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Leszek Mozdzer: Komeda

Bruce Lindsay By

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Krzysztof Komeda, the Polish musician and composer who died, age 38, in 1969, was a key figure in the emergence of European jazz, and remains a major source of inspiration for musicians across the continent. On Komeda, his ACT solo album debut, pianist Leszek Możdżer pays his own beautifully crafted tribute to his fellow countryman.

Despite his early death, Komeda's body of work is extensive and influential—showing that it was possible to take the ideas and themes of American jazz and create something that had its own uniquely Old World atmosphere. In the 21st century trumpeter Tomasz Stanko is probably the best-known exponent of Komeda's work, while the New York based Komeda Project, led by expat Polish musicians Andrzej Winnicki and Krzysztof Medyna, flies the flag for Komeda in the New World.

Możdżer is a classically-trained pianist, born in Gdansk, who discovered jazz as an 18 year-old and now moves comfortably between the classical concert stage and jazz performance, garnering numerous awards along the way. He's played with Stańko and has recorded with bassist Lars Danielsson. His classical background strongly influences the sound of Komeda—especially on the opening bars of "Svantetic," where he introduces the tune with some sparklingly delicate upper register flourishes.

Many of Komeda's best-known compositions were written for Roman Polanski movies such as Rosemary's Baby (1968) or Knife In The Water (1962), films whose air of suspense and fear was heightened by the tension and darkness in Komeda's music. While Możdżer's choice of compositions includes some of this music, he focuses firmly on the more lyrical and romantic side of Komeda's work. Still, "Sleep Safe And Warm," the lullaby from Rosemary's Baby, still retains some of that darkness—however beautiful the melody may be—while"Cherry" finds Możdżer developing a funkier, more aggressive, groove, and "Crazy Girl" and "Moja Ballada" both have an edgier tone.

Komeda's cover art is a piece by German artist Martin Noël. Its soft pastel tones are perhaps a little more restrained than the usual ACT cover images, but its calm and gentle beauty perfectly reflects the restrained loveliness of Możdżer's playing and Komeda's writing. ACT's selection of solo piano albums has another excellent addition in Komeda.

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