Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Laboratorium - 1979 - Quasimodo


01. Przejazd (1:35)
02. I'm sorry, I'm not driver (7:07)
03. Etiudka (1:26)
04. Sniegowa panienka (8:16)
05. Lady Rolland (1:44)
06. Quasimodo (10:51)
07. Kyokushinkai (2:54)
08. Ikona (In Memory of Zbigniew Zeifert) (6:15)

Bonus Tracks
09. Etiudka (2:34)
10. Sniegowa Panienka (11:08)
11. Odjazd (6:35)
12. Zdrowie Na Budowie (6:45)

- Janusz Grzywacz / piano, Fender Rhodes, Arp Odyssey synthesiser
- Marek Stryszowski / vocal, alto sax, soprano sax
- Pawel Scieranski / guitar
- Krzysztof Scieranski / bass guitar
- Mieczyslaw Górka / drums

Tracks 1 to 8 Recorded in Polskie Nagrania, Warsaw, March 1979
Tracks 9 to 12 Recorded live - somewhere in Cracow

Quasimodo is the second studio album released by polish jazz-rock band LABORATORIUM. The album was released in 1979 by Polskie Nagrania in the Polish Jazz series as vol. 58. Since their debut album (released in 1976), they released two live albums Aquarium Live and Diver (both in 1977). These few years of playing made this band quite experienced.
The album is rather melodic and balanced. As for a jazz rock release, electric guitar isn't the leading instrument (except a short track Kyokushinkai which is actually a long guitar solo), the album is based mostly on the sound of piano (acoustic and electric) and saxophone. Between longer tracks there are some shorter interludes like Etiudka, Sniegowa Panienka and the intro - Przejazd. Vocal experiments, such characteristic for this band, appear for example in the miniature Lady Rolland. As mentioned, music on this album is rather balanced and tranquil. The example could be the title track with its repetetive but beautiful melody or the ending track An Icon (in memory of Zbigniew Seifert). Title track in my opinion is the highlight of this album but there are also many other memorable melodies.

Overall, it's a good jazz-rock album which could be recommended for all fans of this genre

Laboratorium - 1977 - Diver


01. Beautiful driver (8:49)
02. Lower than usual (4:57)
03. Diver (5:11)
04. Late-coming (9:53)
05. Soft flamenco (9:11)

Bonus Tracks
06. Dziwne Spóznienie 12:25
07. Prevet Blues 8:41

- Janusz Grzywacz / piano, Fender Rhodes, Moog
- Marek Stryszowski / vocal, sax
- Pawel Scieranski / guitar
- Krzysztof Scieranski / bass guitar
- Mieczyslaw Górka / drums
- Pawel Valde-Nowak / conga

Tracks 1 to 5 recorded in "Rotunda", Cracow, 1977
Track 6 recorded live in Wroclaw, "Jazz nad Odrq '77" Festival, 20.03.1977
Track 7 recorded live in Piwnica pod Baranami, Cracow, 13.02.1980

The recording productions of Laboratorium did not finish with the ''Aquarium live No.1'' in 1977.In November of the same year the expanded line-up ended up with another release, recorded in just three days at the Rotunda Jazz club in Krakow.Originally the album was supposed to carry the title ''Nurek'' and the band members attempted to launch it via the Polskie Nagrania Muza label.Apparently this did never happen, so they were eventually supported by the Jazz-oriented company Helicon and their work was released in 1978 with the English title ''Diver'', while also all contained titles were written in English.
The style is pretty similar to the stylistical turn presented in ''Aquarium live No.1'', the Polish group played an exotic and airy Jazz Fusion, which will never win a prize in terms of originality, but it's well-played with some instant melodic parts and very good instrumental handling, balancing between smooth solos and decent semi-improvisations.''Soft flamenco'' is just a different version of ''Flamenco na miekko'', one of the best cuts ever written by the group, featuring some nice virtuosic executions and a tropical, Latin touch.At this point of their career they sound as close as it gets to RETURN TO FOREVER and WEATHER REPORT, their sincere Electric Fusion contained very atmospheric synth parts and lots of electric piano next to the omnipresent sax of Marek Stryszkowski.But, despite their undisputed jazzy attitude, they also seem to give emphasis on well-constructed themes and dramatic instrumental explorations, which are not very close to Prog Rock, but there are definitely shades of structured music here, far from the excessive technical nonsense often met in acts of the style.You should add the 10-min. ''Late-coming'' to the list of very good pieces performed by Laboratorium, a passionate mixture of funky aesthetics, Avant-Garde vocals, Latin Jazz and dramatic, guitar-based Fusion.

