Krakow Jazz Autumn Festival 2019

"Jazz isn't style. It's a way of thinking," said Ken Vandermark once. This is the best motto for the 14th edition of the Krakow Jazz Autumn Festival, which will echo the achievements of contemporary music, rock and noise, but always filtered through the unique sensitivity of improvised music.

The festival will open on 7 October with a discussion on contemporary improvised music with the participation of musicians: Steve Swell, Per-Åke Holmlander, Paulina Owczarek, Rafał Mazur and Krakow Jazz Autumn’s artistic director, Marek Winiarski. The first residence of this Autumn will belong to a large ensemble. The sound of Steve Swell‘s trombone contains the whole history of jazz, not only avant-garde jazz. The musician began his career in the big-bands of Lionel Hampton and Buddy Rich, however his orchestral approach – radically different from the music of swing masters – was honed in, among others, the band Steve Swell’s Nation Of We. In Krakow, he will present a new, 12-person project with Mikołaj Trzaska, which also includes Carlos Zingaro and Gebhard Ullman, who have not been seen in Krakow for a long time (concerts of small ensembles on 7th and 8th October, the finale will be performed by the whole band at Radio Krakow on 9th October).

A different, but no less interesting look at how contemporary jazz can sound will be presented on 22 October by musicians of the Polish-Berlin-American quintet, in which the most interesting jazzmen of the young generation (Kuba Więcek, Mateusz Gawęda, Max Mucha, Moritz Baumgärtner), combining impeccable technique with fresh ideas for the sound of their music and formal explorations reaching for classical (but not limited to) inspirations, will be led by New York-based trumpet philosopher, Ralph Alessi.

Ken Vandermark‘s work ethic, responsibility and respect for the audience, collaborators and the music itself are almost legendary in the music community. But titanic effort alone would be nothing without talent – and Vandermark is unparalleled in the ability to write brilliant compositions and take advantage of the wealth of possibilities offered by large ensembles. Constructed with great imagination, the musical plans and carefully thought-out dramatics attract the attention of the listener from start to finish, bringing out the best in the soloists. During a five-day residency (23-27 October), the Entr’Acte project will be presented for the first time in Poland, as the crème de la crème of the improvised music scene from six countries meet: Nate Wooley, Mette Rasmussen, Jasper Stadhouders, Terrie Hessels, Elisabeth Harnik, Joe Williamson, Dieb 13, Christof Kurzmann, Steve Heather and Didi Kern.

Ballister (28 October) could be called a free jazz power trio – but its members employ much more diverse means of expression. With little warning, they move between walls of noise and shades balancing on the edge of silence. Critics agree that cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love redefined the role of their instruments in improvised music, and Dave Rempis, with the breadth and power of his sound, joined the ranks of the greatest free jazz saxophone titans.

It is impossible to predict what is going to dominate in The Young Mothers’ set: free jazz, hip hop, or heavy grindcore rock (November 4th). One could say that’s what John Zorn would have sounded like today if he had been Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and had put together a Texan-Norwegian band that crossed all genre boundaries and called them something like “The Young Mothers”. Their concert is definitely worth recommending not only for jazz fans, and the same could be said about Joëlle Léandre (6-7 November). The French double bass player is a phenomenon like The Rolling Stones – you have to see it at least once in your life. With her extraordinary musical sensitivity and rare sense of form, Joëlle Léandre is like a storm uprooting weaker trees – not every accompanying musician will survive such an encounter unscathed. This makes it all the more interesting for her to perform with improvisers (on 6 November a quartet with Mateusz Rybicki, Zbigniew Kozera and Zlatko Kaučič, on 7 November a duo with Rafał Mazur after Léandre’s solo set).

Satoko Fujii, a pianist valued for her orchestral projects, doesn’t shy away from the aesthetics of rock and jazz. This time, she will perform in Krakow in a duet with one of the biggest underestimated American free jazz musicians of the last four decades, double bass player Joe Fonda (17 November) and the international Wandering The Sound Quintet (18 November), which includes Natsuki Tamura, Rafał Mazur and Ramón López, as well as Argentinian jazz and improvised music legend, the 78-year-old Guillermo Gregorio. The group will perform a “comprovisation” (composition for improvisers) by Rafał Mazur based on a poem by Ikkyu Sojun, a zen master from the 15th century.

Krakow Jazz Autumn will feature an array of the most creative representatives of the Polish improvised music scene, presented in the Polish Improart series. And in it – the powerful trio Olbrzym & Kurdupel + Willi Hanne (17 October), a true supergroup of the Polish music scene Dominik Strycharski/Artur Majewski/Ksawery Wójciński (21 November), finally gaining long overdue recognition the pianist Witold Oleszak, with Tomasz Jacobson and Peter Ole Jørgensen (11 November), conducted improvisation for twelve instruments, live voice and live painting (Krakow Improvisers Orchestra and Bartosz Nalepa – 28 November), and the psychedelic free-folk trio Polonka (29 November).

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