Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Simeon Schterev Quartet - 1978 - Simeon Schterev Quartet

Simeon Schterev Quartet
Simeon Schterev Quartet

01. On Charles Lloyd 
02. Sunset - Sunrise
03. Bass Folksong
04. Senor Mouse
05. Memory
06. Sunbeam

Simeon Shterev - flute
Peter Slavov - drums
Theodossi Stoykov - bass
Mario Stanchev - acoustic & electric piano 

Two possibilities for the title? Some sources call this album "Simon Shterev Quartet", others "On Charles Lloyd". Just looking at the cover I would prefer the first version. "On Charles Lloyd" is the title of the first piece.

Simeon Shterev clearly is one of the best flute players worldwide. He is associate professor for flute and improvisation at Sofia's Music Academy since 1974. In 1968 he was chosen the best european jazz flute player. Listening to "Bulgarian Jazz Quartet - Jazz Focus 65" from 1968 I can understand this decision.

Ten years later, on this album he is still playing with the Bulgarian Jazz Quartet drummer Peter Slavov, besides Mario Stanchev on keyboards and Theodossi Stoykov on bass. The music can't deny some influences of "Return To Forever", a version of "Senior Mouse" is included. But it's much better than RTF'S simultanious output. Included is also a nice version of Stanley Clarke's "Bass Folksong". Their original material is jazz-fusion on a high level and a little jewel that should get more international attention.

More fantastic Bugarian fusion?  Yeah, you better believe it. Similar to the Vesselin Nikolov but with more basics of the fusion style, including synthesizers and standard riffology.

Jazz Quartet Focus - 1985 - Jazz Quartet Focus

Jazz Quartet Focus
Jazz Quartet Focus

01. Vagrant Shades
02. Song For You
03. Ringi-Ringi
04. Nine Sieves Are Sowing
05. Medley

Bass – Theodossi Stoikov
Drums, Percussion – Hristo Yotsov
Flute [Alto-flute, Piccolo] – Simeon Shterev
Piano, Synthesizer – Antoni Donchev

Recorded at Balkanton Studios, June 1985

Prof. Simeon Shterev aka the Banana is a flutist, professor and composer, well known not only on the Bulgarian music stage. He loves writing jazz tunes, soundtracks and music for theater productions. He has made a number of recordings for the BNR and the BNT and has released solo albums. Simeon Shterev has graduated the Bulgarian State Conservatory in Sofia (now the National Music Academy) in the flute class of prof. Yordan Kindalov. He laid the start of his career in 1967 with Focus Quartet with which he earned the award of the in 1967 at the Montreux jazz festival. In 1968, he was named best jazz flutist of Europe and the German magazine Jazz Podium ranked his second in the world.

Simeon Shterev has been on the stage for 60 years now. Here is more from what he added: 
“I started performing at concerts when I was 10 years old. I played the accordion and the piano in the accordion ensemble at the Palace of Pioneers. At that time, this was the biggest and most reputable orchestra in Sofia. My concert activity started when I was a child. Meanwhile, there was no recording equipment at the BNR. All musicians were playing live and I am talking here about the early 1950s. We made concerts in Bulgaria hall. I have played for 25 years in Symphonietta orchestra with the BNR and then I decided to start a solo career. I have made many recordings in various genres such as chamber, opera, symphonic and jazz music.”

Over the years, Simeon Shterev has earned the recognition of European music critics too who define him as one of the best jazz flutists. His name has been placed in the top of various international jazz charts. During his professional career, he has received numerous awards from festivals.

“My first encounter with a famous foreign artist was at the Berlin Jazz Stage in Eastern Berlin with Maynard Ferguson, a trumpeter of world renown, Simeon Shterev recalls. I will never forget Chick Corea – another big name I have recorded with in Frankfurt”, Simeon Shterev recalls.

In 1974, Simeon Shterev became professor in flute at the Pop Music department of Pancho Vladigeroff Music Academy in Sofia. Here is how he describes his work with students: 
“Almost all young musicians and part of the singers currently popular in Bulgaria have been my students. I have played together with many of them. They are talented and continue to walk their paths as solo artists. They are already completed musicians and some of them are at a high European level”. 

Jazz Focus '65 - 1969 - Bulgarian Jazz Quartet

Jazz Focus '65 
Bulgarian Jazz Quartet

01. Blues In 10 6:08
02. Monday Morning 9:02
03. Yesterday 7:28
04. Billie's Bounce 2:56
05. Autumn Sun 6:16
06. Blues In 12 8:53
07. Badinerie Aus Der H-Moll Suite 1:14

Bass – Lyubomir Mitrov
Drums – Peter Slavov
Flute – Simeon Shterev
Piano – Milcho Leviev

Recorded June 9th, 1968 @ Tonstudio Walldorf, Germany

It’s astonishing this band even existed given the period’s chilly Cold War atmosphere and dearth of jazz in their native Bulgaria; even more incredible that they were not only popular in Western Europe – they were good. By 1967 the quartet was playing festivals and concerts throughout the continent. In 1968 they won the international critic’s prize at the Montreux Jazz Festival. The French newspaper The New Observer remarked that the band had “…the furor of Albert Ayler, the storm of Elvin Jones, and the daring of Cecil Taylor.” The Geneva Tribune marveled at their “expressiveness and virtuosity”. The players were classically trained, and there is an element of ‘chamber jazz’ in their music. Blues In Ten reflects the quartet’s Bulgarian folk roots, while Monday Morning has a balladic feel with smoking flute and piano solos. The Beatles Yesterday begins as a march before skyrocketing up-tempo. Only at the end is there a hint of the melody. The four dis-and-re-assemble the melody and form of Parker’s classic blues, Billie’s Bounce, and Autumn Sun straddles structure and freedom. Changing tempos from breakneck to medium swing, Blues In Twelve is a virtuoso tour de force. Beautifully rearranged for quartet, the brief Badinerie is the final movement of Bach’s Suite in B minor for Flute and Orchestra. A unique quartet whose music continually surprises!

