Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Polish Jazz vol. 49 – Laboratorium – Modern Pentathlon

   Cracow group Laboratorium was probably the first Polish band playing jazz rock and experimenting with sounds and forms consequently from its beginning. Laboratorium in Polish means “laboratory” and when band was formed in 1970, it was already common name for projects focused on experimenting with artistic methods and forms. The first and most famous predecessor was Laboratorium Theatre directed by Jerzy Grotowski. Contacts with this alternative theatre and improvised spectacles of Wiesław Hoszowski during concerts were the mark of artist’s aspirations. From the very beginning band was experimenting with sound, leader of the band, Janusz Grzywacz was using prepared piano, singer Marek Stryszowski was experimenting with wide range of vocal sounds. These experiments gave Laboratorium chance to pierce through the establishment of Polish Jazz School and create their own musical language.
   Laboratorium was probably first artistic project breaking domination of earlier generation in Polish jazz. The situation of jazz apprentices in 1970 was difficult. Older musicians debuted in underground, differentiated in late 50’s and 60’s musicians were tightly filling the stage. The first generation of Polish jazz school was rich and well established. In this situation only totally different style was a formula leading to success. In 1971 group debuted at festival in Nowa Huta near Cracow. They were pioneering fusion and jazz-rock music. Next year band won in Wrocław festival second prize, which was opportunity to record their debut album. It was eponymous album Laboratorium published in 1973 by Polish Jazz Society. Three years later in July 1976 Laboratorium recorded their second album Modern Pentatholon (Muza SX 1418).

Polish Jazz vol. 49 – Laboratorium – Modern Pentathlon (1976)

   After first successes next step was professionalization of the band. The lineup and sound had changed. First significant change was hiring two brothers Krzysztof Ścierański playing bass guitar and Paweł Ścierański playing electric guitar. Two guitars made the sound more electric and closer to fusion which was trendy at the time. At the moment of creating album Modern Pentathlon Laboratorium was totally different band. The sound of the group changed also as the effect of massive use of electronic and electric instruments. It was visible in keyboard kit owned by Janusz Grzywacz who was frequently playing Fender Rhodes and Rolland 2000 Synthesizer than traditional piano. The same applies to vocalist and saxophonist Marek Stryszowski who was using numerous sound effects. Drummer Mieczysław Górka was playing more funky than rock. And bass guitarist Krzysztof Ścierański after first album with Laboratorium became a star of new wave of jazz in Poland.
   The original style of Laboratorium was just between what was doing by European progressive and jazz rock groups like Soft Machine and American fusion bands. The creative ideas of Janusz Grzywacz were as far of popular schemes as of rock or classical forms even if basing on composed constructions and discipline. It wasn’t just funky like some American bands as well. Main composition of the album was eponymous Modern Pentathlon, almost 20 minutes long, five part composition of the band. This work shows the scale of artistic ambitions of Laboratorium members. Second side comprises four shorter compositions by Janusz Grzywacz: Funky for Franka, Crazy Shepherd (composed together with Marek Stryszowski), ABZ and Grzymaszka, tasty small demonstrations of band and its leader possibilities. In seventies Laboratorium, along with famous artists of Polish jazz school, was exposure of Polish culture. Playing with successes on few continents band had its position and influenced many musicians. Three and a half star for huge heart to play creative music.

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