Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic - Komeda (Live) Joachim Kühn

Cover Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic - Komeda (Live)

Album info



Label: ACT Music

Genre: Jazz

Subgenre: Contemporary Jazz

Artist: Joachim Kühn

Album including Album cover Booklet (PDF)


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  • 1Astigmatic (Live)12:05
  • 2Kattorna (Live)09:01
  • 3Svantetic (Live)08:12
  • 4After the Catastrophe (Live)05:22
  • 5Moja Ballada (Live)06:56
  • 6Crazy Girl (Live)11:19
  • 7Sleep Safe and Warm (Live)05:25
  • 8Roman Two (Live)11:05
  • 9My Brother Rolf (Live)04:35
  • Total Runtime01:14:00

Info for Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic - Komeda (Live)

Krzysztof Komeda has legendary status in Polish jazz, and was also one of the pioneers of European jazz. His wider fame resides largely in his work as a film composer – he wrote the soundtracks for all of Roman Polanski’s early films, notably "Dance of the Vampires" and "Rosemary's Baby". Komeda died in 1969, tragically early, at the age of just 37, but left a hugely influential body of work. Joachim Kühn, now a jazz piano icon in his own right, is a great admirer of Komeda, whom he met in person in Warsaw in 1965. As part of the Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic con- cert series, curated by Siggi Loch, he performed a major tribute concert to him on 14 October 2022, at which he played in three formats: solo piano, with his New Trio, and alongside Poland’s Atom String Quartet.

Komeda may not be particularly well-known outside Po- land, but in his native country his renown is at a similar level to Chopin’s. He is seen as an integral part of the rise of Polish jazz from its first underground stirrings to becoming one of the beacons of Polish culture. This was a movement forged by composers whose work went most of the way to being seen as a new kind of national music. Komeda’s influence extended beyond his native country in that he became a key figure in the emancipation of European jazz from the American tradition. At the same time as Lars Gullin and Jan Johansson in Sweden were taking similar approaches, Komeda fused Polish folk music and its tradition of melismatic singing with the characteristics of jazz. He thus became one of the great lyrical and melodic voices of mid-twentieth century music. His early death in an accident made him a cult figure in his native country. In his latter years, Komeda concentrated mainly on film music; Roman Polanski brought him to Hollywood in 1967. A highlight of his jazz work was undoubtedly the album "Astigmatic", recorded in 1965 in one single overnight session with the trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, among others. To this day, it regularly receives the accolade of being the most important jazz recording in Poland; the magazine Jazzwise listed it as one of their "jazz albums that shook the world."

For a tribute to Komeda, there could be no better guide than Joachim Kühn, the German pianist and jazz icon. The two men knew each other, indeed Kühn was in the studio and listened to the "Astigmatic" recording session in December 1965. The previous day, Komeda and Kühn had both played with their bands at the Warsaw Philharmonic: "For me, he was one of the great visionaries of European jazz, even then," Kühn recalls. Komeda's compositions have been part of the repertoire of the equally visionary Joachim Kühn ever since. Kühn leads the very small cohort of German jazz musicians who have achieved a genuinely international profile – something which has been the case for almost 60 years.

The Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic concert begins with the three tracks of the legendary album "Astigmatic": the title track plus "Kattorna" and "Svantetic". The line-up for this celebration evening is phenomenal with Kühn as very much the first among equals. He plays as part of his "New Trio" with Eric Schaefer on drums and Chris Jennings on bass, and also with the Atom String Quartet, whom Jazzwise called a "world class quartet” with a “forceful mix of classical and jazz improvisation": violinists Dawid Lubowicz and Mateusz Smoczyński, Michał Zaborski on viola and cellist Krzysztof Lenczowski. The seven extraordinarily fine musicians on stage create a heady mix from Komeda’s era-defining work: compelling free improvisations and superb soloing alternate with Komeda’s powerful melodies. The composer always thinks pictorially, but here we are treated to individual music-making at the highest level, and yet with an astonishing sixth sense of anticipation. The results are compelling, modern and timelessly beautiful.

Next follow a series of single arrangements from Komeda's other works, and these also draw the listener in with their seemingly perfect dramaturgy: Kühn's plays a quasi- romantic, wonderfully gentle solo on "After the Catastrophe"; next we hear his emotionally affecting duo with Mateusz Smoczyński on "Moja Ballada" from 1961; then, the Atom String Quartet version of "Crazy Girl" from Komeda's soundtrack to Polanski's "Knife in the Water"; thereafter comes a stunningly good trio arrangement of the well-known lullaby "Sleep Safe and Warm" from "Rosema- ry's Baby". After that, all the musicians re-assemble for an energetic finale, "Roman II". Several things are coming full circle here, not just musically but also in terms of Komeda’s and Kühn’s personal histories. What they have in common - almost tangibly so - is that jazz was quite literally the window which gave them their freedom. For a time, Krzysztof Trzciński (his real birth-name) was able to hide his musical identity behind his profession as an ear, nose and throat doctor, using the pseudonym Komeda for his music. But there came a point when the Polish state could no longer keep his popularity under wraps. Joachim Kühn’s story, on the other hand, is that he escaped from the paternalism of the GDR regime at the age of 22 when he fled to the West. Joachim’s brother Rolf gave him some initial help to establish his international career, and that led Joachim to work in the USA, France and Spain, but, most importantly, it was the escape through music which gave him his artistic freedom.

Another, very personal circle closes at the end of the “Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic” Komeda concert. Joachim Kühn plays as an encore "My Brother Rolf" in memory of his brother who had died shortly before.

Joachim Kühn, piano
Chris Jennings, bass
Eric Schaefer, drums
Atom String Quartet:
Dawid Lubowicz, violin
Mateusz Smoczyński, violin, baritone violin
Michał Zaborski, viola
Krzysztof Lenczowski, cello

Recorded live in concert by Thomas Schöttl at Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic, Kammermusiksaal, October 14, 2022
Mixed and mastered by Klaus Scheuermann
Produced by Joachim Kühn

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Booklet for Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic - Komeda (Live)

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