by Ian Mann
March 23, 2021
Dorcik makes a strong and distinctive statement with his début album as a group leader and composer. He can be justifiably proud of this recording.
Marek Dorcik’s Spercasa
(Music Fund Slovakia SF 01242531)
Marek Dorcik – drums, George Crowley – tenor saxophone, Miguel Gorodi – trumpet & flugelhorn,
Tom Hewson – piano, Mick Coady – double bass
Slovakian born drummer Marek Dorcik has established himself as a highly competent and versatile drummer on the UK jazz scene. He settled in Manchester in 2006 before moving on to London in 2013 and he retains close connections to musicians in both cities.
Among the artists with whom he has worked are guitarists Mike Walker and Stuart McCallum, trumpeter Matthew Halsall, saxophonist Alan Barnes and vocalist / violinist Alice Zawadzki.
He has recorded with Halsall, the Brownfield / Byrne Quartet, co-led by trumpeter Jamie Brownfield and saxophonist Liam Byrne and most notably with Moss Project, the jazz meets literature project masterminded by guitarist and composer Moss Freed.
Dorcik has also maintained his links with European jazz, performing and recording with the European Union Quartet and also with bands led by trumpeter Lukas Oravec, pianist Lubos Sramek and saxophonist Radovan Tariska.
“About Time” represents Dorcik’s recorded début as a bandleader and composer. It introduces Spercasa, a UK based quintet featuring musicians drawn from the London jazz scene and comprised of saxophonist George Crowley, trumpeter Miguel Gorodi, pianist Tom Hewson and bassist Mick Coady, all bandleaders in their own right.
Formed in 2019 the band name is a play on words, pairing the Slovakian terms ‘sperk’, meaning jewel, and ‘percasa’, resembling the word ‘percussion’. One suspects that the album title, “About Time”, may also be a subtle reference to the rhythmic responsibilities of the drummer.
However the phrase “About Time” also contains a more serious message as Dorcik explains in his album liner notes;
“The message in the music and the artwork of this album is urgent. Our planet is facing environmental problems mostly caused by the interference of human civilisation. Air and water pollution, deforestation, the use of non-renewable resources, mass production and overconsumption are only a few reasons for raising awareness and education in order to change our habits and ensure the future of our children and their children is bright and not unsure”.
The album was recorded in August 2019 at Fieldgate Studio in Wales and was made possible with the support of the Hrudobny Fond, or Music Fund Slovakia, and is released on the Fund’s own imprint.
The majority of the music is written by Dorcik in conjunction with the composer and arranger Pavel Klimashevsky, also an accomplished bass player but who is best known as a composer, arranger and conductor of a variety of international big bands, most notably the Frankfurt Radio Big Band.
The programme also includes one composition by the group’s pianist, Tom Hewson, plus two interpretations of Wayne Shorter’s “Yes and No” in arrangements by Dorcik.
The album commences with “Spercasa Intro”, a scene setting solo drum and percussion passage that sees Dorcik’s colourful rhythms, with their African and Arabic influences, subsequently augmented by the sounds of double bass and dampened piano strings.
“Initial Suspension” features the full quintet, with Gorodi and Crowley exchanging melancholic melodic phrases on an atmospheric intro that also features the leader’s mallet rumbles and cymbal shimmers. The music then gathers pace, revealing the influences of bebop and hard bop with lively solos coming from Hewson at the piano, Crowley on tenor and Gorodi on trumpet. The soloists are well served by Coady’s propulsive bass lines and Dorcik’s crisp, colourful and powerful drumming. Crowley, in particular, really pushes the envelope with a probing tenor solo, accompanied at one point only by Dorcik’s drums as the pair engage in a spirited dialogue.
“Blue Hour” is introduced by Hewson’s syncopated piano arpeggios, subsequently joined by double bass and the tick of Dorcik’s drums, resembling a Swiss clock mechanism. Crowley and Gorodi then enter on a piece that combines darting melody lines with complex rhythms, teaming traditional bop virtues with more contemporary ideas. Hewson stretches out with a daring piano solo, successfully surfing the rhythmic ferment bubbling beneath. Crowley and Gorodi then go head to head with a sparkling series of reed and brass exchanges. Dorcik himself is also featured circumnavigating his kit above the sound of Hewson’s chunky, insistent piano chording. Even then there are still plenty more twists and turns to negotiate before the close of this busy, complex, but thoroughly absorbing and enjoyable piece.
By way of contrast “Golden Hour” is a beautiful and elegant ballad, introduced by a lyrical passage of unaccompanied piano from Hewson. Gorodi and Crowley play the melody in unison before subtly diverging, while the leader displays considerable sensitivity with the brushes. Solos come from Hewson at the piano and Gorodi on trumpet, both are gently exploratory, probing subtly, but always with an underlying sense of lyricism.
The title track combines reflectiveness with an underlying urgency, the contrasting elements both reflecting the environmental concerns that inspired its composition. Crowley’s tenor solo probes searchingly, while Gorodi’s trumpet feature exhibits a similar fluency but is generally lighter in tone. The rhythms are crisp and inventive throughout as the piece skilfully unfolds.
Hewson’s composition “Silent Gratitude” is a ballad introduced by the sound of the composer’s unaccompanied piano. Hewson’s opening piano motif flows intermittently throughout the piece, which is pensive in mood and features the melancholic sound of Gorodi’s trumpet. The first solo comes from Coady at the bass, his melodic ruminations accompanied by the sounds of piano and Dorcik’s brushes. Hewson then solos more expansively, still maintaining the meditative mood, even as the music subtly gathers momentum.
Two takes of Wayne Shorter’s “Yes And No” follow. The first version is the longest and features the excellent ensemble work of Crowley and Gorodi plus solos from each, with Crowley going first. Both soloists exhibit an admirable fluency, while the rhythm section respond to the metric challenges of Shorter’s piece, which undergoes several changes of pace, with considerable aplomb.
The alternate take is more loosely structured and places a greater emphasis on the playing of Gorodi and Hewson, with the leader also a busy presence behind the kit. Crowley enters the picture later on, but it’s possible that this version of the piece is an edit from a longer performance.
The album concludes with a short reprise of its opening piece, an alternative rendition now dubbed “Spercasa Outro”.
Following his impressive performances as a member of the bands of others Dorcik now makes a strong and distinctive statement with his début album as a group leader and composer. His original pieces are firmly rooted in the jazz tradition but possess a strong character of their own and speak of contemporary and highly pertinent concerns.
All of the musicians play well with both Crowley and Gorodi impressing with their fluency as soloists, as well as combining effectively as a team. Hewson represents an additional compositional presence and does much to hold the group together, while also impressing as a soloist. Dorcik and Coady form a highly competent and responsive rhythm section, with Dorcik leading subtly from the drums and generating a broad range of sounds, colours and nuances from his kit, his playing consistently inventive and imaginative, but never overly imposing. The musicians are well served by recording engineers Andrew Lawson and Pavel Wlosok.
Dorcik can be justifiably proud of this début and it is to be hoped that he will get the opportunity to tour with the Spercasa quintet when lockdown restrictions are eventually eased.
“About Time” is available from Marek Dorcik’s Bandcamp page;
Also please visit http://www.marekdorcik.com
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