For fans of Latin-spiced, tropical Jazz Fusion, containing ethereal tunes, great solos and a heavy dose of jazzy freedom.Warmly recommended.CD reissue out with a couple of bonus tracks.

Laboratorium - 1977 - Aquarium Live

 - Aquarium Live

01. Struktura przestrzeni
02. Taki ladny i przyjemny
03. Bzdragol
04. Flamenco na miekko
05. Dziewiecsil

Bonus Tracks:
06.a Struktura Przestrzeni
07. Taki Latwy I Przyjemny
08. Bzdragol

- Janusz Grzywacz / piano, Fender Rhodes
- Marek Stryszowski / vocal, sax
- Pawel Scieranski / guitar
- Krzysztof Scieranski / bass guitar
- Mieczyslaw Górka / drums
- Pawel Valde-Nowak / conga

Tracks 1 to 5 recorded live in "Aquarium" Club, Warszawa, 20-23.09.1977.
Tracks 6 to 8 recorded in Polskie Radio Warszawa, 3.01.1977.

Janusz Grzywacz admitted on his own words that with ''Modern Pentathlon'' Laboratorium tried to reach a wider audience through the second side tracks, while only the self-ttled jazz suite was actually representitive of the group's sound.Anyway, the goal was reached, as the album eventually sold over 100,000 copies.In 1977 Laboratorium released a second album on the Poljazz label under the title ''Aquarium Live No.1'', this time recorded live in the ''Akwarium" club in Warsaw.For this performance Pawel Valde-Nowak was recruited on congas.
With this release any commercial tendencies are completely gone and the group shows strong similarities with WEATHER REPORT and RETURN TO FOREVER, playing an exotic Jazz/Fusion with lots of improvised parts and great instrumental diversity.However it won't start so well as ''Modern Pentathlon''.The 16-min. long ''Struktura Przestrzeni'' is rather too loose and experimental with little structure and changes between individual performances, resulting an incohesive long and trippy jamming.The remaining four tracks though are absolutely satisfying, presenting a smooth but very rich Jazz/Fusion with nice melodic saxes, virtuosic electric piano and some fiery jazzy guitars.Of course the WEATHER REPORT and RETURN TO FOREVER influences are more than evident, showing a band with little personal imagination but technically very competent and effective.Of all the remaining pieces, the 10-min. ''Flamenco Na Miekko'' seems to be the best and more original composition, being a lovely amalgam of energetic Fusion and Ethnic-based Jazz Rock with incredible piano lines and solos, furious breaks and Latin-inspired tunes coming from Marek Stryszowski's sax.For a great closing, the short ''Dziewiecil'' contains a sound closer to Italians AREA with excellent sax work and very Eastern-based tunes on guitars.

The Metal Mind reissue contains three more extra tracks, recorded live earlier in 1977 at Poliskie Radio Warszawa, featuring the familiar Laboratorium style, full of dreamy electric piano, hypnotic saxes and jazzy exercises.A recommended album for all fans of 70's Jazz/Fusion and lovers of intense jazzy instrumentals.

