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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 Polish folk elements, crafting a moody, often pensive music that is at the root of much later European music, including much of that associated with ECM. His influence continues. Tomasz Stanko, who came to maturity in Komeda's sextet, has recorded the beautiful Litania and the Marcin Wasilewski Trio recorded a fine early CD called Komeda when they were still called the Simple Acoustic Trio.
That heritage is very much apparent in the present Komeda Project, a quintet led by New York-resident Polish musicians, saxophonist Krzysztof Medyna and pianist Andrzej Winnicki. The two have been playing together since the '80s and in the Komeda Project have created both an homage to the composer and a brilliant band, here completed by trumpeter Russ Johnson, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Nasheet Waits.
The music is deeply reflective, at times somber, at other times pastoral, sometimes shot through with drama, as in the fanfares of the three-part "Night-time, Daytime Requiem" that frame both heated tenor work and contrasting trumpet. There's a sense of a cumulative forward momentum that at the same time possesses an inner repose. Some of Komeda's best-known works can be found here, including "Astigmatic," highlighted by a coiling soprano solo by Medyna, and the ethereal "Litania" with some flugelhorn work at the edge of introversion by Johnson, who provides many of the solo highlights. This profoundly lyrical CD can stand in the company of works like Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage and Kenny Wheeler's Deer Wan.
Track Listing: Night-time, Daytime Requiem (Part 1); Night-time, Daytime Requiem (Part 2); Night-time, Daytime Requiem (Part 3); Ballad for Bernt; Dirge for Europe; Astigmatic; Elutka; Prayer and Question; Litania; Anubis.
Personnel: Russ Johnson: trumpet, flugelhorn; Krzysztof Medyna: tenor and soprano saxophone; Andrzej Winnicki: piano; Scott Colley: bass; Nasheet Waits: drums.
I love jazz because it mixes intellect and emotion in a very spontaneous way.
I was first exposed to jazz by liberating a Coltrane and a Pharoah Sanders record from a friend in NYC and listening to them over and over until I got it.
My advice to new listeners is you have to take the time to listen to some jazz tunes a number of times until it starts to make sense.