Quartet Jazz Focus 65
Quartet Jazz Focus 65

01. Billy's Bouns
02. Monday Morning
03. Yearsterday
04. Blues In 12
05. Midnight Mood

Recorded at the concert hall "Bulgaria", Sofia February 1968

Contrabass – Lyubomir Mitrov
Drums – Peter Slavov
Flute – Simeon Shterev
Piano – Milcho Leviev

Quartet Jazz Focus 65 - 1967 - At Bulgaria Concert Hall

Quartet Jazz Focus 65 
At Bulgaria Concert Hall

01. Jesus Maria
02. Oll' Man River
03. Round Midnight
04. Sombrrero Sam
05. Badinerie

Recorded At "Bulgaria" Hall, April 1967

Contrabass – Lyubomir Mitrov
Drums – Peter Slavov
Flute – Simeon Shterev
Piano – Milcho Leviev

In 1982, four bearded men hit a stage in Los Angeles. They were not just any men. And the stage was not just any stage. It was located at the Tonight Show’s studio. The gifted musicians show host Johnny Carson had invited were the drummer Ralph Humphrey, bass hero Jimmy Lancefield, and flutist Jim Walker.

Another gentleman was sitting behind the Fender Rhodes keyboard. He was the leader of this band called Free Flight, and he had a name some Americans could hardly pronounce: Milcho Leviev. He and his fellow band members delivered Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo à la Turk” to the millions of television viewers that night. And they did not just play the tune, but they made it stick. They nailed it. Their performance was of the highest musical quality imaginable.

The late Johnny Carson was stunned. He even did something he had never done before, with any band, during the 20 years he had hosted his show by then: Carson asked Free Flight to be back on his show the next evening.

But this story started 45 years earlier, halfway around the world. To be precise: Milcho Leviev was born in Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second largest city, on December 19, 1937, to a Jewish father and an Orthodox Christian mother. It was two years before WWII started, six years before the Bulgarian Jews would be saved, and seven years before Bulgaria would be “liberated” by the Soviets.

In the Bulgaria of 1960, the communist regime was controlling all aspects of life for the citizens. It told them where (not) to travel, what to think and say, and to spy on their families and neighbours. Whoever was branded enemy of the state, for whatever reason, by the notorious state security service, would disappear and be brought into labour camps.

That year, in the middle of the Cold War,  Leviev graduated from Sofia’s excellent State Academy of Music, where he had been majoring in Composition and Piano under the Professors Pancho Vladigerov and Andrey Stoyanov. Leviev, now 23 years old, was about to start a stunning career.

Not only did the young and gifted composer and pianist, who was almost drowned in prizes, become conductor of the Bulgarian National Radio Big Band, but also conductor and guest soloist of both the Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra. Back then music equalled Milcho Leviev. And Milcho Leviev equalled music. That still applies today, decades later.

In 1965, Leviev founded Focus 65, a Jazz quartet he would take to the newly founded Montreux Jazz Festival soon, where it won the Critic’s Prize. From that moment onward, Focus 65 would be touring Europe as if there were no tomorrow.

The year 1970 was a fateful one for Milcho Leviev. Communist Bulgaria had given the musical genius an excellent education, but also a headache. During those years, the regime had told him how to name his compositions, and which music genres he should (not) play. Well, they came to the wrong person.

“I was banned from the Union of Bulgarian Composers, for hooliganism. And I resigned from the National Radio Big Band because they could not stand Bossa Nova and told me what to play. The communists said: “What is this? You can not resign.” So, I asked them: “Where in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria does it say so? So, a citizen of this republic can not resign?” They said I had a “very big mouth” and told me to “watch out”.

He was also “invited” to join the Communist Party. When he refused, he was warned. They came up to him three times. After the third time, it was time. “I knew I had to get the hell out of Bulgaria”, Leviev told The Sofia Globe. Because he had a child, the decision to defect was not easy for him at all.

He took all risks and defected. On that train which left Sofia one evening in 1970, he could have been caught and then punished, as an enemy of the state. But he made it to Germany, then to America.

For almost forty years, from 1970 to 2010, Milcho Leviev lived in Los Angeles. At first, he was given food stamps, while he started playing with fellow Jazz greats, such as Don Ellis. “Don gave me a loan, since I needed a car. So, I bought an old Ford Falcon for 400 Dollars”, Milcho Leviev said. “It took a year, and I was in the studio. After three years, I bought a house in North Hollywood, with a swimming pool and everything.”

Not only did he perform and record with absolutely everyone in the Jazz world, including Billy Cobham, Art Pepper, Dave Holland, Al Jarreau and Airto Moreira. He also became Musical Director for Lainie Kazan and founded Free Flight, that formation which did not only stun Johnny Carson and his viewers, when four bearded men nailed it on stage, but also hundreds of thousands of fans, who purchased their records.

In 2010, at the age of 72, Milcho Leviev thought it was time to move back to his home continent. “After almost 40 years, I could not stay in America anymore. I was there from 1970 to 2010 and I saw the country go down. I knew it was not good in Bulgaria either, which is why I would not live there anymore.”

But the genius composer, who now lives in Greece, comes to Bulgaria on a regular basis, in order to do his Summer School at New Bulgarian University, and for performances. This year, he will come more often, since his upcoming 80th birthday will be celebrated several times.

Milcho Leviev does not seem 80, but more like 60. “That’s the problem with me. I thought when I get old, I would cool off and be very careful. How much time is left? Will I live two more years or 10 years? Time is short. My wife, Vicky, she is my saviour.”

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Led Zeppelin - 2015 - Past, Present and Future

Led Zeppelin 
Past, Present and Future / Great Return Of Zoso

Great Return Of Zoso
Falkoner Theater, Copenhagen, Denmark
July 23 & 24, 1979
"The Copenhagen Warmups"

July 23, 1979:

101. Opening
102. The Song Remains The Same
103. Celebration Day
104. Black Dog
105. Nobody's Fault But Mine
106. Over The Hills And Far Away
107. Misty Mountain Hop
108. Since I've Been Loving You
109. No Quarter
110. Hot Dog
111. The Rain Song

201. White Summer - Black Mountain Side
202. Kashmir
203. Trampled Underfoot
204. Achilles Last Stand
205. Guitar Solo
206. In The Evening
207. Stairway To Heaven
208. Rock And Roll

July 24, 1979:

101. Opening
102. The Song Remains The Same
103. Celebration Day
104. Black Dog
105. Nobody's Fault But Mine
106. Over The Hills And Far Away
107. Misty Mountain Hop
108. Since I've Been Loving You
109. No Quarter
110. Ten Years Gone
111. Hot Dog
112. The Rain Song

201. White Summer - Black Mountain Side
202. Kashmir
203. Trampled Underfoot
204. Sick Again
205. Achilles Last Stand
206. Guitar Solo
207. In The Evening
208. Stairway To Heaven
209. Whole Lotta Love

Past, Present and Future
Knebworth Festival, Stevenage, England
August 4 & 11, 1979

