Robert Kusiolek

Qui Pro Quo
Multikulti Project MPCC003

A purported mash up of so-called classical, jazz and folkloric inclinations, Polish bandoneon and accordion player Robert Kusiołek’s CD is a pleasant trifle that presents its music as being more advanced than it obviously is. During a nine-part suite he subtly matches the timbres of his bellows-directed instruments with those of Russian pianist Elena Czekanowa, plus the saxophones of Paweł Postaremczak and tubas of Grzegorz Nowara, both fellow Poles.

True to the CD’s slightly mistranslated Latin title, which defines how the exchange of services is dependent on others, each member of the quartet is involved in shifting the textures of the piece. But somehow among quivering stopping from Kusiołek, impressionistic drifting from Czekanowa’s keyboard, faint snorts from Nowara and Postaremczak’s sweet reed reverb that effect is often more listless than low key.

Singly and together Nowara and Kusiołek provide an ever-shifting ostinato quivering beneath the surface, but like a pirate’s chest that turns out to be filled with fool’s gold after it’s unearthed, the themes that rest on these sound waves don’t really glisten with precious riches. Postaremczak, who has played in the past with fellow reedist Waclaw Zimpel and drummer Klaus Kugel, tries a few times to express a more generous expression, and on his own the tubaist adds the occasional pugnacious grunt, but in the main these come across like peaking breakers on an otherwise placid sea. Czekanowa’s contributions are languid and Keith Jarrett-like, except when internal string plucking momentarily changes the interface. But taken as a whole even saxophone asides appear to twin accordion glissandi for more stasis than swing.

The program does perk up slightly on “Act VIII” with some speedy whistling from the hand-pressed reeds, staccato brass puffs and a crying snarl from the saxophone. Yet almost as quickly as this climax is reached, it dribbles away again to sylvan simplicity.

Considering the talents involved and the advances others have made in re-orienting these instruments’ tones in groups or solo situations, the correctly noted quid pro quo of the disc appears less than equitable.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Act I 2. Act II 3. Act III 4. Act IV 5. Act V 6. Act VI 7. Act VII 8. Act VIII 9. Act IX

Personnel: Grzegorz Nowara (bass and contrabass tubas); Paweł Postaremczak (tenor and soprano saxophones); Robert Kusiołek (accordion and bandoneon) and Elena Czekanowa(piano and, sound effects)