Laboratorium - 1976 - Modern Pentathlon

Modern Pentathlon

01. Pieciobój nowoczesny (20:00)
a.Przebieg Niekontrolowany
b.Mur 1234
e.Taniec "Bialego Karla"
02. Funky dla Franki (4:46)
03. Szalony baca (6:00)
04. ABZ (4:58)
05. Grzymaszka (2:24)
Bonus Track
06. Pieciobój Nowoczesny (29:05)

- Janusz Grzywacz / piano, Fender Rhodes, Roland 2000 synthesiser
- Marek Stryszowski / vocal, alto sax, bass clarinet
- Pawel Scieranski / guitars
- Krzysztof Scieranski / bass guitar
- Mieczyslaw Górka / drums

Recorded in Polskie Nagrania, Warsaw, July 1976.
Track 6 recorded live at Jazz Jamboree, Warsaw, October 1976

One of Polish jazz fusion cornerstone, this album was released in 1976 only. Laboratorium was formed in Krakow, intellectual capital of Poland, in 1970, and even had some recordings, made in 1972 (they were released as fan-club release, and re-released later on CD). If neibourhood Czechoslovakia dominated on Eastern European jazz-rock market in early 70-s, Poland with its excellent jazz traditions seriously came on this market a bit later.
Modern Pentathlon is really modern fusion (in sense of mid 70-s) album, keyboards -led and heavily influenced by Chick Corea/RTF. Very relaxed, even funky in moments, but with European traditions (and even Eastern European melodic influences) this album's music is excellent example of high quality Polish fusion of that time. If such musicians, as Michal Urbaniak, who lived and played for years in W.Europe and USA, bring Western fusion traditions on Polish land, Laboratorium grew up on domestic land, and their sound is more "Polish".

Most interesting on this album is its opener - twenty-minutes long composition "Pieciobój nowoczesny". Being of complex structure and some rhythm changes, it is excellent example of progressive jazz fusion. Others songs are good as well, but doesn't add much to album's music.

Good jazz fusion album, one of the most representative from Polish fusion of that time.

Laboratorium - 1972 - Bialy Kruk Czarnego Krazka

Bialy Kruk Czarnego Krazka

01. Choral
02. Plazma
03. Kazania Kaliskie
04. Prognoza Na Jutro
05. Kryterium
06. Poczekalnia
07. Przed Wejsciem
08. Przystanek

- Janusz Grzywacz / piano, Fender Rhodes
- Marek Strzyszowski / vocal, alto sax, bassoon
- Maciej Górski / bass guitar
- Waclaw Lozinski / flute, percussion
- Mieczyslaw Górka / drums

Zbigniew Seifert / violin

A compilation prepared especially for the members of a "Record Club" of the Polish Jazz Association. Only side A of the LP was dedicated to Laboratorium. Side B of the LP contained recordings of Julian "Cannonball" Adderley Quintet from Jazz Jamboree '72.
CD release adds 6 bonus tracks by Laboratorium

1 to 3 - Recorded in Polskie Radio Warszawa, 24.04.1972.
4, 5 - Recorded in Polskie Radio Warszawa, 1973.
6 to 8 - Recorded in Polskie Radio Warszawa, 02.07.1974.

The end of the 60's is an important period in jazz, as well as rock music. Both in Poland and the rest of the world, the year 1969 was a caesura for those who saw in records such us King Crimson's debut the birth of progressive rock, and those for whom Krzysztof Komeda's death marked the end of a certain stage in Polish jazz. The boundaries are of course a totally contractual and unspecified matter, but definitely the turn of the 60's and 70's was an extremely creative period, which set the foundations for various styles and trends. In this time - the year 1970 - in Krakow, Laboratorium was also born - although its roots must be searched for in a more distant past...

Janusz Grzywacz, Laboratorium's leader, set his first musical steps in Krakow. Basically throughout the whole high school period he regularly formed bands: Smiacze, Lamparty, Tytani, in which also played Marek Stryszowski, his school companion, who happened to live on the same street. In that time Grzywacz had also connections with Krakow's cabaret scene and with the emerging STU Theatre. During his collage years in Polish studies he formed another band. Eventually a five-person lineup was set, consisting of Janusz Grzywacz (piano), Mieczyslaw Górka (drums), Waclaw Lozinski (flute), Edmund Maciwoda (bass, soon to be replaced by Maciej Górski) and Marek Stryszowski, who did the vocals and played the bassoon, to finally replace it by a sax.