August 4, 1979

101. Opening
102. The Song Remains The Same
103. Celebration Day
104. Black Dog
105. Nobody's Fault But Mine
106. Over The Hills And Far Away
107. Misty Mountain Hop
108. Since I've Been Loving You
109. No Quarter

201. Ten Years Gone
202. Hot Dog
203. The Rain Song
204. White Summer - Black Mountain Side
205. Kashmir
206. Trampled Underfoot
207. Sick Again
208. Achilles Last Stand

301. Guitar Solo
302. In The Evening
303. Stairway To Heaven
304. Rock And Roll
305. Whole Lotta Love
306. Heartbreaker

August 11, 1979

101. Opening
102. The Song Remains The Same
103. Celebration Day
104. Black Dog
105. Nobody's Fault But Mine
106. Over The Hills And Far Away
107. Misty Mountain Hop
108. Since I've Been Loving You
109. No Quarter

201. Hot Dog
202. The Rain Song
203. White Summer - Black Mountain Side
204. Kashmir
205. Trampled Underfoot
206. Sick Again
207. Achilles Last Stand

301. Guitar Solo
302. In The Evening
303. Stairway To Heaven
304. Rock And Roll
305. Whole Lotta Love
306. Communication Breakdown

Copenhagen Warmups

Night One: Two years after tragedy brought the 1977 North American tour to an abrupt end, the band has risen from the ashes to prepare for the biggest shows of their career with two warm-up gigs in Denmark. The setlist has undergone a few changes to make room for a couple new songs from the band's yet to be released final studio album In Through the Out Door, along with some old favorites. As the band takes the stage, Plant complains about the lights, telling the crowd "we must apologize... the lights keep going down, so we're gonna play with like half a light show, okay?" After a long pause, the show finally gets underway with the familiar opening chords of The Song Remains the Same. The band is full of energy as they hammer through the song with incredible intensity. Plant is still getting a feel for his mature voice, missing a few notes that used to come more easily. As the song ends, Page launches into the first appearance of Celebration Day since 7/29/1973.

Plant tells the crowd "it's been eight years since we were here last time, so there's not too much talkin' to do... quite a bit of playing" before introducing a bone-crushing Black Dog. Page is on fire, shredding wildly during the guitar solo. Plant walks away from the microphone to retrieve his harmonica before introducing Nobody's Fault But Mine, telling the crowd "this is from Blind Willie Johnson." Over the Hills and Far Away is immediately followed by a high-speed Misty Mountain Hop, its first appearance since the end of the 1973 North American tour. Page seems a bit lost during the guitar solo. Since I've Been Loving You is played in a jazzy new arrangement. Page blazes through a fantastic extended guitar solo. Plant's voice is still a bit rusty, he has trouble reaching some of the higher notes. No Quarter has been stripped down to basics, replacing the overindulgent marathons of the past with a much more efficient arrangement. The crowd begins clapping rhythmically during any lull in Jones's piano solo. Page tears through the guitar solo with amazing fluency and precision.

Plant mentions the new album before the first premiere of the night, Hot Dog. Someone in the crowd can be heard shouting a mispronounced "D'yer Mak'er!", to which Plant responds "never 'eard of it" before introducing a beautiful rendition of The Rain Song, performed for the first time since the final night at Earls Court. Kashmir is preceded by an abbreviated White Summer/Black Mountain Side. Plant hints at Back Door Man before a thunderous Achilles Last Stand, played at a more relaxed tempo than usual. The second premiere of the night comes with the first performance of In the Evening, which is preceded by a short bows solo from Page. Plant delivers a powerful performance, belting out each line with bravado. The crowd erupts as Page begins Stairway to Heaven. As the band leaves the stage following a raucous Rock and Roll, Plant announces "thank you very much, it was... okay, goodnight." An excellent first outing for a new, more professional Led Zeppelin. Must hear.

The tape is absolutely fantastic, one of the best audience recordings ever made.

Night Two: Following a successful premiere the night before, the band returns for their second and final warm-up gig before returning to England to headline the Knebworth Festival. The energy is high as the band hammers through the opening numbers. Page shreds frantically through the guitar solo during Celebration Day. Plant announces "very nice to have the lights back with us tonight" before Black Dog. Nobody's Fault But Mine features a blistering guitar solo from Page. The band races through a fast-paced Misty Mountain Hop. No Quarter is short and dynamic. Page blazes through an excellent guitar solo. The crowd's rhythmic clapping returns during the intro to Ten Years Gone. Page plays with incredible fluency during the guitar solos. The Rain Song is beautiful.

There is a slight cut during the transition from White Summer/Black Mountain Side to Kashmir. Plant delivers a powerful performance during the latter. The band hammers through an aggressive Trampled Underfoot, which is followed by the return of Sick Again. Plant introduces a frantic Achilles Last Stand as the best track on Presence. The walls of the theater quake under the power of Bonzo's thunderous pounding as Page tears through the frenzied guitar solos. A brutally heavy performance. In the Evening is explosive, a major highlight of the new setlist. Page blazes through an outstanding guitar solo during Stairway to Heaven, one of the best in recent memory. The band closes the show with a radical new arrangement of Whole Lotta Love. Another excellent performance

August 4: A pretty good show but nothing compared to the standards Zeppelin had set in the past. The first 45 minutes or so sound good and strong, and Ten Years Gone is very pretty, but towards the middle section, the individual performances, though good, don't quite gel into a good ensemble performance. "Well, it's nice to see you again" said Plant to the audience at the beginning of the show, in fact they not played in the United Kingdom for the last four years! The crowd roared. Achilles Last Stand is aggressive and In The Evening is intense, but Stairway To Heaven sounds timid and tired ... Robert's introduction is so lackluster it is obvious he didn't want to play it. The encores are energetic and good, and Whole Lotta Love features the new arrangement first tried in Copenhagen in July. A short Heartbreaker finishes the event. After the last note, Plant said: "All you people that have come so far. It's been kinda like a blind date. Thanks for eleven years!"

Following a four year absence, Led Zeppelin make their triumphant return to England with two of the biggest shows of their career. However, despite two successful warm-up gigs in Denmark two weeks earlier, the band is still nervous to be performing for their home crowd after such a long break. The apprehension is evident as The Song Remains the Same gets underway. Page has lost the fluency of his Denmark performances, causing him to stumble a bit during the sticky-fingered guitar solos and Plant's voice is a little rusty at times. On the other hand, Bonzo is a thunderous explosion of energy, his powerful hammering is the backbone of the band. Following a high-speed Celebration Day, Plant greets the massive crowd, joking "I told Pagey that one or two people would be here, but he said he doubted it very much." Page's fingers get stuck in the strings during the guitar solo in Black Dog. Plant unleashes some spine-chilling shrieks during the initial verses. The band hammers through an abrasive Misty Mountain Hop.

