KRZYSZTOF KOMEDA — Astigmatic (review)

KRZYSZTOF KOMEDA — Astigmatic album cover Album · 1967 · Post Bop Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
One of the best Polish jazz album coming from XX century. Krzysztof Komeda often is named as godfather of Polish modern jazz. He was born in 1931 and graduated as doctor-laryngologist turned to self-taught jazz musician/composer in a country, where jazz was officially proclaimed as "the arms of capitalist propaganda".

He is mostly known worldwide by his soundtracks to early Hollywood Roman Polansky movies (Rosemary’s Baby, The Fearless Vampire Killers, Knife in the Water and Cul-de-sac).But in Poland he was kind of domestic Miles Davis in early 60-s: differently from almost all rest Eastern European countries, Poland had old jazz tradition, but officials were absolutely intolerable to any form of modern jazz.

Astigmatic was recorded in half-underground conditions just in one night. Three long compositions, combining post-bop,some classical music influences and free-jazz elements still have strong structure and melodic component. Sound is quite sharp,very precise and obviously influenced by European jazz and Polish soulful musical tradition both.

Continuing the parallel with Miles Davis, playing with Komeda has been a start of great career as world class musician for some leading Polish jazz artists. On Astigmatic you can hear excellent early musicianship of sax player Zbigniew Namysłowski and trumpeter Tomasz Stańko (them both are first class Polish jazz musicians till now).

Few years after release of this album Komeda stayed in Los Angeles where he composed film music for Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby and Kulik’s The Riot. In December 1968, in Los Angeles, Komeda had a tragic car accident which led to a haematoma of the brain. He did not have US medical insurance and was transported back to Poland,there during friendly rough-and-tumble with writer Marek Hłasko, Komeda fell down and suffered head injuries.He died in 23 April 1969 being just 38.

His legacy contains only a few studio albums of jazz recordings, but huge soundtrack discography. Komeda is most influential artist in Polish modern jazz till now, it's a pity he isn't really known by his jazz recordings around the world. "Astigmatic" is excellent entrance to his music (and to Polish jazz as well if you still aren't familiar with it).

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snobb wrote:
more than 2 years ago
I grew up listening to Polish radio where almost all songs were "jazzy" :). And I believe that modern Polish jazz scene is one of most vibrant in Europe. With their "yass" roots younger generation of Polish nu jazz bands are absolute continent leaders in that genre
bartosso wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Great, great review. I've just bought Astigmatic and I'm speechless. As you said, it's depressing how overlooked the music from the central and eastern Europe is - only because we haven't been a part of the western world at the time. Komeda was a world-class genius and should be considered on par with the biggest names of jazz. Well, all I can say is thank you for promoting Polish Jazz :)


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