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Title: Polish Jazz
Cat No: JCR 007-1
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 Milian (vibraphone), Wojciech Karolak (saxophone, piano and hammond), Zbigniew Namyslowski (alto sax) and Andrzej Kurylewicz (trombone, trumpet, piano).
Polish jazz embraced many different jazz styles and traditions ranging from Big Band and Traditional Jazz over to Modern, Free and Fusion Jazz. Many elements of traditional Polish folklore have found their way into these styles, giving Polish jazz its own distinct mode of expression. The choice of tracks made here should be enticing to both clubbers and jazz-listeners alike. Jazz transcends time, borders and cultural classifications.
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.
The follow-up title has a rather folkloristic touch to it. “I Won’t Stay With You” (1967), recorded by the Andrzej Kurylewicz Quintet, whisks away with a circus feel, rattling and pushing like a merry-go-round – very interesting beat structuring and unusual rhythm-handling.
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 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 (check also our Novi Singers compilation) has an enticing string arrangement paired with a powerful Hammond-groove.
The last title on this compilation, a very early modern jazz track “Nyamaland” (1963), also comes via Andrzej Kurylewicz. With its Horace Silver piano, this 5/4 paced tune with a waltzy character sounds very american-influenced, although it is supposed to be based upon Balkan motifs. I don’t know what Namyslowski would comment on this one.
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 organizes 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.
Liner Notes by Daniel W. Best, May 1999
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