Licak & Wośko’s “Entrails United”

Licak

ENTRAILS UNITED / LICAK-WÓSKO: Spleen and Bowel. Kukulkan. Wings. Folksong. East River. Take the L Train. Viankolia. Vertigo. Wise One / Tomasz Licak, t-sax; Carl Winther, pno; Martin Buhl, bs; Radek Wósko, dm / RecArt 0012

This album, released in 2014, has only recently been promoted by Naxos as part of the RecArt family. Although the music breaks no new ground—in fact, in some ways it seems decidedly retro—it is well written, with numerous asymmetric meters used and very good interplay between the quintet’s members, particularly Licak and pianist Winther.

There seems nothing particularly retro in Licak’s sax playing, however. He takes several unexpected leaps into the stratosphere on his tenor, sometimes, to my ears, screeching a bit too much and for no apparent reason, but overall he’s a good player and pretty interesting. In Kukulkan he closely resembles John Coltrane.

Oddly enough, in Wings I didn’t really find Licak all that interesting and certainly not original. It’s just one of his few “down” tracks on this album. By contrast, Folksong is an excellent Mingus-like line that Licak plays with a great idea of his solos’ shape and form. The Mingus similarity continues in East River, which begins with an excellent solo bass intro by Martin Buhl before Licak enters to play the irregular but attractive opening theme. This one sounds as if the meter is regular,  but it is not, and it keeps shifting as well.

Contrary to one’s expectations, Take the L Train bears no resemblance to Billy Strayhorn’s iconic Take the “A” Train in style, melody or rhythm. Indeed, it could have been named anything because its form is open meter in the beginning, then a fast swing tempo in the middle. Winther’s excellent single-line piano dominates the opening section of this one, and Licak’s tenor solo really cooks, going through several permutations on its way to the finish line.

Viankolia is a ballad, and quite a nice one at that, with Licak playing some of his most tender tenor on the entire album while Winther stays pretty much in double-time, single-note mode. If I’ve made little comment about Wośko’s drumming on this album, it’s not because it isn’t good but simply because it’s expectedly good, if you know what I mean. It’s not exceptional in any way though it is always appropriate for the musical situation.

Vertigo is one of the most boppish lines on the album, with Winther flying through his opening solo with consummate ease. Licak plays an excellent solo with only Wósko’s drums supporting him until the third chorus, when bassist Buhl comes flying in with superb, fast lines to fill in the texture as Winther jabs some chords into place.

The final track, Wise One, is another ballad. This is a serious programming mistake that far too many jazz groups are doing nowadays, ending their CDs with a ballad. Why? Are people really impressed by your ending with a ballad? I’m not, and in this case the tune is elusive and not memorable, a double mistake, though the solos are quite good. At the six-minute mark, Winther sets up some swirling figures on the piano, creating a vortex into which Licak enters before the music calms down again for the outro.

Quite a nice album, sometimes understated but generally creative and interesting music.

—© 2019 Lynn René Bayley

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