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Komeda Project: Bringing New Life to a Legend

By Published: February 23, 2010
Winnicki's comment about Komeda's religious undertones is extended by the two musicians, who are also keen not to misrepresent Komeda's position. "I don't think that he was big on formal religion," Medyna continued, "but we'll never know. Under Communism, no one famous would openly show their religion—it wasn't a good thing to do. Everybody kept it to themselves. But I don't think that religion played a very significant role in the compositions we put on the second album. What I would say is—when you are young you are more optimistic and funny and happy; when you grow older and you see where you are, particularly in that time, your happiness begins to go away."

From left: Krzysztof Medyna, Johnson

This distinction between young and old offers another difference between the Komeda Project's first and second albums. "Most of the stuff from the second album is taken from Komeda's later recordings, with the exception of 'Ballad for Bernt' [from the soundtrack to Knife in the Water (1962)]," Winnicki said. "There's 'Astigmatic' from 1966. 'Night-time, Daytime Requiem' was recorded just before he left for the United States. Most of the other tunes, including 'Litania' and 'Prayer and Question,' were on a jazz poetry album, Lirik und Jazz (Electrola, 1967), which he recorded in West Germany. Even though we have reworked them, quite significantly, the nucleus of the source material is pretty much there. The poetry is pretty sad, and that is perhaps why the titles have such religious connotations." These tunes seem to reveal Komeda's spirituality, rather than his attachment to formal religion. "Yes, the spiritual, exactly" concurred Winnicki, "and also because they relate to the poetry being recited, which was dealing with those topics."

In terms of the Komeda Project itself, another distinction between Crazy Girl and Requiem is the change to the rhythm section, with bassist Michael Bates

and drummer David Anthony being replaced by Scott Colley
Scott Colley
Scott Colley
and Nasheet Waits
Nasheet Waits
Nasheet Waits
, respectively, on the second record. Neither Colley nor Waits were aware of Komeda's music before joining the Project, but this wasn't seen as a problem by Winnicki or Medyna. "We decided that the fact that somebody doesn't know this music makes no difference to us," Winnicki said. Medyna went further on the point: "The majority of American musicians, especially the younger generation, don't know Komeda's music, so we could have chosen from thousands of players in the same position." The change of rhythm section was a conscious decision. "We wanted to record the album with a different rhythm section to get a different sound and also, perhaps, to get players who were more established," Winnicki said. "Players who can bring something different to the table, musically speaking. We asked Russ [Johnson] for some recommendations, and he suggested a few people, including Scott and Nasheet. But we still gig with the other guys; Michael Bates is playing with us tonight."

The musical quality of the Komeda Project and the reception accorded to Requiem suggest a bright future for the group. Immediate plans center on the promotion of Requiem, as Winnicki said: "We will carry on promoting the new album in the immediate future. We had planned to tour in Eastern Europe last fall, but the organization fell through. We hope to go this year and tour Poland and maybe Germany." As for Krzysztof Komeda, his impact on the development of European jazz is great but it remains under-recognized. Komeda Project are the ideal band to correct this—with Winnicki, Medyna and their fellow musicians, the Komeda legacy is in good hands and ready to reach out to a wider audience.

Selected Discography

Komeda Project, Requiem (WM Records, 2009)
Komeda Project, Crazy Girl (WM Records, 2007)
Electric Breakwater, In The Bush (J-Bird records, 2000)
Tomasz Stanko, Litania (ECM, 1997)
Krzysztof Komeda, The Complete Recordings of Krzysztof Komeda Volume 7, Film Music (Polonia Records, 1996)
Komeda Quartet, Lirik und Jazz (Electrola, 1967)
Krzysztof Komeda, Astigmatic (Muza Records, 1966)

Photo Credits

All Photos Courtesy of Komeda Project

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