Feature/Interview

Adam Bałdych Quintet with Paolo Fresu – ‘Poetry’

Ten years after signing with the German ACT label, violinist Adam Bałdych is putting communication and emotion at the heart of his new album. ‘Poetry’ is released on 29 October. He talks to Izzy Blankfield.

After more than a year without live performance, Adam Bałdych can’t wait to return to the stage next month. His world of improvisation is shaped by the personal contact he has with his audience: “People’s reactions, the way they draw deep into this music, how they listen – it always changes my music.”

It was during this period of isolation that Bałdych’s first son was born last July, creating new possibilities for communication and imagination. “It was a good thing that it happened in the pandemic, because I really slowed down. I could spend this time with him, I wasn’t in a rush,” Bałdych says. “I felt that these very light, full colours and happiness were around me all the time, and I wanted to express that in the music I wrote, because my music is always an expression of what I can see around me.”

Adam Bałdych. Photo credt: Magdalena Tracz/ACT

Bałdych’s new album, Poetry, is a celebration of communication. “After the pandemic year, I was really missing people, so I tried to make music where I could invite the listener into my world, to feel connected. There are so many magical things that I want to see, and to share in the language of music.”

Poetry sees Bałdych move away from the virtuosic solo playing of his previous records, blending his own sound with that of his new ensemble. Bałdych’s Quintet – with Marek Konarski on tenor saxophone, Krzysztof Dys on piano, Michał Barański on double bass and Dawid Fortuna on drums – is joined by trumpeter Paolo Fresu on five of the tracks of the album.

“We recorded the album in a studio, hidden away in a quiet village in the south of Poland where I felt that we’d have a space to be together and celebrate creating art together,” says Bałdych. “We spent the time eating, talking and playing music. And it was really special, especially after the last year. We wanted to express the happiness of being together.”

This shared happiness forms the foundation of each track. Poetry is an album driven by feeling, from the flowing piano line of I Remember to the euphoric, ensemble-led final track Open Sky. Bałdych’s focus on personal connections inspired the album’s name: “Poetry is everything that is between the words – you have to find it for yourself. And different people will find something different, because it’s an echo of who you are,” he says. “After years of being so expressive on the violin I really understood that sometimes you need to find a place, in the cascades of sound, where the silence speaks more than any words.”

Poetry, Bałdych tells me, is not an album of separate tracks, but a cycle of poems that flow into each other. The hypnotising pizzicato violin line that opens the very first track, Heart Beats, is echoed in the ninth track, Birds – this time with percussive reinforcement by Dys and Fortuna. “Every track brings something different,” Bałdych points out. “It’s only when you see the whole piece you can understand the whole picture. The tracks on the album represent the picture of my world today.”

The new album is also a celebration of Bałdych’s close relationship with his record label – the violinist was signed by ACT ten years ago, the morning after his late night show at JazzFest Berlin in 2011. “It’s so important to be able to have a dialogue, not only with the new artists that you invite for projects, but with the label itself. I always try to say what’s important to me and to put energy into that. That’s how we can do it for 10 years and still feel like we can achieve new things.”

“This album is very much connected to the first album I recorded with ACT – I also had a trumpeter and a saxophonist on the very first one. I’ve tried to celebrate these 10 years by getting back to the emotions I had recording the first one.”

After six albums with ACT, all with different ensembles, Bałdych won’t let himself be constrained by any one genre. His latest classical composition, Concerto Galante for improvising renaissance violin and orchestra, was premiered by the Stuttgarter KammerOrchester in July. “When I think about my music at the moment I feel like a violinist, an improviser and a composer. I really let myself just leave the music, just play, just compose, just make the album and then understand what’s happened, and what this music represents in my life.”

Adam Bałdych Quintet with Paolo Fresu – Poetry is out on ACT on 29 October.

LINK: Adam Bałdych’s website

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