The Zbigniew Namysłowski Quintet - Winobranie (1973), 8/10

The Zbigniew Namysłowski Quintet execute an extravagant and ambitious jazz record in Winobranie. While I don’t particularly gravitate towards some of the fusion influences and their improvisational consequences, there is an undeniable mastery in Namysłowski, Szukalski, Cieślak, Jarzębski and Jonkisz’s performances on every track. The solos are placed perfectly, and unlike much of seventies jazz, are paced appropriately to maintain great momentum, perfectly exemplified on the opening title track (which fitting to its sensibilities translates to “Wine Feast”). Don’t let Namysłowski’s expression fool you by the way, the melodies here are driving and while intellectual and explorative, very rarely melancholic. After the opening duo, we get a refreshingly placid yet later vivacious “Nie mniej niż 5%”. There is clearly a European influence, but equally a spirituality akin to Coltrane’s best works. Despite its influences, this is clearly a unique and individual recording that has earned its distinctiveness. Beyond the horns, Jarzębski’s bass brings a tremendous sense of melody and hooks to the rhythm section alongside Jonkisz’s blistering percussion. The wonky hook in the standout track “Gogoszary” is worth mentioning, and while on the subject, there are a number of offbeat riffs and unique instrumentation choices that breathe extra life into what might have been a lesser album, giving it a sense of individuality and even peculiarity. It is at its best when diverting from any predictability, which fortunately is a lot of the time. The three part beginning to the latter half “Pierwsza przymiarka (First Take) / Ballada na grzędzie (Ballad on the Roost) / Misie (Teddy Bears)” veers toward an intellectual and individual approach to performance, which works in some moments and less so in others, accented wonderfully by the beauty of the last piece. “Taj Mahal” feels like an odd detour just before the poetic bookend repetition of the title track phrase “Winobranie”. Unmissable for jazz enthusiasts and perhaps the strongest entry in the Polish Jazz scene.