Since I've Been Loving You is absolutely fantastic. Page leads the band on an intense emotional journey, tearing each note of the guitar solo from the depths of his soul. A phenomenal performance, one of the best in recent memory. Jones is introduced as "the man from Casablanca" before No Quarter. Page is on fire as he blazes through an excellent guitar solo, shredding furiously during the blistering outro jam. An outstanding performance. Plant shouts "come on, let's hoedown!" at the beginning of Hot Dog. The Rain Song is beautiful. The crowd erupts as a powerful Kashmir launches into motion. Plant's howls echo over the field and into infinity as the band thunders through the intimidating march. Page shreds wildly through the guitar solo during an incredibly aggressive Trampled Underfoot. The band hammers through a brutal Sick Again, introduced as a song that "relates the experience of the lobby and going down to get some cigarettes at ten thirty, rather than bein' in bed." Page tears through a frenzied guitar solo near the end of the song. Afterward, Plant jokes "so we got the cigarettes and carried straight on up to bed."

Bonzo thrashes wildly at his drums during an explosive Achilles Last Stand. Plant dedicates Stairway to Heaven to the crowd, thanking them for coming "on a blind date." Page blazes through a blistering guitar solo. The crowd sings the final line along with Plant. The first encore is preceded by ten solid minutes of cheering. As the band returns to the stage following a riotous Rock and Roll, Plant leads the crowd in a sing-along of You'll Never Walk Alone. The new arrangement of Whole Lotta Love is devastatingly heavy. As the song ends, Plant announces "thanks for eleven years." The band returns to the stage one more time to close the show with the first appearance of Heartbreaker since 6/21/1977. Page shreds wildly though the guitar solos. The crowd is left begging for more as the band leaves the stage for the final time.

August 11: Not as good as the first week and also a little more tension in the air. Some songs sound very sloppy, almost like the band doesn't want to be there, but then again, some sound excellent. The opening 45 minutes or so sound strong and good, but the intensity starts to flag towards the end. Jimmy butchers the solo in Whole Lotta Love, and the end encores sound tired ("Can you do the dinosaur rock?" reflected what the band thought playing these old tunes). This was also the last concert in the United Kingdom but Robert, before as he left the stage, said: "We'll see you soon. Very soon. Don't know about the Marquee, but somewhere soon." They couldn't knew what happened a year later. Some problems with Page's guitar and PA system truncated Over The Hills And Far Away and Misty Mountain Hop.

A week after night one of the 1979 Knebworth Festival, the band returns for what will prove to be their final performance in England. The nerves of the first show have subsided and the band launches into The Song Remains the Same with power and gusto. Plant pushes his voice to the limit during a frantic Celebration Day. The massive crowd sings along with every word during a bone-crushing Black Dog. Plant has some trouble with his microphone during the initial verses of Over the Hills and Far Away, which causes a series of loud popping noises. Page's fingers get caught in the strings of his guitar during the song's outro.

Since I've Been Loving You is simply outstanding. Page blazes through a fantastic guitar solo with incredible fluency and precision. An unbelievably powerful performance, one of the best in recent memory. Jones briefly hints at Your Time is Gonna Come near the end of an excellent piano solo during the band's final performance of No Quarter. Page tears through an amazing guitar solo, shredding wildly during the song's explosive outro. In mentioning the new album, Plant tells the crowd "it's called In Through the Out Door, which is... one of those methods of entry that proves to be harder than one would originally expect." Hot Dog is dedicated to "the texas road crew and all the people to be found in the sleazy hangouts around there." Someone in the crowd can be heard shouting "New York City!" as Page begins The Rain Song. Bonzo pummels the crowd with his thunderous fills near the end of Kashmir. Page stumbles through a sticky-fingered guitar solo during Trampled Underfoot.

Achilles Last Stand is a bit dull and uninspired, despite Bonzo's efforts to inject some energy into the performance. Page gets lost near the end of the song. Plant delivers an incredibly powerful performance during In the Evening. As the song ends, someone in the crowd can be heard shouting "happy birthday Robert Plant!", to which Plant responds "not yet, one week." The crowd erupts as Rock and Roll crashes into motion. Page flubs the guitar solo during Whole Lotta Love. The biggest surprise of the night is the inclusion of the Boogie Chillen' section for the first time since 7/29/1973. Page blazes through an outstanding guitar solo. Plant shreds his voice as the band hammers through a blistering Communication Breakdown. An explosive finale to a somewhat uneven performance. As the band leaves the stage for the last time, Plant announces "thank you very much indeed... we'll see ya soon, very soon."


Led Zeppelin
Past, Present and Future DVD
Knebworth Festival, Stevenage, England
August 4 & 11, 1979

August 4, 1979

01. The Song Remains the Same
02. Celebration Day
03. Black Dog
04. Nobody's Fault But Mine
05. Over the Hills and Far Away
06. Misty Mountain Hop
07. Since I've Been Loving You
08. No Quarter
09. Ten Years Gone
10. Hot Dog
11. The Rain Song
12. White Summer / Black Mountainside
13. Kashmir
14. Trampled Underfoot
15. Sick Again
16. Achilles Last Stand
17. Guitar Solo
18. In the Evening
19. Stairway to Heaven
20. Rock and Roll
21. Whole Lotta Love
22. Heartbreaker

August 11, 1979 

01. The Song Remains the Same
02. Celebration Day
03. Black Dog
04. Nobody's Fault But Mine
05. Over the Hills and Far Away
06. Misty Mountain Hop
07. Since I've Been Loving You
08. No Quarter
09. Hot Dog
10. The Rain Song
11. White Summer / Black Mountainside
12. Kashmir
13. Trampled Underfoot
14. Sick Again
15. Achilles Last Stand
16. Guitar Solo
17. In the Evening
18. Stairway to Heaven
19. Rock and Roll
20. Whole Lotta Love
21. Communication Breakdown

One week apart, Led Zeppelin’s two concerts in Knebworth Park 39 years ago today marked not only the last truly legendary live events of the seventies, but also the last time the original quartet would grace a British stage. 

Throughout the ’70s, Led Zeppelin had maintained their status as the world’s leading stadium rock’n’roll band but when punk came along to tear up the rule book, there was every chance that Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham would fall victim to the new regime and be classed as dinosaurs.

