the background and Michal on guitar taking the lead part (finding some great sounds with the guitar on his lap, and metal plate over the strings, drumming on it with fingers, plastick sticks or razor machine). Overall great concert and it's inspiring to see so many places and musicians locally engaged in free improvisation music.

Hopefully the place will stay open for this kind of performance since it was the first (or one of the firsts) events of this kind in there.

Mikolaj Trzaska, Rafal Mazur, Tim Daisy at Solvay 08.12

While Tim (no doubt) and Mikolaj (I hope) need no introduction, Rafal Mazur is probably the least known musician among those three. Highly active on local stage, somehow of a founder of improvisor's scene in Krakow. He plays an (electro)acoustic custom made bass guitar and works in a whole lot of ad-hoc groups and a few stable partnerships (Ensemble 56 and duo Keir Neuhringer come to mind, both have releases on Not Two).

While Mikolaj had played both with Rafal and Tim, the latter two never played together so this was their very first meeting. The band starts up with a 'high C' , sharp, edgy, energetic, straight to the business. Mikolaj takes the lead part, managing to stay on the top of the sound of the very busy rhythm section. Tim gives a strong pulse, pushing forward constantly, utilizing his whole set of different drumsticks, some giving a very 'toy' sound. And Rafal takes care of the base, but his bass lines are far from typical. He plays with a dense, deep, blurried sound, till the point when it's impossible to single out the notes. It gives this dark power feeling to the whole: raw, full of gravity, somehow like a black hole, emenating with strange kind of menacing energy (and on that note, his playing reminds of Peter Friis Nielsen, but, thanks to the acoustic instrument, his sound is still quite unique). There's a nice duo between drums and bass, and great, fast and dynamic solo by Tim (that, funny enough, had this big band sound to it, Buddy Rich or Gene Krupa maybe). Mikolaj on reeds leads through, switching between reeds, combining intense sound with more melodic or almost boppipsh lines, also playing on some toy flutes and toying with the instruments' parts. At one point he starts whistling this jumpy tune than he repeats it on sax, and finally elaborate on it into all directions possible. There are some more meditative moments, usually with Mikolaj on tarogato or bass clarinet, but overall this 45-minute extended improvisation is as energetic and as intense as it gets. Definitely a powerfull statement, cupped up with encore that moves swiftly between windy sound of neckless, disassembled sax, some screeching overblowing till the tempo slows down to something like a late-night jazz groove. I really hope this band will be able to play again and record together next year.

For those of You that can get to Sanok tonight – go and see the band live! :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Jazzowy Alchemik at 8pm

Weird mix as usual, celebrating birthdays of Jason Stein, Steve Swell, Matthew Shipp, Tony, Williams, Juhanii Aaltonen but also, for something completely different, blues diva Big Mama Thornton, and, for something even more than completely different - some excerpts from the absolutely crazy and fun concert by Miazsz at Alchemia (see the previous post).

Tune in! :)

1. Cukunft - untitled (check the concert post from friday)
2. Locksmith Isidore - Crayons for Sammy (happy birthday for Jason Stein today! :)
3. Joey Baron, Steve Swell, Ellery Eskelin (happy birthday for Steve Swell today! :)
4. Big Mama Thornton - Hound Dog (birthday 11th Dec)
5. Miazsz - "Tinktura" (check the concert post from yesterday) ("brackets" since I don't know the original titles so those are invented)
6. Matthew Shipp GoodandEvil Sessions - Brainwash (Matthew's birthday on 7th Dec)
7. Tony Williams - Tomorrow Afternoon (Tony's britdhay tomorrowm, on 12th Dec)
8. Contemporary Noise Sextet - New Machine on the Dance Floor (check the concert post from saturday)
9. Borah Borgman Trio - Parallax (Borah's birthday on 13th Dec)
10. Matthew Shipp - Pastoral Composure
11. Juhani Aaltonen Trio (with Reggie Workman, Andrew Cyrille) - Selflessness (Juhani's birthday on 12th Dec)
12. Big Mama Thornton - Baby Please Don't Go; Got My Mojo Working
13. Miazsz - "Poranny Dylemat"
14. Joey Baron, Steve Swell, Ellery Eskelin - Hutch
15. Miazsz - "Dym szkodzi dym"
16. Miąższ - "Niebieski Odkurzacz"

and now for something completely different - Miąższ at Alchemia - 05.12

This post somehow doesn't belong here, it will be completely off surrounded by all the other posts about music that is mostly serious, though crazy ingredient could be considered a commond denominator. This post somehow doesn't belong in english profile of this blog also since the band I want to tell You about sings only in polish, and understanding the lyrics and their banters on stage is pretty much the most important part of the experience. Still I can't ignore the fact that I had a great time yesterday so here it goes...