Their live debut was on the Gitariada '71 festival. They start to play fusion, jazz-rock music, as the predecessors of such sounds in Poland. The first years of their activity brought mainly acoustic music, cleverly escaping any definitions. The musicians searched and experimented. The situation in which Poland was at that time - the limited access to Western recordings and albums - was not an obstacle for the band. On the contrary, Laboratorium became an unique sound, which was often underlined in various reviews.

The band's album debut was in January 1973. The record consisted of two tracks recorded in April '72 in a studio that belonged to the PR III of the Polish Radio. That recording session was an award for taking second place on the Jazz Nad Odra '72 festival. The tracks were noticed for a different approach both towards harmony and tension-building. The first song - 'Choral' - included also a vocal fragment by Marek Stryszowski. In the latter period his signing became an important and significant element building Labolatoriu's style, although it limited only to vocalizations, often revealing the use of electronic voice-modulation effects - here, however, Stryszowski, as a ‘classical' vocalist, sings the track's lyrics.

In 1973 the band was again awarded on the Jazz Nad Odra festival, this time taking first place and the award for best composition (Janusz Grzywacz's 'Prognoza na jutro'). This prize actually meant an advance from the amateur status to professionalism. In 1975 Czeslaw Niemen, who just left his band Aerolit, offered the group his cooperation. He performed with Laboratorium on several shows and festivals, presenting music from the album 'Katharsis' along with new songs, which became the basis for a double-album 'Idee Fixe', released a few years later. The cooperation had however only a ‘guest' character - Niemen soon formed a new band, while Laboratorium kept following their own path. The band met at that time with another musician - Tomasz Stanko, with whom they performed at Zaduszki Jazzowe ‘ 75. The music undergone some changes (Janusz Grzywacz replaced his acoustic piano for a novelty at that time - Fender Rhodes), so did the lineup. The band parted with Waclaw Lozinski and Maciej Górski was soon replaced by Krzysztof Scieranski (known from playing with Marek Grechuta), followed by his brother Pawel Scieranski, who became the first guitarist in the history of Laboratorium. In this lineup the band recorded its first official album - 'Modern Pentathlon'.

The record consisted of a long, five-part title track - „Pieciobój nowoczesny' and four shorter songs, apart from one ('Grzymaszka'), strongly settled in the funky style. In the title suite we can hear electronically modulated vocalizations by Marek Stryszowski (whose experiments could resemble the style of Urszula Dudziak), as well as a rich usage of sound potentiality of a single, monophonic Roland synthesizer (which was operated at that time by Janusz Grzywacz) and accelerated, fragments based on twitchy, pulsating drums, and recalling the achievements of Mahavishnu Orchestra. What is important, the band with all those various references kept their artistic identity, confirmed with musical sensitivity and the musicians' skills.

The album was released in the Polish jazz series (nr 49) in an unbelievable pace considering the Polish phonographic standards at that time. There often occurred such situations when the time from recording the album to releasing it took about a year or even longer, while Laboratorium's debut - recorded in the beginning of summer '76 - was launched in fall, during the next Jazz Jamboree festival. An innovatory (at that time) album premiere was organized in the Polish Recordings hall in Warsaw, along with record-signing (years after it was announced that the sales count for 'Modern Pentathlon' reached 115 thousand copies!). Following the success of their album the band begins to perform again, apart from playing in Poland it also visits Germany, as well as the exotic Jazz Yatra festival, which took place in 1978 in India and was another important step in the group's career (apart from Laboratorium the Polish representation consisted also of Czeslaw Niemen's and Zbigniew Namyslowski's bands).