Strategically, what was to become their final studio album, In Through The Out Door, was a more synthesiser-led affair that was mostly bereft of the heroic guitar solos for which Page had become famous.

But the masterstroke that would guarantee Zeppelin’s legendary status for all-time was to coincide the album’s summer 1979 release with two enormous live shows — their first in the UK for four years — at Knebworth Park in Hertfordshire on August 4 and 11.

Although arguably not their greatest-ever musical performances, the shows set the band apart from their fellow ’60s survivors and gave the young punks a timely reminder of how to move an audience.

The concerts — which also featured Fairport Convention, Keith Richards’ & Ron Wood’s The New Barbarians, Todd Rundgren, Commander Cody, Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes and the ever-so-slightly unsuitable Chas’n’Dave — were the last open-air events promoted at Knebworth by Frederick Bannister, who had presented festivals there since 1974.

A major dispute over recorded audience numbers between Bannister and Zeppelin’s feared, larger-than-life manager, Peter Grant, was so fierce and damaging that the promoter’s company, Tedoar Ltd, was left with huge debts and was forced into liquidation. Bannister would never run a show at Knebworth again.

One person who remembers those two weekend shows well is Jack Calmes, the founder and president of Led Zeppelin’s production vendor, Dallas-based Showco, before establishing automated xenon lighting systems manufacturer, Syncrolite, 25 years ago.

Showco handled sound, lighting, effects and staging for Zeppelin from 1969, supplying its all-proprietary equipment. Over the years that followed, Jack Calmes had become accustomed to the cloak-and-dagger business dealings with Peter Grant, tour manager Richard Cole and the band.

“They were always very secretive about their operations,” says Calmes, “and Richard could be a difficult person at that stage because he was on the other side of the moon. While Peter dealt with the day-to-day business, Richard was the main interface for Zeppelin production and still regarded as the fifth member.

“He and I go back to 1966 when he was working with the Spencer Davis Group, and then he went off to look after The Yardbirds, which then featured Jimmy Page, and the story developed from there.”

When Grant asked Calmes to fly over to the UK for a meeting in the summer of 1979, it was obvious to the Showco chief that something significant was about to happen even though the advance detail was thin.

He says: “I discovered they were planning a big one at Knebworth with their old buddy, Freddie Bannister, and were doing some fancy footwork with [North Herts District Council] in order to get a licence. This was late June so there wasn’t a long fuse between the planning and the actual gigs.”

Calmes met Grant at Bannister’s London apartment where he was given a rundown on the scale of the show which, for the time, amounted to an extraordinary one-off enterprise. “I came armed with a presentation of how Showco might approach this and the associated six-figure costs,” recalls Calmes.

“Peter liked a gamble and the ritual was that he and I would play a game of cards in order for him to get a reduction of our fee. He’d never quit until he won something, and that day he managed to cut between five and 10 grand off our price!”

The equipment for Knebworth required a major freight operation from the United States, although Showco’s relationship with British vendors including The Who’s ML Executives made it possible to source some key items locally.

Showco supplied the equivalent of four to six of its regular three-way PA systems with active crossovers and large bass bins and horns. Rusty Brutsché, who would later co-develop the Vari*Lite, was Zeppelin’s principal sound mixer, working at FOH alongside Benji Le Fevre who specialised in mixing Robert Plant’s vocals and adding effects.

Donny Kretzchmar took over from the band’s previous monitor mixer, B.J. Schiller, and Showco’s own Superboard consoles were at both ends of the park. Additional sound crew included Allen Branton and Joe Crowley.

Another Showco crew member, Ian ‘Iggy’ Knight had been Zeppelin’s lighting designer for many years leading up to Knebworth.

“I hired Ian after Peter Grant introduced him to me,” says Calmes, “and he became the main designer for all the band’s tours from the early ’70s with assistance from Kirby Wyatt, Showco’s production manager.”

The role of lighting director at Knebworth would have been long-timer Ted Tittle’s, had he not tragically died in a motorcycle accident just days before the crew departed to the UK.

His friend and colleague from the previous 1977 U.S. tour, Showco lighting technician Gary Carnes recalls: “Knebworth was always the kind of show where you’d think, it can’t get any bigger than this. But when Ted was killed so suddenly, our moods went from being jubilant to depressing.

“We were handed a big problem and had to re-assemble the lighting crew and programme a new design in a very short period of time.”

Carnes, who also worked at Syncrolite for several years and is now at Texas-based Entertainment Technologies Group, Inc., adds: “Kirby Wyatt became the driving force for this new team, consisting of Tom Littrell operating the console, with Larry Sizemore and I cueing the 15 [Gladiator & Super Trouper] spotlights.

“After many days and late nights spent fine-tuning the effects in rehearsals at Bray Film Studios, we all felt we had a production that would work — one we could be proud of.”

Littrell ran the Showco pin-matrix lighting console that controlled a rig of standard theatrical fixtures including over 200 steel PAR cans, Lekos, beam lights and strobes.

Calmes notes: “At the same time as Knebworth, Showco was doing the Bee Gees’ Spirits Having Flown U.S. tour which had one of the first programmable digital sequencers to run the dancefloor stage. That technology later evolved into Vari*Lite.”

Amongst the many achievements scattered across his 44 years in live entertainment production, Jack Calmes is the man who should be credited with bringing laser technology into the rock’n’roll touring world.

In 1975, he sold The Who their first laser system, a US$36,000 purchase, that the band’s lighting designer John ‘Wiggy’ Wolff — now running Syncrolite’s UK office — went on to use spectacularly on ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’.

Updated versions of the laser heads were sub-rented from The Who’s Ramport warehouse for Led Zep’s Knebworth shows as it was convenient to source from within the UK. And it was this equipment that was responsible for one of the shows’ most memorable cameos.

Calmes explains: “It was actually Rusty who should be credited for designing the rotating laser pyramid effect over Jimmy Page as he slung his bow out across his Les Paul. The bow itself was a fibre optic tube. We were building our Pyramid loudspeakers in those days and it was a cool idea.”

Following the Bray rehearsals, Page and the crew had time to perfect this particular element of the production when the party headed out to Copenhagen’s Falkoner Theater in late July, to work on both the music and the show design.

Whilst there, on July 23-24, they decided to play two low key shows under the pseudonym The Melancholy Danish Playboys. As Gary Carnes remembers: “There were about 150 people in the audience for the first show and it was totally sold out for the second.”

Sound and lights aside, one of the first elements Calmes added to the Showco portfolio was video image magnification (I-Mag) — a memorable feature of Zeppelin’s Knebworth performances.