Miazsz (can't even think of a way to explain how it should be pronounced) are Joanna on vocals, Sebastian on guitars (acoustic, electric, some harmonica and vocals also) and Krzysztof on double bass (some small percussion and moog synth in between). You will hear incredible mashed mixture of blues, folk lullabies, acoustic reggae, drunken wedding songs, pop, flamenco, bossa-nova, hawaian beach style, gypsy, african chants all spiced with the jazzy sound of french cabaret and hot club de france jazz (I guess that should, more or less, cover it). The band plays with careless, charming nonchalance, inspiring optimism and infectious positive vibe. And they can play all right, plus the diva on the stage can sing her ass off (damn good voice), so the music is already a lot of fun.

This is completely non-serious, full of irony, and good ole laugh. And the other part of the fun are lyrics - filled with non-sensical absurd lines, ridicoulous wordplays and surprsing rhymes (Lewis Carroll and Monty Python would be proud). This is probably the only band in the Universe that plays a lyrical ode to blue vacuum cleaner (and, make no mistake, the vacuum cleaner is on stage as they turn it off and on). Or at least the only one in the Universe that plays both the vacuum cleaner song and a Hawaian piece with a very dramatic part, about the morning dilemma - getting up and going to bathroom or staying in bed and trying to have more sleep (so-called impossible choice).

Add to that a reggae song sung in the middle of the audience (participating in singing the chorus) and african chant intro with some McFerrin bass vocal lines impressions and steel sort of drum made from a gas bottle (!). Or nearly sci-fi effects created by a mini-fan circling around the microphone. Or hair-dryer on stage. Or, the only cover of the night, ' 4'33" ' by John Cage performed on stage (although the tempo must have been off since it was cut short by 1 minute and the 3-part division wasn't executed well). Or (too many 'or' in this text) Emma on the back of the stage drawing a picture during the concert. Or the King Kong and Big Chicken (seriously!) in the audience. And many other 'or's like the drunken weeding corny song ("Shit and Onion"). At any given point, when the song could get serious enough, some crazy instinct make them stop and hit You with some surprise.

This was pure, unadulterated, unpretentious, fun, with all the form and 'no accent on the substance' (auto-ironic line about the state of art from one of the songs). Complete package of joy and warm vibe. Insanely positive and positively crazy.

You can check the band's myspace page, their should enter soon the studio to record their first cd and I can only hope that half ot their stage appeal will transfer onto the record. Miąższ are:
Joanna Ewa Zawłocka
Sebastian Pikula
Krzysztof Kolor Gadzało

Some excerpts from the concert in Alchemia will be played tonight on the radio as 'for something completely different' fragments! be sure to tune in :)

Paralaksa dla relaksa
a plandeka dla człowieka!

Zimpel/Tokar/Kugel/Kusiolek ; Contemporary Noise Quintet - Silent Movie Festival 04.12

Had a chance to see a couple of movies during 12th edition of Silent Movie Festival in Krakow, a real treat. To see something as old fashioned as a silent movie with music so modern played live in the background is a quite unreal and special experience each time.

First at Kino Pod Baranami we watched Storm over Asia (1929) (this blog is not dedicated to cinema, so no real details here, check the links to imdb). Anyway the storyline is quite dramatic, with a couple of dynamic twists and great pictures presented (steppes of Mongolia are quite daunting). The music played by quartet is likewise dramatic, slowly building tension, fortunately not giving in into any easy world music suggestions given by the moving picture, but very much following the eerie and tense mood of the story, lot of sounds hanging in the air, great gong playing, lot of bows on plates and generally very delicate and suggestive playing by Klaus Kugel. Robert Kusiolek on accordion, who was completely unknown to me so far, creates some great, dark lines and the sound of the instrument contributes well to the climate of the movie. Mark Tokar and Waclaw Zimpel are in their usual fine form too. The music is quite cohesive, and, although sounds completely improvised, very structured, obviously thanks to very specific inspiration, with no real soloing going on, rather some moods flowing in and out, finding the balance between timbre and sound, and some long-forgotten, distant melodies, underlining the picture, enhancing it. Never mirroring the picture but following it very closely, and giving it more emotional strength (Some of the pieces from Zimpel's The Light trio 'Affects' release could be a good example of what I mean).

