Rafal Sarnecki: Climbing Trees

Jerome Wilson By

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Guitarist Rafal Sarnecki has put together a CD with an interesting combination of influences here. His music mixes together elements of classical chamber music and progressive jazz-rock which is played by a group with a front line of guitar, tenor sax and voice. The presence of a high, wordless female voice sometimes gives this the feel of old British "Canterbury Sound" bands like Hatfield and the North but the emphasis on guitar instead of grandiose keyboards gives this music its own singular sound.

The three lead instruments often play melodies in unison, creating a thick, layered sound equally effective on the heavy rhythmic lope of "Dadaism" and the hypnotic classical repetition of "Zhongguo." Glenn Zaleski's piano is the main solo instrument on these pieces. He takes an elaborate McCoy Tyner-like stroll through "Dadaism'''s slow thrash and plays brittle trills on "Zhongguo" in response to the short melody phrases led by Bogna Kicinska's liquid singing. Sarnecki takes the lead elsewhere. On "Write a Letter" he plays twangy electric guitar in the manner of Larry Coryell on a tangled stutterstep melody. Lucas Pino and Kicinska add harmonic weight to his line before he goes into a fluttery solo. On "Solar Eclipse" Sarnecki's low-slung, long notes combine with Kicinska's airy vocalizing to set an ominous mood before he takes off on another surging, fast-picked flight.

"Hydrodynamics" is a speedy, twirling flow of guitar with other instruments popping in and out before Pino contributes a fierce tenor solo and the rhythm section slows to a bumpy crawl as Sarnecki continues his rippling twirls. "Fresh Peach" sounds like a singing Bach progression constantly being irritated by repeated ukulele-like plucking. "Little Dolphin" is a full-blown prog jazz-rock suite that begins with small, prickly figures for guitar, voice and bass clarinet. It then moves through passages of racing piano and big crashing chords, gradually building speed and density, until it climaxes with a long, impassioned tenor solo. "Homo Sapiens" ends the disc on an ethereal note. Deliberate piano and hiccuping tenor move slowly as Kicinska's voice hovers above like a ghostly presence, and Pino plays some lovely bass clarinet. Sarnecki's guitar is nearly invisible on this piece which demonstrates how his music is composed for a cohesive group, not as backgrounds for soloists. There are solos throughout but it's the massed sound of the group and the interplay of the individual musicians that are the most memorable features of this music. Sarnecki's work has a uniquely cerebral vibe that should appeal to jazz fans who also appreciate the intricacies of progressive rock.

Track Listing: Solar Eclipse; Dadaism; Little Dolphin - Part 1; Little Dolphin - Part 2; Little Dolphin - Part 3; Zhongguo; Write a Letter to Yourself; Disappointing Fresh Peach; Hydrodynamics; Homo Sapiens.

Personnel: Rafal Sarnecki: guitar; Lucas Pino: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Bogna Kicinska: voice; Glenn Zaleski: piano; Rick Rosato: bass; Colin Stranahan: drums.

Title: Climbing Trees | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Outside In Music


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