“We established a video department around 1975-76 which was managed by Phil Squires, who went on to run the technical department at Burbank Studios in the ’80s,” says Calmes.

“Showco would install several Eidophors and an I-Mag screen wherever there was a stadium big enough to justify it, and we did this for a number of the bigger Zeppelin and Who shows, employing a guy who would assemble cameras and direct.

“It was a very time-consuming process to set up the 60’ x 40’ screen and interlock those Eidophors, and get them lined up to give you a clear picture. This took a number of very skilled professionals several days to perfect it for Knebworth.”

Those professionals included Martin Bushnell and Alan Hogarth from Link Electronics, the company sub-contracted to provide the Eidophor projectors.

Also involved from the UK was SGB, who built the stage, and Tim & Hoagy Davies, whose company Hijack Productions had been hired by Freddie Bannister to supply on-stage rigging and the inflatable stage roof — originally designed by Bill Harkin for Wings’ 1976 Piazza San Marco, Venice concert.

Peter Grant’s company, SwanSong, also contracted the Davies brothers to build a curved camera track and video platforms.

As mentioned at the start of this article, audience figures across the two Saturday shows vary wildly depending on who one asks. While the licence was for 120,000 ticket holders (at £7.50 each), it is believed that as many as 200,000 attended each show — a number inflated when a gap in the perimeter fencing, enabled free entry.

There were 400 stewards on-site and 150 backstage crew; local police charged a record fee of £50,000 and the security budget exceeded the same amount. It’s no surprise that many in the business have cited these shows as the point at which the UK concert industry began to slowly change.

Far from being just another big production, Jack Calmes remembers Knebworth ’79 as a major highlight of his career. “I think that because of the size of that crowd, the climate was magical. Jimmy’s bow effects on ‘Dazed & Confused’ and all of the signature moments of a Led Zeppelin show were supersized.

“The vibe was awesome and even us old, jaded production guys were brought to our knees by that one!”

Just over a year later, on September 25 1980, the powerhouse that was John Bonham retired to bed after attending a Led Zeppelin rehearsal at Bray Studios for their forthcoming U.S. tour, their first since 1977.

John Paul Jones and Benji Le Fevre found him dead the following afternoon. The 40 measures of vodka that Bonzo had consumed the previous day resulted in pulmonary oedema.

Bonham was 32... and the song would never remain the same.

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. 

Extra Ball - 1983 - Akumula Torres

Extra Ball
Akumula Torres

01. Akumulatorres
02. Dobre Mzimu
03. Rozmyslania Nad Jeziorem Czad
04. Kilka Cieplych Slów

Released as Jaroslaw Smietana & Extra Ball

Bass – Antoni Debski
Congas – Jerzy Bartz
Cornet – Adam Kawonczyk
Guitar – Jaroslaw Smietana
Percussion – Jacek Pelc, Jose Torres
Saxophone – Henryk Miskiewicz

Akumla Torres laid down by Jaroslaw Smietana and Extra Ball [Jaroslaw Smietana on guitar and piano, with Jose Torres holding down the beat on percussion, Jacek Pelc on perkusja, Antoni Debski reinventing the bass lines, along with Adam Kawonczyk who soars on trumpet], was recorded live for Polish radio back in August of 1978.

The album is heartfelt controlled and structured jazz that incorporates elements of rock that drives, is filled with an undefinable smooth intensity, yet is never deliberately presented in a manner to attract attraction for attention’s sake.  Though … having said that, with a moniker like ‘Extra Ball,’ the word ‘exhibitionist’ does come to mind, which implies the deriving of sexual gratification from fantasies or acts that involve exposing one's genitals to a non-consenting stranger.  But then jazz musicians were always famous for having a bit of tongue in cheek fun with sexuality, with Herbie Mann’s Push Push instantly coming to mind; but I digress.  The show must have been astonishing to see and hear live, as the album reaches the highest of artistic jazz levels, and swings with an effortlessness, yet is remarkably laced with understated personal visions. 

Consisting of but four lengthy tracks, the outing never fails to communicate, wholly captures the listener’s attention, and creates an easy going atmospheric vibe from a man who holds more musical honors than most artists ever dream of.  And if that weren’t enough, he’s smartly added his temperament and inspiration to the likes of  Freddie Hubbard, David Gilmore, Eddie Henderson, Art Farmer, Carter Jefferson, along with a list of others that would go on endlessly.  I suppose that the best compliment I could lay on this seminal artist is that he was a more than talented musician, and a superb teacher.

Born into some of the darkest days of Polish history, Jaroslaw Smietana died far too young at 62, born in the same year as I was, meaning that at the time of his death, he was still coming into his stride, still forging new concepts and ideas, still captivating audiences as an engaging performer who would lace the most interesting stories in between songs, a true musical storyteller far before the term was ever made popular.

There’s an attention to detail found here, and for that detail to shine so wonderfully, even during a live performance, is a testament to the skill and vision of a relentless man always seeking to give not only more to his audience, but to himself … because after all, the first person an artist must please is themselves; after that, it’s all about the smile as others relish in the joyous reverberations.

Extra Ball - 1981 - Mosquito

Extra Ball

01. Mosquito
02. Miles
03. Babelki
04. El Cerritto
05. Krag Wspomnien
06. Czasem W Zimie
07. Duza Zaba

Double Bass – Antoni Debski
Drums – Czeslaw Maly Bartkowski (tracks: A2)
Drums, Percussion, Marimba – Jacek Pelc
Guitar [Acoustic & Electric] – Jaroslaw Smietana
Percussion – Jan Budziaszek (tracks: A2)
Piano – Wojciech Groborz (tracks: A2)
Piano [Acustic] – Robert Obcowski (tracks: all tracks except A2)
Saxophone [Tenor] – Jan Ptaszyn Wróblewski (tracks: A4, B2, B3)
Trumpet – Adam Kawonczyk

Recorded in Cracow in July 1981 except track A2 - October 1980.

