Marcin Masecki & Jerzy Rogiewicz Ragtime
When I first heard Marcin Masecki playing live a bunch of old James P. Johnson rags in late 2016, I was immediately struck by the vibrant cocktail of music and experience that had taken him to that point. In his hands, the music that became one of the main pillars of jazz between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries acquired a whole new dimension, personal and inscrutable, but also pulsing, alive and contemporary.
Marcin Masecki – upright piano
Jerzy Rogiewicz – drums
About the album
All compositions by Marcin Masecki except track 2 by Władysław Daniłowski, track 4 by Fanny Gordon, track 6 by Harold Arlen, and track 7 by Harry Akst
Recorded by Michał Kupicz at the Institute for the Blind in Laski, Poland in July 2017, except track 9 recorded live by Olivier Schutte at the Bimhuis, Amsterdam on June 8, 2017
Mixed by Michał Kupicz and Marcin Masecki
Mastered by Michał Kupicz
Artwork: László Huszár / Greenroom
Produced by László Gőz
Label manager: Tamás Bognár
Matthieu Durand - le-grigri.com (fr)
Tom Fuchs - Piano News (de)
Hans-Jürgen Schaal - Jazzthetik (de)
Maciej Krawiec - polish-jazz.blogspot.com (pl)
Piotr Rytowski - JazzPRESS (pl)
Z.K. Slabý - UNI (cz)
Jan Hocek - Jazzport (cz)
Peter Dobšinský - skJazz.sk ***** (sk)
Máté J. György - Gramofon **** (hu)
Olasz Sándor - Riff (hu)
Varga Bendegúz - Jazzma.hu (hu)
Komlós József JR - Alföldi Régió Magazin (hu)
Marcin Masecki & Jerzy Rogiewicz: Ragtime
The album is available in digital form at our retail partners
When I first heard Marcin Masecki playing live a bunch of old James P. Johnson rags in late 2016, I was immediately struck by the vibrant cocktail of music and experience that had taken him to that point. In his hands, the music that became one of the main pillars of jazz between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries acquired a whole new dimension, personal and inscrutable, but also pulsing, alive and contemporary. Ragtime, as interpreted by Masecki, is no revival music, but a new spirit born from the confluence of his personal creative universe and one of his earliest musical passions.
“This is the style that got me into music originally” , explained Masecki during that gig, “as a nine year old boy I heard this and went nuts. It was played by a guy on a white piano and I immediately wanted to be him. I never played ragtime publicly back then, so it’s been a neglected passion that only recently I’ve allowed to flourish again.” Passion, that’s the key word here.
Maybe those old pioneers, that fruitful branch of black music slightly more cultivated than blues or spirituals, who created a half-breed syncopated music that fed from its African roots as well as from the old Europe, wouldn’t have approved of the rhythmic and harmonic exploration in the tracks of this album. They might have cried in outrage, defending the old tradition and claiming that this thing, whatever it may be, is not ragtime.
If there’s someone who, beyond any doubt, would have approved and enjoyed Masecki’s rags, it’s Thelonius Monk, whose spirit flutters all over Ragtime, an album that reveals as many echoes of the ragtime tradition as hints and clues leading to the unmistakably European personality of the Polish pianist. Masecki abducts from its time a somewhat anachronistic music, almost meaningless when removed from that historical context, and gives it a new life in our 2018, where it becomes something unique and valuable. Something resembling past melodies, but different. Something new.
Monk also played Dinah or Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea — choices that don’t strike us as casual in the album’s tracklist — and took them onto his own turf mercilessly, making them his own. Masecki, perhaps the most deserving true heir to Monk’s legacy that the old continent has offered us so far, does as much and takes the music that fascinated him as a kid to his musical present. And he does so with reverence and admiration, but without concessions: the pianist is now at his musical prime and achieves a perfect communion between the rhythmic roots of original rags, his own personal approach to rhythm, and the setting of lines which meander fluidly over syncopated ostinatos that become effervescent and unpredictable under Masecki’s fingers.
And then there’s that European melancholy, almost folkish, welling up in tracks like Kołysze, another feature drawing new landscapes in our perception, making the cold sidewalks of Warsaw seem closer to those in some mid-western American town, or bringing a vodka-flavored dolefulness to some crowded jazz den soaked in bourbon and smoke with Langsam, probably the slowest ragtime ever. We find Jerzy Rogiewicz, his old friend and collaborator, right next to Masecki, as some kind of musical Siamese twin. The drummer, a member of bands such as Levity, Pink Freud or Profesjonalizm (also with Masecki), is the perfect partner in crime for the pianist, following him in his flights and swoops in a dynamic and mimetic fashion, as if the drums were part of Masecki himself. And so the pair builds every track patiently, letting it grow and develop without the limited rules of old rags, making them upward spirals instead of circles.
That ability to explore beyond the limits of an apparently closed rhythmic pattern is the driving force behind one of the pianist’s most brilliant features: his talent for improvisation. At this point in his career Masecki has already been everywhere and done everything, from playing Beethoven while facing the same sensorial limitations suffered by the composer, through twisting Scarlatti’s scores at will or writing polonaises for a swingin’ military band, to a Symphony for piano and brass orchestra. Now it’s the most jazzistic Masecki who surfaces, the pianist who makes improvisation the ultimate discourse of his style, sublimating the longing of that nine-year old boy who wanted to be the man sitting at the white piano. Eventually, Masecki has managed to become much more than that, because no one has ever played this music like this before. Monk himself would be proud. And he would dance to Masecki’s ragtimes, oh yes, he would!
Yahvé M. de la Cavada