Obara International

For Tune 007

Does it make a difference if musicians performing a work are of the same nationality as its composer? While the concept is iffy at best, sometimes it seems as if nationalism can add an extra oomph to the playing. So it is with this CD, where four Polish jazzmen expand to epic length interpretations of pieces by Krzysztof Komeda. Best known in the West for his soundtrack writing, including Rosemary’s Baby and The Fearless Vampire Killers, Komeda (1931-1969) was also in on the birth of Polish modern jazz, and remains the best-known composer from that era.

Overall, the vivid effervescence which characterizes the performance here centres on the contrast between the flowery romanticism of pianist Dominik Wania and the bellicose intensity of alto saxophonist Maciej Obara: a division which often characterizes Polish music in general. Moving between the extremes are bassist Ole Morten Vågan and drummer Gard Nilssen, who provide appropriate secondary textures. Throughout the initial four pieces Wania’s overwrought impressionism, reminiscent of Keith Jarrett’s, speedily glides through tracks such as Etiudy Baletowe with busy glissandi that swing powerfully, while Obara reed-biting emphasis adds a tough rigidity that tempers the pianist’s more theatrical tendencies.

With the more-than-20 minute Komeda’s Medley, that sutures together three of the composer’s tunes, the four reach perfect and exciting equilibrium. By the mid section Obara’s stridency has modulated to smoother, yet still powerful tones; while the pianist’s initial Ravel-like cascading uses downward chord clusters to meet the saxophonist’s brittle prickly playing. Eventually as Obara continues spitting out short repeated motifs, it’s Wania’s tripled tremolo lines which powerfully join with the reedist for an appropriate continuum and conclusion.

Nationalism may be more a political than a musical concern in the 21st Century. But on Komeda this combination of Polish compositions interpreted by Polish soloists pays unbeatable dividends for the listener.

—Ken Waxman

— For Whole Note Vol. 19 #8