Friday, July 19, 2013
Reviewed by: Ian Mann
Pysz's highly melodic writing and well delineated and unhurried playing style make for a highly satisfying and often beautiful album.
Maciek Pysz Trio
(33 Records 33JAZZ231)
Polish guitarist Maciek Pysz has been based in London since 2003 and has established himself on the UK jazz scene as well as playing regularly in France. A self taught guitarist specialising on the acoustic version of the instrument his chief inspiration is Al Di Meola but he also cites the influence of fellow guitarists Pat Metheny, John McLaughlin, Ralph Towner and Bireli Lagrene plus the compositional methods of pianists Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett.
“Insight” represents his first full length studio album and it’s a highly impressive piece of work. Pysz is joined by what is fast becoming everybody’s favourite rhythm team, Russian born bassist Yuri Golubev and Israeli born drummer and percussionist Asaf Sirkis. These two in demand musicians have previously been heard together to good effect in the trios of pianists John Law and Alex Hutton. Both make crucial contributions to the success of “Insight” with Golubev excelling both with and without the bow. Sirkis meanwhile deploys the extended kit he uses with Lighthouse, the trio featuring pianist Gwilym Simcock and reeds player Tim Garland. Truly deserving the title of percussionist his set up includes the Indian clay pot or udu plus a variety of hand played frame drums. The new album also benefits not only from 33 Records’ meticulously high technical standards but also from being recorded at the renowned Artesuono Studios in Udine, Italy by engineer Stefano Amerio. It’s a location favoured by the similarly fastidious ECM label and the sound throughout “Insight” is pristine and immaculate. It’s process that particularly suits Pysz’s signature picking style. In some instances he makes use of overdubbing to combine the sound of a nylon strung Godin classical guitar with a steel string acoustic. Overall three musicians create a variety of textures and colours that sometimes suggests the work of a larger ensemble.
Pysz’s informative album notes shed light on the origins of the tunes and add much to the overall listening experience. His compositions embrace jazz and classical influences and also explore a variety of global rhythms including Brazilian, Latin and Indian. The guitarist draws inspiration from many sources including art and nature as well as fellow musicians.
The album begins with “Those Days”, a piece written with the help of Pysz’s friend and fellow guitarist Ryszard Graca. It’s a tune that moves forward through sections rather than repeating itself, the alternating fast and slow passages representing a metaphor for life itself and with the title denoting a kind of nostalgia. The piece establishes the group’s sound, Pysz’s clean, precise guitar picking, Sirkis’ colourful and exotic percussion played on a rich variety of instruments and Golubev’s big toned pizzicato. The bassist is featured extensively as a soloist throughout the album and rightly so, the enormity of his tone combining with a dazzling dexterity.
Written in 2010 “Blue Water” is a paean to the sea with Pysz’s writing reflecting not only the calm and beauty but also the wildness of its moods. Like much of Pysz’s output the music combines great playing with a cinematic quality and a surprisingly wide dynamic range. Following Pysz’s inspired picking on a variety of guitars the piece climaxes with a feature for bass and percussion, a musical depiction of a storm at sea.
The tune “Amici” was co-written by Pysz and the Italian guitarist Gianluca Corona. The only true joint composition on the album it’s a gentle and lyrical celebration of friendship, the title meaning “Friends” in Italian. Pysz’s plying is effortlessly melodic and there’s a stunning plucked solo from Golubev.
“Lost In London” was originally conceived as a song with Sting the putative vocalist. There’s a lyrical, song-like feel to the piece with the leader’s delicate picking underscored by Golubev’s rich bass purr and Sirkis’ delightful use of the udu. The title refers to the sometimes alienating nature of cities but there’s nothing but warmth and charm about the music.
The title track was inspired by Chick Corea’s album “Continents” and began life as a classical piece before Pysz decided to arrange it for the trio. The snippet of melody that comprises the main theme sounds as if it might have been lifted off Pat Metheny’s “Bright Size Life” album. Indeed Pysz shares something of Metheny’s melodic gift, yet ends up sounding substantially different.
Golubev excels with the bow on the melancholy but beautiful “Moody Leaf”, a musical depiction of a solitary leaf being blown in the wind. The bassist’s rich arco tone gives the piece a suitably autumnal feel as the metaphorical leaf is transported on the lightest of breezes. Golubev’s fluent and lyrical pizzicato skills are also heard alongside the leader’s gently picked guitar and almost subliminal percussion.
“Maroon” was partly inspired by Mark Rothko’s painting “Red on Maroon” and partly by romantic loss. The resultant composition is suitably introspective yet somehow possessed of a sense of inner calm. Pysz is at his most Towner like and receives sympathetic support from his colleagues with Golubev providing a typically imaginative bass solo.
“Steps Of Time” was initially conceived as a piece of film music but was later developed for the trio. Golubev’s sombre but beautiful arco playing features at the beginning of the tune before the mood is lightened by a Latin flavoured central section featuring some virtuoso guitar work and a lively percussion feature with Sirkis exploring every aspect of his custom made kit. Finally the piece comes full circle to end in the same reflective mood as it began, with Golubev again taking up his bow.
The closing “Under The Sky” is the oldest piece on the album, dating back to 2007/8 and again written with the assistance of Ryszard Graca, giving a nice touch of symmetry to the album as a whole. This arrangement features deeply resonant and lyrical plucked bass, delicate acoustic guitar arpeggios and finally a lovely feature for Sirkis on udu above Golubev’s cushioning arco backdrop.
Pysz’s highly melodic writing and well delineated and unhurried playing style make for a highly satisfying and often beautiful album. The guitarist is a virtuoso but he does more than deploy his skills for mere effect and the same claim can be made for his highly talented colleagues who both bring much colour and beauty to the proceedings. Pysz, Golubev and Sirkis make a great team who serve the music superbly.
The trio have a number of festival appearances scheduled;
July 28th 2013 Ealing Jazz Festival
September 14th 2013 Kings Place Jazz Festival, London.
November 16th 2013 London Jazz Festival
Further information at;
From Yuri Golubev;
Yuri wrote: “Thanks for a nice review! An interesting observation: non-Italian critics not only review albums often “tune by tune”, but also “bother” to check for band’s live performances to list them in! This is really nice and helpful and…serious!”
From Maciek Pysz;
Maciek wrote: “And another very nice review, this time from Ian Mann and The Jazz Mann.”
JAZZ MANN FEATURES
Ian Mann on two very different albums from the versatile pianist and composer Geoff Eales.
Ian Mann on the final two days of the 2013 EFG London Jazz Festival including performances by Troykestra, John Hollenbeck, Claudia Quintet, Dan Messore, Archie Shepp, Pigfoot and Tim Whitehead.