CD review

 Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet – When Angels Fall

Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet – When Angels Fall
(Whirlwind Recordings WR4747. CD review by Peter Slavid)

Back in the 1960s, Polish jazz was known mostly for it’s role in the protest movement against Soviet-era dictatorship, and as a celebration of national freedom. Much admired in principle for those efforts, two names emerged from that period onto the world stage, the wonderful trumpeter Tomasz Stańko and the composer and pianist Krzysztof Komeda. 

Perhaps best known for his work in film, Komeda wrote the scores for Roman Polanski’s films Knife in the Water (1962), Cul-de-sac (1966), The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967), and Rosemary’s Baby (1968). But his biggest lasting impact came from a recording in the studio.  His album Astigmatic (1965) is widely regarded as one of the most important European jazz albums of that period. Jazz in the 1950s had been totally dominated by American musicians, and by European musicians trying to sound like Americans. Astigmatic was an early and influential example of European jazz diverging from that style. It’s influence was an important factor in what we now know as European Jazz.  

Komeda died in 1969 at the age of 37 after a fall following a party in Hollywood.  

Wojtek Mazolewski is part of a completely new generation of Polish artists, born seven years after Komeda’s death and with an eclectic mix of styles in his repertore.  His album Polka from 2018 was on a lot of people’s best of year lists and his punk-jazz band Pink Freud toured here with Pete Wareham about 10 years ago.  This new album is a set of interpretations of Komeda’s compositions including many taken from his work for the cinema. The majority of these come from the films of Polanski but also from films by Jerzy Skolimiwski 

Along with Mazolewski on bass this album features Oskar Török (trumpet, electronics), Marek Pospieszalski (tenor saxophone), Joanna Duda (Wurlitzer, grand piano) and Qba Janicki (drums, percussion)

The title track, When Angels Fall comes from a short film by Polanski and starts with a slow meandering melody over a combination of piano and wurlitzer and then in comes some very Stanko-like plaintive trumpet improvisation.

In complete contrast, Roman II taken from Polanski’s Knife in the Water has a rapid trumpet/sax punkish opener before a thumping dance-floor bass takes over. The track Astigmatic is also included here, and is a powerful and evocative piece of music even at eight minutes, rather than the extended 22 minutes of the original.  Bariera features Török’s trumpet enhanced by electronics to give an extremely dramatic effect.

Komeda’s original recordings often featured Stańko on trumpet and in fact my personal memories of the early Komeda impact is much more centred around Stańko’s trumpet improvisations than around the compositions. Török does an excellent job of filling his shoes and integrates modern electronics into the sound in a seamless manner. 

This is a very accessible, high quality album from an excellent quintet with some fine trumpet playing.  

Peter Slavid broadcasts a programme of European Jazz on and various internet stations

1 reply »

  1. Critic Peter Slovid start this review with the sentence who is completely wrong, and to simple to explain a complexity of dynamic and extremely high level of Polish culture including jazz and music completely . Was enough for complex cultural process and dynamic life who produced so many world renowned arts, not only in jazz but in the theater, movie, contemporary music, literature etc.etc. Was this enough of fuel for this extremely turbulent culture production, or something else & more- a state support, openness for new movements on world culture scene etc.etc. Take a brilliant 4 -CD’s compilation “Jazz in Polish Cinema ” and listen carefully- so many good jazz was produced in this period ( 1958-1967 ) or read two giant books about history of jazz in Poland ( “Historia jazzu w Polsce” by Krystian Brodacki ” and ” Byl jazz ” by Krzystof Karpinski ! ) or in English some history of Polish culture and you will understand how a process of contemporary Polish culture was and is more complex then is only ” Polish jazz was known mostly for it’s role in the protest movement against Soviet-era dictatorship, and as a celebration of national freedom “. I early period after II world war Polish jazz produced not only Komeda and Stanko, but many,many brilliant musicians, composers and combos from Adam Makovicz to Namyslowski, from NOVI Singers to Michal Urbaniak and Zbigniew Siefert, from Tomasz Szukalski to Jan Ptaszyn Wroblewski, Wojciech Karolak ,Roman “Gocio” Dylag, Janusz Muniak, etc.etc- most of them with excellent impact on world jazz scene. Same attitude of many of European jazz critics have and had from so-colled West when analyze jazz in others ex- socialistic countries like East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Romania or Bulgaria and on the end in ex-Soviet Union very simplified and belittle approach.. Look and read what Alyn Shipton wrote in his ” New History of Jazz ” about European Jazz- almost nothing, same situation is in his radio shows.- exist only English and American jazz. That’s mean Brexit in jazz in UK start years ago !!! I don”t won’t to tell nothing about jazz in my former country Yugoslavia where was a fantastic jazz scene after II World War, because we split with Soviet Union very soon and had the independent culture scene.
    All the best in New Brexit jazz years- Ognjen Tvrtković from Sarajevo who when was a radio editor on II program of Radio Sarajevo produced so many radio shows with English jazz, mostly in a cooperation with BBC radio international department !!!

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