INSIDE / LUBOWICZ: Highlander on the Trip. Jazz Babariba. Memento. First Waltz. Medium. Obercology. For M.D. Turbofolk. SZYMANOWSKI: Roxana’s Song / Dawid Lubowiocz, vln/5-string vln; Krzysztof Herdzin, pno/acc/fl; Tomasz Kałwak, kbds; Robert Kubiszyn, bs-gtr/bs/fretless bs; Lukasz Żyta, dm; Jacek Kotlarski, voc / Zbigniew Seifert Foundation CD-FZS-5, available as both download & physical CD
This is violinist Dawid Lubowicz’s debut album as a leader and composer. A former member of the great Atom String Quartet, Lubowicz wanted a chance to show off his writing skills, and it is that aspect of him that comes through clearly on this disc.
When the opening track, Highlander on the Trip, started up, my first thought was that this was going to be ambient jazz, but the music quickly took a different turn towards a sort of swinging Celtic theme. In fact, what grabbed my attention most was the fact that this was a real composition and not just a “tune for jamming,” as so many so-called jazz “compositions” are nowadays. The piece has a real structure: an introduction, vamp, theme and development, the latter being the jazz solos, and all of it holds together beautifully. Vocalist Jacek Kotlarski sings along with Lubowicz’s violin in the theme, then takes a solo break of his own before the leader plays an improvisatory chorus. Although there is also a certain rock-fusion feel to the rhythm, the piece is in a fast, swinging 6/8 that really moves more like a jazz piece. A piano vamp, with Lubowicz playing high, flittering figures, leads into a solo by Herdzin in which he plays an alternate rhythm with his left hand against the 6/8 in the left.
In Jazz Barbariba, we begin with an almost stiff march tempo on the piano, but syncopation soon enters the picture as Lubowicz plays an almost atonal theme against descending chromatics on the keyboard. This is in a straight 4, and the strange opening straightens out harmonically in the bridge, returning briefly to the chromatic figures before Lubowicz goes off on a solo. When Herdzin plays his solo, the harmony is again straightened out, though it does lean towards a chromatic half-step-up-and-down sort of base. Memento is a gentle ballad, but once again one’s ear is caught by the structure of the piece, which uses an almost Bill Evans-ish chord sequence beneath the deceptively simple melody. Eventually, the tempo increases slightly and the rhythm, played by bassist Robert Kubiszyn, has a more syncopated, almost quasi-Latin feel to it. Herdzin surprisingly switches to flute here, playing a lovely solo over the chord patterns of guest pianist Tomasz Kałwak, followed by Kubiszyn on electric fretless bass. One is struck the these musicians’ ability to keep the flow of the music going, as if through-composed, rather than flying off on individual tangents that do not complement the surrounding material.
I was startled by Lubowicz’s arrangement of Roxana’s Song, a piece by revered classical composer Karol Szymanowski. I doubt that the ultra-fussy Szymanowski would care much for this treatment, which is that of a jazz waltz-turned-fusion, but it shows just how close his chromatically-based style was to that of modern jazz. First Waltz is really a quasi-waltz in tempo, alternating 3 with 4 in the rhythm (at least, that’s how it struck me) before settling into a nice, loping 3/4 time. Once again, one notes the fine structure of Lubowicz’s writing, as the melody is extended well beyond the normal eight-measure framework into something quite complex before leading into the improvised solo which continues in this vein. Herdzin’s piano solo becomes quite complex, extending the rhythmic feel and doubling it with eighths and even sixteenths, before Lubowicz reappears to calm things down.
Medium begins with a rapid, out-of-tempo introduction before settling into a sort of loping 5/4 with yet another quirky melodic line and an almost-fusion beat. The solos are again outstanding, particularly the one by Kubiszyn. Obercology is a really quirky sort of jazz mazurka, opening with Herdzin playing on the accordion, that then morphs into an uptempo swing tune in which the leader plays his violin against the accordion. Herdzin then takes off for a solo of his own, playing that instrument like a jazz piano! For M.D. (Dla M.D. in Polish) is another relaxed ballad, perhaps a bit more romantic than the ones previous but still, well written.
The only thing I didn’t care for in this album was the sound, which is bathed in echo and made to sound too much like a contemporary pop album than a jazz one. The finale, Turbofolk, begins quietly with a relaxed, out-of-tempo introduction before a hot violin lick ramps up the tempo and throws us into an asymmetric sort of folk dance tune. Both the violinist and pianist take off in fairly wild, uninhibited solos, but again pay heed to the work’s structure. A quirky interlude almost sounds like American Indian music! After a full stop that sounds like the end of the piece, Lubowicz returns with yet another solo, underscored with asymmetric drumming ‘til the finale.
This is a fascinating and, I dare say, quite original album of violin jazz, something you would never have expected in a million years. Well done!
—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley
Follow me on Twitter or Facebook @Artmusiclounge