Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pawel Kaczmarczyk Ethno Sextet at Alchemia (15.06)

Paweł Kaczmarczyk is a representant of a very prolific generation of piano players in Poland (Marcin Wasilewski, Leszek Mozdzer, Slawek Jaskulke come to mind) and a sign of appreciation towards his music is the fact that his latest cd ("Complexity in Simplicity"; 2009) was released by an internationally recognised ACT label. 
Although his piano playing and the compositions are firmly based in hard-bop/post-bop roots, he's actively searching to expand his musical vocabulary, on a hunt for new inspirations (one of only few musicians I know that often can be spotted in the audience, especially when it comes to more mainstream side of jazz) and expanding his Audiofeeling Band (a piano trio) into the ethno - sextet gave him exactly the opportunity to do that - add a new perspective, an extra layer to his pieces as well as engage in more freely improvised dialogues, exploring the reign of world music.

Kaczmarczyk's writing is exceptionally strong and maybe the most important factor that puts him above your average mainstream piano player. His compositions, although very melodic, rhythmic and generally accessible always rely on a contrast that put you off the balance, keeping the music from becoming too predictable and obvious ("Complexity in Simplicity" indeed). May it be the tricky rhythm structure, or hypnotic melody paired with sweet harmony (new piece "Crazy Love" somehow reminding me of the Radiohead songs), or constant alternating between the hard groove and impressionistic soft touch. His solos are strong (usually kind of old-school single-note style, I'd like to see him going bit wilder, adding more percussive clusters, more dynamic emphasis) but his composing skills are what makes this music really tick. Plus it's great to see a musician smile on stage and enjoy the playing as much.
Obviously he's surrounded by a team of a very talented musicians. Dawid Fortuna can groove with ease, his playing is a lot of fun, hard, loud, adding modern edge to the overall hard-bop sound (ankle breaking drum'n'bass beats somewhere in there to be heard). Maciej Adamczak, the veteran of mainstream scene, is solid on the bass spot, although I feel he could have, should have emphasized more the groove aspect, add more expression to the bass lines, his articulation and time-keeping is precise, and he adds a handfull of very classy and melodic solos. Marek Pospieszalski, clearly influenced by Coltrane's sound, is very expressive, his ecstating tenor solo, adding the expressivity, the tonal range (circular breathing, overtones, squeaks) of free music was a definite highlight of the concert. Jose Manuel's set of congas, bongos ecc adds even more rhythmic drive to the playing and the afro-cuban latin touch which makes the music even more enjoyable. 
The most surprising guest is Hovik Hovanisian and the four pieces he plays with the band were basically a free improvised world music. Duduk's sound was light and gentle, bringing the middle eastern influences, the pieces slowly evolving around the hypnotic circular repetitions, somehow in the spirit of Don Cherry. While the sweet soprano sound in the first improvisation made the music too smooth for me, the latter three were really great, nicely colliding the fragile and mystic sound of duduk with the edgy and sharp sound of saxophone (especially the tenor, although the arabic scales on soprano sounded equally good).
Anyway, a highly enjoyable and very diversified and also very long (the 2nd set alone lasted 90+ minutes) concert. Strong playing, and even better compositions - never too complex, never to simple. It's easy to recommend music like this (although I don't know the actual cd). If you're looking for a break between one free-jazz and the other free-improv events, this might be your answer. Refreshingly melodic and fun.

José Manuel Albán Juárez (Peru/Poland) - percussion
Hovik Hovanisian (Armenia) - duduk
Marek Pospieszalski - tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, alto clarinet
Paweł Kaczmarczyk - piano
Maciej Adamczak - double bass

Dawid Fortuna - drums

Alchemia. Krakow. 15.06.2011

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