Extra Ball - 1979 - Go Ahead

Extra Ball 
Go Ahead

01. Krakowski Festiwal Jazzowy (5:50)
02. Gwiazdka Dla Ewy (5:30)
03. Taniec Na Linie (6:25)
04. Naima (1:50)
05. Go Ahead (2:40)
06. Kocham Cie Anno (6:25)
07. Sprawy Biezace (4:00)
08. Airport (4:50)
09. Sepia (0:55)

Jaroslaw Smietana /leader , electric and acoustic guitar
Adam Kawonczyk /trumpet, flugelhorn
Wojciech Groborz /Fender piano, piano, trombone
Antoni Debski /electric bass
Marian Bronikowski /drums, percussion
Janusz Muniak /tenor and soprano saxophones, flute

Recorded in Warsaw, May 1979

Go Ahead is the third studio album from Extra Ball, released in 1979 by Polskie Nagrania in the Polish Jazz series as Vol. 59. Traditionally, there was a major line-up change since the previous album (Marlboro Country, 1978). But this time the style didn't change that much. Go Ahead continues the exploration of the mainstream jazz territory.
The album starts where Marlboro Country ends - with a new (quite close to original) version of Krakowski Festiwal Jazzowy, the track which was also closing the previous album. Go Ahead contains some lyrical parts like Gwiazdka dla Ewy, Kocham Cie Anno, some dynamic like the title track, Taniec na Linie or Airport, there's even a cover of John Coltrane's Naima.

Overall, this album is not as disciplined as its predecessor. There aren't as many regular, memorable melodies but ther's more space for improvisations. It's more free and that's what makes it interesting.

Extra Ball - 1978 - Aquarium Live No 3

Extra Ball
Aquarium Live No 3

01. Dobry Rock (7:35)
02. Atlantis (14:20)
03. Sloneczny Poranek (6:30)
04. Stella By Starlight (15:25)

Jaroslaw Smietana: Guitar
Wladyslaw Sedecki: Piano
Andrzej Olejniczak: Sax
Jan Cichy: Bass
Marek Stach: Percussion

Recorded IX. 1978 r. w Klubie Jazzowym PSJ "Akwarium" w Warszawie

For those who followed Extra Ball back then – probably not many inside Poland and barely a handful outside the Country, and here I tip my hat off to these guys who kept the Jazz torch alight in such an unsympathetic environment, or maybe I’m just pretending to be 21st century politically correct and it wasn’t actually That oppressive behind that infamous Curtain - it must have been astonishing to find so little in common between this Live album and their previous studio one, namely considering that apart from the drummer it was exactly the same line-up up on the “Akwarium” stage in that September 1978 evening; Right! In my humble opinion the drummer factor can’t be ignored, because although Marek Stach surely knew how to keep the beat, his low-key playing is miles away from the hyperactive Benedykt Radecki; and I’m not even mentioning his floor-tom sounds almost as slack as if he was hitting a cardboard box…

As we now all know- and our knowledgeable friend Adam informed below –insurmountable tensions would soon leave Jaroslaw Smietana fronting a completely renewed band, and the sole survivor from this line-up; to a certain extent it was the mutinous Wladyslaw Sendecki and Andrzej Olejniczak , who would soon form a band where they could make good use of their excellent piano and sax skills in a more traditional Jazz setting, who won this round! However this was also an excellent occasion for Smietana to display his more traditional Jazz guitar chops, and same as the other two he jumped on the occasion both to stretch his muscles and to exemplify how things can be kept interesting on extended solos! Actually even bass player Jan Cichy reveals skills “Birthday”  listeners could not suspect of – just listen to how after an inspired solo he comes up with a conclusion whereupon the band smoothly builds up the theme’s reprise.

Finally, the most striking evidence of the conflicting directions/intentions is certainly the material played on that evening, including, on the one hand takes on the classic “Stella By Starlight” and on McCoy Tyner’s “Atlantis”, and on the other hand examples of the direction the Smietana/Sendecki  songwriting partnership was heading to: “Dobry Rok”, a beautiful and sinuous soprano and guitar stated mid-tempo theme, which could well have been a fruit of Hancock’s pen; intelligent guitar and Fender Rhodes solos precede the tenor’s entry, which speeds things up and takes the piece in an Afro-Latin direction with a raucous Barbieri/Sanders like tone , and the hauntingly gorgeous, soprano and bass spelled “Sloneczny Poranek”(Sunny Morning”), a slowly build up and gently painted atmosphere in a not too dissimilarly Shorter/Weather Report-like  vein, a fluid architecture where improvisation intercalates with pre-rehearsed unisons.

“Stella by Starlight” rises up sympathetically and tranquil from the final blissful  rays of the previous morning, as if Coltrane and Pass had met for the occasion, but the tenor soon leads it into an active walking pace and to a blistering exhibition; other fine solos follow, but after the 10 minutes mark, with the long bass solo and lack of drums activity, piece and interaction start to loose steam; not so on “Atlantis”, taken at a bouncy tempo, the uncomplicated modal  changes of the tenor and guitar spelled theme are an ideal ground for spontaneity and interplaying, as when Smietana’s muted-strings’ lines tirelessly stimulate Olejniczak’s rousing tenor solo, in a contagious élan that leaves no one untouched - even Stach uses his cowbells et al!  

These live performances are the last recording by the original lineup, except for drummer Marek Stach, who replaced Radecki. Recorded live at the Warsaw Aquarium Jazz club, this is an amazing performance with a band at their highest peak, but torn internally as to the musical direction, which led to their demise soon after, with Sendecki and Olejniczak forming Sun Ship. The inclusion of two Jazz standards clearly points out the tendency of some band members to return to the more traditional Jazz forms rather that continue the Fusion path. Smietana's superb guitar licks will amaze every Fusion fan, who was never exposed to his performances and Sendecki's keyboard wizardry is simply astounding. This is an excellent album, which all Fusion lovers on this planet should be proud to have in their collections. An absolute must!

Extra Ball - 1978 - Extra Ball

Extra Ball
Extra Ball

01. Marlboro Country (8:30)
02. Pierwsza Wersja (4:45)
03. Wesola Piesn Dla Keesa (6:20)
04. Nocne Impresje (5:55)
05. Piesn Dla Elvina Jonesa (6:45)
06. Krakowski Festiwal Jazzowy (6:35)

Jaroslaw Smietana: Guitar
Jerzy Glówczewski: Alto Sax
Zbigniew Wegehaupt: Bass
Marian Bronikowski: Percussion
Jerzy Jarosik: Flute, Tenor Sax
Eugeniusz Okoniewski: Tenor Sax

Recorded march and august 1978 at PR Katowice.

This is the second studio album from Extra Ball, released by Poljazz in 1978. Since the debut, Extra Ball had a major line-up change - the leader (Jaroslaw Smietana) recorded this album with brand new team. The artistical direction also changed.
Marlboro Country represents Extra Ball heading for mainstream jazz territory. The album sounds... nice and optimistic, there are many regular, memorable melodies (the most memorable could be Wesola Piesn dla Keesa with great flute solo). There are also some more lyrical parts like Nocne Impresje or Piesn dla Elvina Jonesa (which turns into free jazz for a while). Overall, accessibility would be the most attractive attribute of this album, particularly for those who don't expect a copy of Birthday (Extra Ball's debut album).

