Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 8/17/10

Every day, we count down the 1000 best albums of all time all the way to #1. Tuesday’s album is #896:

Krzysztof Komeda – Nighttime, Daytime Requiem

Polish jazz pianist and composer Krzysztof Komeda is best known for the soundtrack to the film Rosemary’s Baby. A favorite of Roman Polanski, he’d previously made a mark for his score for Knife in the Water. This album is a 1998 reissue of a 1967 sesssion for Polish radio featuring Komeda on piano along with Tomasz Stanko (whose own albums of Komeda works are worth seeking out) on trumpet, Zbigniew Namyslowski on alto sax, Roman Dylag on bass and Rune Carlsson on drums. Originally issued as part of a four-album box set in 1974 by Komeda’s widow Zofia, original copies sell for thousands of dollars on the collector’s market. Komeda used late 50s Miles Davis as a stepping-off point, adding his own brooding, sepulchral shades and the result is some of the most haunting jazz ever written (with its frequent classical overtones, many consider this third stream). This album includes the complete, 27-minute Daytime, Nighttime Requiem (a Coltrane eulogy) along with the somewhat more lighthearted Don Quixote, the austere, menacing atmospherics of The Witch and the lyrical Ballad for Bernt (from Knife in the Water). Also noteworthy, in fact sonically superior, is the 2009 Requiem album by the Komeda Project of pianist Andrzej Winnicki and powerhouse saxophonist Krzysztof Medyna which includes both the Requiem as well as possibly Komeda’s most macabre composition, Dirge for Europe. Komeda’s most famous album, Astigmatic and his more terse, upbeat, vamp-oriented Crazy Girl are also very much worth seeking out. Komeda died in 1969 under very mysterious circumstances from what could euphemistically be called blunt trauma to the head. Critically injured, he somehow managed to board a plane (or was put on a plane) from the US back to Poland, where he succumbed just a few weeks later, reportedly without medical attention. Here’s a torrent of a whole bunch of stuff of his.

August 17, 2010 Posted by | jazz, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: The Komeda Project at the Polish/Slavic Center, Brooklyn NY 4/8/10

Polish jazz composer/pianist Krzysztof Komeda is best remembered for the score to Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanski would use his music in several films) and the 1965 cult classic album Astigmatic. The Komeda Project dedicate themselves to keeping his music alive; their Requiem album was simply one of the best albums in any genre released last year. Thursday night at the spacious converted church housing the Polish/Slavic Center in Greenpoint, the Komeda Project – this particular version featuring pianist Andrzej Winnicki, sax player Krzysztof Medyna, trumpeter Russ Johnson and an inspired, absolutely spot-on pickup rhythm section of Drew Gress on bass and Rudy Royston on drums – played a show that was as hauntingly nuanced as the album.

Komeda’s most obvious influence was vintage, small-combo Miles Davis, and Winnicki did an evocatively plaintive evocation of Wynton Kelly with his subtle shades of grey. Not all of Komeda’s work is anguished and haunting, but that mood dominated throughout the group’s hourlong set. Winnicki deftly let the composer’s brooding, stygian chordal intensity speak for itself, fueling the smoldering pyre that was the long partita Day-Time, Nighttime Requiem. Relentless and energetic, Medyna fired off one blazing flurry after another, arpeggios and caterpillaring clusters around Komeda’s many moody modal centers; Johnson got as many plum assignments as the piano and made the most of them with a tone that wandered from full-out mournful to watchful and wary. Gress got all of one solo passage all night but made the most of it, tersely yet animatedly. From the first few rumbles on the toms, it was going to be interesting to see how Royston, one of the most powerful and intense drummers on the planet, was going to handle it, but he felt the room – the rumble never reached the usual roar that he can so memorably deliver in situations that allow it. Instead, he and Gress would bounce around the occasional riff once or twice when there was room to squeeze one in, notably during a pulsing, spring-loaded version of one of Komeda’s hotter numbers, Crazy Girl.

Riveting as the Komeda compositions were, the most impressive moment of the show was an original by Winnicki that slyly cached some deliciously dark Balkan tonalities within a deceptively comfortable, bluesy architecture, Medyna delivering his solo on soprano sax with such fluidity that he could have been playing clarinet. It maintained the mood marvelously, a perfect if perhaps unlikely alloy of old world angst and new world indomitability.

April 13, 2010 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

CD Review: The Komeda Project – Requiem

To say that an album is as important as it is good could be interpreted many different ways – but the second release by the Komeda Project is in the best sense of the word. Pianist/composer Krzysztof Komeda is not unknown to fans of both jazz and cinema (quick to pick up on Komeda’s trademark cinematic style, Roman Polanski enlisted him to write film music for Knife in the Water and Rosemary’s Baby). But Komeda is overdue for a revival, and fortuitously we have the Komeda Project to renew interest in a figure who is something of a doomed legend in jazz history. Komeda died in 1968 at age 37 from complications of a head injury sustained under mysterious circumstances. Medical malpractice or something even more sinister may also have played a role (the Polish communist regime, not particularly fond of western-inclined jazz musicians, is suspected by some). The Komeda Project’s first album Crazy Girl covered some of Komeda’s more accessible, straight-up compositions – “club music,” as the group puts it. This time around, group leader and pianist Andrzej Winnicki is joined by his powerhouse countryman, saxophonist Krzysztof Medyna, noted New York trumpeter Russ Johnson and an American rhythm section of Scott Colley on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums, working their way with equal parts care and abandon through a selection of Komeda’s darkest works. Much of this sounds like a less jarring Balkan version of Mingus, ranging from moody to outright gloomy. At its best, Komeda’s work is extraordinarily affecting – it refuses to let the listener go, and the band here does justice to the material as well as including two original compositions by Winnicki that often vividly echo Komeda.

The album opens with the three-part Night-time, Daytime Requiem, written for Coltrane. Its Trane influence isn’t felt in its haunting, almost Satie-esque piano but it is very much present in the sax chart, and Medyna attacks it with an aptly rapidfire, inspired aggression. Like much of the rest of the music here, it’s strikingly imagistic and wouldn’t be out of place in an arthouse suspense film, matching wary trills to an uneasy mid 2oth century urban bustle a la Mingus or mid-50s Miles. Ballad for Bernt, from the Knife in the Water score, is sad and beautiful with a particularly poignant Johnson solo. The aptly titled Dirge for Europe is literally a funeral march, Waits and Colley impressively taking it lento but managing to imbue it with an almost reluctant swing.

Astigmatic, which served as something of a signature song for Komeda, gets a clever, playful treatment through its Brubeck-esque opening section, grows insistent with Johnson and Medyna sailing overhead and grows to where Medyna decides to take a full-tilt run for the border with some wild, Turkish-flavored swirls and wails – it’s easily the most adrenalizing moment here. Prayer and Question is the most overtly Mingus-inflected number here, an imploring dialogue between piano and sax that grows to a lengthy, scurrying chase scene. Of the Winnicki originals here, there’s the expressive, expansive ballad Elutka, bass and drums roaming casual and free beneath somewhat rubato piano, and the cd’s concluding cut, Anubis, a pensively shape-shifting Komeda homage that does justice to its main inspiration. Overall, this is an inspired and impressive reintroduction to a great cult artist who would no doubt have transcended that category had he not been cut down before his time.

Happily, the Komeda Project plays the occasional live show as well (they’ve recently made the Cornelia Street Cafe their New York home) – check back for live dates.

October 21, 2009 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments