Quotes: To be successful, it is no longer enough to play Horace Silver themes. One shouldn’t play material borrowed from records (…) I founded my own quartet and created my music to play what I want to and how I want to. Zbigniew Namyslowski
Info: This is it: the first compilation spotlighting Polish jazz output from the 60′s to the 70′s. Poland has one of the oldest European Jazz traditions. A tradition which has been both highly respected and ignored in the past. The first Sopot Jazz Festival for example, took place in 1956. This event marked the full emergence of jazz from the underground and the music’s first official recognition on a major scale in Poland. At the time jazz was a real subculture, because it did not have any concert audiences and was confined to “jam-sessions” in backrooms and cellars. The political tenor of the time was rather anti-American – cultural imperialism was seen as a big threat by many. One of the first representatives of modern Polish Jazz is the pianist and composer Krzysztof Komeda (1931-1969). He will probably be known to many, especially for writing movie scores e.g. for Roman Polanski’s “Rosemary’s Baby”. We want to mention him first although none of his tracks are to be found on this record. His album “Astigmatic” (1965) became a landmark for European jazz. As a musician he worked with almost all the jazz musicians presented here: Jerzy MilianWojciech Karolak (saxophone, piano and hammond), Zbigniew Namyslowski (alto sax) and Andrzej Kurylewicz (trombone, trumpet, piano). (vibraphone),
Besides focusing on Polish jazz in general this compilation showcases the musical output of the Polish vocal group Novi Singers. We discovered the Polish vocal ensemble Novi Singers (New Original Vocal Instruments) several years ago. Their second album “Novis in Wonderland” (1968) might be known to many, for it was released on the German SABA-MPS label. The vast artistic output of the group for the state-owned Polish record label Polskie Nagrania remained a well-kept secret for the Western-European countries and the rest of the world. The emergence of the CD in Poland had a detrimental effect upon the Polish Jazz scene by confining many of these excellent jazz-recordings to the vaults. With their absolute technical perfection and their musical approach, the vocal jazz ensemble Novi Singers were at the time often compared to Lambert-Ross-Hendricks or Les Double Six. The story of the Novi Singers begins in 1964 when Bernard Kawka, a student at the Warsaw Music Conservatory, decides to found his own jazz group with other students, choosing the voice as an ideal instrument. The original members of the group are Ewa Wanat (violin), Janusz Mych (flute), Waldemar Parzynski (percussion), Aleksander Gluch and Bernard Kawka (violin), all of whom both sang and played their respective instruments. The opener of this compilation is bound to fill dance floors in seconds. The tune “Wsród Pampasów” (1975) comes from an album which the vibraphone player and composer Jerzy Milian recorded with the Polish Radio Big Band from Katowice. He was closely connected to the East German jazz scene (see our compilation Formation 60). A dark, deep, uplifting track with a tight arrangement – soundtrack style meets bigband business.
We continue our little musical journey with two tracks “Torpedo” (B. Kawka) and “All Together” (B. Kawka) both taken from one of the most innovative albums of the Novi Singers “Torpedo” (1969). The name “Torpedo” shouldn’t frighten you off. As they put it themselves: “Torpedo – the mysterious device specially designed to obliterate musical orthodoxy, heartless craftmanship, the smug self-confidence of those who clutch well-worn ideas and tread well-worn trails”. That’s a clear statement. A very early modern jazz track “Nyamaland” (1963) follows via Andrej Kurelyewicz. With its Horace Silver piano, this 5/4 paced tune with a waltzy character sounds very American-influenced, although it’s supposed to be based upon Balkan motifs. I don’t know what Namyslowski would comment on this one. Yet another track, “Misfit” comes from the Novi “Torpedo” album with its inspiring deep flute solos by Janusz Mych and mystic horns. Our favourite from the Novi Singers “My Own Revolution” (B. Kawka, 1970) with its strong psychedelic beat-touch was typical for Poland at that time. Beat music had a very big following in Poland, simular to that of former Eastern Germany. This song could have been a great pop-hit in the western world due to its enticing hook-line and Beatles flair. The track “Mala Septyma”- in Engl. “Minor Seventh” (1973) of the Polish jazz group Jazz Carriers, written by the saxophone player H. Miskiewicz brings a different vibe to this selection. A deep percussive carpet leads this sophisticated tune into spheres of contemplation. The group was known for its polyrhythmic and polymetric structures and an experimental usage of meters. This one sounds like a typical Strata East track, due to its deep spiritual aura.
