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Kuba Wiecek Trio - Another Raindrop Rating: 4 out of 5 Wiecek’s playing combines a pure tone with improvisational fluency, great technique and an adventurous, forward looking attitude. His writing is impressively varied and draws on many influences.

Kuba Wiecek Trio

“Another Raindrop”

Polish Jazz Vol. 78 Bar Code 01902 9 58354 9 1)

Kuba Wiecek is a young alto saxophonist and composer born in 1994 in the Polish city of Rybnik. After studying in his homeland he continued his musical education at the famous Rhythmic Conservatorium in Copenhagen, an institution which once employed the UK’s own Django Bates as a professor.

Wiecek also studied in Amsterdam and New York and his saxophone teachers include such giants of the alto as Lee Konitz, Steve Lehman and David Binney. As a performer Wiecek has worked with New York based luminaries such as trumpeter Ralph Alessi and the guitarists Mike Stern and Gilad Hekselman, heavyweight company indeed. Hekselman adds his endorsement of Wiecek’s abilities to the album’s liner notes.

The liners, written by one Tomasz Pierchala, also recall an encounter between Wiecek and the great American saxophonist Ronnie Cuber at a Copenhagen jazz club. It was Cuber’s gig and the American was initially reluctant to let the younger man sit in with him. However on hearing Wiecek play Cuber was bowled over by his performance and the young alto player ended up on stage for the rest of the set. It’s an episode that reveals much about Wiecek’s prodigious abilities.

Wiecek currently divides his time between New York, Copenhagen and Warsaw and “Another Raindrop” represents his recording début as a leader. Recorded in Warsaw the album features an all Polish trio with Michal Baranski on double bass and Lukasz Zyta at the drums. It appears on the famous Polish Jazz imprint (now part of the Warners group) which has previously issued landmark recordings by such celebrated Polish musicians as pianist Krzysztof Komeda, trumpeter Tomasz Stanko and saxophonist Zbigniew Namyslowski.

Wiecek cites the almost obligatory jazz influences of Charlie Parker and John Coltrane but he is a young musician who has grown up surrounded by pop and rock culture and as such also mentions as sources of inspiration such diverse artists as Steve Reich, Brian Eno, Tom Waits, Bon Iver, Flying Lotus and Kanye West. His writing also includes folk and classical influences.

The trio is a well balanced, highly interactive unit with bass and drums given parity in the mix with the saxophone. In his album notes Pierchala emphasises the importance of;
“Maintaining the harmonic and rhythmic balance between the three instruments. The evident abolition of the division of forces between the soloist and the rhythm section is one of the most important and striking qualities of this album.”

There’s a youthful vitality and an edgy urgency about the music on “Another Raindrop” that draws freely upon all these sources of inspiration. In an “Invisible Jukebox” scenario many listeners might suspect that this album was recorded in New York rather than Poland. The programme consists of thirteen relatively short pieces with no single track lasting longer than five and a half minutes. Twelve of the items are Wiecek originals with an arrangement of George Shearing’s “Conception” the only concession to the jazz standards repertoire.

The album commences in energetic fashion with “Szkodnik”, which translates as “The Trouble Maker”. With it’s piping alto sax arpeggios and urgent, bustling bass and drum rhythms the piece exhibits something of that acknowledged Steve Reich influence allied to the more contemporary inspirations of modern electronica and dance music. Pierchala suggests the music of the Bristol based Massive Attack as an influence, and he’s pretty much spot on with that.

If “Szkodnik” represents a kind of “post jazz”, or music influenced by rock or electronica but played on jazz instruments, then the next two pieces offer something closer to the classic sound of the saxophone trio as typified by Sonny Rollins and his successors. “Rhythm of Life” is a brief, but absorbing, trilateral musical conversation with the three musicians very much functioning as equal partners. “The Wheels You Can’t Stop (Although You Try)” features Wiecek’s fluent alto soloing as he dances above the fluid but muscular grooves generated by Baranski and Zyta.

The first three pieces demonstrate that Wiecek has chops to burn. “Who is the Monkey in Here” introduces an element of extended technique with the saxophone keypad percussion on the intro. The main body of the tune embraces a meandering whimsicality that sometimes reminds me of the music of the British group Polar Bear with drummer Zyta cast in the Seb Rochford role.