Then the audience moves to Manghha (in a festival bus) for Contemporary Noise Sextet (downsized to Quintet this evening) to see Piccadily (also 1929). This one could be very much considered pioneer noir move, with lot of seduction, dark passion and jealousy going on on the screen, also very modern. Again the band could choose the easy way and try to emulate the music of the era (lot of dancing on the screen, "Piccadily" is the name of the music club in London), but they choose to rather work on the mood and tension created by the stroyline. With some dense, rhythmically disturbed, only apparently smooth, grooves (great playing by Kuba Kapsa on drums, lot of drum'n'bass like fast brakes). Even the more laid back tunes have some dark tones to them and the whole time music kind of prophets the dramatic finale of the movie, pushing it forward, changing the perception of the scene sometimes, giving it more tense edge. While the playing itself was surely not entirely my cup of tea, it fit the movie very well, with a great downtown line opening and closing the spectacle, a portrait of big city - London, the city that never sleeps. As all of the big cities in this world.

This was extremely busy weekend (check the previous and the next post to verify) but Silent Movie Festival is something quite unique, bringing together art of the past and the present in a way that creates a very surreal experience. The music obviously shouldn't be judged by the usual standards, both bands playing servant role to the picture, both finding a very own way to comment on the picture and succeding in doing so. Whenever You have an opportunity to see this kind of event, take it, or wait for the next year in Krakow.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cukunft at Bomba - 03.12

Cukunft is a polish group which, until yesterday, I had a pleasure of only hearing once, couple of years back, performing as a trio. Now they perform as a quartet led by Raphael Roginski on guitar, with Pawel Szpura on drums, Michal Gorczynski and Pawel Szamburski on clarinets (the first doubling on tenor, the latter on bass clarinet). The band's name means "future" in  yidish and they are playing a mix of traditional jewish tunes and compositions by Raphael based on klezmer scale.

While the music is very traditional, the playing is definitely not, the band spicing the klezmer music with some rock tinges, punk attitude, free-jazz blowing improvisation and to simple put it a lot of madness. Hypnotic tunes are driven by powerful yet very imaginative drumming by Pawel Szpura. Great unisono lines by clarinets. Raphael is definitely one of the most original guitar players I've seen, capable of both lyrical understatement (preparing the strings with pieces of paper) and hard rock powerful chords or soloing, also some noise feedback playing. Two-clarinets frontline is very expressive and energetic, too bad it would sometimes get lost because of no amplification (especially the bass clarinet would suffer).

All music is getting frenzy, crazy and whole lotta fun. Shame there was no dancing floor. While I'm not really sure if there were any originals among the songs played that night, two citations included in two very groovy improvisations were great - riff lines from "Paint it, black" by Rolling Stones and "Break on through" by The Doors. Amazingly hypnotic and energetic.

The title of the Madman of the evening goes to Michal Gorczynski who plays sometimes jumping into the air, sometimes on his knees, dismantling the instruments and playing (like in 'having fun') with all the different parts of them (example: whistling into the bottom end of saxophone).

No point in writing anything more since You can heard some tracks on band's myspace page and their latest double-cd release comes easily recommended - recorded live is it is quite honest to the band's playing in front of the audience, when energy and passion, and fun come first before the perfect execution of material (although there are some lyrical and quite melancholic songs in the repertoire too).

Couple of things to say about the Bomba place - too bad the (quite tiny, but that's not the problem) stage is placed right next to the entrance. Since the concerts was free (which is definitely great in itself) this caused a presence of a lot of people casually walking in and out or chatting by the bar and disturbing the audience (filling all the space available) and getting really annoying sometimes (especially during the quiteter passages). Still it's nice to have new place where one can see some good concerts so I guess one shouldn't complain too much about it, at least for now.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mikolaj Trzaska, Per-Ake Holmlander, Ken Vandermark - Alchemia 30.11

by Krzysztof Penarski
Because of flight delays and closed airport in Munich Steve Swell and Tim Daisy couldn't play at Alchemia as they were supposed to this day. Fortunately the other two (Mikolaj and Per-Ake) even if with slight problems made it to Krakow and Ken was still here to create an ad hoc concert of solos, duos and trio performances. Which allowed to present two crucial elements of improvised music (very dialectic indeed) - expression of individuality and group interplay.

