Jazzpospolita – The Jazz Republic

Harmonic melody interrupted by rock intervals, hypnotises the audience in the basement of a jazz club. It is hard to move around the crowded tables. “We start playing in three minutes” – Stefan reminds his friends over a pint of Guinness.

Jazzpospolita, a Polish jazz-rock band whose name translates as “Jazz Republic,” was the only Polish element at the Jazz and Blues Festival in Edinburgh in July. Polish representatives were not numerous, but certainly effective. There was not enough room to fit in the crowds that wanted to see the concert. During the break the enthusiastic fans were buying as much as five albums at once. The ushers reminded them that the band was going to play the following day as well.

Jazzpospolita is composed of Stefan Nowakowski (bass), Wojtek Oleksiak (drums), Michał Przerwa Tetmajer (guitar) and Michał Załęski (piano, keys). In Edinburgh the quartet played the compositions from its newest album, “JazzPo!,” and Namysłowski’s rearranged compositions from the legendary album “Winobranie.”

“JazzPo!” was enthusiastically acclaimed by critics. “Jazzpospolita confirms that the world can be surprising sometimes. It was so beloved by the critics at the beginning of its career that theoretically it should have stopped developing and rest on its laurels. Instead, it released the best album in its discography” – wrote Bartek Chaciński, a prominent Polish music critic.

As the title implies (in Polish the word “po” means “after”), “JazzPo!” presents a musical post-jazz landscape, in which jazz, rock and electronic music are intertwined. Eclectic music is the distinguishing mark of the quartet. As I learn after the concert, it is the need to constantly evolve that Jazzpospolita musicians find so tempting about jazz. “This music genre is for those who are ambitious and want to develop. That’s how we were brought up” – they say slightly arrogantly, drinking a Sunday cup of coffee with me.

The band combines its avant-garde tendencies with commercial success. For them, their biggest achievement – apart from their pursuit of perfection in music – is the founding of their own music publishing company. Niche musicians accuse them of playing commercial music, but to this, Wojtek replies: “There’s no perfect balance. If you play real avant-garde music, everyone says ‘You can’t listen to that, it’s for musicians only’. If you play accessible music, people say that it has no artistic value. If you do it our way, somewhere in the middle, those who are above us think that we cheat, and those below us believe that you can’t listen to that anyway. We’ve never tried to ingratiate ourselves with the audience, but it just so happens that pure avant-garde doesn’t attract us. We play what we like, what is honest for us”. When will they feel that they achieved everything? “Never” – says Stefan. “I’d like to feel musically unfulfilled all the time”.

The effects of the band’s musical unfulfilment will be known soon. In the autumn the quartet is planning a tour in China. They will play 7 concerts, from Beijing to Macao, as part of the “Jazz in Polish” project. And in spring 2016 they want to release a new album – as always, better than the previous one.

Dorota Peszkowska
Photos: Maciej Głowiński