“Out from the Dark” explores similar territory with Wiecek stretching out above Baranski’s low register bass growl and Zyta’s colourful, restlessly inventive drumming.

The title track is the lengthiest item on the record and revisits some of the minimalist influences heard on the opener. Wiecek’s virtuoso playing is skilfully shadowed by the rhythm section before the saxophonist steps back to allow for an extended bass and drum dialogue, the first on the album thus far. Wiecek then solos in relatively more conventional fashion, this followed by some stunningly executed unison passages plus something of a drum feature for the excellent Zyta towards the close.

“Dream about That Green Hill” begins gently with Wiecek on feathery soprano accompanied by sparse, simple bass and the shimmer of Zyta’s cymbals. Halfway through the piece the pace picks up as the music evolves into a kind of folk dance. Wiecek has cited the influence of Polish, Jewish and Balkan folk forms on his writing, and something of this can be heard on this charming piece.

Pierchala observes that it’s typical of Wiecek to programme a track titled “Epilogue” in the middle of the album. The piece itself is a brief, loosely structured, highly atmospheric performance that sounds as if it may be largely improvised.  The sounds heard embrace extended saxophone techniques and the use of small percussive devices.

The piece acts as something of a palette cleanser before the trio launch into “Back Home Feeling”, the first item to truly embrace Charlie Parker and the influence of bebop. Wiecek’s lithe, boppish melody lines are complemented by Baranski’s propulsive bass and Zyta’s crisply brushed drums. Baranski enjoys an extended double bass feature that emphasises both the melodic and rhythmic functions of the instrument. Wiecek then solos more expansively and powerfully and there’s also a colourful and inventive drum solo from Zyta.

Baranski’s bass introduces “Pirate’s Routine” which features Wiecek’s subtly blues tinged alto as it prowls and probes around the rhythms generated by Baranski’s bass drawl and Zyta’s tirelessly imaginative drumming.

An arrangement of pianist George Shearing’s “Conception” represents the only dip into the jazz standards canon. Although closer to orthodox jazz than much of the rest of the album the arrangement still sounds thoroughly contemporary and includes features for both bass and drums.

“Forest Creatures’ Night Ritual” digs deep into Wiecek’s folkloric influences. The introduction is disarmingly gentle and atmospheric and features the sound of wispy soprano and the rustle of small percussion. The piece then erupts into life as it transforms into an exuberant folk dance before ending as quietly and mysteriously as it began, with the lone sound of a folk melody being played on Wiecek’s gently piping soprano.

Baranski’s unaccompanied bass introduces the closing track, “Naked Hymn for Equality”. Wiecek’s anthem for humanity begins quietly, gradually building to a soaring magnificence , but taking its time in getting there. Essentially it’s structured on the same lines as a stadium ballad but sounds far more natural and uncontrived. In any event it ends the album on an optimistic note.

“Another Raindrop” represents a highly impressive leadership début from Wiecek who impresses both as a saxophonist and as a composer. His writing is impressively varied and draws on many influences including jazz, rock, folk, electronica and classical music. In a highly disciplined trio performance no item is allowed to outstay its welcome, it’s as if the trio have distilled their collective thoughts for this recording – apparently they stretch out a lot further in the live environment.

Wiecek’s playing combines a pure tone with improvisational fluency, great technique and an adventurous, forward looking attitude. He’s given great support in this highly democratic and interactive trio by Baranski and Zyta, who both make enormous contributions. Both are highly involved in the creative process and perform superbly throughout, their playing always bright, intelligent, imaginative and responsive regardless of the roles they are asked to play; be it equal partner, conventional rhythm section member or drum or bass soloist. Credit is also due to producer Michal Kupicz and to engineer Michal Rosicki for a mix that brings out the best in all three musicians.

Kuba Wiecek is a musician and composer with enormous potential and I’m grateful to him for forwarding me a review copy of this excellent debut album. It’s a recording that suggests that he will become the next addition to the pantheon of Polish Jazz greats, joining Krzysztof Komeda, Tomasz Stanko, Zbigniew Namyslowski, Marcin Wasilewski and others on the international jazz stage.

