CD REVIEW: Maciek Pysz - A Journey


Maciek Pysz - A Journey
(Dot Time Records DT9044. CD Review by Adrian Pallant)


A travelogue of refined chamber jazz, acoustic guitarist Maciek Pysz's new release A Journey meanders, eddies and dances afresh to European jazz and world/folk atmospheres.

Debut recording Insight (2013) introduced the mastery and precision of Pysz's technique. Since then, the Polish-born, self-taught guitarist/composer (now based in London) has toured regularly, building and shaping this collection of eleven originals, plus one arrangement, which reflect both his passage as a maturing musician and his impressions of cosmopolitan encounters with cultures, places and people. Joining him again are renowned colleagues Yuri Goloubev (double bass) and Asaf Sirkis (drums/percussion), whilst also welcoming the evocative Mediterranean timbres of Daniele di Bonaventura's bandoneon, as well as his pianistic colour.

Across the album's 68-minute expanse, the trio and quartet pictorialisations of its track titles are truly exquisite – out of meticulously-structured compositions, Pysz (like some modern-day troubadour) summons fluent, extended acoustic and classical guitar improvisations. But whilst his fretboard dexterity might be compared to that of Al Di Meola, Pat Metheny or John McLaughlin, this is not hard-swinging, solid-grooving jazz or jazz-rock; rather, it exudes a patient delicacy – predominantly balmy, often bustling – which can become entrancing.

Sometimes this music suggests a surface simplicity which belies its intricacy, as in opener Fresh Look – a blithe, sea-breeze of a tune with regular chordal shifts, yet inviting boundless guitar, bandoneon and bass extemporisations; and Water Streets (inspired by Maciek's first visit to Venice) is full of complex, almost architectural detail as it flows to scampering bass motifs, the swell of changing time signatures and sweetly lilting melodies. Pysz clearly delights in the freedom of working with his trusted bassist and drummer, and the broadness of eight-minute I Saw You You Again brims with confidence, Goloubev's nimble pizzicato voicings so sublime, and di Bonaventura adding elegant piano expression.

Story of a Story indicates a wistful optimism; and such is the melodious warmth of Pysz's writing, there's frequently the sense of a vocal line materialising. Buoyant bandoneon and guitar synchronicity, plus the typically light accuracy of Sirkis' rhythms and fills, place Paris right at the heart of twinkling, bal-musette nightlife; and di Bonaventura's more folksy, sustained bandoneon lines in Ralph Towner's Innocente set up a landscape of mystery, with Pysz revelling in its openness. A particular stand-out is Undeniable, its pulsating sense of endless train journeying apparent as Sirkis' ticking rhythms and elaborate, percussive displays combine with the momentum of guitar and piano ostinati. Slow ballad Until Next Time aches with impending departure, di Bonaventura's wavering chords underpinning Pysz's tortured attack; and Always on the Move (presumably Maciek's signature tune!) possesses a prog edge as Goloubev seemingly interprets its darker motif as if emulating electric fretless bass.

Redolent of Einaudi, Peacefully Waiting becomes positively dreamlike as its smooth guitar is brightly enhanced by di Bonaventura's undulating, lyrical piano. And as with the debut album, Pysz co-writes one track with Italian guitarist Gianluca Corona to produce brisk Desert, which showcases the breadth of his own imaginings as well as fine, Piazzolla-tinged detail from his personnel. Finally, the reassuring mellowness of Coming Home features a pellucid guitar tone possibly inspired by that earlier Towner encounter.

Captured again with spontaneity by Stefano Amerio at Italy's famed Artesuono Studios, the crisp balance of sound and space in this recording is flawless. Throughout, it's great to witness the development of Maciek Pysz's own musical personality, whilst this album's instrumental augmentation enhances his beauteous writing/improvisation – a good indicator of a creative artist lining up many future concepts and collaborations.

Adrian Pallant is a proofreader, musician and jazz writer who also reviews at his own site ap-reviews.com

LINKS: 2015 Interview with Maciek Pysz
2014 Podcast interview
CD Review - Insight


A Journey will be launched on 18th November at the Forge in Camden Town NW1 as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival with guest Daniele Di Bonaventura

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