Extra Ball - 1976 - Birthday

Extra Ball

01. Narodziny / Birthday [10:11]
02. Taniec Maryny / Maryna's Dance [3:31]
03. Bez Powrotu / Without Return [2:45]
04. Podroz W Gory / A Journey To The Mountains [3:51]
05. Siodemka / The Seven [6:57]
06. Szczesliwy Nieszczesliwiec / The Lucky Unlucky Man [4:10]
07. Blues For Everybody [5:48]
08. Hengelo, Almelo, Deventer [3:19]

Polish Jazz vol. 48
Recorded in Warsaw, April 1976 at Polskie Nagrania Studio

Jaroslaw Smietana - guitar, leader
Wladyslaw Sendecki - electric piano, piano, synthetizer
Andrzej Olejniczak - tenor sax, soprano sax
Jan Cichy - bass
Benedykt Radecki - percussion

Polish Jazz-Rock Fusion band Extra Ball was the best and most dominant ensemble on the local scene in the late 1970s. Founded by the best young Polish Jazz musicians at the time, members of the second generation of the country's splendid tradition, they displayed an amazing level of individual talents both as players and composers. Led by guitarist Jaroslaw Smietana, the initial incarnation of the band also included saxophonist Andrzej Olejniczak, keyboardist Wladyslaw Sendecki, bassist Jan Cichy and drummer Benedykt Radecki. Smietana and Sendecki wrote the material for this, their debut album, which is truly outstanding in every sense. The melodies are complex and well developed, covering a wide range of cultural influences, both from the Jazz tradition and from other sources like folklore and European Classical music and Rock. The level of musicianship is amazingly high, definitely well beyond what one might expect from people in their twenties. Smietana's superb guitar licks will amaze every Fusion fan, who was never exposed to his performances and Sendecki's keyboard wizardry is simply astounding. This is an excellent album, which all Fusion lovers on this planet should be proud to have in their collections. An absolute must!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Tomasz Stanko has left the building...

Tomasz Stańko
(11 July 1942 – 29 July 2018)

“The mood of Polish melancholy is in my blood.”

Described by the New York Times as “one of the most acclaimed improvising musicians in Europe”, Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko was born in 1942 and made his debut in Krakow in the late 1950s. In the 1960s he joined Krzysztof Komeda’s quintet, soon becoming its mainstay, and recorded a masterpiece of European jazz with it, the LP Astigmatic.

Though Miles Davis and Chet Baker were early influences, he was soon drawn to the free jazz of Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry. As he told jazz writer Andrew Gilbert, speaking of jazz under communism, “I was interested in artistic freedom, because in person I didn't really have a big problem living in a communist country in this time. Maybe earlier musicians had some problems, they don't have the chance to play so often, but in 1963 it was beginning to be quite all right. I was much more interested in the freedom in Ornette's music."

In the early 1970s, at the helm of the Tomasz Stanko Quintet, he came to the forefront of the free jazz scene and was featured at major European festivals. His subsequent projects reinforced this stature: Unit with Polish pianist Adam Makowicz, and a quartet co-led with Finnish drummer Edward Vesala that in 1975 attracted attention of ECM’s Manfred Eicher. Stanko’s ECM debut, Balladyna, has become a legend on both sides of the Atlantic. In the 1980s Stanko was enlisted by Cecil Taylor in several of his line-ups.

The 1990s saw a renewal of Stanko’s relationship with ECM. A new quartet, featuring pianist Bobo Stenson, bassist Anders Jormin and drummer Tony Oxley, was widely hailed as one of the best jazz groups of the decade, and the album Leosia earned a rare top rating in the Penguin Jazz Guide. Released in 1997, Litania, a tribute to the music of Krzysztof Komeda, became his first global bestseller. Subsequent ECM releases, Soul of Things and Suspended Night, featuring a young Polish quartet at the beginning of the new century brought him to the attention of US jazz fans. 2013 brought a new double album, Wisława, with a new group: Thomas Morgan (bass), Gerald Cleaver (drums) and David Virelles (piano). Jazz Journal’’s Michael Tucker hailed “essential music from one of Europe's most striking – and affecting – poets of his instrument”.

May his memory be a blessing.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Jerzy Milian Trio - 1969 - Bazaar

Jerzy Milian Trio 

01. Memory Of Bach 2:55
02. My Favourite Band 5:00
03. Rewelacyjny Luciano (Sensational Luciano) 4:00
04. Szkice Ludowe (Folk Sketches) 4:00
05. Tempus Jazz 67 4:15
06. Bazar W Aszchabadzie (Ashkabad Bazaar) 5:40
07. Serial Rag 1:56
08. Valse Ex Cathedra 5:09

Recorded in Warsaw, June 1969.

Double Bass – Jacek Bednarek
Drums – Grzegorz Gierlowski
Flute – Janusz Mych
Vibraphone, Marimba – Jerzy Milian
Vocals – Ewa Wanat

One of the most important albums in the history of Polish jazz. The trio under the leadership of eminent vibraphonist does cross stylistic, acoustic and formal boundaries. Bach-like cadences combine with hot swing, while orient-inspired improvisations with serialism. Classics!

Released in 1969 as part of the legendary Polish Jazz Series by the state owned Polskie Nagrania / Muza label. The album was recorded in a trio format, with Milian playing vibraphone and marimba, bassist Jacek Bednarek (who also plays the oriental gidjak on one tune) and drummer Grzegorz Gierlowski. Two members of the legendary Polish vocal quartet NOVI: Ewa Wanat (who adds vocals on five tracks) and Janusz Mych (who adds flute on one track) also participate in the recording. The original album presents eight original compositions, seven of which are composed by Milian and one is co-composed by him and Krzysztof Komeda. 

In retrospect this is definitely one of the most idiosyncratic albums in the Polish Jazz Series, presenting one of the first occurrences of the Polish / European Chamber Jazz, which was an amalgam of modern Classical and Cool Jazz elements with many different less audible influences, like early World Music, Free Jazz, Ambient (before it was even called that) and others. The vocal parts by Wanat are completely spine-chilling, typical of her brilliant and unique style, which was the crucial ingredients of the NOVI magnetism. It is definitely a must to all Polish Jazz enthusiasts, wherever they might be on this globe (and beyond).