 

 

 

 

Another Raindrop

Kuba Wiecek Trio

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Another Raindrop

Wiecek’s playing combines a pure tone with improvisational fluency, great technique and an adventurous, forward looking attitude. His writing is impressively varied and draws on many influences.

Kuba Wiecek Trio

“Another Raindrop”

Polish Jazz Vol. 78 Bar Code 01902 9 58354 9 1)

Kuba Wiecek is a young alto saxophonist and composer born in 1994 in the Polish city of Rybnik. After studying in his homeland he continued his musical education at the famous Rhythmic Conservatorium in Copenhagen, an institution which once employed the UK’s own Django Bates as a professor.

Wiecek also studied in Amsterdam and New York and his saxophone teachers include such giants of the alto as Lee Konitz, Steve Lehman and David Binney. As a performer Wiecek has worked with New York based luminaries such as trumpeter Ralph Alessi and the guitarists Mike Stern and Gilad Hekselman, heavyweight company indeed. Hekselman adds his endorsement of Wiecek’s abilities to the album’s liner notes.

The liners, written by one Tomasz Pierchala, also recall an encounter between Wiecek and the great American saxophonist Ronnie Cuber at a Copenhagen jazz club. It was Cuber’s gig and the American was initially reluctant to let the younger man sit in with him. However on hearing Wiecek play Cuber was bowled over by his performance and the young alto player ended up on stage for the rest of the set. It’s an episode that reveals much about Wiecek’s prodigious abilities.

Wiecek currently divides his time between New York, Copenhagen and Warsaw and “Another Raindrop” represents his recording début as a leader. Recorded in Warsaw the album features an all Polish trio with Michal Baranski on double bass and Lukasz Zyta at the drums. It appears on the famous Polish Jazz imprint (now part of the Warners group) which has previously issued landmark recordings by such celebrated Polish musicians as pianist Krzysztof Komeda, trumpeter Tomasz Stanko and saxophonist Zbigniew Namyslowski.

Wiecek cites the almost obligatory jazz influences of Charlie Parker and John Coltrane but he is a young musician who has grown up surrounded by pop and rock culture and as such also mentions as sources of inspiration such diverse artists as Steve Reich, Brian Eno, Tom Waits, Bon Iver, Flying Lotus and Kanye West. His writing also includes folk and classical influences.

The trio is a well balanced, highly interactive unit with bass and drums given parity in the mix with the saxophone. In his album notes Pierchala emphasises the importance of;
“Maintaining the harmonic and rhythmic balance between the three instruments. The evident abolition of the division of forces between the soloist and the rhythm section is one of the most important and striking qualities of this album.”

There’s a youthful vitality and an edgy urgency about the music on “Another Raindrop” that draws freely upon all these sources of inspiration. In an “Invisible Jukebox” scenario many listeners might suspect that this album was recorded in New York rather than Poland. The programme consists of thirteen relatively short pieces with no single track lasting longer than five and a half minutes. Twelve of the items are Wiecek originals with an arrangement of George Shearing’s “Conception” the only concession to the jazz standards repertoire.

The album commences in energetic fashion with “Szkodnik”, which translates as “The Trouble Maker”. With it’s piping alto sax arpeggios and urgent, bustling bass and drum rhythms the piece exhibits something of that acknowledged Steve Reich influence allied to the more contemporary inspirations of modern electronica and dance music. Pierchala suggests the music of the Bristol based Massive Attack as an influence, and he’s pretty much spot on with that.

If “Szkodnik” represents a kind of “post jazz”, or music influenced by rock or electronica but played on jazz instruments, then the next two pieces offer something closer to the classic sound of the saxophone trio as typified by Sonny Rollins and his successors. “Rhythm of Life” is a brief, but absorbing, trilateral musical conversation with the three musicians very much functioning as equal partners. “The Wheels You Can’t Stop (Although You Try)” features Wiecek’s fluent alto soloing as he dances above the fluid but muscular grooves generated by Baranski and Zyta.

The first three pieces demonstrate that Wiecek has chops to burn. “Who is the Monkey in Here” introduces an element of extended technique with the saxophone keypad percussion on the intro. The main body of the tune embraces a meandering whimsicality that sometimes reminds me of the music of the British group Polar Bear with drummer Zyta cast in the Seb Rochford role.

