The short history of
As its members say, the band came into being thanks to their love for jazz. A very specific way of musical expression of feelings and emotions joined the artists who earlier had been walking their own paths. At the turn of the ’80s and ’90s of the last century Miroslaw 'Carlos' Kaczmarczyk, then one of the most sought after and hard working musicians of the Polish jazz and pop music scene, decided to work on his own. He established a band, choosing musicians not only by their virtuosity and artistic skills, but also by their way of understanding jazz music. The band was not to give just one or two performances by an occasionally gathered group of talented musicians, with a hope for a few repetitions. The vision of the leader -`Carlos', a musician revered within his circle – reached out much further.
Like many other music (jazz) phenomena on the Polish artistic scene, the history of the Loud Jazz Band is directly connected with the history of the legendary `Akwarium' Jazz Club. It was in its basement where the first rehearsal of the band took place. There, in a wizard-like manner, 'Carlos', blended talents of six musicians who formed the Band at the time. It was not an easy task however: he was aware that by hiring the top and most sought after artists on the Polish market for jazz, classic, pop and rock music, he had the responsibility for booking dates for the band’s concerts or recording which had to fit in with their busy itineraries. So, those six musicians were:
Darek Janus – piano, keyboard, Wojciech Staroniewicz – saxophone, Dariusz Szymańczak and Andrzej Rusek – bass; Maciej Ostromecki – drums; Piotr Iwicki – percussion.
As often happens, the repertoire of the first concerts was based on popular jazz standards – not the music performed during occasional jam-sessions, but on new pieces composed by jazz musicians -icons of the late 20th century. They were performing pieces by Michael Brecker, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Mike Stern. Such repertoires allowed the Band’s members to build foundations for their musical unity – in a way they were getting better acquainted with each other, adding their own notes, phrases, improvisations to music events, creating the Loud Jazz Band sound. This is the right moment to ask a question on the origin of the band’s name that today may seem a bit deceitful taking into account its present sound. It was adopted by chance. One of the Band’s members, Piotr Iwicki who was famous for inventing names for a few other groups, had to face the same challenge with their own band. The Band’s leader was not willing to give the Band his own name – being of the opinion that a jazz band’s name should depict a more democratic image. One of the plates by John Scofield – an electric jazz guru of those times, appeared to be helpful. This is how the name Loud Jazz Band became not merely a recognition mark, but also a manifesto of the band’s musical direction.
The musicians were playing together in various music clubs, rousing applause of the audiences. It was of importance perhaps that, striving to attain the new standards of the ’90s, they didn’t fall on their knees. They were not just reproducing pieces performed by their American colleagues. It is worth recalling a significant opinion, expressed by Pat Metheny when years later he had an opportunity to listen to his 'Omaha Celebration' performed by LJB: 'Different, beautiful, possibly I would approach this theme in the same way today.'
First years of the groups activity were not limited to a creative look at somebody else’s music, new interpretations of compositions of jazz masters. 'Carlos' was aware that to become a genuine author, an artist had to present his own music. Therefore, new compositions were soon added to the LJB repertoire. They were reflecting the leader’s music fascinations, knowledge gained at the Jazz and Pop Music Faculty of the prestigious Academy of Music in Katowice as well as experience gathered during listening to thousands of plates, themes and improvisations. It was the background for the search of his own way of expression. It was important that his own tune was gradually becoming more and more individual – and obviously less reminiscent of the tunes of jazz guitar typical of those times: 'a mixture of Stern, Scofield and Metheny'. It was finally 'Carlos' Kaczmarczyk who was on top and continued to move forward. He left his own trail reaching for electronic converters and swapping them for an acoustic guitar in a relatively short time. Concerts soon propelled the band into an excellent brand. LJB filled a gap on the Polish market – between electric fusions and jazz rock groups and acoustic for-mations following mainstream and straight-ahead jazz. It was possible, thanks to the fact that as LJB musicians felt comfortable with all varieties of music, their understanding of jazz was complete and professional on the one hand, while on the other – uncompromising.
At the end of the first era of the band, they totally abandoned the practice of referring to recognized models. Its music was to be associated only with Loud Jazz Band and Mirosław 'Carlos' Kaczmarczyk. An old maxim of the American jazz masters worked also here: 'play, search, make experiments and sooner or later you will be noticed, but you must remain yourself and not just a shadow of what you have heard or seen'. The end of the first half of the 90’s proved this rule to be 100% true. Favourable press opinions, the endorsement of a legend following concerts of the group meant that the Band, having in its plans a recording debut, was invited to record two plates by the giants of the world market, not merely the recording market.