Even before the trip to the festival, in 1997 the group recorded another two albums with a lineup extended by Pawel Valde-Nowak, playing the congas. During the September shows in Warsaw's 'Akwarium', an album for the „Bialy Kruk Czarnego Krazka' series was recorded - 'Aquarium Live No. 1', which tried to capture the atmosphere present on Laoratorium's concerts. Meanwhile, in Krakow's 'Rotunda' the band recorded the album 'Nurek', which was supposed to be released by Polskie Nagrania, at the time of the Jazz Yatra festival. Unfortunately that didn't happen. Simultaneously the band was contacting Helicon (the International Jazz Federation's record label), which eventually released 'Nurek' under the English title 'Diver'. As for Polskie Nagrania, the group prepared in 1979 a one-record album 'Quasimodo' (Polish Jazz series, nr 58), while the material meant for Elacoli, 'Nogero', was released on the German market by View Records. The first of the albums contained a few longer compositions intertwining with various and fascinating miniatures.

The end of the 70's brought another personal changes within the band - the group parted with Mieczyslaw Górka, who was in Laboratorium from the beginning. Andrzej Mrowiec, previously known from Maanam, became Laboratorium's new drummer. Soon after that Krzysztof Scieranski left the band and started a cooperation with Zbigniew Namyslowski (he was replaced by Krzysztof Olesinski, also from Maanam) and so did his brother Pawel (Ryszard Styla took his place in Laboratorium).

After a successful performance at the Zurich Jazz Festival, a Swiss agency Face Music took care of the band. In these years Laboratorium performed on less shows in Poland, more often visiting the West. In the turn of February and March '82 the group recorded its performances in Krakow's STU Theatre and released them on an album 'The Blue Light Pilot' (with the following lineup: Grzywacz - Stryszowski - Styla - Olesinski - Mrowiec). The band's music slowly changed, so did the instrumentation - Janusz Grzywacz more often used various synthesizers, as well as one of the first in Poland, custom-made 16-step sequencer. On that album for the first (and only) time appeared a track which wasn't written by the band - Thelonious Monk's 'Straight No Chaser', arranged in an unique way, mostly thanks to the mentioned sequencer. In the title track, extremely mechanical and full of energy, there are interwoven various citations and references. The next album - 'No. 8' (1984) - continued the band's search, giving more original ideas. Among them worth mentioning are the use of a vocoder, the enrichment of the rhythmic pattern by adding Jan Pilch's various percussion instruments and the guest appearance by violin player Jan Bledowski, who later toured with the band. The last studio album with brand new material was prepared two years later. 'Anatomy Lesson' was another logical step in Laboratorium's career. Sampled sounds appeared - yet another progress in the musical search. The album till this day intrigues with the variety of its sound, in the same time being compact and characteristic to the band's overall creation.

The group also functioned as a trio: Grzywacz - Stryszowski - Pilch, performing with this lineup on festivals such as 'Electric Music Island' in Wroclaw (1984). Meanwhile, Jan Pilch permanently joins the band. In the last years of their activity, Laboratorium was supported by Jaroslaw Smietana, among other places they visited Switzerland.

In various press articles from the 90's one can see the year 1990 as the end of Laboratorium's career. During the next decade the band appeared several times on stage, also during the celebration of their 25th anniversary (which was documented by TV production '25 Years of Laborka') - all the band's guitarists appeared together on stage at that time. Janusz Grzywacz is an active illustrative musician, he writes for the theatre (more than 100 premieres) and for the film, he also released two solo albums - 'Muzyka osobista' and 'Mlynek Kawowy'. Marek Stryszowski performs with his band Little Egoist, he's also the boss of a PSJ branch in Krakow. It's impossible not to write about all of Laboratorium's musicians - some of them are still active on the scene, others ended their careers in music. Laboratorium, however, gained a solid and unquestionable status in Polish rock and jazz music. Janusz Grzywacz sums it up: I think we had our fantastic.. no, not five - eleven minutes, which I sincerely wish to all musicians. We played more than a thousand concerts, were invited by major festivals and recorded 9 albums. I know that such thing is impossible to achieve in the jazz market nowadays. I also know that Laboratorium never really fell apart, to be honest. It's because that our music is still inside us. In each of us there's still the same way of thinking and playing, the same sensitivity and perspective towards music, which characterized Laborka. And it always will.
Author: Michal Wilczynski