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2013 Jazztopad Festival

John Kelman By

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Intangible Asset 82 also documented the growing friendship between Barker and Il Dong; Il Dong was, understandably, a little suspicious of this western musician who came with a film crew to document his search, but soon realized Barker's intentions were true. Years later, neither speak much of each other's language, but they've created, according to Barker, a small language of their own, which they use to communicate. That said, in performance, as took place a few evenings later, there was no language necessary to see and hear the deep connection shared by these two artists, coming from two very different worlds but finding commonality through music.

Thursday, November 21: Don't Panic! We're From Poland Part 1 / Melting Pot: Made in Wrocĺaw

The final four days of Jazztopad 2013 were extraordinarily busy ones for its guests, from a walking city tour that spent most of its time on the gorgeous Cathedral Island and helped place the history of the city in context with the rest of Poland and Europe, to the first of a two-day Polish jazz showcase event, Don't Panic! We're From Poland and, after an early dinner, a chance to catch some of the city's eminent jazz musicians interacting with guests from abroad.

First up, four groups were presented at the Agora Cultural Centre, about 15 minutes from the city center by car. Trumpeter Piotr Damasiewicz's Imprographic project opened the showcase with some extreme free play. Having first encountered the young trumpeter at Take Five Europe, back in January of this year at Bore Place in Kent, UK—a retreat where ten young musicians, two each from Britain, Norway, France, The Netherlands and Poland, worked together to create a repertoire that would be performed at a number of festivals this year, as well as gain some insight into what they need to do to move their careers forward in the new millennium—it became clear that Damasiewicz was an absolutely uncompromising musician whose dedication to the art is both unquestionable and immovable, whether in the more composed structure of Hadrons (Self Produced, 2012) or in the freer context of Imprographic I (Fortune, 2013), the quartet's double-disc set featuring two extended improvisations of nearly 70 minutes each.

While having only 30 minutes—the normal limitation of showcase events—to demonstrate all it had, Damasiewicz's group, which also included saxophonist Gerard Lebik, drummer Gabriel Ferrandini (back from the Concert in the Dark set) and bassist Max Mucha, sitting in for album bassist Jakub Mielcarek, may have been exploring largely free territory, but there were clearly cued moments as well. It's an area that Damasiewicz, despite his relatively young age, has been pursuing for some time. Precedents include artists like Anthony Braxton, Butch Morris and John Zorn, but Damasiewicz was clearly carving his own path. His own playing combined numerous extended techniques with unique use of plungers and mutes to create an ever-shifting tapestry of sound that was mirrored by his band mates, as the music flowed from harsher extremes to brief periods of respite. It was a brave and challenging way to open the showcase, and with Damasiewicz the recent recipient of a number of awards including the 2013 Fryderyk Award (the Polish Grammy equivalent) for Debut of the Year, the future is looking very bright for this young trumpeter/composer who currently has half a dozen of his own projects on the go, of which Imprographic is but one.

Next up was a solo piano performance by Damasiewicz's Take Five Europe mate, pianist Marcin Masecki. While Masecki demonstrated, at Take Five Europe, a broad stylistic palette, his latest recording—and the performance he gave from it—takes the music of Italian classical composer, Domenico Scarlatti, deconstructs and reconstructs it in a completely different form. Scarlatti (Fortune, 2013), was only recently released, and Masecki's combination of respect and irreverence for Scarlatti was quickly evident in the way that he took motifs, broke them down into smaller building blocks and then reconstructed them in different shapes and forms. A very physical player, Masecki could be seen, at various times, with his right foot lifting high off the ground and coming down with a loud thump; coming to a full stand in front of the piano; and playing, head down and seemingly in deep concentration. In this way, one of his touchstones, Keith Jarrett, was eminently clear, but Masecki was a far more intrinsically mischievous player than Jarrett, one whose irreverence for the source material was what gave it its depth, as he wandered around things like a two-chord ostinato that drove an unfettered, idiosyncratic right hand exploration...only to briefly have both hands come together to play a very brief and literal passage of Scarlatti with absolute integrity.

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