April Records

Tomasz Dąbrowski – Trumpet, Electronics; Frederik Lundin – Tenor Saxophone; Irek Wojtczak – Tenor & Soprano Saxophone; Grzegorz Tarwid – Grand Piano, Synthesizer; Max Mucha – Double Bass; Knut Finsrud – Electric & Acoustic Drums; Jan Emil Mlynarski – Electric & Acoustic Drums; All compositions by Tomasz Dabrowski

Despite a wobbly start, the jazz scene in Poland is flourishing. Once part of Russia, Stalinist repression from 1945 to 1958 banned jazz from the airwaves. Musicians heard jazz by listening to the shortwave radio broadcast of Voice of America or by smuggling jazz records in from abroad. After Stalin’s death in 1958, things changed. By the 1960s there was traditional, mainstream, and free jazz. Krzysztof Komeda is credited for developing a Polish style of playing, rather than copying what those Americans were doing.

Tomasz Dąbrowski is considered one of Poland’s most original trumpet players, with eight albums released under his own name and dozens of CDs as a co-leader and sideman. Now based in Copenhagen, Dabrowski’s septet has put out their second album, BETTER.

It was recorded at the W Dobrym Tonie Studio in Warsaw, the same studio where American movies were edited during the Communist era. There are two drummers playing electric and acoustic drums, a synthesizer, plus electronics, so much of BETTER has an intriguing percussive wall of sound.

Dabrowski’s trumpet opens ‘F Jak Samolot’ but so does Grzegorz Tarwid’s cold, jarring piano. Remember the music in those silent films; the damsel, tied to the tracks, and the train’s bearing down? Trumpet phrases ride on top of a pleasantly orchestrated score of maniacal mayhem. The electric drums sound like something is about to boil over on the stove. The acoustic drums don’t let up, cymbals shimmer. Tarwid’s piano drips rivulets of notes. There are two great saxophone players on board but that’s Frederik Lundin doing most of the soloing. Max Mucha’s powerful woody bass anchors everything.

Growing up in Poland Dabrowski had a poster of trumpeter Tomasz Stanko above his bed. He said Stanko gave him the impetus to stick with jazz. Stanko’s playing style was lyrical and melancholy. Miles Davis and Chet Baker were influences but he also pulled from classical music and Polish folk songs. Dąbrowski may share some of the same influences but he is more eclectic. He likes to push boundaries.

‘Unicorns’ is a gorgeous trumpet bass duo. Dabrowski can play just as pretty as Stanko.

The trumpet starting ‘Bonzer’ could be for a coronation. Then this barrage starts that sounds like a grove of trees over the hill is being machine gunned in a heavy rain. Someone’s doing beautiful stick work on the drums. The percussion is intoxicating. Even the two saxophones trading riffs sound under its spell. A pretty piano line stops the music. It comes back, slower, quieter, the piano sounding minimalist and there’s a trumpet clouded in electronics.

Dabrowski strives for the offbeat; solo trumpet concerts, playing with just a drummer, and his trio with piano and drums. He said he’s “happy to prove that the unconventional may have its peculiar color, and, that it’s beautiful in its own way.”