Adam Makowicz has such phenomenal technique at the keyboard that it sometimes sounds as if he's playing with four hands. On his latest album there really are four hands at work, though two of them belong to fellow Polish piano sensation Leszek Mozdzer. Their solo and duet excursions on Chopin and popular standards, recorded live at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall last year, make for one of the most stunning showcases of piano virtuosity in recent memory.
Makowicz, a New Yorker for 25 years since fleeing his then-repressive homeland, opens the album with a pair of jazz improvisations on Chopin that steer the great Polish composer's romantic melodies through an entirely seamless web of blues, swing, and bebop, even adding a touch of stride. It's a tough act to follow, much less sit side by side with, but the thirty-something Mozdzera new face on the American scene, but a major figure in Polish jazzproves he's up to the task on three Chopin duets with Makowicz.
Rather than battle with piano pyrotechnics, the two men engage in a performance of restraint, subtlety, and supreme musical sympathy, making it hard to tell where one pair of hands ends and the other begins. Mozdzer follows with a solo nod to his colleague's piano hero on Makowicz' "Tatum on My Mind. (A solo Mozdzer recital at Merkin Concert Hall last month showed him an engagingly offbeat performerand dresseras he dazzled the audience with more Chopin and a handful of impressionistic originals that recalled Keith Jarrett's '70s-era improvisations.)
The set closes with a half-dozen often breathtaking duet takes on standards by Richard Rodgers, Leonard Bernstein, Cole Porter, and Duke Ellington. As an encore, Makowicz and Mozdzer turn to a piece that epitomizes the album's Poland meets New York credo: Krzysztof Komeda's theme from Roman Polanski's '60s New York City horror classic Rosemary's Baby. This celebration of Poland and America, classical music and jazz, is already a platinum seller in Poland; it warrants serious attention from jazz fans around the world.
Track Listing: Frederic Chopin: Prelude 24 in D Minor, Op 28; Fantasie - Impromptu, Op 66; Prelude in G major no. 3, Op 28; Prelude in E major, no. 7, Op 28; Prelude in E flat major, no. 17, Op 28; Tatum on My Mind, Surrey with the Fringe on Top, Some Other Time, Love is Here to Stay, Begin the Beguine, Night and Day, Caravan, Rosemary's Baby.
Personnel: Adam Makowicz and Leszek Mozdzer, piano.
I was first exposed to jazz when I discovered that one of Jimi Hendrix's influences was Wes Montgomery. I played guitar growing up and idolized Hendrix, so I knew that anyone he looked up to must be good
I was first exposed to jazz when I discovered that one of Jimi Hendrix's influences was Wes Montgomery. I played guitar growing up and idolized Hendrix, so I knew that anyone he looked up to must be good. I was 16 at the time. I went to Tower Records and purchased a CD by Wes, and I was hooked from the very first ten seconds. The sound of the song Lolita illuminated my bedroom, as I just sat back amazed at how colorful and soulful this music was--I understood it, even though at the time I didn't understand how to go about playing it. I get chills listening to Wes' solo on Lolita, and I can still listen to that song ten times in a row and never get tired of it. There is a truly timeless quality to genuinely spontaneous jazz music, and it is that quality that has inspired me to devote my life to studying and playing this music.