Poland’s Szczecin Jazz Fest Doubles in Length, Extends International Reach


The Polish electric bassist Kinga Głyk led a funk-jazz fusion band at Szczecin’s Filharmonia on March 18.

(Photo: Courtesy of Szczecin Jazz)

Szczecin is a port city in the northwest of Poland, very close to the German border. In 2021, its annual jazz festival coincided with a fleeting lockdown-lifting, nearly all of its concerts taking place with an actual audience. This year, Szczecin Jazz doubled in length, opening right at the end of February and continuing until mid-March. The city’s official music mayor, tenor saxophonist Sylwester Ostrowski, organizes Szczecin Jazz, specializing in an international reach that has formed a network of exchanges and collaborations. Aside from the expected Polish artists, there were significant presences from the U.S., the Netherlands and the Catalan region of Spain.

Wallace Roney Jr. is, like his recently departed father, a trumpeter. He led a quartet that also featured tenor saxophonist Emilio Modeste, who already made quite a mark when he joined Scatter The Atoms That Remain, in New York. Modeste also played regularly with Roney Sr. The quartet appeared in the smaller theater at the Filharmonia, Szczecin’s primary concert hall. The first number stretched to around 45 minutes, working out some involved solos from the horn men, with only brief statements of a group theme. This lack of arranging substance was compensated for by a slow-building attention to the overall architecture. Oliver Bomann’s growing electric bass groove imposed a nervy 1970s Miles Davis aura, accompanied by Papa Malick Koly’s swarming, shimmering cymbals. Eventually, the quartet almost hit the two-hour mark, but each solo maintained its fiery (trumpet) or smoldering (saxophone) grip throughout. It would have been pleasing to hear more joint-horn patterns, but this was a sound to stretch out inside, mulling over the nature of longevity.

The Polish electric bassist Kinga Głyk played in the larger hall of Filharmonia, leading a funk-jazz fusion band. She has a rapidly rising status that’s already spreading around Europe. It was good to find Głyk playing a four-string bass, avoiding the tendency to employ five or six strings, and concentrating on core sounds in her frequently trebly range, articulated via a magnified string action. Partnered by a pair of keyboardists, Głyk sometimes worked like a lead guitarist, as well as a low-end specialist. She also sang a few songs, although these were mostly designed to encourage audience response. “Overdrive” was fuzzed up on the bass, but too smooth on the keys, and frustratingly lasted only a couple of minutes.The doubled keyboardists were unfortunately too high in the mix, too active, and didn’t select their sonic settings with much good taste. Głyk would sound much better with a horn player in her ranks.

The Tomasz Chyła Quintet, from Gdańsk, delivered a set that resonated with individuality and intensely adventurous expression. The electric violinist led a three-evening takeover of the Jazzment cellar club, concentrating on his 2021 da Vinci album. Chyła’s violin sound has a grainy, mournful bite, haloed by subtle electronic effects, and finding a well-suited foil in the similarly tear-stained trumpeting of Emil Miszk. The guitar of Krzysztof Hadrych is of equal importance, itself providing a bleeding edge, contributing to the gradual growth of each composition. Suitably, all band members were clad in black. On a rocking second number, Hadrych was prominent, in a prog envelopment, trumpet pointillism also rife. “A Constant Stream Of Consciousness” had a serrated folkish violin solo, steadily impinged by guitar overload. Rapid friction-bowing led to a sparsely framed trumpet solo that could have been paying tribute to Ron Miles. The violin became abrasive again, taking it down slow, dragging hard and emphatically. Drummer Sławek Koryzno switched to electronics, spreading further textures, before stuttering beats across the guitar phrases, as a King Crimson portent emerged for the doom-end, with extreme guitar effects to lift a seething violin solo. Chyła’s music consistently explored contrasts and atmospheres, always unspooling logically.

The Irene Reig Quintet appeared down in Jazzment on the following night, the Barcelona alto saxophonist also inviting singer Marta Garrett to join for most of the set. Reig’s 2021 album Mira is full of hardcore bebop alto streams, but such extension was ruled out once Garrett stepped up, as the songs laid back into a thoughtful, gentler state. Given that the gig was quite brief, it would have been a positive idea to play two club-style sets, the first without Garrett, thereby showcasing both of these quite different musical aspects. The tunes were tightly sprung, with a soulful trimming, Reig still being highly eloquent on alto, but with shorter bursts. She ensures that the entire band are hyper-alert. Garrett offered a bolero, bringing a lounge sophistication, not so much as a guesting vocalist, but rather as an integrated band member. The encore of “I Remember You” sent the audience home with a stirring farewell alto solo.

There will be a festival coda on April 6, when The Cookers play at the Szczecin Puppet Theatre. DB

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