Innovator with a complex of tradition, romanticist expressing himself in the contemporary idiom, poet of piano - this is Krzysztof Komeda, one of those musicians who have widened the essence of jazz.
He has proved that the world of emotions hitherto remaining within the scope of symphony music could manifest itself in jazz as well. He did it by introducing into it dramatic lyricism and pathos which in their ecstatic, even mystic intensity are in the late-romantic, Promethean, Skriabin-like modes of expression.
This new aesthetics in jazz required its new form. Instead of the static conventional sets of variations, preceding without direction, he has initiated a dramatic form which develops from the exposition towards culmination and final solution. This form, let us call it roughly 'the bow form', has been used in two major pieces by Komeda recorded on this disc: Astigmatic and Svantetic (after Svante Forster, Swedish poet and writer, friend of the composer). The solo parts have ceased in it to be blowing choruses and have taken on instead a definite function, while the simple construction of the piece, concentration on a single idea (one movement, one theme), as well as much scope for improvisation and the psychic contact between the players contribute to the fullest realization of the composition.
The dramatic and constructional elements are not the only characteristics of Komeda's style. The particular 'Slavonic' feeling of his pieces results from the fusion of all sorts of stuff: beside contemporary technique of composition (sound spots, clusters, aleatoric and poliagogic structures) there are structures getting out of fashion (modalism or the extinct harmonics of the last century) or the 'fossilized', long forgotten forms of the musical prematter (as for instance the simple drum beating - the obsessive rhythm, how very fresh and revealing nowadays!, or the uncontrolled instrumental 'cry').
The force that unifies these elements is the jazz rhythm and sound. It must be said, however, that the sonority and articulation have been here considerably widened.
Komeda's pieces are outlines to be performed by a group of chosen instrumentalists. No wonder that Komeda selects his partners carefully.
Among the musicians connected with him there is Rune Carlson, a distinguished Swedish percussionist, extraordinarily musical, with a rapid reflex and an unusual sensitivity to the quality of sound. Though in his style similar to Anthony Williams, in details completely different from him.
Then there is in Komeda's group Tomasz Stańko, a leading Polish trumpeter, a striking individuality. Since recently he has been playing on the flugelhorn, extracting from it a fine, voluminous sound.
As guest performers appear with Komeda: Günter Lenz, playing double-bass with the West-German Albert Mangelsdorff ensemble, a musician of rich technique and imagination; and Zbigniew Namysłowski from Warsaw, one of the leading alto axophonists of the younger generation (born in 1939), known in numerous countries in Europe and in USA.
Krzysztof Komeda (1931-1969), a pianist, a musician whose career has been very rich. He has been playing as jazz musician since 1959, appearing in many European countries and having a particularly great success in Scandinavia. He has written music to over thirty films both Polish and foreign. Among others to Two Men with a Wardrobe, Mammalia, Knife in Water, Cul-de-sac, all by Roman Polański, to Innocent Sorcerers by Andrzej Wajda, Hvad Medos and Kattorna (Cats) by Henig Carlssen. Just from the latter comes the second of the pieces recorded on this disc of the four individualists appeals strongly to our imagination. And that is what they are aiming at.
© Adam Stawinski
Original liner notes from the album's back cover
Astigmatic. Polish Jazz vol.5. The Genius of Krzysztof Komeda. Krzysztof Komeda Quintet: Astigmatic (22:50), Kattorna (07:20), Svantetic (15:50). All music by Krzysztof Komeda. Performed by: Tomasz Stanko - trumpet, Zbigniew Namyslowski - alto sax, Krzysztof Komeda - piano, Gunter Lenz - bass, Rune Carlsson - drums. Polskie Nagrania - Muza, 1965/2007. Catalogue No: PNCD 1005. Format: CD (2007, Digi-Pack Polish Jazz Deluxe Edition). Recorded: December 1965, at the Warsaw Philharmonics Hall, Warsaw, Poland.