Review of Powiekszenie show, Warsaw, March 2013

From Jazzarium Blog
Shamans at Powiększenie
Premiere of the Mazolewski/ Gonzalez Quintet

By Cajetan Prochyra

Wojtek Mazolewski is definitely one of the most popular jazz musicians in Poland, and again one of the most criticized by jazz enthusiasts. Frequently accused of excessive pandering to commercial tastes of the market, the Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet frequently appears in tailored suits and plays catchy, simple music with an ennobling “jazz” tag added. Their perfectly put-together schedule on both the national radio and on club stages, as well as appearances on the covers of non-jazz magazines completes the package. This time, however, the Warsaw-bound Mazolewski presented the Mazolewski/Gonzalez Quintet, co-led with Dennis Gonzalez, the American trumpeter, who in the famous "The Penguin Guide to Jazz" is defined as the one and only heir to Don Cherry. The Quintet is rounded out by Joanna Duda (keyboards), Marek Pospieszalski (tenor saxophone, alto clarinet) and Qba Janicki (drums). The event is a CD release concert for the album "Shaman" by Mazolewski/ Gonzalez, which will soon hit the stores thanks to the new publishing house For Tune Records.

Our bassist’s awareness of the Texas trumpeter began a few years ago, when together with Marek Pospieszalski and Jurek Rogiewicz, Mazolewski decided to mix, as he says, his Slavic soul and Polish jazz traditions with Gonzalez’s Mexican musical temperament. As it turned out, the music of Krzysztof Komeda and his colleagues was not at all a novelty for the American - he reportedly closely followed what was happening on the Vistula River in the heyday of the scene. This may explain the fact that starting in 1978, and over the next 21 years, Gonzalez conducted the regularly broadcast jazz program "Miles Out" over the airwaves of public radio station KERA-FM in Dallas.

Either way, that first meeting was quite remarkable. Suffice it to say that the trumpeter had previously worked with top musicians on both coasts of the U.S. - Ellery Eskelin, Oliver Laker, Reggie Workman, Henry Grimes, Nels Cline and more recently, also a newcomer from Texas, the Norwegian bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten. And for 12 years he’s played with his sons, Aaron and Stefan, as Yells at Eels. Last year, the trio was invited by Mazolewski to the Radio Gdańsk studio, where they recorded with Marek Pospieszalski the vinyl album "Bandoleros en Gdańsk". And Gonzalez reciprocated with an invitation to Dallas, where Wojtek could literally feel the Southern U.S. atmosphere and tradition and where he met real shamans.

The concert at Powiększenie was packed with lots of great friends of the band. It opened, one could safely say, with the Polish jazz anthem, "Astigmatic" by Krzysztof Komeda. I think it is difficult to find a Polish improviser who has not taken on this composition. I must admit that the version by the Mazolewski / Gonzalez Quintet was more like Komeda’s style - on the one hand much more dirty than the original, a shady bit of Komeda. The second composition of the evening featured two very introverted solos: First Mazolewski, and then Gonzalez. They seemed very comfortable playing the piece, especially Marek Pospieszalski who played well during virtually the entire concert. I can pretty well risk saying that 2013 will be a very significant and busy year for his music, so much so that it’s important to mention his short tour last week with Marco Eneidi, as well as his playing on the long- awaited debut by Piotr Damasiewicz, Power of the Horns.

On Monday evening, the group played all the compositions featured on the album "Shaman" - beside the title track and the aforementioned, "Astigmatic", they played Mazolewski’s “Flaga”, Gonzalez’s "Hymn for Julius Hemphill", and Komeda’s "Pushing the Car." The audience, however, did not let them get off easy, and the musicians willingly let themselves be talked into a long encore, announced by Wojtek as “1, 2, 3, 4, Powiedz Żabko.”

So we were treated to Wojtek Mazolewski’s brave new project. This new quintet plays jazz, that as Wayne Shorter's latest album states, uses no safety net. Unfortunately, the Powiększenie concert did not convince me that the team is now firmly established with a distinct musical vision. The music was not quite organic, as the individual members of the quintet have not become a unit with each other. They rarely set up a true dialogue between them, and Dennis Gonzalez somehow positioned himself as an observer, listening with great interest as Pospieszalski and Mazolewski joined their sounds together, but at the end of the concert when the group played his composition, "Hymn for Julius Hemphil" his momentum on the horn, in comparison to his playing during the rest of the concert, felt strange.

Mazolewski and his new team are definitely moving in an interesting direction: not often do we have the opportunity today to listen to wide open live jazz laced with free improvisation that still remains faithful to the forms of this tradition. After seeing yesterday’s audience reacting to the music, I believe that the renown name of Wojtek Mazolewski will continue to attract huge numbers of new fans. But this just is the beginning for this team - a team that has a great future ahead of it and should be developed, regardless of whether it happens with the help of Dennis Gonzalez and Krzysztof Komeda or without them.

March 15th the band will play a second concert of this premiere tour - in Sopot at Zatoka Sztuki.

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