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Album Review

Lukasz Pawlik: Long Distance Connections

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Lukasz Pawlik: Long Distance Connections
This is fusion of the highest order, the type of project that is easy to get excited about. The complexities of Polish composer, pianist, cellist and arranger Łukasz Pawlik's compositions soar to new heights on his second album as a leader. Enlisting gold-star talent from both home and abroad, this amounts to about a fifty-fifty configuration of prominent musicians from the United States and Poland. Fusion legends trumpeter Randy Brecker and electric guitarist Mike Stern unite with Polish heavyweights tenor saxophonist Szymom Kamykowski and alto and soprano saxophonist Dawid Glowczewski, along with Pawlik, to create vivid exchanges through unforeseen passages. Pawlik strived for freshness in sound and communication in his rhythm sections as well. The first two songs were astutely captained by electric bassist Tom Kennedy and drummer Dave Weckl. Kennedy's low end mastery and Weckl's distinctly reactionary and inventive narrative are as erudite as the famed duo's thick pocket. After that, an array of combinations, featuring Polish electric bassist Michal Kapczuk, Polish drummer Cezary Konrad , and American drummer Gary Novak as well as Kennedy and Weckl, bring their own unique skill sets and energy to the mix. The entire ensemble was able to communicate and express themselves clearly and freely, as they are all quite fluent in the same language—jazz.

Eight original compositions by Pawlik (the son of Grammy winning jazz pianist Wlodek Pawlik) are the heart and soul of this record. Each song is its own separate masterpiece which ascends into another world, where fusion is explored and examined with new perspectives. It is certainly not uncommon for a composer to write to the strengths of the musicians involved in a project. Here, if it were an Olympic event, Pawlik would take home the gold medal Vintage Stern, with guitar riffs flying and stretching unbridled into a multitude of directions. The seminal Brecker, nurturing and caressing each note—the complete illustration of the importance of every note. Beautifully, there are moments for every player to go inside themselves.

Long Distance Connections begins with the never withering momentum inside the "Indian Garden." Layers, big horns, Pawlik adding flute-like sounds from synth and samples, Stern frying up a one-minute egg, a true jazz piano trio section of Pawlik, Kennedy, and Weckl, a fueled bass solo, and Glowczewski's alto bliss all stirred into eight and a half minutes of constant and heavenly motion. The energy continues with the aptly named "A Matter of Urgency." Glowczewski powers through space creating a sumptuous void for Pawlik to frolic. With Pawlik on his acoustic piano, the trio kept the energy level high without ever sounding rushed. Pawlik's playing is of equal wit to his composition. Weckl's powerful and improvisational soloing kept the space open and creatively led Glowczewski to pepper through the closing frame.

Not just any change of direction leads to the "Jellyfish." Immediately we are under the sea. An entirely different universe is engagingly and melodically manipulated by the sophisticated guitar of Stern. It is then bookended by the strength of Kamykowski's soothing lines. Pawlik and Novak submerge and bring a wealth of sound aesthetically from the ocean's floor. "For Odd's Sake" puts a bounce into the fusion step of Brecker and Kamykowski. While Pawlik delicately creates and maintains the groove, he also solos with grace, riding the undertones of Konrad and Kapczuk's infectious and spirited rhythm section gait. It is though the sparkling Brecker and Kamykowski conversation that boldly ignites the piece. Brecker intelligently counters the bounce with a pulse of warmth and integrity.

Pawlik then takes a tandem adventure with Novak to "Planet X." The duo travel to and through a new environment steeped with sharp angles and diverse changes. Pawlik packed his overnight gear, utilizing his acoustic piano, keyboards, synthesizers, samples, and bass programming to navigate Novak's pocket of invention with space age improvisation. The piece flows instinctively into a time for "Reflection." Pawlik and Novak are joined by bassist Kapczuk in this stunningly beautiful and heartfelt ballad. The "Reflection" is felt knowingly by the pure elegance of Pawlik's cello. With symphonic edges Pawlik demonstrates his enormous skillset merging jazz with a touch of classical. Clearly in his element, Pawlik's emotional cellist renderings are showcased honestly, if not reverently.

Pawlik creates a full landscape of movement for all to move freely and with intensity on "Greg's Walk." With the rhythm section now Kennedy and Novak, Brecker stretches out with vigor on his flugelhorn, and is joined in conversation by Glowczewski's simmering alto. Kennedy's pulsating low end combined with Novak's thunderous movement around his kit, brings this Pawlik gem to a peak of sensation. An arrangement of perfection now has Stern enter stage left with fiery lines spawned from his own peerless set up. As he is wont to do, Stern gets a volcano of air under his strings, as the piece explodes into musical euphoria.

The epic outing concludes with a luscious piece, that if it were a piece of candy, would melt in your mouth. Yet another richly honed composition from Pawlik organically opened into a structure gleefully filled by a sonic soprano sax outing from Glowczewski. So empowered with joy, his sax, at times, mimicked the sound of laughter. Kennedy, now with his third rhythm section partner, asserted the foundational glue that lifted the piece into the air, and also allowed Konrad the freedom to add bursts of soulful flavor without straying from his meticulous pocket. Pawlik's own keyboards brought the flourish to "Suspensions."

Compositionally and musically, this is a project of epic proportions. Boasting melodicism within structural complexities, Long Distance Connections is an exceptional work of art.

Track Listing

Indian Garden; A Matter of Urgency; Jellyfish; For Odd's Sake; Planet X; Reflection; Greg's Walk; Suspensions.

Personnel

Łukasz Pawlik: keyboards; Mike Stern: guitar, electric; Randy Brecker: trumpet; Dave Weckl: drums; Tom Kennedy: bass, electric; Gary Novak: drums.

Additional Instrumentation

Dawid Glowczewski: alto saxophone; Szymon Kamykowski: tenor saxophone; Cezary Konrad: drums; Michal Kapczuk: electric bass; Phil South: percussion;

Album information

Title: Long Distance Connections | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Summit Records


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