Innovator with a complex of tradition, romanticist
expressing himself in the contemporary idiom, poet of piano —
this is KRZYSZTOF KOMEDA, one of those musicians who have widened
the essence of jazz.
Mr. Komeda was an excellent composer. Like the
works of Wayne Shorter and Billy Strayhorn, his jazz ballads were
full of romantic unease, but they often didn’t suggest a complete,
scripted emotion. Their melodies are expressed in long notes and
lines that sometimes seem to be missing a few important pieces or
a resolution; they’re mysterious and fragmentary, leaving
you to guess the rest. As a jazz bandleader, Mr. Komeda remains
barely known in the United States. (Too bad: his quintet record
“Astigmatic,” from 1966, with Mr. Stanko in the group,
is one of the great jazz records of its time.)
...emphasizing music and sounds as an equal
counterpart to images.
"Astigmatic" has become a bellwether for European jazz, with
critics pointing to how this album marked a shift away from the
dominant American approach with the emergence of a specific European
aesthetic. In terms of structure (ad hoc song forms that had a lot
to do with Komeda’s film writing), its improvisational and rhythmic
approach, "Astigmatic" represents a fresh approach and a different way
of hearing and playing jazz.
His music reflects not the growing of jazz in
our country in the '60-s, but echoes the big influences: Bill Evan's
refinement, Eric Dolphy's free and even John Coltrane's abandon.
The title piece 'Astigmatic', except for the beginning, presents
little of ensemble interaction. Rather, we hear exciting dialogues
by trumpet and piano or trumpet and bass. Komeda's piano dictates
the levels of tension: it emerges, grows inciting, fades away and
emerges again. Namyslowski's alto takes up backed by bass and drums.
Lenz's solo opens the way for the drummer and then piano reappears.
After a sudden take-off by the whole ensemble the piece burns out
in barely audible bass flageolets. 'Kattorna' a disquieting music
from the Danish movie by Carlssen (the title means Kittens), changes
on this disc into real tour de force by Stanko, that reminds us
of Mexican deguello from the siege of Alamo time. Komeda's exceptional
illustrative talent made him the much valued composer of music to
many movies and among them some by R. Polanski. 'Svantetic', dedicated
to Swedish poet Svante Forster, creates initially an impression
of a dirge, but its main diatonic motif in d-minor (a Polish boy
scouts song) is merely the nucleus of truly dramatic jazz development
in which we hear much of Namyslowski's alto and also beautiful meditations
by bass and piano. It seems to be the best piece by Komeda. However,
structurally it has double ending: after the first, the drum solo
leads to the reappearance of the initial theme that spans the whole,
but the last sentence - not without the protest of others - belongs
to the trumpet.
Komeda was a man of as few words as he was of
notes. He arranged his notes in twos or threes, into micro-themes
from which, through repetition and transformation, a unique sort
of iteration, he would build a melody and the work's form.
By sheer force of his personality Komeda justified
his need to control the emotional territory hitherto reserved for
symphonies. He expanded the range of expression in jazz by adding
a dramatized lyricism - it's force reaching the intensity of ecstatic
and mysterious experience. The new jazz aesthetic demanded the new
form. Komeda introduced a directional form of arch, developed from
an exposition through culmination to a final resolution.