The violin is the king’s instrument, not in the kingdom of jazz, though. King Oliver was not a violinist, nor was B.B. King, nor Nat King Cole. Duke Ellington did not play the violin, nor did Count Basie. And Satchmo, either. And Bird, and Monk, and Trane, and Miles, or no other jazz prophet were violinists. Why? Maybe because the violin is a very difficult instrument to play. None of them in fact is very quick to make a master, but the violin one should play really well to at least count on a job. A borstal, like it was with Armstrong, won’t do. Here, one needs thousands of hours of practice, otherwise you’ve got another Ornette Coleman.
Until very recently, the whole system of education and all the etudes were focused on making classical musicians. And these open up the road to the more lucrative and safe career of a classical violinist. And this remains both in fingers and head, not helping to become a jazz musician, even in the case of such great instrumentalists as Nigel Kennedy. Our two grand countrymen, Zbigniew Seifert and Michał Urbaniak, conservatory-born violinists, had become jazzmen playing the saxophone, and then, as violinists, still sounded more like Coltrane and Adderley than Stephane Grapelly. And finally: “what a shame you play the violin, as we don’t know how to promote jazz violinists” – this is what Michał Urbaniak was told about 1973 at Columbia Records.
The times are changing and now also jazz violinists can hold the first violin, like it is on this recording. But this violin is a completely different instrument, the violin of the new generation. This one happens sometimes to sound like a saxophone, and even like Four Brothers, but also like a guitar, organ, a choir of strangers, and a clamour of withes. And like the violin of course, though only once maybe, like the violin of a jazz band on the roof, very rarely in solo, more often in quartet and in orchestra. This trio does not at all sound like a trio but like a combo with orchestra, and even two – chamber and jazz big band. All the compositions, though improvised out in the course of the session are of a very sophisticated form and rich instrumentalisation. The sections and the soloists sound coherent and swing so much in hand, as though they were run by the same movement. In short, like a synthesizer which is operated by this exactly violin. The royal richness of the sound allows for the high resolution to emulate other instruments, not losing at the same time the violin-wise articulation and phrasing, and thus the violin soul. And all this live at the Polish Radio studio in Kielce. Quite contrary to what might be expected, this recording does not carry any studio or multitrack editing. All of this comes live. And even though quite a few years have passed, it will to this day impress not less than Urszula Dudziak and Krzysztof Ścierański.
The violin, because it has a soul, is the subject of the advantages of the evil forces. And so is the synthesizer, which has the violin soul as well. The unearthly expression of the violin could not be explained but by the Faustian assistance. Only other satans are at work here. Not the gigolo of the Paganini’s Mefisto type, but more like the Nostromo’s alien. They are the holders of the first and the last words of the story that has been told here. Since the very beginning we get the real creeps, and there is also an acid party by the lake on the way and the witches’ sabbath. Thanks to this, this violin breathes the soul and the life in its creatures, and its power of expression is as vocal as the expression of a face.
Since this is an opera, we have here many faces, for example onto the stage comes M.C. Pizzicato dell’ Arte, Vamp the Dragon, Pat the Guitarist, Harnaś the Violinist, etc. As much as their characters and personalities have been sculpted with the bow, and this so expressively, that it is so easy to make them out in a crowd, and we know so much about them, like who is from Seville and who’s from Murzasichle, the movement is created by the drum and bass. The mastery of this animation equals the characterization: some take the eight step, while the others stroll at four, some dance, and some creep, some march, and others fly away.
If something is called an opera and sounds like an opera, it is an opera. This one is in three acts with the overture and the epilogue. The curtain rises for M.C. Pizzicato, who introduces the dramatis personae, individually, in pairs and in threes, many in masks, and one is for sure a dragon dressed for a lady. And then the huge aria of the hero in Pat the Guitarist’s mask in quintet with two keyboards. Curtain. The second act, in the land of strings, somewhat hilly. The show given by Harnaś the Violinist, and a wink at the end. The third act: the sunset on the Psychedelic Lake with a string quartet of, as it comes out later, witches. The Violinist appears and once again he fights in style for Vamp the Dragon favours. But the dragon’s nature takes advantage and Vamp the Dragon joins the witches, who get rid of the bows, shrug off the tuxedos, hop on their brooms and fly away. The grand finale of the mysterious sounds is conducted by The Grand Illusion of Allegory. The epilogue: The Nostromo’s aliens leave as ominously as they appeared in the overture in the first place. And it does not look like they left for good. It is hard not to think that this dramatic intrigue has not yet ended; that it is to be continued.
And it is. The trio recorded here is the viariation with another bassist, Wojtek Zduniak, replacing Krzysztof Majchrzak, of the Labirynt Trio, in operation by 1994, which put out four albums: one in the original set “Ethnic” (Polonia Records, 1999) and three with the saxophonist Tom Bergeron and others, “Labirynt”, “Exit”, and “Motion Tissue” (Teal Creek Music 1998, 2004, 2007). The Labirynt Trio left the stage along with the ever remembered Michał Zduniak in 2009, but three years later came back with the great Calvin Weston on drums, under the trade mark “Magic hands”. And under this title they in spring of 2014 published their first album. The opera goes on. Please do have a good time.