Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Maciej Fortuna Acoustic Quartet: Jazz From Poland Vol. 1 (2015)

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Maciej Fortuna Acoustic Quartet: Jazz From Poland Vol. 1
Polish composer and trumpeter Maciej Fortuna—a law school graduate and a PhD of performing arts—distributes his time as a session musician, multiple group leader and lecturer at The Academy of Music in Poznan, Poland. Fortuna has been exploring the frontiers of jazz for some time with successful efforts in electronica, free improvisation, ethnic derivatives and acoustic jazz. The latter two elements come together in his personal tribute to three generations of Polish composers on Jazz From Poland Vol.1.

Joining Fortuna is pianist Krzysztof Dys who recorded the excellent duo outing Tropy with the trumpeter in 2014 (Fortuna Music). Dys is integral to these successful interpretations as his and Fortuna's improvisational skills add substantial color to the older, more sedate compositions. Filling out the quartet are bassist Jakub Mielcarek and Przemysław Jarosz on drums. Both are largely unknown outside Eastern Europe but are entirely up to the task of reading these regional favorites and adding their own creative impressions.

Three of the pieces on Jazz From Poland Vol.1 are from Zbigniew Seifert, Poland's leading jazz violinist prior to his untimely death at the age of thirty-two. Seifert was influenced by John Coltrane and performed with his country's most prominent trumpeter Tomasz Stanko. His compositions are an appropriate fit for Fortuna who is often and favorably compared to Stanko. Krzysztof Komeda, Poland's best known modern composer, is represented with two compositions. Latter day composers are represented in the works of Janusz Muniak (who played with both Komeda and Stanko) and saxophonist Maciej Sikała who has recorded and performed with trumpeters Lester Bowie and Kenny Wheeler.

Fueled by the long political suppression of jazz in Poland, the country's music inherently has a feeling of lyrical sadness. This is particularly true of Seifert's "Love in the Garden," "Taniec Garbusa" and "Man of the Light." Komeda's compositions, "Szara Kolęda" and "Two Man and a Wardrobe—Main Theme" have that composer's symptomatically dark, cinematic atmosphere. Fortuna and company stay mostly on point with these pieces but add new life with their controlled improvisations. The compositions of Muniak and Sikała are slightly more emboldened by the melancholy is never far below the surface.

Fortuna has noted that Polish jazz suffers from being branded a second-tier imitation of its American counterpart, even inside Poland. But Jazz From Poland Vol.1 should demonstrate some of the unique characteristics that have been implemented by the country's more prominent composers. If, in fact, a Vol. 2 is in the offing, it would be interesting to hear Fortuna take up the transition to the current crop of Polish composers that can now be heard in the country's burgeoning club scene and on its up-and-coming record labels.
Track Listing: Maciej Fortuna: trumpet, piano (3); Krzysztof Dys: piano, fender rhodes; Jakub Mielcarek: double bass; Przemysław Jarosz: drums.

Personnel: Love in the Garden; Szara Kolęda; Taniec Mikołaja; Dwaj ludzie z Szafą/Two Man and a Wardrobe – Main Theme; Taniec Garbusa; Nie bądź Na Mnie Zła; Man of the Light.
Record Label: Fortuna Music

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