It came to me quite suddenly – those half remembered words of John Keats “full-throated ease” and after the concert I hurried back to Ode to a Nightingale to rediscover what had prompted this image in my mind. For truly many of the sounds we heard from the guitars of Maciek Pysz last night at the launch of his second album A Journey at The Forge in Camden were full throated like a nightingale, gorgeous, rising above the other instruments effortlessly, hanging in the air, trailing off so gently and gracefully. The evening was one for the senses and for our imaginations. For Maciek’s dazzlingly memorable tunes and rhythms prompt you to see with his eyes, hear with his ears – whether it is a sophisticated Venice in Water Streets, a Paris basement jazz club or memories of his childhood.
And Keats’ warm South was there too in the shape of Italian ECM artist Daniele di Bonaventura on nostaglic bandoneon and rippling piano. The delicate abstract conversations between bandoneon and guitar in Ralph Towner’s Innocente and Pysz’s Desert highlights of the evening. This was an evening to savour the sight as well as the sound of music-making – sometimes Daniele looked to the ceiling, gently rocking in his chair, the sound of buttons lightly touched like tiny gasps. Maciek’s guitar sits so easily in his lap, a natural extension of his arms and fingers, his fingers a blur – can he really be the only person making all those beautiful sounds? And Yuri Goloubev‘s wry lop-sided smile as he cascades up and down his strings faster and faster, AsafSirkis‘ closed eyes as he plays, his hands pitter-pattering on the udu. And surely this is why we come out to concerts – to see as well as hear? Recent tragic events were not forgotten as Maciek dedicated his spirited, stylish Paris to the people of the city he loves very much.
We would have loved an encore but our time was up. We walked off into the night aware we had had a rare experience, a bit like hearing a nightingale.
Maciek Pysz’s tour continues until 28 November 2015
An afternoon of gothic horror and glockenspiels at The Forge Camden from a powerhouse trio embellished with a caramel-toned saxophonist. That would be my Twitter review.
If John Law’s recent Boink! project felt like a work in progress, this New Congregation is fully formed and the new album These Skies In Which We Rust eagerly awaited. For those of us who struggle with change in favourite bands, the loss of the mercurial Asaf Sirkis is more than compensated by the quietly brooding figure of Laurie Lowe on percussion. And as always, there is the poised, focussed bass of Yuri Goloubev whose arco playing stops your heart.
We heard the trio in the first set with the bonus of Josh Arcoleo in the second (who made light work of a tricky time signature in Lucky 13), and together they introduced us to eleven compositions, many of whom will become old favourites for their catchiness (Set Theory, 789 ) or because they haul you up short – the jagged, stabbing, tumbling horror of Incarnadine Day, the wry humour of To do Today: to Die.
In lesser hands, the electromagnetic pulses from outer space, the battery of keyboards, the fiddling with iPad, an Ibo drum, the snatches of vocals, the bits of Brahms, the changes in mood and emotion through the concert would feel unsettling or gimmicky. But not here, they are satisfying, fluent, glimpses of what promises to be a very good album indeed. An extremely enjoyable afternoon.
If you would like to support this project, John Law’s New Congregation These Skies in Which We Rust, (and I recommend that you do)you can do so here.
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.