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!