Review by AJ Dehany
EFG London Jazz Festival
Barbican Milton Court, London
Jazz was banned in the 1950s in Poland under the Soviet regime, and Polish jazz retains a special symbolic value as an emancipatory music with a distinctly European flavour.
Wind is a continuous one-hour suite of music of symphonic ambition, the result of three years’ work for US pianist and composer Jason Moran and the U.S./Polish musicians who form the ten-piece ensemble. Commissioned by Jazztopad Festival in Wrocław and the Polish Cultural Institute in London, it is dedicated to the city of Wrocław, European Cultural Capital of 2016.
Wind’s title refers to the moment of “shift” that has occurred globally, as the world tilts once again toward fascism. Moran states that Wind refers to “a world where underground cultures reset the cultural clock, and where music takes place in the wind of resistance and change – the music that happens in private, behind curtains,” conducted in whispers, shared person to person.
In concert at Milton Court, London, the day after its debut in Wrocław, an imposing lace curtain stretches across the full height and width of the back of the stage. The patches are lit in different colours, glowing with burning chrome yellow toward the end. Across the stage are diaphanous white lace tents inspired by Wrocław’s sprawling and barely legal Świebodzki Flea Market. The players within can only be seen as shadows silhouetted against the drapes from within. The performance is paradoxical: it is private in public, expressing a notion of forbidden utterance that unites the political inheritance of the Polish players with Moran’s American perspective on the problems of speech and dissent in his home country.
The music is desperately emotive, dark, meaningful and heavy: exit music with nowhere to go. The strings play mournfully with aching neoclassical harmony. Moments of beauty and recognisable elements of Polish folk melody flicker through the cracks. Moran’s piano playing shimmers among the denser orchestral textures. The horns issue defiant blasts, asserting the indefatigability of the human spirit against encroaching darkness. The delicate guitar figure that closes the work circles round and round, fading into the silence that necessarily follows utterance, but suggesting the struggle for utterance will, can, and should never be silenced.
Personnel: Jason Moran – piano; Tarus Mateen – bass; Nasheet Waits – drums; Marvin Sewell – guitar; Piotr Damasiewicz – trumpet; Piotr Wróbel – bass trombone; Dawid Lubowicz – violin; Mateusz Smoczyński – violin; Krzysztof Lenczowski – cello; Marta Niedzwiecka – baroque organ; Szymon Kelkowicki – french horn.
Categories: Live review