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Komeda Project: Crazy Girl

C. Michael Bailey By

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In a too brief but productive life, Krzysztof Komeda (1931-1969) composed in excess of forty film scores. These film scores include such Polish cinematic gems as Roman Polanski's Knife in the Water and Andrzej Wajda's Innocent Sorcerers. Komeda's first score for the screen was Polanski's first film, Two Men and a Wardrobe (1958). In the same way that Sam Peckenpaw used the same actors for his films, so Polanski would do with Komeda in almost all of his films from the late 1950s the late 1960s, culminating in the riveting Rosemary's Baby. That soundtrack may only be comparable with Ennio Marricone's score for The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

Trumpeter Tomasz Stanko worked on all of Komeda's Polish scores from the mid-1960s on and was the composer's closest musical associate and band member from 1963 until 1968. Stanko used Komeda's compositional vision to bring 1965's epochal Astigmatic to fruition—a style in jazz composition unique to Europe. Komeda and Stanko stand as the founders of modern Polish jazz.

The Komeda Project is a quintet devoted to the compositions of Komeda. It takes full advantage of the open structure the composer ensured in all of his pieces. This open structure should not frighten free jazz phobics. The music is rhythmic and lyrical. The quintet's musicianship is beautifully applicable and natural, with a certain organic recognition of the composer's intent.

These pieces were tailor-made for jazz interpretation outside the cinema. The title cut takes full advantage of pianist Andrzej Winnicki's assertive approach and tenor saxophonist Krzysztof Medyna's masculine and androgenic tone. The rhythm section of bassist Michael Bates and drummer Dave Anthony sets up a well-paced walking tempo that spurs trumpeter/flugelhornist Russ Johnson to some round-toned soloing.

The spirit of A Love Supreme is conjured in "Kattorna with its extensive introduction, but departs the vaporous for a quick paced Griot jog. The solo space is backed sparsely, allowing Johnson to explore his trumpeting fully. "Ballada is exactly that, a plaintive ballad. It is one of the most open-ended of the compositions and is accented by Michael Bates' arco playing against Johnson's brass calls. Medyna rounds out the piece with a fine tenor recital, slow and methodical, crossing with Johnson's flugelhorn. The entire disc exists in this vein, making it a compelling musical offering that stands apart from the typical, standard quintet fare.


Track Listing: Crazy Girl; Kattorna; Ballada; Is That Your Final Answer?; Svantetic Prelude; Svantetic; Tail Peace; Stop Time; Sleep Safe and Warm.

Personnel: Russ Johnson: trumpet and flugelhorn; Krzysztof Medyna: tenor and soprano saxophones; Andrzej Winnicki: piano; Michael Bates: bass; David Anthony: drums.

Title: Crazy Girl | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: WM Records


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