Some jazz guitarists try to bring a fresh perspective to their craft via a crowd of effects pedals. Others incorporate influences of modern popular music in order to create something new. In some cases they'll do both. On his sixth album as a leader, the Polish guitarist Przemyslaw Straczek more or less chooses to stay within the conventions of sound and composition but puts a unique spin on things through his own melancholic tone.
Prudence and patience characterize the themes and motifs Strazek builds throughout this elegant set of modal jazz and post-bop variations. A sense of calm is written between the interplay of the quartet handing back and forth quiet impulses. The band slowly gains energy, seamlessly alternating into double time and teasing rhythmic shifts, as demonstrated on opening "Suspended." Stracszek is by far the most prominent voice on these songs and utilizes a variety of different comping voicings and solo approaches in order to interact with Marcin Kaletka on saxophone, whose role is to hold the melodic foundation in place throughout.
A portion of light-hearted warmth can be found sprinkled across Fig Tree as well. The title track ("Drzweo Figowe") finds the saxophone going through comfortable changes accompanied by a driven rhythm section and unpolished guitar lines that simultaneously guide and undermine the saxophone. Some distortion effect does come to play on the rougher ventures of the album. In a fast-paced exhibition, "Dwa" sees Kaletka switching to soprano sax and its wailing tone solos coincidingly with overdriven and sustain-heavy guitar blurs.
"Paralotnia" is easy-listening jazz, which doesn't necessarily mean it's bland. The tune comes at a welcome time for a short break, before the Latin rhythm-tinged "Indigo Child" picks up the pace again and segues into the final highlightand coincidentally the final trackon the album. With "Lustro" the record is bookended the way it began. A quiet beginning builds into a fierce crescendo, this time around fully distorted and with a more climactic finish.
While not strictly the most original material the jazz guitar world has seen, Fig Tree does present a composer who's mastered his craft. The tone of Strazek's guitar together with his language within the compositional structures are what give these songs their unique timbre. Elevated by tight group interplay, these arrangements are effective at conveying the music in an emotionally convincing fashion.
Title: Fig Tree
| Year Released: 2020
| Record Label: Es Art
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