Review: Jarek Smietana at Jazz Cafe Posk

I strolled down the road to my local gig tonight. I wanted to catch the mood of celebration at the second anniversary of Jazz Cafe Posk. And what a great evening it turned out to be.

Marek Greliak has assembled one of the most supportive listening audiences in London, as I wrote in a previous post "Poles Together" . Greliak proudly introduced tonight's event to an audience which clapped and whistled its appreciation of every single one of his announcements: it's Jazz Cafe Posk's second birthday (!) and the first day of spring(!!) and the Iranian New Year (!!!?) with a band brought over specially from Poland for the occasion (!!!!) , and ....Jarek Smietana's birthday too (!!!!!).

Jarek Smietana's trio (Tomas Kupiec with a wonderful clean sound on bass, and Adam Czerwidski creative and tight on drums), all erstwhile colleagues of Nigel Kennedy, then launched into this band's most natural form of expression, a low-down blues. The first had a bebop head, deftly executed. Subsequent blues came in different shapes and sizes. One was of a slow, teasing folky persuasion, in which Smietana, quite the prankster and story teller, tried to prove that the blues was born in the Polish town of Opole in 1975. Another was a funk- shuffle with an obscure political subtext called "Where is Edward?" These were moments when the help of my Polish interpreter and good friend AG proved indispensable.

Pranks and teasing and tall-story-telling are hallmarks of this band, which knew how to entertain a packed venue in the mood for swaying in time and being entertained. Endings of numbers were often jokey, delayed with deliberate false signals, but always crisp and together.

There were other excursions away from the home ground of the blues. Into Fleetwood Mac and Jimi Hendrix. And with the addition of gutsy Dizzy Gillespie and Freddie Hubbard-inspired London-based Polish trumpeter Tomek Nowak, into edgier Ornette Coleman territory, in numbers such as Turnaround and Blues Connotation. For the ballads, Smietana asked the audience for silence, and duly, miraculously got it. He then brought a strong sense of story-telling and architecture to these extended forms.

Birthday cakes, more speeches and more cheering and whistling greeted the end of the second set. The capacity crowd left the club amused, entertained, and smiling.

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