by Ian Mann
November 10, 2015
Pysz is a quiet virtuoso who has developed into one of the most distinctive guitarists around.
(Dot Time Records DT9044)
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.
In 2013 Pysz released “Insight” (33 Jazz), his first full length album and a recording that was very well received by jazz commentators and audiences alike. “Insight” benefited enormously from the presence of two superlative musicians in the shapes of Russian double bass virtuoso Yuri Golubev and the Israeli born drummer and percussionist Asaf Sirkis. I was lucky enough to see the trio perform live at around that time when they played a gig at the Queens Head in nearby Monmouth, a venue to which they will be returning shortly, but more on that later.
For “A Journey” Pysz has wisely retained the services of both Golubev and Sirkis but the new album also introduces a fresh musical voice with the addition of Daniele di Bonaventura on both bandoneon and piano.
The album is informed by Pysz’s travels around Europe since the release of the first album and several of the pieces have been inspired by specific locations or by the people that the guitarist met along the way. Like “Insight” the new album was recorded at Artesuono Studio in Cavalicco, Udine, Italy, these days a favourite recording location for the prestigious ECM label. The sound is excellent throughout with producer Pysz collaborating fruitfully with engineer Stefano Amerio.
Pysz has envisaged the music for this album as the “soundtrack for a journey”. Some of the pieces are shorter than those found on many contemporary jazz albums but many of the tunes do possess a strong pictorial and narrative quality. Many of them were written in Italy and exude a warm Mediterranean feel, something enhanced by the presence of the Italian born bandoneonist and pianist Daniele di Bonaventura, a multi instrumentalist who has collaborated with an astonishingly wide range of leading musicians across a variety of musical genres and has appeared on over fifty albums . 2016 will see ECM release his duo recording with Sicilian born trumpeter Paolo Fresu. For further information on di Bonaventura and his career please visit http://www.danieledibonaventura.com
Meanwhile Pysz speaks of “the most magical instrument in the world, the bandoneon” and describes his collaboration with di Bonaventura thus; “for me the blend of classical guitar and bandoneon is a perfect musical marriage”.
“A Journey” features a programme of ten Pysz originals plus one tune co-written by Pysz and fellow guitarist Gianluca Corona, his writing partner on some of the pieces on the “Insight” album. There is also a composition by the great Ralph Towner, a musician who has become increasingly inspirational for Pysz in recent years.
The album commences with “Fresh Look” with Pysz’s acoustic guitar sound sometimes reminiscent of Towner. There’s a languid, Mediterranean feel to the tune with di Bonaventura playing a prominent role on bandoneon, his sound and tone is delightful throughout and, as Pysz states, the blend of guitar and bandoneon is also quite exquisite. The tune also finds room for the other musicians to express themselves, Golubev, a hugely gifted bass soloist turns in a pithy, melodic individual statement while Sirkis delivers low key but sympathetic support.
“Water Streets” is inspired by the loveliness of the architecture of Venice and possesses a tensile beauty of its own with the dovetailing of bandoneon and acoustic guitar again a source of unalloyed pleasure. The music may be delicate but there’s an underlying strength and complexity that references its source of inspiration.
The episodic “I Saw You Again” sees di Bonavetura switching to piano for an eight minute excursion that sees Golubev again coming to the fore with highly dexterous but unfailingly melodic solo. Meanwhile the blend of acoustic guitar and piano is every bit as effective as the guitar/bandoneon configuration with both Pysz and di Bonaventura also delivering superb individual statements on their respective instruments.
“A Story Of a Story” again features di Bonaventura on piano. The folk like theme exhibits something of a Metheny-esque gift for melody and forms the framework for pithy, melodic solos from Golubev, di Bonaventura and Pysz.
The inspiration behind the lively “Paris” is self explanatory and the tune features di Bonaventura’s bandoneon approximating the sound of musette style accordion.
