Leszek Hefi Wiśniowski – piccolo, concert, bass & contrabass flutes, flute with glissando headjoint®, shakuhachi; Dominik Wania – piano; Tomasz Kupiec – bass; Bartek Staromiejski – drums
Coming from Poland gives Wiśniowski a unique perspective on world music, with particularly close reference to an Eastern European aesthetic. Moreover, his involvement with contemporary music, as he himself admits, carries over into his jazz playing, in his estimation at least 30% of the time. Thus even his jazz performance owes as much to Stravinsky as it does to Coltrane — even Debussy and Ravel show up from time to time and there are references to influences as diverse as John Cage (4’33’’) and the Flamenco/Jazz trio of guitarists John McLaughlin, Al DiMeola and Paco DeLucia (Mediterranean Sound Dance.) So while Wiśniowski’s work is classified as jazz it presents a soundscape rather different than many might expect.
This music is certainly not bebop or post-bop; it is not even too similar to much of the progressive jazz appearing in the US at the moment, and yet it clearly demands high-level jazz skills and sensibilities as well as contemporary music techniques, for its execution and interpretation, a tendency that demands the attention of those developing the curriculum in our music schools and conservatories.
This is the fourth album by Wiśniowski and the third under the HeFi Quartet format. The group features Wiśniowski’s rhythm section of several years — bassist Tomasz Kupiec and drummer Bartek Staromiejski — joined this time by the excellent pianist Dominik Wania. The recording presents fourteen original compositions, all by Wisniowski, two of which were co-composed by Kupiec and one by Wania, and demonstrates the growing maturity of Wiśniowski’s concept as he combines genres more and more seamlessly. It also appears in the context of the boundary-breaking efforts that are cropping up in many different parts of the world. (Nestor Torres’ new album, which will be reviewed here in due course, combining Latin jazz with contemporary composition from Cuba and Venezuela is a case in point.)
Add to this stylistic breadth Wiśniowski’s mastery of extended techniques on a full range of instruments – piccolo, concert flute (in places with glissando headjoint®), bass and contrabass flutes and shakuhachi – his skills as a composer, and a rhythm section that supports and contributes on the highest creative level, and we have an end product that is quite unique without striving self-consciously to be different. Add a running time of almost 79 minutes and we also have great value!
I would not call this music of great beauty or elegance: the rhythms are spiky, the lines angular — more impressionistic than melodic — the affect a little dark, but it is brimming with spirit and endlessly creative, frequently hard to tell where composition ends and improvisation begins in an unfolding, suite-like sequence of solos, duos, trios and full quartet. Overall, Leszek Wiśniowski presents a level of performance that will widen the vocabulary of any flutist, jazz or not, who gives it their attention.
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