The latest in ACT’s excellent duo art series Adam Bałdych sits in the tradition of Polish violin identified a little with Michał Urbaniak and Krzesimir Dębski, but above all Zbigniew Seifert (1946-79), the violin player who brought the message and mystique of the music of John Coltrane into jazz violin and whose work 35 years after his early death nonetheless still sits within the pantheon of the greatest examples of Polish jazz. Bałdych feels like an old soul here immersed in the folkloric side of spiritual jazz reached via the accessibility of naturalistic melody, the spirit of Seifert, as much as that is possible, reborn (Seifert’s composition ‘Quo Vadis’ from the late-1970s Capitol album Passion is incidentally included on The New Tradition).
‘Riverendings’, the first tune, reaches beyond into a folk space and has a certain Celtic lilt to it, yet it’s impossible to place the music geographically on this record: traditions speed like streams flowing into a river, melodies from disparate sources sculpted obliquely and interpreted harmonically within a modal framework by the Paris-based Israeli pianist Yaron Herman. The pair also interpret settings of biblical texts via Thomas Tallis and early music that proves compatible within the overall mood. There’s also a very well judged version of Komeda’s ‘Sleep Safe and Warm’, this strand to the album tapping once again into deep Polish jazz traditions via the violinist’s initiative and arrangements.
Seifert’s ‘Quo Vadis’, above, performed by the duo in a travelogue video
An alchemy of universality, five of the tunes are by Bałdych, the pizzicato ‘June’ is Lars Danielsson-like in its main motif, a recurring ACT label ‘family’ touch expressed in different ways by a number of artists in recent years, the album recorded in a studio in a Polish village near the Czech border in September last year and also in Berlin a few months later. The Gorzów Wielkopolski-born Bałdych turns 28 next month but already has released an album for ACT called Imaginary Room with his label band the Baltic Gang and while Bałdych looks ridiculously youthful in the album’s photo of him standing beside the bespectacled and bearded Herman, who’s only five years his senior, the weight of the improvising traditions covered as well as the pair’s approach to performance transcend their instruments’ nevertheless extensive resources melting away their relative youthfulness. There’s a humility, artistry and poise expressed here you’ll wait a long while to encounter, the chemistry between the two players quite remarkable. SG
Yaron Herman top left and Adam Bałdych. Photo ACT/Joachim Gern
Released on 2 June