Tag Archives: Maciek Pysz

Festival review: Kings Place 14 Sept 2013 – a gaggle of guitarists

It wasn’t meant to be a feast of guitarists but that’s how the Saturday at the Kings Place festival turned out for me. I had intended to see only one – Maciek Pysz – but one turned into many, bringing a kaleidoscope of images, colours, shapes and sounds, and most joyous of all was the remembrance of musicians enjoying playing together, and showing it. Most vivid was the bougainvillea-coloured dress worn by Helen Sanderson of Vida Guitar Quartet, its colour and elegant drape giving a sense of occasion sometimes missing in jazz gigs! And what a treat – four classical acoustic guitarists performing recognisable orchestral works but arranged for guitars, with all the notes and sounds you’d expect from an orchestra. Thus we could hear the drums and pipes of Malcolm Arnold’s the second set of English Dances tapped out by fingernails. Rhapsody in Blue will never sound quite the same again, the wail of sirens created on strings. Two modern dancers joined the guitarists for Speed Bonnie Boat, the tumble and intertwining of the dancers’ flexing bodies making waves on the stage, always landing soundlessly, sometimes hanging in the air. A treat for all the senses.

Earlier guitarist Maciek Pysz and his Trio gathered a huge crowd near the box office. A friend was converted to jazz in just 30 minutes, so powerful and intoxicating was the short set, what captured him was the sense of pleasure communicated to us. He wanted to take it home! I looked round and people were smiling at the music. The music sounded darker than the album, the grey skies and need to fill the echoing space allowed Asaf Sirkis to pump up the volume. The sound was great, no loss of bass for Yuri Goloubev this time.

It was lovely to hear a different style of guitar just an hour later with Nicolas Meier. We headed a bit further east to the complex rhythms of Turkey. I couldn’t see how many strings Nicolas’s guitar had but it may have been a glissentar, the extra strings adding that distinctive twangy resonance and suddenly Kings Cross became Ankara. A small girl danced and whirled, unaware she reminded us of a dervish, adding to the performance.

No time for food, straight into Martin Speake’s Trio and another guitarist – Mike Outram whose quiet presence and delicate introduction to Folk song for Paul (about Paul Motian) moved me greatly, you can hear it below and enjoy this beautifully unhurried modest trio.

And finally a set I admit to being wary of but which left me reeling. No guitars this time. It was Food – Iain Ballamy on sax and Thomas Strønen on drums, Food lite, just these two artists and some electronics. Deep, deep innards-vibrating sounds which mesmerised, pinned me to my seat. Which night club had I wandered into? You didn’t experience this through your ears but your vital organs. This was a very different, daring performance, nothing sparce, just sheer enjoyment again, an experiment that worked. A whole day that worked.

Image by Joep Olthuis

Some thoughts on Rothko, megalithic architecture and jazz…

I felt at home in the 6000 year old Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, Paola, Malta. The shapes were familiar, I had seen them in Rothko. These mysterious underground chambers, majestic burial places, were excavated by hand using tools of antler and flint, the limestone smooth as silk. Their perfect proportions of aperture and lintel thickness struck me as timeless. These softly lit caverns awed us to silence. In our mind’s eyes, we heard the scrape of flint on stone, the drip of rainwater in winter, the quiet conversation of the workmen eons ago. In a museum in Valletta we saw some offerings to the dead taken from these chambers. A tiny sleeping woman, fashioned from stone, her winter skirt of sheepskin-like stone gently crinkled at its hem, her best skirt. Such humanity touches us across the millennia. Move forward to the 20th century, and Rothko. His Red on Maroon could overwhelm you. Those huge vertical columns and apertures look like windows or doors, the sombre tones shift as you gaze at them, making you feel uneasy. But there is nothing there.

Maroon by Maciek Pysz on his album Insight was inspired by this same Rothko. It’s contemplative, and unlike the other compositions on this album, this one is not sunlit, it is permeated by loss and reflective sadness. As I stood in one of the chambers of the Hypogeum I heard Asaf Sirkis’s gentle udu drum, it could have been the patter of rainwater, or a drum from 6000 years ago. Yuri Goloubev’s delicate bass playing could just as easily have been inspired by the painting or the need to ease our passage from life to the afterlife as I experienced in those cool chambers.

All too soon, we were in a sunlit street, wondering if we had imagined all that was beneath our feet, marvelling that such beauty could have been visualised by our ancestors and then made to happen.

the-hal-salfieni-hypogeum

Launch and album review: Maciek Pysz Trio – Insight – released May 2013

Maciek Pysz is a Polish guitarist and composer joined on Insight by longstanding partners Asaf Sirkis on percussion and Yuri Goloubev on double bass. The album comprises eight compositions and arrangements by Maciek and one with Gianluca Corona. The sleeve notes make clear that many of the intricate compositions were born out of imagining (or experiencing) loneliness or loss, but also wonder at the world and its beauty. They are very personal, we get an insight into Maciek’s life and thoughts. And the output we hear is the result of five years playing together and it is world class.

On the sleeve of Insight, insight is defined as “the act… of understanding the inner nature of things or of seeing intuitively”. So at the launch of the album last night (22 May 2013) at The Forge in London, I was interested in seeing how this idea would be conveyed. The cover shows Maciek with eyes closed, in contemplation or meditation. Yet it would be impossible to perform in a trio if you were wrapt in yourself. So in performance, Maciek’s eyes smile with pleasure, Yuri’s are focussed on his music stand with the occasional flick of eyelids to communicate approval or wry amusement, and Asaf keeps his eyes closed most of the time (like many drummers) except when waving an arm at Yuri or Maciek as if to say “Wow!”

It was an evening to gasp, not just at Maciek’s breathtaking skills, conjuring the most delicate sounds out of steel and nylon wire, nor at Yuri’s serene arco playing on his double bass with antique patina, or Asaf’s magical patter on the udu drum or beats so fast and hard they sounded like firecrackers. You gasped because it sounded fluent and effortless, and because it made you feel so happy. An album launch should always be a joyful occasion but this one felt particularly so, there were many Polish people there, at least half of whom were women (yes, rare at jazz) and Maciek’s father present to crown it all. At one stage a small group near the stage moved as if to dance, and really that would have been most appropriate, it was hard to keep in your seat.

We had a few minutes of unaccompanied guitar in Recuerdos de la Alhambra (the classical piece by Francisco Tárrega). And a new composition called Tangella ( to the tango) which is not on the album. I think we heard all the album tracks with a bonus of hearing the eponymous title as an encore (at a slower tempo) as well as earlier in the set list. The sound was beautifully balanced, you could hear fingers on strings, delicate jingles of bells around Asaf’s ankles. The album has a similarly gorgeous sound being recorded, mixed and mastered by Stephano Amerio. Highly recommended.

Maciek is performing with this trio at Kings Place on Saturday 14 September 2013.

Maciek Pysz
Maciek Pysz, acoustic and classical guitars
Asaf Sirkis, percussion
Yuri Goloubev, double bass

Insight is available from http://www.maciekpysz.com/