Krzysztof Komeda ‘Knife In The Water’ (ÉL) 5/5

Krystof_KomedaPolish pianist and composer Krzysztof Komeda, who died tragically young aged thirty-eight in 1969, has gained something of a cult reputation for his 1960s recordings and here is a major reason why. This beautifully illustrated release complete with resplendent photo images of the debut film by Roman Polanski from 1962 is everything that a film soundtrack should be: invigorating, evocative and imaginative. Surrounded by a terrific band that featured a young trumpeter Tomasz Stanko who a decade later would become a stalwart of the ECM label, the all original compositions are ideally showcased by the haunting number ‘Roman Two’ which is quite experimental in sound for 1961 and has both a lovely build of tension on piano and a modal feel. The reflective opener ‘Ballad for Bernt’ features some fine tenor playing from Swedish saxophonist Bernt Rosengren who plays in a Coleman Hawkins style. Of the four pieces composed for the film, the most lyrical is ‘Cherry’. However, this is not all for on the excellent value for money seventy-six minutes plus, one finds a number of bonus tracks that date between 1956 and 1961 including some standards and feature Komeda in a variety of settings from small combo to slightly larger ensembles. Of these Komeda’s own ‘Fourth’ stands out and is performed by the lead in a hard-bop vein somewhere between the finesse of Errol Garner and the harder yet no less refined tones of Bud Powell. Vibist Jerzy Milan enters on ‘Memory of Bach’ which provides yet more evidence for the connection between the classical composer and jazz and has an intricate MJQ feel. The three part suite to ‘Innocent Sorcerers’ again includes the sound of the vibraphone, but with the additional comfort of the harmon mute trumpet à la Miles Davis. An ideal follow up to this release would be one of the later 1960s Polanski soundtracks, ‘Cul-de-Sac’, which was originally issued on vinyl by Polydor in the UK in 1966, but has been something of a collector’s item ever since, though had been available on digital for a few years. At some point a detailed anthology of Koneda’s work is required.

Tim Stenhouse