Sunday, June 30, 2013

Mazolewski Gonzalez Quintet's "Shaman"

Like Don Cherry, Dallas-based trumpeter Dennis Gonzalez's music is organic, spiritual, and cathartic. Wherever he travels, he carries with him a repertoire of tunes he's played with musicians from all over the world, along with an aura of family and community. Last year, he and Polish bassist Wojtek Mazolewski collaborated on two stellar releases, the 7-inch Wind Streaks in Syrtis Major and the 12-inch EP Bandoleros en Gdansk. Now, on Shaman, released by the new Polish label ForTune, the two men co-lead a quintet with tenorman Marek Pospieszalski (another returnee from the aforementioned dates), the astonishing pianist Joanna Duda (who plays with Mazolewski in Pospieszalski's quintet), and drummer Jerzy Rogiewicz (from the group Levity Trio).

The program on Shaman consists of two compositions each by Gonzalez and Mazolewski, and two by pianist Krysztof Komeda, a pioneer of modern jazz in Poland who composed soundtracks for the films of Roman Polanski (most notably Rosemary's Baby) and died tragically after sustaining a head injury in Los Angeles, 1968. The opening "Astigmatic" was the title track from Komeda's groundbreaking jazz album from 1965. Its opening fanfare leads into a pensive solo from Mazolewski. The horns play a mournful theme in unison over an active rhythm section, then follow it with solo statements. Pospieszalski has an acrid tone, like Archie Shepp's, and spins off ideas with drummer Rogiewicz shadowing him every step of the way. Gonzalez is always a melodist first, with his own burnished sound, but he also uses velocity to build excitement and release tension. The piece evolves into a  dialogue between the horns, with wordless vocalizations slipping in as the music builds to an intense conclusion.

Duda introduces Gonzalez's "Hymn for Julius Hemphill" with a brief statement, then the composer plays the stately, leisurely-paced modal theme with counterpoint from Pospieszalski. A three-way conversation between the horns and drums ensues before Rogiewicz careens off on a solo that flows organically out of the tune's momentum. Duda's accompaniment, in tandem with Mazolewski's bass, ebbs and flows like the tide while Rogiewicz's drums dart in and out of the groove. Mazolewski's "Suite" features some AACM-like vocal-and-percussion action. In the hands of these skilled communicators, all of this material -- whether it's Komeda's "Pushing the Car," from his soundtrack to Polanski's film Cul-de-Sac, or Gonzalez's "The Matter At Hand," which the trumpeter has previously recorded with a couple of different groups -- is transformed, and the performance takes on a life of its own. This is improvised music at its finest.


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