Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Polish Jazz vol. 36 – Michał Urbaniak – Constellation In Concert


   In the seventies jazz musicians in Poland were in very good professional position. It was less than twenty years from the moment jazzmen came out of the underground and since sixties they were known as new generation of musicians creating independent culture in Poland. With Polish jazz series successively the name “Polish jazz school” gained the right of existence. Shortly this description became a quality mark in many cities and festivals of West Europe and all over the world. No wonder Polish musicians were playing in many countries, collecting more and more artistic experiences and valuable professional contacts. Although European musical market was wide open for any interesting phenomenon from behind the iron curtain, major challenge for all jazzmen was still America, the homeland of jazz. Many classical musicians from Poland were playing overseas before the war. Most famous was Ignacy Jan Paderewski who was piano virtuoso, composer and politician. The first Polish modern jazz musician who played in 1958 International Newport Band was saxophonist Jan “Ptaszyn” Wróblewski. In sixties and seventies Polish jazzmen achieved series of successes. One of first who decided to stay in America for good were Michał Urbaniak and Urszula Dudziak.
   Michał Urbaniak is one of most creative musicians in Polish jazz. He is also one of most successful and the one who made violin featured jazz instrument in Poland. With three years younger Zbigniew Seifert they were the two violinists from Poland achieving great international recognition. And what is characteristic, both were playing saxophones as well. Maybe because saxophone was instrument clearly associated with jazz while violin were always link to folk and classical traditions. Starting his jazz career Michał Urbaniak was playing soprano, alto and tenor saxophones. In 1962 Urbaniak was touring in USA with Andrzej Trzaskowski’s The Wreckers. In mid-sixties he was playing in Scandinavia with Krzysztof Komeda, where he started his own band with Urszula Dudziak and Wojciech Karolak. This was the beginning of and Michal Urbaniak Group, Constellation and Fusion groups.

Michał Urbaniak – Constellation In Concert (1973)

   After return to Poland in 1970, Urbaniak formed his own group. This was the moment he introduced electric violin, playing on traditional violin with electric pick-up, and later changed it with specifically designed five string violin and early model of violin synthesizer. In 1971 during Montreux Festival Michał Urbaniak was awarded Grand Prix and scholarship of Berklee Collage of Music. But ultimately he didn’t start to study in Boston, signing contract with Columbia Records and touring with great fame in Europe and USA. In May 1973 at Warsaw Philharmonic Michał Urbaniak with Constellation gave historic concert recorded by Polskie Nagrania. This occurred to be farewell concert of Michał Urbaniak with his wife Urszula Dudziak for Polish audience. In September 11, 1973 they emigrated to US. Fragments of Constellation Philharmonic Concert were published the same year by Polskie Nagrania as volume 36 of Polish Jazz series. Album Michał Urbaniak Constellation in Concert was among the top of the best Polish fusion productions.
   The band included five musicians and every one of them was already fully formed artistic personality. The leader of the Constellation Michał Urbaniak was playing violin. He was also composer of whole program. His solo in the introduction to the Bengal, more than 17 minutes suite opening the album is great evidence of his remarkable individual style. The way he introduced the theme of Bengal played with vocalize by Urszula Dudziak, elegance and expression in his improvisation showed great individuality of international scale. After Urbaniak we have solo of inspired improviser organist Wojciech Karolak (Hammond Organ and Farfisa), and Fender piano short improvised intro by Adam Makowicz, narration takes Urszula Dudziak singer being the undeniable discovery of this era. She gave in Bengal whole show of her voice and instrumental possibilities, first with discrete piano by Adam Makowicz, then with funky collective improvisation by Adam Makowicz, Wojciech Karolak and Czesław Bartkowski, who played improvised drums solo followed by the main theme reprise.
   The first complexe composition shows full possibilities of the Michał Urbaniak Constellation. In next some ideas were developed. The same spirit of collective improvisations can be heard in next two compositions Spokój (Calm) and Lato (Summer). In Spokój inspirations have more contemplative character, while Lato is full of vibrant, warm atmosphere. The formal idea of Seresta is remaining somehow much wider form of Bengal. Especially interesting is culmination in improvisation of Wojciech Karolak and Adam Makowicz, where two keyboardists meet in dialogue giving great example of musical cooperation. The last composition titled just Theme is like coda corresponding with introduction to the Bengal and closing whole album with natural baracket. Altough this is live recording, it sounds more like studio album. Full control over elements of the form, variety of artistic attitudes, perfect comprehension of each member’s intentions and diversity of solo performances make this band exception on early seventies’ jazz scene. All these qualities are audible on this album and worth four stars grade.

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