“Out from the Dark” explores similar territory with Wiecek stretching out above Baranski’s low register bass growl and Zyta’s colourful, restlessly inventive drumming.

The title track is the lengthiest item on the record and revisits some of the minimalist influences heard on the opener. Wiecek’s virtuoso playing is skilfully shadowed by the rhythm section before the saxophonist steps back to allow for an extended bass and drum dialogue, the first on the album thus far. Wiecek then solos in relatively more conventional fashion, this followed by some stunningly executed unison passages plus something of a drum feature for the excellent Zyta towards the close.

“Dream about That Green Hill” begins gently with Wiecek on feathery soprano accompanied by sparse, simple bass and the shimmer of Zyta’s cymbals. Halfway through the piece the pace picks up as the music evolves into a kind of folk dance. Wiecek has cited the influence of Polish, Jewish and Balkan folk forms on his writing, and something of this can be heard on this charming piece.

Pierchala observes that it’s typical of Wiecek to programme a track titled “Epilogue” in the middle of the album. The piece itself is a brief, loosely structured, highly atmospheric performance that sounds as if it may be largely improvised.  The sounds heard embrace extended saxophone techniques and the use of small percussive devices.

The piece acts as something of a palette cleanser before the trio launch into “Back Home Feeling”, the first item to truly embrace Charlie Parker and the influence of bebop. Wiecek’s lithe, boppish melody lines are complemented by Baranski’s propulsive bass and Zyta’s crisply brushed drums. Baranski enjoys an extended double bass feature that emphasises both the melodic and rhythmic functions of the instrument. Wiecek then solos more expansively and powerfully and there’s also a colourful and inventive drum solo from Zyta.

Baranski’s bass introduces “Pirate’s Routine” which features Wiecek’s subtly blues tinged alto as it prowls and probes around the rhythms generated by Baranski’s bass drawl and Zyta’s tirelessly imaginative drumming.

An arrangement of pianist George Shearing’s “Conception” represents the only dip into the jazz standards canon. Although closer to orthodox jazz than much of the rest of the album the arrangement still sounds thoroughly contemporary and includes features for both bass and drums.

“Forest Creatures’ Night Ritual” digs deep into Wiecek’s folkloric influences. The introduction is disarmingly gentle and atmospheric and features the sound of wispy soprano and the rustle of small percussion. The piece then erupts into life as it transforms into an exuberant folk dance before ending as quietly and mysteriously as it began, with the lone sound of a folk melody being played on Wiecek’s gently piping soprano.

Baranski’s unaccompanied bass introduces the closing track, “Naked Hymn for Equality”. Wiecek’s anthem for humanity begins quietly, gradually building to a soaring magnificence , but taking its time in getting there. Essentially it’s structured on the same lines as a stadium ballad but sounds far more natural and uncontrived. In any event it ends the album on an optimistic note.

“Another Raindrop” represents a highly impressive leadership début from Wiecek who impresses both as a saxophonist and as a composer. His writing is impressively varied and draws on many influences including jazz, rock, folk, electronica and classical music. In a highly disciplined trio performance no item is allowed to outstay its welcome, it’s as if the trio have distilled their collective thoughts for this recording – apparently they stretch out a lot further in the live environment.

Wiecek’s playing combines a pure tone with improvisational fluency, great technique and an adventurous, forward looking attitude. He’s given great support in this highly democratic and interactive trio by Baranski and Zyta, who both make enormous contributions. Both are highly involved in the creative process and perform superbly throughout, their playing always bright, intelligent, imaginative and responsive regardless of the roles they are asked to play; be it equal partner, conventional rhythm section member or drum or bass soloist. Credit is also due to producer Michal Kupicz and to engineer Michal Rosicki for a mix that brings out the best in all three musicians.

Kuba Wiecek is a musician and composer with enormous potential and I’m grateful to him for forwarding me a review copy of this excellent debut album. It’s a recording that suggests that he will become the next addition to the pantheon of Polish Jazz greats, joining Krzysztof Komeda, Tomasz Stanko, Zbigniew Namyslowski, Marcin Wasilewski and others on the international jazz stage.

 

 

 

 


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