Those several months can be described as the time when the position of the band on the music market was established and when its tune was finally shaped. The tune continued to develop, but still remained very characteristic and recognizable. In 1994 the band had in its dossier numerous concerts and first recording sessions in the Sonus Studio in the Warsaw suburbs, as well as a huge set of unpublished recordings of its concerts. Once again, the fate of the LJB band owned much to a chance. The Warsaw Summer Jazz Days festival was trying to secure its position by signing sponsor contracts -one of them was connected to issuing a plate for Seagram, the Canadian leader of the whisky market. LJB was honoured to be the second band in the history of jazz invited to record a plate aimed at building the image of one of its products – the 'Passport'. The previous one was the legendary Modern Jazz Quartet. The 'Passport Jazz Collection' included both: concerts and studio recordings of LJB. Following the first recorded plate, concerts in top festivals in Poland took place. That album appeared to be crucial, as the interest in the band was expressed by a Polish representative of (PolyGram then-today Universal Music Poland) of the recording giant – Mercury Records. On May 23rd album `4Ever 2U' appeared on the Polish market and soon turned into the event of the year. A fact of interest might be that on the same day Herbie Hancock published his Dis Is Da Drum”, released by the same company. This was the reason why the LJB album, was considered by distribution and sales agents to be… an American production. It was sold out immediately, despite its high price when compared to prices of the Western plates. The fact that pirate copies recorded on tapes were offered by illegal salesmen on the streets and bazaars proved how popular it became. The title composition `4Ever2U' (today we would call it smooth-jazz bossa-nova) appeared to be unique, as it was included on playlists of the radio broadcasting stations that previously had neglected jazz music. A few years later, in 2000, this composition was included by Marek Niedźwiecki – a famous Polish radio presenter – in his CD plate containing a mix of the best jazz pieces 'Smooth Jazz Cafe II', where LJB featured next to such aces as Pat Metheny, Spyro Gyra, Maynard Ferguson, Lionel Richie, Stanley Clarke, Gato Barbieri, Noa and David Benoit. On top of that, the album was nominated for the Fryderyk award (a Polish equivalent of the Grammy Award) together with such milestones of the Polish jazz like i.a.: `Kakaruka' by Henryk Mikiewicz, 'FIX' by Walk Away and legendary plate by Zbigniew Namyslowski with the Highlanders -the final winner of the award. The success of `4Ever2U' strengthened the Band’s position on the market and resulted in its participation in various festivals, broadcasts of its concerts in public and private stations, and recording a concert for the Polish Television. The group became one of the stars of the Polish jazz scene. One more thing is worth mentioning: Piotr Iwicki, who previously had only played the percussion, took part in the recording playing keyboard instruments, which had an impact for the future activity of the band.
The period of great activity and popularity of LJB was also the time when its leader more and more frequently left Poland for short or longer stays in Norway. This had an impact not only on the schedule of the concerts, but – as it became clear some years later – on the sound and the shape of the band. It seems that a short concert route, which included both: a performance at the Poznan Jazz Festival (currently: the Jazz Era) and a concert given at the Warsaw Mały Theatre, should be thought of as an accent completing that period. A sign of a forthcoming change was the presence of the bass player Per Mathisen among the Band members. It was the moment when LJB opened a new chapter in its history, which can easily be called the Polish – Norwegian, or rather the Norwegian-Polish one. For fans of the group it meant a period of very few concerts.
Occasional concerts of the Band took place when Mirosław 'Carlos' Kaczmarczyk visited Poland in order to attend festivals. The re-shaped group, called LJB Norwegian Edition could be seen more and more frequently as a foreign guest on festival lists. LJB became the star of the Guitar City and Jazz in the Old Town Festivals (2001). During the latter one the band enjoyed an audience of over 4000 gathered in the Old Town Square! Despite rare live concerts the time was not wasted, in particular taking into account its recording activity. Besides, during those years many Norwegian and Polish musicians alike joined and left the group, sealing their stamps on its activity. All of them left precious trails, crucial for further development of LJB. 'Carlos' was striking his new roots in Norway and absorbing the local music atmosphere, which soon came to be reflected in his works, in the band’s tune and in the composition of the team. Due to their evolution the Band resigned from a provision in their contract with PolyGram which stipulated that the next album would also be recorded with that studio-an unprecedented event in the Polish recording history.
The album 'Don’t Stop the Train' undoubtedly opened a new chapter in the history of the group. The title contained a hidden manifesto: nothing can stop our music! Terminating the cooperation with a huge recording studio, becoming an independent producer and a new vision of the sound constituted a milestone. This period was marked with a permanent presence of the acoustic keyboard, amongst other instruments, that influenced the sound, as well as the expansion of the music concept by the leader. This new concept was visible in the 'The Way to Salina'. The Band also changed the design of its plates – appropriate up till now. This was possible thanks to Kuba Karłowski, a master of graphic and photo art, who, despite not being a musician himself, soon became an informal member of LJB. Since then, the music steeped as much in the romantic character of the leader’s Polish soul as with his visions reaching over the horizon, has been accompanied by artistic graphic concept of the group’s albums – a fact immediately noticed and appreciated by the critics.
