|Maciek Pysz and Asaf Sirkis at Cafe Posk|
Photo credit: © Piotr Syrek
Polish guitarist MACIEK PYSZ must be one of the best-travelled players on the contemporary scene. He first moved to London from Poland in 2003, and once here gradually built up his current trio, featuring drummer Asaf Sirkis and bassist Yuri Goloubev, with whom he recorded an album, "Insight", in 2013. His second studio album, "A Journey" (Dot Time), is released today 16th October, and will be launched at the The Forge on 18 November, during the London Jazz Festival, in the middle of an 19-date UK tour. He spoke to Matthew Wright:
With family in Poland, a base in London, time spent exploring Paris, a preferred recording studio in Italy, and band members from the furthest corners of Europe, travel and related experiences of departure, arrival and separation have played a big part in his recent life. A Journey was conceived with both physical and emotional travelling in mind, he says: “The inspiration came from the last two years of my life, visiting my girlfriend, going to gigs, seeing new places and of course meeting new people. I visited Venice for the first time, which is reflected in the track Water Streets where I try to capture the magical atmosphere of that city and its romance."
“Travel is a general theme of my life,” he adds. “I came to London from Poland when I was 20, and the idea of travel as emotional growth, as a way of generating new ideas, has always been familiar to me. An unexpected conversation at one of my concerts 18 months ago led me to shut myself away and write this album, and to book the studio.” The studio, Artesuono in northern Italy, has an experienced ECM engineer, who can mix and master as well as record. “I love the ECM sound,” Maciek says, “and I like the fact that we can record in a few takes, to create a spontaneous, almost-live atmosphere, that gives the audience an authentic flavour of our sound.”
“I know bassist Yuri Goloubev and drummer Asaf Sirkis well now, so when we play together we might often develop and change things. When I compose, I start from the harmony and arpeggios, then introduce the melody. Some of these new songs, such as I Saw You Again or Undeniable are developed into longer pieces, over eight minutes, with space for variations on the main theme. Others, like Peacefully Waiting, work better as a short statement. The writing process is very organic. I compose on the guitar, record the piece at home on my iPad, then listen back over a period of time and if I see the music stands the test of time I decide to use it for the album."
For this album, Pysz has extended his trio to include Italian bandoneon and piano player, Daniele di Bonaventura. “I really wanted that accordion sound. I’ve always admired French accordionist Richard Galliano, and as a guitarist, one of my biggest influence in the early days was Al Di Meola’s Piazzola album. Piazzola’s music is very challenging technically but also conveys a lot of emotion. I love the bandoneon/accordion, with its blend of energy, romance and melancholy. I am planning on exploring this instrument and how it blends with the guitar in some future projects. These days I am very much inspired by guitarists such as Ralph Towner, Sylvain Luc or Pat Metheny and their exploration of various genres of music.
On tour - a massive 19 venues in 24 days, from Newcastle to St Ives - the band will play mostly as a trio, with Goloubev filling in some of the piano and bandoneon melodies. “Yuri is such a fantastic player,” Pysz says, “that he can fill in for those instruments very effectively. Because of his classical training, he’s excellent at playing melodic lines with the bow as well as playing pizzicato. I am thrilled that Di Bonaventura is coming to play at the launch at The Forge, and London-based accordionist Maurizio Minardi is playing the gig at Oliver’s Bar in Greenwich on 20 November.
While based in London, his interest in working with the accordion means Pysz is increasingly exploring the Paris scene. “I now have a Paris quartet as well as this band,” he explains, “and we play the same pieces, but inevitably they sound a bit different. I really enjoy exploring this repertoire from a different angle like this. My next London date after the tour is at Pizza Express on 23 February next year."
On listening to the album closely, there are some phrases that seem to echo one another across several tracks: long, falling phrases, tinged with romance and melancholy. “That wasn’t deliberate,” Pysz says, “but it could have happened organically, and it does reflect my experience of responding to new and familiar places and experiences. There is a narrative to the album, though: we start with Fresh Look, and end with Coming Home." That brings a musical adventure to a fitting close.
UK ALBUM LAUNCH TOUR DATES - NOVEMBER 2015
04/11 - SJE (St John the Evangelist Church) - Iffley Road, Oxford
06/11 - FLEECE JAZZ - Stoke by Nayland
08/11 - JAZZ EAST - Felixstowe
10/11 - ST IVES JAZZ CLUB - St Ives
11/11 - THE MALL PUB CLIFTON VILLAGE - Bristol
12/11 - CAMBRIDGE MODERN JAZZ @ HIDDEN ROOMS - Cambridge
13/11 - BIRMINGHAM JAZZ - Birmingham
14/11 - THE BEAR CLUB - Luton
17/11 - BRECON JAZZ CLUB - Brecon, Wales
18/11 - THE FORGE, LONDON NW1 - NEW ALBUM LAUNCH/LONDON JAZZ FESTIVAL feat. Daniele Di Bonaventura
19/11 - FISHER THEATRE - Bungay
20/11 - OLIVER'S JAZZ BAR - London
21/11 - JAZZ.COOP@THE GLOBE - Newcastle
22/11 - SEVEN ARTS - Leeds,
24/11 - DEMPSEY'S - Cardiff, Wales
25/11 - QUEENS HEAD - Monmouth, Wales
26/11 - JAZZ COVENTRY - Coventry
27/11 - CREATIVE INNOVATION CENTRE - Taunton
28/11 - ST LAWRENCE CHAPEL - Ashburton
LINKS: Podcast interview with Maciek Pysz from 2013
CD Review: Insight fom 2014