The follow-up song “It Doesn’t Matter” (B. Bacharach, 1975) is the only non-original composition presented here. Recorded with the Aleksander Mazur Quartet, the Novi Singers do their vocal thing. After introducing the main theme this one opens up to a firing percussion carpet enhanced through flute and trumpet riffs. Next up is “Christine”(B. Kawka) taken from the first Novi Singers release on a single, dating from 1965. At the time they called themselves NOVI Kwintett Vocalny, as they were a quintet at the time. Aleksander Gluch left the orginal group in 1966. “Next, Please” (B. Kawka) from the “Bossa Nova”(1967) album shows that the jazz scene in Poland was also infected by the Bossa Nova craze of the time. By the way, it was in 1960 that Stan Getz, who was heavily engaged in the Bossa Nova movement, visited Poland for the first time and gained widespread recognition, leaving his own musical influence in Poland by giving several outstanding concerts. He was actually the first American jazz musician to record with Polish jazz musicians. We ease into the rather folkloristic touch of “I Will Not Stay With You” (1967). Recorded by the Andrzej Kurylewicz Quintett this track whisks away with a circus feel, rattling and pushing like a merry-go-round – very interesting beat structuring and unusual rhythm-handling.
After the initial founder Bernard Kawka left the group the remaining three members of the Novi Singers were joined by the pianist and arranger Tomasz Ochalski, who had already contributed several arrangements to previous albums. Ochalski stayed in the group until 1977. The album “Five, Four, Three” (1974) was cut in a trio formation without Kawka. The album name documents the development of the orginal group “Five, Four, Three” from a quintet to a trio. The Novi Singers sound changed slightly after Kawka left. Rock and electronic sounds entered the spectrum, as you will hear on the track “Five, Four, Three” with its electronically manipulated scats. The following track “Choreographic Sketches” (1975) was taken from the same album as the opener from Jerzy Milian. With its strong movie score character – you could put this one on a pulpy 70′s soundtrack – a musical collage with subtle variations of a theme. We move on to the jazz-bossa “Fair Lola”, which was written and performed by the saxophone player Zbigniew Namyslowski, one of the biggest names in European jazz. His most outstanding musical performances have been highly acknowledged on an international scale. This title maybe known to many from the English longplayer “Lola” (1964) recorded by the Zbigniew Namyslowski Modern Jazz Quartet on Decca, the first album by a Polish jazz musician outside of Poland. This recording of the same title was recorded live by the same group at the Jazz Jamboree in an incredible sound quality. The clear melodic line of the track shows, aside from its very energetic bop style undoubtedly Polish influences. He explains his inspirations as follows: “To be successful, it is no longer enough to play Horace Silver themes. One shouldn’t play material borrowed from records (…) I founded my own quartet and created my music to play what I want to and how I want to” (Jazz Forum 5/1981).
The enchanting “Why Not Samba” (1974) was written and performed by Wojciech Karolak. Known for his Hammond artistry, Karolak has often been classified as being a very jazzy player with a most original sounding timing and feel. The Brazilian influenced collaboration here with the Novi Singers has an enticing string arrangement paired with a powerful Hammond-groove. The Novi Singers land on “The Runway” (W. Parzynski) with electric guitars and lift off again – without taking the troubles to sing lyrics. One of the examples of Novi Singers compositions with a strong song-character: “Oh, Woman” (W. Parzynski/A. Wiecko) combines funk made in Poland with somewhat awkward English lyrics – very charming. It’s a shame that the hit-potential of this song wasn’t recognised at the time. The final composition on this compilation “Jeansy” (B. Kawka/1965) comes from the same debut single as “Christine” and already proves the great potential of the group. Again we recognise the initial unorthodox jazz approach of the Novi Singers with a complex rhythmic structuring and harmonic voice-layering. To finish things off we would like to pay our deep respect to the masterful artwork of Marek Karewicz, who now at over sixty years of age still actively organises the annual jazz festival Jazz Jamboree in Warsaw and documented the whole development of the Polish jazz scene from its modest beginnings until today. In fact the photo material featured here was provided by M. Karewicz himself for this compilation – all are original shots from his personal archives.