Thursday, August 9, 2018

Kazimierz Jonkisz Quintet - 1980 - Tiritaka

Kazimierz Jonkisz Quintet 

01. Tiritaka [6:09]
02. Wszyscy Czekamy / We're All Waiting  [9:14]
03. Dla Slawosza / For Slawosz  [5:20]
04. Tuohitorvi  [8:32]
05. Joewer [8:02]
06. Dla Mareczka / For Marc [3:03]

Polish Jazz vol. 62
Recorded in Warsaw, December 1980
Recording engineer: Zofia Gajewska, Janina Slotwinska

Krzesimir Debski - electric violin
Andrzej Olejniczak - tenor and soprano saxophone
Janusz Skowron - piano
Andrzej Lukasik - bass
Kazimierz Jonkisz - drums

This is an excellent album by a Polish Jazz quintet, led by veteran drummer Kazimierz Jonkisz (ex-Zbigniew Namyslowski quintet). The quintet's two soloists are: the young brilliant violinist Krzesimir Debski (shortly before he formed his own group String Connection, which would dominate the Polish scene in the first half of the 1980s) and saxophonist Andrzej Olejniczak, who fronted the most important Polish groups in the 1970s like Extra Ball and Sun Ship. They are joined by pianist Janusz Skowron (also future member of String Connection and later for many years with Tomasz Stanko) and a young bassist Andrzej Lukasik. Of the six tracks on the album, five were composed by Debski, who already at that time was a most promising composer in addition to his virtuoso violin performances. Packed with talent and great music, this is a superb example of modern Polish Jazz at its best and one of the strongest albums in the legendary Polish Jazz series. The harmonizing between the violin and soprano saxophone creates an unbelievable sound, which has very few parallels on record. This is a must to all Polish Jazz lovers and anybody interested in European Jazz in general.

Interview that I don't remember where I got it from (Please let me know so I can give due credit)

A legend of the Polish jazz scene, drummer Kazimierz Jonkisz has been introduced in these pages before. Born in the town of Wilamowice, and voted the best jazz drummer of his country in the late 70s, he has worked with some of the top personalities from the world of jazz during his rich career. He has many successful shows across Europe behind him, as well as several albums rated highly by fans and critics alike, both as a guest player and as headliner himself. He gave us some time for a chat shortly after the show. 

If I am not mistaken, your hometown of Wilamowice is not far from Auschwitz, as place given something more than a bad name during the war for its camps. 

As it happens, not far from the place I was born you will find Oswiecim. Though I didt live through the war myself, from what my mother said it was something awful. Of course I have been there for a look myself, but a place like that can only be visited once I was there long enough to say some prayers and quickly got away. I had a bad feeling from the whole thing.

But lets rather get back to your music, which you began as a ten year old. Your first instrument was the accordion?

Look, my father was a miner and worked hard his whole life. His wish was to arrange everything so that my brother and I didn't have to follow in his footsteps. At home we had one old classic accordion which my father would take out once in a while. One day, I think I was in fourth grade, I asked my dad if he would let me try for a while. I played a few tunes, and then my father asked me, surprised, where I had learned them. I said:  "From watching you" (ha ha). He figured that I must have some natural talent for music which would be a shame to let drift, so got me into the conservatory in the town Bialsko Biala.

So how did you arrive at the drums?

At the entrance tests to the conservatory. The members of the committee felt that I had some natural talent, but were not so sure if they wanted me to continue with the accordion. They were quite struck by how I caught the rhythm. One of the members put a kind of drum kit on the table so that I would repeat after them. I did what they told me, and the combinations became longer and longer. To this day I still remember how one member of the board shook his head as if they had not seen anyone like me yet. Despite this, when my mother came down to look at the results which were hanging on the gate in front of the school, down around the bottom of the list of accepted was Kazimierz Jonkisz - drums. To be honest, my family was not too impressed by this, they wanted a serious musician. At our place drums were looked upon as some second rate instrument. When a group came to play around our place, people said that three musicians and a drummer are coming (ha ha). At school I really hit the classics, jazz was forbidden, we couldn't even play it in the practice room. In 63 some classmates and I formed a Dixieland band. When the director of the school found out, he took away our stipends 

... and this is one of the reasons why you have remained faithful to jazz to this day..?

Exactly. As they say, nothing tastes quite like forbidden fruit, and I had been cultivating a real heartfelt relationship with jazz. It should be remembered that during my school days, jazz recordings and music sheets were almost impossible to find. So if someone got something, they really protected it, no lending, nothing. We later got the shortwave Voice of America and it had one show every week devoted to jazz, can you imagine what this meant for us? When I first heard Coltraine's Blue Train. I was blown away. 

Despite the orders and commands, you became an appreciated musician in Poland relatively early. 

In 71, after finishing the musical academy in Katowice, I got an offer to play with Zbigniew Namyslowski, one of the top men on the local jazz scene. He had found me while I was still at the conservatory - he was a kind of music scout - always on the lookout for good young talent. Most of all, in 1967 at a jazz festival in Odra I received the award for best instrumentalist, and that surely helped. The best musicians always came together in his band, so it was a great school and made me visible as well. By the way, after winning the award at the festival, the director of my school approached that he was proud of us and that the stipendium would be returned. He even made an offer for me to play jazz at the school, under the condition that I come to hit the drums at Mayday celebrations and so on (ha ha). In Katowice I studied the classics at first, but at the same time they opened the first class in Central Europe geared toward jazz. Since we were the first students, the professors wanted us to make fast progress to start things up, so we played jazz almost exclusively. 

Over the years you have appeared on stage with many top jazzmen of the world. Then a time came when you formed a band under your own name. Did this have any significant meaning to you, you didn't have a great deal more input on the repertoire, figuring once again just as a drummer, though with a big name..?

You know, in Poland you might have a hard time finding a jazz musician whom I haven't played with. During that period I played with just about everybody. Therefore in 78 I chose to be the first Polish drummer to form his own band and name it after himself. Perhaps one reason was that during those years, I had heard the old refrain too often - a chicken isn't a bird, and a drummer isn't a musician (ha ha). My attempt was to help the young talented musicians who couldn't realize themselves, drawing some attention to them with my known name. I took great pleasure in the fact that these boys got the chance to play at some prestigious jazz festivals, at the best halls. Not as some kind of underdog, but up there with the big stars. What can be more beautiful than to help develop talent in some young people which otherwise might be waiting for its chance a whole lifetime?

From the viewpoint of today, you are a representative of the so-called old school. Does it bother you to hear something like that?

Just the opposite, I am proud of it. Of course within jazz as well as other types of music I listen to the modern trends, but to tell the truth it doesn't mean that much to me. Back in the 50's, that is where my heart lives.

As you see it, for the success of a musician, how much of a role is the God-given talent, and how much is gained through drilling and practice?

I would say it is about 50/50. Without talent, and without regular training, you cannot really become a good musician. The generation of today has a great advantage in this respect, that being access to information. As I said, in my time there was a problem just to get some music notes from a jazz song, something the youth of today must only laugh at. 

Once I ran into the phrase that jazz cannot be learned in the practice room.

This I likely do not agree with personally. In the practice room a musician can find the little mistakes and so on. I also think that a musician who really loves the music can put just about the emotion into it regardless of whether it is live or not. Plus, it often happens that the concert itself is a kind of test. This being the case when a small number of fans come. Every band goes through this. Myself, when I play I don't really notice if there are five fifty or five hundred watching - I concentrate on the music. So I don't differentiate much between the concert hall and the practice session. 

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