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Marek Balata: Improvisation is a marvelous adventure!

By Published: November 22, 2003

AAJ: Yes, I've noticed that in several bands you play only with a bass (except Cantabile, and also as a duo with Krzystof Scieranski). Do you feel that the piano or other harmonic instruments are too constricting for your improvisation?

MB: Exactly. When I play bigger groups, every one of us has to follow an exact harmonic pattern. But if I play in a duo, my partner can make changes without arranging them in advance, so there can appear improvised alteration. Thus begins a marvelous adventure ' to listen and adapt to each other's musical flow. Some times we play exact themes, but some times we don't know at all what are we going to play and where we'll finish. But it's impossible to do it this way in bigger sessions ' if everybody started to change things, it would lead to chaos.

AAJ: You sing in different bands, some acoustic and some electronic. Do you have different approach to singing in these different musical spheres?

MB: Yes, there are differences. For example, I can't sing in the bebop style, when my partner plays long spacious structures based on fine colours and harmonies. In this kind of music we don't apply the chorus-repeating form used in bebop, but instead follow a continually developing form. All in all, the ensemble is very important for me and I adapt my expression according to the final outcome ' I use falsetto, coloratura etc... simply put, I'm variable. On the other hand, I seek my own style. I have some favourite phrases, intervals, patterns, which I use. Doesn't matter if I play with Cantabile, Quintet, Triology, I try to stay as I am.

AAJ: Polish jazz is a unique cultural phenomenon. During the communist era in Poland, conditions were suitable to develop jazz (compared to Czechoslovakia, where the establishment considered jazz as an ideological enemy from west). What is the reason why Polish jazz has always been on a world class level?

MB: Hmm. Difficult to say. At the time, we didn't know exactly what jazz was, how it sounded. We didn't know the reality, because we didn't have access to records from west. So musicians had to employ imagination. Music was an expression of sadness and yearning for freedom. Maybe that's why the Polish jazz tradition is so remarkable. Nowadays it's different situation. Now we have the freedom, but we are still learning how to live in freedom. Today many people play jazz, but the music has no depth. We have a lot of records. We can hear people from all around, but in fact the music flows into uniformity. With more possiblities to combine things, more effort is required to express a pure personal essence.

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