Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Maciej Trifonidis Bielawski - Downtown Project / Tricphonix Street Band [Slowdown]

Maciej Trifonidis Bielawski could be known to some of You as the bass player in Horny Trees trio - clarinet-bass-drums band led by Pawel Szamburski which released its first cd on Kilogram Records - Mikolaj Trzaska's label. But he's also a multi-instrumentalist, producer, composer, working in and leading his own projects in very different musical enviroments, from raw freejazz improvisation (would love to hear his upcoming trio concert with Pawel Szpura and Ksawery Wojcinski - rhythm section from Hera) up to large groups with strings, accordions, brass, horns, playing mostly composed, strictly arranged music, balancing classical and popular influences (the biggest of those - Trifonidis Orchestra - is 16 men strong). His recent releases on his own Slowdownrecords label testify to his vast talents and multiple skills. And while I'm not that big a fan of such orchestral ventures, the sonic richness those can offer and many of the simply charming melodies he delievers are definitely not to be missed because of such a prejudice.

so here are some thoughs about two  recent albums, both big groups, first one clearly outside the jazz genre, the second one mixing it with all kinds of popular influences. The best is yet to come as the third review will be posted (most probably) tomorrow.

Trifonidis Downtown Project (Slowdownrecords 2010)

Maciej Trifonidis Bielawski - soprano & tenor saxophone, flute, ound fxm snare drum, voice, chromatic bells & other instruments
Daniel Polkowski - tenor saxophone; Kacper Szroeder - trumpet, Piotr Janiec - tuba; Piotr Tomala - accordion; Igor Nikiforow - vibraphone; Maksymilian Grzesiak - violin; Monika Jendryczka - violin; Jusyna Janiszewska - viola, Malgorzata Duz - cello; Robert Siwak - daf, bendir, darabuka, riqq, snare drum

Musical soundtrack to Warsaw. A city that, like any other urban centre nowadays, is torn apart between the fast tempo of modern life, and history, those oases where time seems to not rush anymore but walk slowly, telling stories of the past. With string quartet, accordion, tuba or  ethnic percussion in the line-up this offers a wide range of colours to choose from and Bielawski does create a varied set of pieces, to tell You about whole lot of different things - a bad hangover in the "Morning", a "Football Match" watched with his friends. Stories sometimes quite dramatic, sometimes quite joyfull, trivial or pensive - not surprising if You squeeze "Dreams" between "Rush Hour" and "China Soup".
Most of those are portraits or miniatures - with only 4 out of 18 tracks over 3 minutes, and majority around 1:30. Musical picutres that are evocative, emotional, moody; sometimes small treasures, with (lovely sound of chromatic bells), pretty like the music box melody (like in "Love" or "Friends"). With sounds of the city mixed in and musical echoes of some folk melodies, mixed cultures influences, as well as Michael Nyman or Philip Glass (especially in the chord patterns of the "Space Beyond the City"). Bielawski does to Warsaw what Yann Tiersenn did to Paris in "Amelie". And I guess Warsaw is not as seductive nor romantic as Paris (not a big surprise), but, at least in the way how Trifonidis depicted it has its intriguing, if sometimes bit disturbing, charm.  

A classic case of a soundtrack music to the film that has not been made, but still stands well on its own. If there are silent movies, maybe there could be also one that has no moving pictures but just the moving sounds?

("Minutes" from the album, compare it with the not so peacefull "Rush Hour" also available on YouTube)

Tricphonix Street Band - The Dudes (Slowdownrecords 2010)
saxophones - Maciej Trifonidis (soprano), Daniel Polkowski (tenor), Ray Dickaty (tenor), Tomasz Duda (baritone), Bolek Jezierski (alto), Daniel Grzeszykowski (tenor), Maciek Rodakowski (tenor);
Piotr Janiec - tuba; Szymon Tarkowski - bass; Wojtek Sobura - drums; Jarek Kulik - conga; Marcin Banasiak - drums; guest: Dominik Trębski - trumpet

With its children's game layout, 'bad boys' photo on the cover and "The Dudes" title (and most of the tracks begining with some fx cartoon/game effects) this is clearly a whole-lot-of-fun project. This is Bielawski's 'dirty dozen' rocking, funking or swinging forward through another set of nice tunes and tight arrangements. Be it fast rock beat of first on the tracklist "Scooters" or latin groove (conga driven) of the very next "Mutant Parade". Trifonidis loves big (7 horns!) sax section, and, while it doesn't offer the sound palette of a true big band horn section (1 tuba gettng lost in the mix) it certainly can deliver a good punch and kick. The overall sound reminds me a bit of some Frank Zappa bands with huge horns section. Bielawski likes to orchestrate whole chords for saxes as if there were guitar riffs (check the ready-made soundtrack for some heroic battle in a comic movie - "Mad Dude"). "Secret Agent "Dude" " would be a great introduction to a James Bond (one with Roger Moore) as it features great groove (finally I can hear joyfull and funky sound of the tuba) and a nice old-school counterpoint line. "Lonesome Cowboy" is a melancholic tune, slowly dancing, balkan influence maybe (definitely lacking the brass sound in this one). And it's hard not to smile while reading/listening to such titles as "Dudes go for a party", "Golota dancing" or "I will show you karate".

If You like big sound, tight arrangements, grooves and fun tunes chasing one another, or You're looking for a soundtrack to some kind of a cartoon game, this one is quite enjoyable, though not really earth-shaking. Like a good 80's action movie. With a nice tempo and some surprising twists to the action You don't really mind if there are some flaws to the whole picture. And to me the biggest downside is - while relying so heavily on composed and tightly arranged material this band can groove easily putting You into foot-tapping and humming mode, yet most of the solos are nice, but not so memorable.

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