Piotr Damasiewicz & Power of the Horns Ensemble - Polska I
PIOTR DAMASIEWICZ
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“Make Polish Jazz great again”: Piotr Damasiewicz & Power of the Horns return with “Polska” LP

A musical visionary, some outstanding instrumentalists, the 10th anniversary of the collective’s founding, a reflection on Polishness, and finally – a 4,000 km-long walking pilgrimage of 100 solo concerts in 100 temples. These events, symbols, experiences and facts have somehow been combined into one coherent whole – the Polska LP, the first release by Piotr Damasiewicz & Power of the Horns Ensemble since 2013.

“Power of the Horns have the ability to captivate audiences of any festival, from jazz gigs to the huge Open’er, from the Baltic Sea coast to the Tatra Mountains, and hopefully in every corner of the globe”, as Kajetan Prochyra wrote in Jazzarium a few years ago, shortly after the release of the phenomenal concert album Alaman which earned the band considerable fame in the jazz scene. Power of the Horns, however, turned out to be a scarce commodity. They only performed on special occasions, and it took 6 years for their second album to be released. Now they are back with the album titled Poland.

This repertoire is a kind of synthesis of what influenced the image of jazz that accompanied Piotr Damasiewicz while building his musical identity. This is the essence of what was closest to Piotr’s heart in Polish jazz in the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s, when he would mostly listen to Polish masters live, on the radio and on recordings. It was a period when he often listened to Wojtasik with Szukalski and Harper (it was the Quest album that was the main inspiration behind “Billy”), or some of the unearthly recordings of the Polish trumpet master Tomasz Stanko, such as Bosonossa, Litania, and From the Green Hill. Damas spent that period of his life in Katowice, which he still associates with the hard work of miners. It also remains a symbol of Polish industrial characterised by heavy groove... That’s why he has composed “Kleofas”, an homage to one of the Katowice coal mines.

The recording session for Polska LP occurred at a very special time. The album was recorded the day before and on the anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising, as these were the only available dates for all of the musicians. The exceptional atmosphere and thus the dignity of this time were emphasized by the events preceding the recordings. “It was a very moving period, concluding a certain era, as several people close to us, both musically and personally, died. The great master, Tomasz Stanko, to whom we partly dedicated this session, passed away” – the leader explains. There is some kind of symbolism in the fact that when the sound of sirens froze Warsaw for a moment as it does yearly, the album session in Studio S2 (Polskie Radio) was coming to an end.

Last year Piotr Damasiewicz and his orchestra celebrated the 10th anniversary of Power of the Horns. It is hard to believe that it took a decade for one of the most outstanding bands promoting Polish jazz in the world to record their first studio album. However, it is hardly surprising given that the leader of PotH – Piotr “Damas” Damasiewicz – is one of the busiest Polish artists around.

It is not easy to lead such a big orchestra of gifted musicians, or, to be more precise, a bunch of contemporary Polish jazz stars – that's why the line-up that took all the jazz recaps of 2013 by storm with their debut concert album Alaman (For Tune) remained in phonographic slumber for another 6 years, at the same time putting on a few major concerts with guests such as James Carter, Lotte Anker, Anna Karwan and Zdzislaw Piernik. Since the formation of Power of the Horns, the band leader has received a Fryderyk award for his jazz debut, while his colleagues, an alto saxophonist Maciej Obara and Dominik Wania, a pianist, have successfully released albums for the legendary German ECM label.

For Piotr Damasiewicz, 2019 is a year full of round numbers. Damas set off on a 4,000 km pilgrimage along the Way of Saint James starting in May when he crossed the border with Ukraine in the village of Korczowa, continuing through the south of Poland, Germany, France, and finally completing the journey in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, northwestern Spain. The very idea of such journey seems to be impressive but if one adds that the trumpeter’s mission was to play 100 solo trumpet concerts in 100 temples of various denominations in order to prepare for his academic research, it’s beyond comprehension.
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