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Music Review: Komeda Project – Requiem

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With a primary focus to bring new light to the music of Krzysztof Komeda, the Komeda Project’s Requiem picks up where Crazy Girl left off and pushes the music of the legendary Polish composer into new territory.

Led by pianist/composer/arranger Andrzej Winnicki and saxophonist Krzysztof Medyna, Komeda Project first made waves with their debut Crazy Girl. Requiem involves trumpeter Russ Johnson again, but brings along a few new components for the ride. Drummer Nasheet Waits and bassist Scott Colley are in on it, filling out the sound with their open-ended playing.

The “risk” in utilizing Colley and Waits lies in the simple fact that neither skilled musician was all that familiar with the work of Komeda. More than comfortable with such a “risk,” Medyna and Winnicki have created arrangements that allow free-flowing passages and improvisational surprises in to the structure of Komeda.

Beginning with the three part epic of “Night-time, Daytime Requiem,” the record surges forward with all the power of Komeda. Written after the Polish composer heard of John Coltrane’s death, the opening number is a deeply emotional homage that plays with tone and mood. Winnicki’s reworking is masterful, allowing each participant a moment in the spotlight.

Medyna’s wandering, piercing sax is all over the thrilling “Astigmatic, lending the song a breakneck, unpredictable tone. And the dark “Prayer and Question” plods ahead with guidance from Colley and Waits and an absolutely stunning burst of piano from Winnicki.

Krzysztof Komeda, who died just months shy of his 38th birthday in 1969, was one of Poland’s most famous modern composers. He was probably best known for his scores to the films of Roman Polanski, including 1968’s Rosemary’s Baby and 1967’s The Fearless Vampire Killers.

Tinges of eeriness infuse each piece with that natural Komeda style, but there’s also a tremendous amount of life and celebration to the music.

Based firmly on Winnicki and Medyna’s 30+ year partnership and the vibe of freshness brought by Colley and Waits, Requiem does well to bring the music of Komeda to new audiences without abandoning the passion and beauty Polish fans have known for decades.

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