Live review

Jerry & The Pelican System (2020 EFG LJF)

Jerry & The Pelican System – Virtual Tour Final Episode
(UK premiere screening from Poznan on 22 November. EFG London Jazz Festival. Review by Peter Slavid)

Jerzy Mączyński (screenshot)

Reading the EFG London Jazz Festival introduction, and the London Jazz preview article will give you a good feel for the scale and scope of this massive project. The culmination of many years and many individual collaborations came together in this concert performed in Poznan, Poland, in front of a small socially distanced live audience, before the latest lockdown.

More than 30 musicians from around the world (India, Peru, Nepal, Iran, USA and Slovenia) were involved at different stages producing seven separate musical episodes, and many of the artists feature in the rather obscure spoken introduction to this concert.

The music is described as avant-garde, but that can imply a degree of inaccessibility which would be unfair. I found the live concert to be immersive, cinematic and powerful and something I would have loved to see live.

The core of the music is the basic, and often very simple riffs provided by the electronics of Jerzy Mączyński. Sometimes just long varying drone-like chords, sometimes more conventional riffs, these ebb and flow and build up to a powerful crescendo before dying back to near silence and then morphing into a new background. Over these come a variety of sounds. Sometimes it’s a fusillade of drumbeats, often using mallets or brushes, as well as some that are electronically generated, or the fierce percussive piano of Marcel Baliński, the rumbling and screeching of a bowed bass or the soaring saxophone from Mączyński himself. Add to that the occasional recorded vocal chanting (presumably from earlier participants), and some flute from Wiktoria Jakubowska, and there are sometimes an overwhelming variety of different sounds.

Towards the end there is a delightful section that starts with an electronically generated riff on what sounds a bit like a glockenspiel. The drums then improvise over it, before the other instruments join in for a period of collective improvisation, with various combinations of instruments that eventually fade to silence at the close.

With this sort of music it can often be difficult to tell, even from the front row of a live gig, which sounds are coming from which instruments. Online it becomes even more difficult, and is very dependent of the camera angles chosen. After a while it’s best to simply enjoy the music with the added bonus of being able to go back to the beginning and watch it again – how often have you wished you could do that after a live gig?

Peter Slavid broadcasts a programme of European Jazz on mixcloud.com/ukjazz and various internet stations

BAND
Jerzy Mączyński – saxophone, electronics
Marcel Baliński – piano
Franciszek Pospieszalski – double bass
Wiktoria Jakubowska – drums, electronics

LINK : Jerry and the Pelican System YouTube channel

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