Mazolewski González Quintet

Shaman
For Tune 0004

Between 1920 and 1939, Gdańsk was a semi-autonomous city-state, open to influences far beyond Germany and Poland. In 1980 it was ground zero for Lech Wałęsa’s Solidarity movement. It seems fitting then that a group led by Gdańsk-based bassist Wojtek Mazolewski should so efficiently blend with American brass man Dennis González in this first meeting.

When it comes to improvised music, the trumpeter/cornetist is symbolically a semi-autonomous city-state himself in his hometown of Dallas. Someone whose experimental leanings usually have lead to collaboration with out-of-towners such as drummer Alvin Fielder, he had to grow his own local working group. The band, Yells at Eels now features his musician sons. The patrimony of Mazolewski’s Rock-oriented Pink Freud band or this quintet isn't a question. However he and the other musicians – reedist Marek Pospieszalski, pianist Joanna Duda and percussionist Jerzy Rogiewicz –perform like a band of siblings.

Relating to the universality of contemporary improvised music, the trumpeter’s two compositions don’t sound particularly American any more than the bassist’s two appear particularly Polish. If anything, the couple by Polish icon Krzysztof Komeda (1931-1969) are probably by virtue of their age the most overly Jazzy of the set. Pospieszalski’s Aylerian split tones and González’s spurting triplets do put a more modern sheen on Komeda’s “Astigmatic”, which otherwise depends on steady swinging from the rhythm section with faint references to “God Rest You Merry Gentleman”. Oddly enough the brass man manages to work in a quote from “Makin’ Whoppee” on “Pushing the Car”, the other Komeda line. Prescient of later pan-European improv, brass plunger tones, wild clarinet squeezes and jumping bass pumps suspended over refined brush work define the parameters of a piece that calls on polka sways with a Jazz backbeat.

Honoring another Jazz icon, González’s “Hymn for Julius Hemphill” is characterized by busy piano tremolos, smears from the saxophonist and an initial cowboy-like melody which references Hemphill’s southwestern roots. Eastern European individuality and strength is on show during the rest of the piece as Mazolewski’s chiming strings and pounding on his instrument’s wood make as much a percussive statement as Rogiewicz’s ruffs and bounces. Tick-tock drumming underlies “The Matter at Hand”, the trumpeter’s other composition. However the drummer’s bashing gets out-of-hand later on, leaving it to some Rollinesque tongue slurping on the saxman’s part plus Duda’s vamping ostinato and later tactful key clinks leading to keep the piece balanced.

Mazolewski’s verbal hectoring and power plucking bring a Wałęsa-like toughness throughout and to his own tunes. But unlike the former Polish president he’s a team player par excellence and allows his stop-time “Suite” to be shaped as much by González’s brassy bites plus shaking maracas and hand claps as his own bass stops. Additionally “Sztander” includes chromatic emphasis in the centre to prevent this Jazz Messengers-like piece to not succumb to aimless banging.

Proof yet again of González’s adaptability as well as the compositional and performance sophistication of Polish Jazzers, Shaman’s magic is that it portends more excellent sessions from these players in the future.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Suite 2. Astigmatic 3. The Matter at Hand 4. Sztander 5. Hymn for Julius Hemphill 6. Pushing the Car

Personnel: Dennis González (trumpet, cornet, beat box and voices); Marek Pospieszalski (tenor saxophone and alto clarinet); Joanna Duda (piano); Wojtek Mazolewski (bass and voices) and Jerzy Rogiewicz (drums and percussion)