The name Loud Jazz Band Norwegian Edition seems appropriate for that period, as more Scandinavians than Poles started to join the group. It influenced the original sound, which gradually became less 'loud' contrary to the formation’s name. Colour, concentration on full tune, developed composition forms and themes invented by 'Carlos' made the group sound like no other in Europe or outside the continent. The plate earned favourable comments both in the Norwegian and the Polish press. The critics took note of the change of the sound, indicating that the Band went its own way, disregarding the fashion. Of importance was also a new, binding until today, instrumental shape of the formation, with an enlarged brass instrument section that included a trombone and more saxophones. Maciej Ostromecki swapped his drums for ethnic instruments and percussion of a new generation, while Piotr Iwicki limited his percussion set to synthesizers. A new chapter with new sounds.
Further plates were recorded, further artists, supported by critics' remarks, were admitting that the way chosen by 'Carlos' was right, and indicated that in spite of the groups references to electric jazz, its music in fact was closer to acoustic jazz. Namely electronic instruments of Kaczmarczyk and Iwicki were just a method of broadening the scope of colours, rather than a subject of artistic activities. Someone summed up the beginnings of that period in a very appropriate sentence: The band gave its electric tune a very human face, corresponding to the natural biological rhythm of people.' Then the number of musicians playing in the band increased. One of the top achievements of the group – 'Passing' album – was recorded by ten people, including a famous singer of Jewish poetry, Bente Kahan. That album seemed to be shaped according to the vision of the tune composed by Mirosław 'Carlos' Kaczmarczyk. The cohesion was noted by world critics, claiming LJB to be an example of modern jazz, following its own path. Even Thomas Erdmann of 'Jazz Review' went so far in his opinion as to say that a new vision of jazz-rock shouldn’t be searched for in America, but in the album of LJB. The critic found no other way of complementing the pieces by Kaczmarczyk than saying: `each composition is a winner'. 'Passing' is until today regarded by many critics as the top achievement of the Band. The cover of that album (original version of the so called Special Limited Edition 2007) was nominated for numerous awards in the area of design. That album was released in a traditional version two years later. In the meantime the CD 'Living Windows', containing a concert recording, was published – it constituted a sort of a clasp that braced the latest achievements of the band. LJB entered 2010 with a new plate 'The Silence', involving a larger than ever group of performing artists. The already well-established team of its members was made even bigger by a Norwegian choir Via Cantus'. Its participation in recording was rather limited, but anyway contributed to the evolution of the Band’s tune. Konrad Żywiecki was right in his description of the album in 'Jazz Forum', as he noticed complexity of its shape and sound:
`(…) The music created as a result of such combination, has all the qualities so appreciated by me in the Scandinavian jazz, as well as those emotions so frequently absent in the music of the North, but indispensable to avoid the unnecessary distance between the musician and the audience. A vision of a romantic fever cooled down by Norwegian winds.'
Similar enthusiasm was expressed by Alicja Handler in her comments published in `Rzeczpospolita':
`The Silence' is jazz signed electroacoustic fusion with elements of rock, and at the same time a plate capturing your attention completely; it contains leisurely-like, precisely constructed compositions which are at the same time enchanting and raise strong emotions. (…) this Slavonic-Scandinavian mixture and the fact that the group has played for over twenty years are conducive to creating such a mature and unique music.'
`The Silence' is an album upon which the leader worked longer in its post-production phase. All this reverence, concentration on each single sound can be easily noticed. It is much more than just an album – a set of compositions gathered in one plate, but a novel consisting of compositions – its chapters. Nothing is incidental in it.
`From the Distance – Live in Oslo' is in a way a recapitulation of the Band’s sound that was developed for almost a quarter of a century. Recorded in an unusual place, unusual also in terms of technique and tune, it seems to be an essence of the Band’s style. Both professional critics and the group’s fans appre-ciated its quality. One of them shared spontaneous words of approval using a social media platform: `In general I find the album very interesting. Connecting classical and free jazz with improvisations has proved excellent. Even elements of jazz-rock don’t disturb to say, that the music is stylish and character-istic. The mixture as a whole is harmonized, meeting high standards.' (Natalia Budzińska). This album marks the end of a certain chapter and the beginning of another one. What will the new Kaczmarczyk’s phrases lean towards? Will he surprise us again? But, does he have to? The music of the Loud Jazz Band is revolutionary in its way. Nowadays, when almost everybody wants to develop jazz, while the majority of these efforts lead nowhere, but to absurd – 'Carlos' and his fellow-musicians try to expose in each single sound the beauty of music and art. Perhaps this is why their music is revolutionary – they don’t intend to redeem jazz or push it to a new track. LJB doesn’t state the obvious. As obvious as human hearts and emotions. Respect for them can be heard in every note of the Band’s music.
Piotr Iwicki / english version – Joan Coubere