Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Konrad Wiszniewski & Euan Stevenson - New Focus (2011)

Source & Label: Whirlwind Recordings

Glasgow-based saxophonist Konrad Wiszniewski joins forces with fellow Scottish compatriot, pianist & arranger Euan Stevenson in launching their genre-bending adventure New Focus on Whirlwind Recordings. Featuring an amalgamation of classical string quartet meets jazz quartet plus harp, New Focus showcases a cinematic soundscape of through-composed melodies meeting cutting edge improvisation, drawing upon influences from across the musical spectrum.

This nine-piece ensemble features The Glasgow String Quartet (comprising some of the finest virtuosos from The Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and Scotland's leading string quartet), alongside Stevenson on piano fronting the first call drum and bass team of Alyn Cosker (drums) and Michael Janisch (bass), Wiszniewski at the helm on saxophones and Alina Bzhezhinska on harp.

Stevenson's tight knit arrangements offer concise, pleasing trajectories, preserving the original sentiment of each composition, enriching them with ever changing soundscapes of strings and harp. Wiszniewski's tone tells parables of Polish ancestry while the arranger's own crystalline piano laments for pit closures in a northern mining town. A powerhouse rhythm team provides a counterfoil, never allowing the music to become sentimental.

This is music at its resourceful best; borrowing the harmonies and sonorities of the classical world, the tone poetry of Scottish Folk, the directness of pop and all mixed with the bustling edginess of jazz rhythms and improvisation. Duke Ellington famously quipped that there were only two categories of music - good and bad. New Focus most definitely belongs to the former.

"Outstanding original compositions by Wiszniewski and Stevenson. Wiszniewski brings world-class fire and spontaneous creativity." 5 Stars, The Herald.

"The most memorable concert of the 2011 Edinburgh International Jazz Festival. A real triumph." Jazzwise

1. Nicola’s Piece
2. Intro
3. El Paraiso
4. For Ray
5. Interlude
6. Music for a Northern Mining Town
7. Illuminate
8. Dziadzio
9. Leonard’s Lament

Konrad Wiszniewski - saxophones & compositions
Euan Stevenson - piano, compositions & arrangements
The Glasgow String Quartet:
William Chandler - violin
Jacqueline Speirs - violin
Ian Budd - viola
Betsy Taylor - cello
Alina Bzhezhinska - harp
Michael Janisch - double bass