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Urbaniak

Michal Urbaniak

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Album Review

Polish violinist Michal Urbaniak was already well known in Europe, and somewhat famous in America, with five previous overtly commercial efforts for the Columbia and Arista labels. This album for Inner City Records showcases a much more substantive, energetic, and contemporary type of jazz music perfectly suited for the fusion-oriented '70s. With wife Urszula Dudziak singing and Zbigniew Namyslowski playing alto sax in a David Sanborn-type dialect, these three form a hummable, tuneful front line whose symmetry and sonic footprint are hard to resist. Aside from the lead performers, fans of Kenny Kirkland should take note of his presence on this album, one of his earliest works. Kirkland plays brilliantly here on Fender Rhodes electric piano, Polymoog, and miniMoog synthesizers, buoying and supporting the others in bright dimensions and shimmering tones. Though adept at the straight-ahead mainstream style, R&B-oriented jazz-rock fusion is at the equally delightful and danceable core of Urbaniak's music. The band sets the tone with the opener, "Tie Breaker," a track with active, quickly ground strokes featuring Urbaniak on the lyricon opposite Namyslowski's alto and Kirkland's busy keyboards in a tribute to the first and greatest Polish men's tennis professional, Wojtek Fibak. Dudziak, a unique-unto-herself scat singer only rivaled by Flora Purim, raises the bar even higher on "Strife," as Urbaniak's violin solo reaches for heights beyond the stratosphere. The inevitable comparisons to peer Jean-Luc Ponty rate Urbaniak favorably, as creeping bass and marching drums set up his soaring strings during "Mountaineers." Namyslowski composed most of the tracks here, with his impressive piece "Stray Sheep" strong in rhythmic content within the funky beat, but multifaceted, always changing from within, and adding a bit of Polish folk flavoring. On the other side, "Jasmine Lady" is a tiptoed walk through imagery of delicacy. The resonant Fender Rhodes work of Kirkland is ripe for the times, perfectly complementing the bandmembers by matching their dynamics beautifully with every step, never looking back, and always forging ahead. Approaching age 35 at the time of this recording, Urbaniak was no spring chicken, and had firmly established his vision and voicings. So it should come to no one's surprise how focused and concentrated this music is, not to mention that after several decades, it does not sound dated. Kudos to the Inner City label for issuing this fine effort — highly recommended without reservation — on CD so that listeners may relish in its exuberant qualities. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Biography

Born: 22 January 1943 in Warsaw, Poland

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Once Poland's most promising import in the jazz-rock 1970s, Michal Urbaniak's chief value in retrospect was as a fellow traveler of Jean-Luc Ponty, a fluid advocate of the electric violin, the lower-pitched Violectra, and the Lyricon (the first popular, if now largely under-utilized wind synthesizer). Like many Eastern European jazzmen, he would incorporate elements of Polish folk music into his jazz pursuits, and his other heroes range from the inevitable Miles Davis to Polish classicist Witold...
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Urbaniak, Michal Urbaniak
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