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Komeda Project

“An innovator with a complex of tradition, romanticist expressing himself in the contemporary idiom, poet of piano - this was Krzysztof Komeda, one of those musicians who have widened the essence of jazz”*.


Plenty has been written about European musicians approaching the American jazz tradition; it's far rarer to hear about American musicians bringing their heritage to distinctly European projects. Capitalizing on the critical acclaim for its debut Crazy Girl, pianist/composer/arranger Andrzej Winnicki and saxophonist Krzysztof Medyna - the driving force behind Komeda Project - bring trumpeter Russ Johnson back for their new CD Requiem. What makes Requiem different, however, and a significant evolution over Crazy Girl, is the enlistment of über-bassist Scott Colley and the equally ubiquitous drummer Nasheet Waits.

Like Crazy Girl, Requiem's primary focus is to bring the music of the late, legendary Polish composer/pianist Krzysztof Komeda (Rosemary’s Baby; Knife in the Water) into the new millennium with fresh arrangements, but this time the approach is far more open-ended. Sacrificing the "comfort zone" of a group familiar with the music, Winnicki and Medyna opted, instead, for the first encounter "sound of surprise" that comes from working with master musicians like Colley and Waits.

Pianist Krzysztof Komeda was one of Poland's most famous modern composers and bandleaders during a brief life that ended just shy of his 38th birthday. 2009 marked the 40th anniversary of his death. A self-taught musician, Komeda was best known for his scores to Roman Polanski films, from the director's breakthrough Knife in the Water (1962), to his Hollywood hits The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) and Rosemary's Baby (1968). He also led a renowned jazz quintet, releasing the internationally acclaimed Astigmatic in 1966. Trumpeter Tomasz Stanko - an international jazz star for his series of groundbreaking ECM albums including Litania (1997), an album of all-Komeda music - was the pianist's constant band mate from 1963 to 1968. Komeda's group also featured, at one time, saxophonist Michael Urbaniak and drummer Czeslaw Bartkowski, both of whom found widespread acclaim in Urbaniak's 1970s group, Fusion, where the leader doubled on violin.

Born and raised in Poland, Andrzej Winnicki and Krzysztof Medyna have been playing together for over thirty years. They bring both a European classicism and melancholy Slavic melodism to music that's heavily refracted through the prism of the American tradition. Before moving to the United States in the late 1980s, they spent years touring Europe with the award-winning group Breakwater. Medyna was also a member of In/Formation, also featuring Czeslaw Bartkowski, touring extensively on double bills with ECM recording artist/Polish trumpet legend Tomasz Stanko. After releasing In the Bush in 2001, with a reformed Electric Breakwater that also featured bassist Mark Egan and drummer Rodney Holmes, Winnicki and Medyna decided to unplug, forming the all-acoustic Komeda Project in 2004.

Russ Johnson has performed with a who's who of jazz heavyweights, including Kenny Wheeler, Bill Frisell, David Liebman and Joe Lovano, in addition to leading his own groups and touring with Lee Konitz's latest nonet. Lyrical and economical with open ears and mind, Medyna describes him as "a poet of the trumpet. He is so sensitive, he can paint, and he can create a picture, making it easy for us to build something from nothing."

Scott Colley has become one of modern jazz's most in-demand bassists, playing with everyone from Pat Metheny, Jim Hall and Joe Lovano to Herbie Hancock, Kenny Werner and Brian Blade. Ever-inventive, with an innate ability to always find the right note, the perfect phrase for any context, this Down Beat "Rising Star" winner from 2002-2004 has been an invaluable partner on countless sessions where finding the essence of the music, with little-to-no preparation time, is a true testament to expansive talent.

Nasheet Waits has, with a résumé that includes work with Fred Hersch, Geri Allen, Steve Coleman, Stefon Harris, Andrew Hill and The Mingus Big Band, emerged as one of his generation's most important drummers. Like Colley, Waits' deep roots in the tradition are what give Requiem its edge - a record of unmistakably European jazz played with the swing and unmistakable conviction of an American rhythm section. Winnicki adds, "We came into this project knowing, from the get-go, that if we were going to do another record, we wanted to make it with great players at the level of Russ, Scott and Nasheet; and to have a real American rhythm section that could come in, even without any knowledge of Komeda or Stanko, and play their hearts out."

And play their hearts out they do. On Requiem, everyone plays their hearts out, on a program of boldly thematic and challenging charts that still possess the underlying freedom required to encourage unpredictability, even within the most scripted of arrangements. With Requiem, Komeda Project ups the ante on the promise of Crazy Girl, paying reverent homage to one of the 20th Century's great composers while bringing modernistic edge, reckless abandon, and unmistakable swing to this profoundly moving set of starkly beautiful music.


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455
Album Review

Komeda Project: Requiem

Read "Requiem" reviewed by Stuart Broomer


Krzysztof Komeda is a figure of immense significance in Polish jazz, in effect the musician who both gave it its original authentic voice and marked its place in the world. In the 15 years before his death in 1969, Komeda was active as bandleader and film composer, scoring films by Roman Polanski like Two Men and a Wardrobe and Rosemary's Baby. Clearly influenced by Miles Davis, Bill Evans and John Coltrane, he found a profound affinity between modal jazz and ...

