Polish jazz festival takes over Tel Aviv

One of the most fascinating facets of jazz is its ability to take nuances in different parts of the world without losing its gender identity.

While the core of the discipline remains, for the most part, African American, and anyone looking to make progress in the jazz arena simply needs to gain a thorough understanding of the basics of rhythms, once you have the grammar and rhythm. syntax of the musical. language in your system, you can just peel off as you want. In the business world, this is called “finding your own voice”.

Adam Pieronczyk has had a good idea of ​​where he’s coming from and where he might be heading, for some time now. The 51-year-old Polish reedman is one of the most notable names to list at the second Polish Jazz Festival, which takes place at Tel Aviv’s Terminal 4, November 17-19, with live action supplemented by some online projections of jazz venues in Poland.

The festival kicked off last year in a virtual-only format, under the aegis of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute in Poland, the Polish Institute in Tel Aviv and the Israel Jazz Society, with Barak Weiss as artistic director.

The same crew is also on board this year, with Weiss lining up an impressive array of personalities from the local community, like pianist Anat Fort and saxophonist Daniel Zamir, who in pre-Corona times were busy on the festival of world jazz and club circuit.

POLISH SAXAPHONIST Adam Pieronczyk is headlining the festival this week. (credit: IGNACY MUTASZEWSKI)

Local jazz fans will be delighted to have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the heart of a three-day festival and will, no doubt, be particularly intrigued by the inclusion of Pieronczyk in the program. The saxophonist is a recognized powerhouse of the European jazz scene, and as a must-see exponent of the wilder side of the jazz tracks, although he is certainly not opposed to certain balladic tariffs either.

The saxophonist, composer, conductor and producer has accumulated a very varied discography of 25 albums, starting with Temathe – Water Conversations, released when he was only 25 years old.

His latest record, I’ll Color Around It, is a quartet escapade that spans the gamut from direct jazz to all manner of stylistic dynamics, including abstract sound tapestries and rock starts.

In the meantime, Pieronczyk has put together an eclectic catalog that features duo projects with famous compatriot pianist Leszek Modzer and three releases alongside internationally renowned Czech bassist Miroslav Vitous.

He was also quickly advanced along his professional learning curve by sideman positions with famous Polish avant-garde trumpeter Tomasz Stanko.

“I had the chance to work a lot with him,” notes Pieronczyk.

It was also inspired by the work of iconic Polish pianist-composer Krzysztof Komeda, who would have turned 90 this year and is receiving a tribute in the festival program.

YET AGAIN, growing up in communist Poland did not allow the budding artist to wrap his young ears around the work of the titans of the world stage.

This was made worse by the fact that he lived in the distant Elblag near the Baltic Sea, nearly 300 kilometers north of Warsaw. It wasn’t exactly the center of a cultural world.

“I’ve worked with a lot of great guys, but on the other hand it wasn’t always possible, especially in a small town, to get Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea or John Coltrane or Charlie Parker records. . Nothing.”

On the eastern side of the Iron Curtain, jazz was sometimes enthusiastically promoted by Communist authorities, who wanted to show Americans that they could be good at their own art. Then, without a word of warning, it would suddenly become taboo, and playing jazz could land you in a prison cell or exile in Siberia or some other equally inhospitable environment.

Fortunately for Pieronczyk, he was still young when the Soviet Union began to collapse, but it was still almost impossible to hear the music from the American source. There were all kinds of pirate recordings ingeniously transferred to improbable formats, including x-rays, but Pieronczyk mostly listened to records by local artists which, he notes, “were pretty good.”

Still, the youngster was one step ahead of most.

“I come from a family of musicians,” he explains. “My father is a clarinetist, saxophonist and teacher. My parents, of course, pushed me to play an instrument.

Like many children around the world, he started playing the piano but failed to muster the “sitzfleisch” required to stick to it.

“I played the piano for a few years, but I quickly started to hate it,” he laughs. “I had to train while my friends were playing soccer.”

But this was by no means the end of the youngster’s interest in forging an active role on the music scene. “It wasn’t such a bad thing for me to give up the piano. I have always been surrounded by music. I used to listen to a lot of pop music in the 80s, which was very interesting, and I was a DJ.

His active ante was about to skyrocket.

“Breakdancing came along and I got really interested in it,” he laughs. “I absolutely loved it.”

The street dance form became popular in California and New York City in the 1970s, but like most Western cultural developments, it took a long time to get beyond the Iron Curtain.

It did not take long for Pieronczyk to find his true and lasting means of artistic expression, despite parental opposition. “When I was 16 or 17, I thought about playing another instrument and, because of my father, there was a saxophone in the house. I thought it looked really good, but my parents said they weren’t going to waste any more money on music lessons for me after I gave up the piano.

But the teenager was not to deny. Rather than dissuade him, his parents’ skepticism prompted him to continue. “This is what I called positive-negative motivation. I was a little upset, but in my psyche I said I’m going to show them. I really got attached to the saxophone.

Eventually he won over his parents and, indeed, showed them that he was serious about making progress with the instrument. There was no way to stop him. “I started training eight to ten hours a day. My dream has come true. I appreciate it a lot more. If I had continued with the piano, maybe now I would be a little bored with the piano.

Pieronczyk does not miss the saxophone – he plays the tenor and soprano, as well as an Arabic reed instrument called a zoucra, although he expresses a preference for the upper register saxophone. Over the years, he has expanded and improved his production, drawing on additional cultural baggage from his forays around the world, most notably as artistic director of the Festival Jazz au Chellah in Rabat, Morocco.

He’s also no stranger to electronically fueled textures, which he says are inspired by the 80s pop music of his youth, but tend to simply follow his muse flow. “I’m fortunate to be able to make a living playing the music I want to play – the melodic style, the rhythmic style, the harmonic style and also what I call open music or improvised music.”

PIERONCZYK OPENS the festival on November 17 at 8 p.m., alongside the equally unbridled Fort in what promises to be an intriguing journey into the unknown.

Then, at 10:30 p.m., the reedman will take a trio excursion to some of his own charts.

With other slots tackling a Brazilian take on Chopin’s work and various other culturally-flavored readings from the Polish romantic-era pianist-composer, the Polish Jazz Festival is expected to keep audiences’ ears groomed and prepared.

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