Michal Martyniuk – Lewis Eady Concert

Michal 17 128.jpgThe Lewis Eady special concert featuring the Michal Martyniuk trio lived up to its promise. It’s not often I get to hear Martyniuk and more’s the pity because his playing resonates strongly with me. He attended the Auckland University Jazz School, but he doesn’t sound like his contemporaries as he brings his Polish origins to the keyboard. His is the approach of Wasilewsky and other modern young Polish improvisers. Rhythmically adventurous, melodically rich and with harmonies often referencing the twentieth century European classical composers. Polish Jazz developed in isolation and in secret, the Nazi’s forbad it and the Russians strongly discouraged it. From Krzysztof Komeda onwards the music communicated a unique sense of place, an authenticity, self-contained inventiveness and at times even wistfulness. The initial impetus came from covert listening to Radio America but the rich wellsprings of Chopin, eastern bloc avant-garde and mazurka are there too.

Martyniuk came to New Zealand with his family in his late teens. His love of Jazz and in particular the Polish variant, began before he arrived. He had already begun his piano studies in Poland and attending a Jazz School in his new country was a natural choice. It was therefore fitting that his trio consisted of drummer Ron Samsom the programme coordinator of the UoA Jazz School, and bass player Cameron McArthur, a gifted ex UoA Jazz School student. These musicians are more than capable of working their own Kiwi magic into a European style of playing.michal-17-131  They were joined on three numbers by saxophonist Nathan Haines, a long time mentor of Martyniuk’s. The concert marked a cross-road for Martyniuk as he and the trio departed for the Jakarta based Java Jazz Festival soon afterwards. This prestigious event is the biggest Jazz festival in the world and it bodes well that they were chosen to perform there. The festival is attended by well over 100,000 people and it pulls in the who’s who of the Jazz world. After the concert Martyniuk is travelling on to Europe (and Poland) where he hopes to intensify his studies and absorb more of the Jazz of his youth. He informed me that he would probably return in about a years time. That is something for local Jazz lovers to look forward to.  The back room of the Lewis Eady complex is a good space acoustically, the audience embraced by an encompassing  circle of grand pianos. There is a sense that these resting machines add sympathetic resonance to the performance, it certainly seemed so last Wednesday.michal-17-129As the programme developed, the trio dived deep into the material. They demonstrated their skill as individual musicians, but also that they could play as a highly interactive unit. There was room for subtlety as well as bravura, together they sang. Having Haines join them rounded off the performance, especially on his trade mark cutting soprano. No one else locally sounds like him on that horn, he is a master of the instrument. As I listened, Haines brought to mind John Surman, an English improvising saxophonist who has a unique clarity of sound on the three horns he plays.

This is the pattern with our improvising musicians; they travel, work cruise ships and absorb new ideas in far off places, eventually to return, making us the lucky beneficiaries.

The piece I have posted is a Martyniuk composition titled ‘The Awakening’. An extraordinary piece of music where each trio member excels while leaving space for the others. Tension and release, excitement, interaction, it’s all there; very much in the European tradition and as good as anything I have heard in Europe. Samsom achieving a delicious flat-ride sound by sheer technique.

Michal Martyniuk Trio: Martyniuk (piano, compositions), Cameron McArthur (upright bass), Ron Samsom (drums) + guest Nathan Haines (soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone) Lewis Eady showrooms, 22nd February 2017

‘Dr Dog’ takes the Jazz Pulse of Auckland

Animal lovers, children and Jazzers alike were delighted to learn that the ‘Dr Dog’ Jazz quartet would be performing in the Creative Jazz Club (CJC). This was somewhat of a dream band as it featured ‘I cani popolari‘ from the halls of academia; Roger Manins (tenor), Kevin Field (piano, Rhodes), Oli Holland (Bass) and Ron Samsom (drums).

The band having no clear leaders could follow their noses, but in spite of that they worked as one throughout the evening. In Jazz-dog years they represented around 317.4 years of experience and so their ability to act in a disciplined manner was hardly surprising. They took their lead from each other.

Roger had managed to sniff out the microphone first and so the job of introducing the band members and the numbers fell to him. An endless stream of puns and dog stories followed and at one point some frank observations on the variability of dog intelligence risked causing serious offense to Afghan owners. As none appeared to be present the crises was averted and the dog related compositions flowed in happy succession.

If anyone thought this to be a frivolous exercise, they should be disabused of that notion. This was a band which had ‘chops’ (OK I had to put that in), the ability to delight a crowd and a string of intelligent compositions to shine over.

It is expected that the canine metaphors and jokes will continue to dog this band for some years; peaking around 2014 before eventually subsiding. As a departure from the normal CD prize there was a meat raffle. A cat named Jason took that prize.

The music that we heard was so good that a few of us are going to lay a trail of sausages; leading from the Auckland University School of Music Jazz Programme to the nearest recording studio (Yorkie Street studios or Ratter Records).

In researching this Canine Jazz phenomena I recalled another dog band which had performed at the CJC . Guitarist Neil Watson’s ‘Zen Dogs’ performed at the club about a year ago. When I ran into Neil months later I asked him if ‘Zen Dogs’ would be performing again soon. He answered in that enigmatic way of all Zen masters. “Oh that was a concept band”. “But will they be performing again”, I asked?. “No the band was literally a concept – not an actual band”. Confused and pondering the meaning of this Koan, I could not help wondering. Had I imagined the entire gig?

‘Dr Dog’ on the other hand is a band grounded in realty. A cartoon dog band entirely relevant to our times.

Footnotes: I have used sepia photographs to show respect, as they add a certain gravitas befitting the age and experience of the band. All photos are mine including ‘Dr Dog’ who was caught in Chelsea London and subjected to Photoshop without his permission. You will be pleased to learn that I managed to avoid using the following: barking up the wrong tree, woofers and Roger was a wag.