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The Beat Freaks: Leon

Glenn Astarita By

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Based in Poland, guitarist Michał Starkiewicz founded this band in 2014, followed by successful concert tours and of course, this album that presents a modicum of youthful vim and vigor, largely within the progressive jazz schema amid a few slight nods to jazz fusion. Moreover, the musicians dedicate the album to a mythical figure Leon Kokaiewicz, although the story behind these motivations briefly outlined in the album notes are not clear to me.

The quartet's buoyant and spunky mode of operations are largely developed with knotty time signatures and up- tempo grooves, often lacking memorable melodies other than the affable Middle Eastern metrics executed on "Ludowo" and the catchy hook framed on bassist Pawel Grzesiuk's booming ostinato and funky shuffle groove on "Pod Nozke." But "Noi" is a piece that serves as a good indicator of where the band likes to reside, musically that it. Here, saxophonist Tomasz Licak and Starkiewicz render sinuous and airy choruses, as the latter dishes out an animated solo via gradual buildups interspersed with tender intervals and introspective musings. Whereas, the following track "Bright Eyes" is a sublime and nimbly enacted ballad, featuring Licak's supple bass clarinet work.

The quartet's tightknit inner-workings, including drummer Radek Wośko's slapping backbeats, contrast the jazzier side of matters in concert with the proverbial dynamics. But the final track "Sierzant Zynthia," is a slightly-in-your-face straight-four jazz rocker that lacks a convincing theme and sounds more like filler material.

Looking ahead, they may want to consider honing their voice or coming up with a model that proposes more distinctive characteristics. This is an important factor when considering a jam-packed global marketplace with numerous small prog jazz ensembles that are technically impressive and well-rehearsed sans memorable compositions that prompt additional listens.

Track Listing: Longing; Pomarancze; Ludowo; Noi; Bright Eyes; Solaris; Pod Nozke; Oriented; Sierzant Zytnia.

Personnel: Michał Starkiewicz: guitar; Tomasz Licak: saxophone, bass clarinet; Paweł Grzesiuk: bass, double bass; Radek Wośko: drums.

Title: Leon | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Gateway Music


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