Rafal Sarnecki: The Madman Rambles Again (2011)
The Madman Rambles Again is a counterintuitive name for such a carefully constructed album. The compositions feature layered, periodically angular melodies, showing off tight arrangements and a serious dramatic flair. Far from being a madman, guitarist Rafal Sarnecki is a decidedly forward-looking leader with an intense aesthetic on this sophomore effort.
Instrumental leadership is not self-evident. The supporting instruments are at least as prominent, and often more so than the guitar, suggesting good things from Sarnecki's management. The importance of compositions seemingly supersedes individual statements, and a very egalitarian hand guides the arrangingboth fine qualities.
"The Student Protest" is spun from several intertwined melodic statements: Beginning with a guitar drone, the track layers a three-note motif on the flute, followed by a mechanically boxy piano vamp, and finally a trumpet, adding a warm vibrato over the top. There is some tightly bookended improvisation before the sequence is repeated, but with a twist: the melodic components have all been rotated to completely different instruments. This is a technically challenging piece executed with flawless exuberance. Madman indeed.
The title track opens with a trumpet/tenor saxophone counterpoint duet that is again tightly composed. But here the music opens up a little, eventually breaking with a solid if unconventional walking bass line. The counterpoint remains integral, but plenty of room is given over to improvisation, notably a brilliant turn by pianist Pawel Kaczmarczyk.
"The Song Is You" employs broken meters and rhythms with an exceptional delivery by percussionist Lukasz Zyta. Sarnecki is also at his best here, turning in a clean, extended improvisation that confirms his chops as a soloist in addition to his obvious strengths as a composer. Tenor saxophonist Lucas Pino also makes a noticeably strong contribution. Perhaps the most straight-ahead track on the album, there are nevertheless plenty of neat tricks that keep the surprises coming.
The Madman Rambles Again keeps a lot of balls in the air, with inclusions of Latin Rhythms on "Hermeto," as well as some aggressive guitar effects on "Bucaramanga." But at the core of every track are disparate melodies tightly woven into whole cloth. Every second of this record is meticulously structured, with nothing left to chance except the solos, which themselves are highly contextualized by the surrounding compositions. It's clear that an enormous amount of effort went into crafting this album, and the result is worthy of a serious listen.
Track Listing: The Student Protest; The Madman Rambles Again; Hermeto; The Tower of Babel; Bucaramanga; Poetry In Motion; The Song Is You; Spring Has Its Sappy Wisdom.
Personnel: Rafal Sarnecki: guitar; Luca Pino: tenor saxophone, flute; Jerzy Malek: trumpet; Pawel Kaczmarczyk: piano; Wojciech Pulcyn: bass; Lukasz Zyta: drums and percussion (1-3, 6-8); Pawel Dobrowolski: drums (4, 5); Jose Mauel Alban Juarez: percussion (1, 3).