The bandoneon is deployed in a very different manner on the Ralph Towner composition “Innocente”, a tune that appeared on the Oregon album “Ecotopia”. Here di Bonaventura creates textural effects that frame Pysz’s Towner like guitar extemporisations. For me the piece exhibits something of the underlying melancholy that distinguishes much of Towner’s best work.
Di Bonaventura returns to the piano for “Undeniable”, an eight and a half minute composition that seems to have been inspired by a train journey with its subtle but persistent rhythms expressed via guitar and piano ostinati and the tick of Sirkis’ cymbals. The melodies occasionally hint at the folk musics of Eastern Europe or the Middle East and there is a particularly expressive solo from Pysz on guitar. The latter stages of the tune incorporate a drum and percussion feature for the hitherto low profile Sirkis who clearly relishes his opportunity while remaining true to the spirit of the piece.
The ballad “Until Next Time” is another piece that uses the combination of bandoneon and guitar to express a spirit of exquisite melancholy with di Bonaventura’s gently undulating chords providing the backdrop for Pysz’s crystalline guitar picking. The purr of Golubev’s bass and Sirkis’ subtle brushwork on drums and percussion provide excellent accompaniment.
The title of “Always On The Move” seems to be a neat summation of Pysz’s lifestyle. One of the album’s perkier cuts it features Sirkis on urdu and other percussion plus a muscular Golubev bass motif that underpins the piece. Pysz’s guitar skips nimbly around these two components on a piece that also features Golubev doubling on piano.
Pysz’s titles are often highly descriptive and “Peacefully Waiting” sounds exactly as it should as Pysz’s guitar combines elegantly with di Bonaventura’s lyrical piano and Golubev’s resonant but melodic bass as Sirkis provides the subtlest of percussive support.
“Desert” is the co-write by Pysz and Gianluca Corona and is one of the album’s most spirited pieces. Guitar and bandoneon again combine effectively on a piece that alludes to tango and other types of world music with Sirkis subtly deploying a range of percussion. The piece also features a virtuoso bass solo from the consistently impressive Golubev and a closing percussive flourish from Sirkis.
Appropriately the album concludes with the elegiac “Coming Home”, the only true trio piece on the album and a tune that features gorgeous solos from both Pysz and Golubev in addition to some exquisite ensemble playing with Sirkis again displaying admirable restraint and tastefulness.
“A Journey” represents another excellent album from Maciek Pysz. The addition of bandoneon and piano ensures that the new record has a very different sound to its (very good) predecessor “Insight”. Pysz is clearly a musician who is not prepared to rest on his laurels and although he retains his signature guitar style “ A Journey” is a laudable attempt to try something a little different and it succeeds admirably.
Pysz is a quiet virtuoso who has developed into one of the most distinctive guitarists around. Some listeners may find his pastoralism a little bloodless but many more will appreciate the exquisite beauty of his writing and playing. Once more he is supported by the A-list rhythm team of Golubev and Sirkis and the contribution by di Bonaventura is little short of a revelation. A great team effort all round.
Pysz is currently touring with Golubev and Sirkis. Dates below;
11 Nov Jazz at the Mall Pub Clifton Village, Bristol
12 Nov Cambridge Jazz, Cambridge
13 Nov Birmingham Jazz
14 Nov The Bear Club, Luton
17 Nov Brecon Jazz Club, Brecon
18 Nov The Forge, London Album Launch EFG London Jazz Festival feat. Daniele di Bonaventura
19 Nov Fisher Theatre, Bungay
20 Nov Oliver’s Jazz Bar, London
21 Nov [email protected] Globe, Newcastle
22 Nov Seven Arts, Leeds
24 Nov Dempsey’s, Cardiff
25 Nov Queens Head, Monmouth
26 Nov Jazz Coventry, Coventry
27 Nov Creative Innovation Centre, Taunton
28 Nov St Lawrence Chapel, Ashburton, Devon
Further information at http://www.maciekpysz.com
From Maciek Pysz via Facebook;
Thanks to Ian Mann from the Jazz Mann for this great 4 star review of “A Journey”. As always it’s a very descriptive, detailed and insightful review from Ian…thank you!blog comments powered by Disqus