Per-Ake Holmlander starts with a solo tuba and this is definitely a rare ocassion to see such performance. Per-Ake starts with long, wailing calls, with almost the whole long piece on circular breath. The amazing part is how he manages to play on this huge brass instrument the music that is so light-footed, fragile and agile. He takes a second and says that playing the tuba is pretty much athleticism and sometimes some music is involved :) The second improv includes all the strange sounds one can imagine. Sometimes subtle, windy, airy (very much responding to the white noise of air-ventillation system in the room), sometimes overdrown, picturesque, gurgling sounds. In any case you feel you heard all those sounds but not in a musical context so far, sometimes recalling sounds of nature, animal calls, sometimes strange electronic or mechanical machinery.

by Krzysztof Penarski
Mikolaj plays second solo performance of the day on alto. He starts with the sound of air flowing through the horn, very much white noise again, into which he gradually puts some distortions, then rhythm structure, using sax keys that sound like tuned mini-drums. Quite impressive it is when he manages to add to that (the white noise and the rhythm clapping) the melody over the top. It's been written a lot about his very slavic, romantic nature and the sort of primal lullaby he plays is very haunting. The last part of the improvisation is full of 'non-musical' sounds again, hissing, gurgling, howling, growling trough his instruments, these are hovewer suddenly suspended, interlayered with some very melodic and jazz phrases with wonderful vibrato sound. Very inspring contrast (history dialectics comes to mind again).

 First set finishes with a duo by Mikolaj and Per-Ake with some solid interplay, explosive alto solo by Trzaska, more backed, but still very imaginaive playing by Per-Ake. Mikolaj plays bass clarinet in the second part, the duo exchanges melodies in very much call & response dialogue, and even the softest and hushed moments are very intense. They finish with spontaneously composed war song, with decisive melody, march-like rhythm, accentuated by long notes by Per-Ake, switching the roles when Mikolaj gets into repetitive line and tuba play a short solo.

by Krzysztof Penarski
Second set starts with Ken and Mikolaj on stage as they warm up with sharp and short clarinet duo (Mikolaj on bass). The second piece, the highlight of the evening, is played on alto (Mikolaj) and tenor (Ken) and is a long discussion between lyrical, melodic soul of Mikolaj and Ken's inner-drummer. The most intense moment is when they meet at the crossroad, hit two-notes riff with both rhytmic and harmonic synchronicity that is quite astounding. They end this part of the set with Mikolaj on tarogato and Ken back to clarinet, with a very pensive, meditative piece full of long, ritual calls.

Per-Ake joins them on stage to creat this very unique lineup with 2 reeds and a tuba. The performance could be divided in 3 parts, with short tuba solos serving as bridge (to allow the other two to change the instruments), but there is no sense in trying to do more precise overview (and I'm rather unable to decipher my chaotic notes, and 1/3 of them concerned this last part of the concert). The musical action very rich, full of twists, and, bit surprisingly, very structured. Ken would again invent on the spot some rhythmic figures, short basslines, or riffs, that would organize much of the music. Sometimes he would be joined by Per-Ake, sometimes by Mikolaj. Could be a risky thesis but it very much resembled to me the spontaneous composition strategies used so much by Chicago Tentet, with lot of ad hoc inner-group sections appearing (which sound pretty absurd when we're talking about small group like trio, although I guess it's the smallest line-up possible when you can have this kind of interaction).

While the whole concert was not at the same emotional level as the Ken's solo performance from the day before, it was still filled with inspiring music, with 3 indivudals trying to connect on stage, and, even if struggling at times, fighting through their differences, very much succeeding to do so.

PS1. It seems very fitting that Ken, a figure of such a huge importance to improvsied music in Alchemia, and to the festival, would play on its last concert in this year.

PS.2. This was the last concert of 5th edition of Krakow Autumn Jazz. Thanks to all the musicians were a part of this, thank to Alchemia crew and Marek Winiarski for these 2 and a half months already waiting for the next year.

PS3. As promised, Ken then finished the party with some oldschool funky vibe dj-ing :) Great fun.