Saturday, February 16, 2013

Polish Jazz vol. 1 – Warsaw Stompers

   Jazz was alive in Poland a long time before the war. But the real history of Polish jazz had to begin in 1956. In the period of most intense communistic regime, jazz was underground music. And when in 1956, in time of political relaxation called the “Polish October” or “Polish thaw” it has changed, jazz had resonated like it was always ready. Although it was only temporary liberalization of political life in Poland, this was enough for jazz to come out of hiding. And jazz blossomed with new force, appearing first in the dance music, than simultaneously in traditional Dixieland style and in modern and cool jazz arrangements. Jazz concerts, festivals, records and magazines became common part of Polish culture.
   The traditional swing or even Dixieland bands were not only the first wave of official jazz but traditional or revival jazz, quite the same as in other communistic countries, remained solid part of Polish jazz scene in next decades. In modern jazz there was too much pessimism and traditional sounded sometimes just happy. New Orleans Stompers later known as Warsaw Stompers is the band playing with various lineups and achieving considerable popularity during first decade of official jazz life in Poland after the Polish October. This band was one of workshops where apprenticed future stars of Polish jazz, Henryk Majewski, Włodzimierz Gulgowski and many others.

Polish Jazz vol. 1 – Warsaw Stompers (1965)

   After 1956 Polskie Nagrania had begun to publish first jazz records. Some of them were groundbreaking, but most were just popular songs. Many were pure dance SP and EP records, just as some bands were working in ball rooms. Collecting some recordings from previous sessions of New Orleans Stompers and Warsaw Stompers, considering popularity of the band, in 1965 state culture authorities decided to publish album of this band. This was the moment Polskie Nagrania started the series of LPs under the heading Polish Jazz. And the album of Warsaw Stompers was the volume number one. What is sometimes misplaced as the record title – New Orleans Stompers – was in fact the prior name of the band. This was common practice with first volumes of Polish Jazz series, the names of the bands were used as the titles of most albums. Just like it were the onetime presentations organized as a kind of a documentary. Strong elements of this presentation were Polish songs opening B Side of the album, what was creative and politically correct gesture.

Warsaw Stompers – Ej przeleciał ptaszek (1965)

   There were more attributes clearly indicating the Warsaw Stompers’ production was regarded as an archive presentation. Most of the tracks were placed in chronological order as documenting consecutive recording sessions. The selection comprises choice of half decade, from two ragtimes by Wojciech Kacperski recorded April 10th 1959, to last four pieces recorded August 11th and 12th 1964. Most of material was recorded in 1963 when the style of the band was stable and group has been well recognized by public in Poland, acclaimed by critics and accepted by authorities.
   The choice of Warsaw Stompers is 16 songs filling the volume 1 of Polish Jazz series with heterogeneous content. This is the album of different tendencies and ideas, collected over the years. Older compositions are rawer in style and in performance, and newer recordings are played with heart and more swinging. Solos are more pronounced, expression is clear and humor less specific. Four songs arranged by Zbigniew Namysłowski and Henryk Majewski opening B Side of this record are probably the first successful attempt of creating a genuine Polish jazz tradition. One is based on folk tunes of Polish mountaineers and three of them are popular songs of Polish composers – Stanisław Moniuszko, Tadeusz Sygietyński i Stanisław Hadyna. This became the idée fixe for Zbigniew Namysłowski, alto saxophonist who in modern recordings was always looking for connections with native musical traditions. His later recordings in Polish Jazz series have become a confirmation of the trend.

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