1,375
Interview

Komeda Project: Bringing New Life to a Legend

Read "Komeda Project: Bringing New Life to a Legend" reviewed by Bruce Lindsay


Komeda Project is dedicated to the music of the great Polish composer Krzysztof Komeda. Komeda died young--days before his 38th birthday. During his relatively short life, he composed numerous film scores and jazz tunes and was responsible for the seminal album Astigmatic (Muza Records, 1965)--one of Jazzwise Magazine's “100 Jazz Albums that Shook the World." It is unsurprising, then, that a band would wish to pay tribute to such a musician, and tribute bands and tribute recordings are common enough ...

360
Album Review

Komeda Project: Requiem

Read "Requiem" reviewed by Eyal Hareuveni


Komeda Project's Requiem is released 40 years after the untimely death of the great Polish composer and pianist Krzysztof Komeda, best known for his original soundtracks to Roman Polanski's films Knife in the Water and Rosemary's Baby, as well as his work with great Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko. The European-American Komeda ensemble--pianist/arranger Andrzej Winnicki, trumpeter Russ Johnson, saxophonist Krzysztof Medyna, and the new rhythm section of bassist Scott Colley and drummer Nasheet Waits--succeeds in updating Komada's compositions by reaching into ...

672
Album Review

Komeda Project: Requiem

Read "Requiem" reviewed by Chris May


Despite the snowballing emergence of European jazz musicians on the world stage, relatively few European jazz composers have, in 2009, made it into the global repertory, which continues to be dominated by American voices. Perhaps it always will be, and perhaps local singularities--Italian or British or Scandinavian or whatever--are in any case better treasured, rather than absorbed into a single, universal body of work. But the fact remains that a cornucopia of great “foreign" compositions remains neglected in jazz's birth ...

1,327
Album Review

Komeda Project: Requiem

Read "Requiem" reviewed by Budd Kopman


With the magnificent Requiem, pianist Andrzej Winnicki and saxophonist Krzysztof Medyna solidify and enhance their reputations as the prime promoters of the essential music of the Polish pianist and composer Krzysztof Komeda (1931-1969). Komeda is widely recognized as the founder of modern Polish, and in a wider sense, European modern jazz. That he worked in Poland under Communist oppression is important. At its heart, jazz refuses to be pigeonholed, and it both allows and demands that its practitioners be utterly ...

1,088
Album Review

Komeda Project: Requiem

Read "Requiem" reviewed by Jakob Baekgaard


There's an awareness which is located deep within human nature that we're subject to both positive feelings as well as destructive impulses: Love and death, Eros and Thanatos, exist side by side. All great art is a mirror of the human condition and nobody understood better than the Polish composer and pianist Krzysztof Komeda that life as well as music is composed of light and darkness.

The dual nature of Komeda's music is captured perfectly in one of his masterpieces, ...

228
Live Review

The Komeda Project at the Cornelia Street Cafe

Read "The Komeda Project at the Cornelia Street Cafe" reviewed by Budd Kopman


Komeda ProjectCornelia Street CaféNew York, New YorkNovember 1, 2007 Jazz, because it is created in the moment by the performers pouring out their souls, has a way of getting inside you. Hearing jazz live, actually being there, intensifies the experience tenfold. Live jazz at the Cornelia Street Café is particularly rewarding because there is very little physical separation between the musicians and the audience. The Komeda Project at Cornelia Street was ...

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Press for Requiem

Stuart Broomer/All About Jazz NY ... a brilliant band... This profoundly lyrical CD can stand in the company of works like Herbie Hanckock's Maiden Voyage and Kenny Wheeler's Deer Wan.

Michael Tucker/Jazz Journal ...intelligently conceived and engaging project...The characterful, melancholy albeit sometimes sprightly music is delivered by carefully weighted playing all around. If this is testimony to the strength of Komeda's material it also says much about the maturity of this transatlantic take on matters European.

Bill Milkowski/Jazz Times This tribute to Polish jazz pianist and soundtrack composer Krzysztof Komeda (renowned for his work on Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby) is lovingly handled by compatriots Andrzej Winnicki and Krzysztof Medyna, who have assembled a top-notch, freewheeling crew in bassist Scott Colley, trumpeter Russ Johnson and drummer Nasheet Waits. Stout-toned tenor saxophonist Medyna digs in on Komeda's three-part ode to John Coltrane, "Night-Time, Daytime Requiem," and wails on soprano on "Dirge for Europe." Johnson makes a potent frontline partner on compelling, emotionally charged pieces like "Prayer and Question," "Litania" and "Elutka."

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Primary Instrument

Band / ensemble / orchestra

Location

New York City

Willing to teach

Intermediate to advanced

Photos

Music

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Requiem

WM Records
2010

buy

Requiem

WM Records
2009

buy

Crazy Girl

WM Records
2007

buy

Kattorna

From: Crazy Girl
By Komeda Project

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