With Randy Brecker, Mike Stern, Dave Weckl, Tom Kennedy, Gary Novak…
Łukasz Pawlik – piano (1, 2, 5, 6), cello (6), keyboards, synthesizers, sample programming; Randy Brecker – trumpet, fluegelhorn (4, 7); Dawid Główczewski – alto & soprano saxophone (1, 2, 7, 8); Szymon Kamykowski – tenor saxophone (3, 4); Tom Kennedy – electric bass (1, 2, 6, 8); Michał Kapczuk – electric bass (4, 7); Cezary Konrad – drums (4, 8); Gary Novak – drums (3, 5, 6, 7); Phil South – percussion (1); Mike Stern – electric guitar (1, 3, 7); Dave Weckl – drums (1, 2)
All tracks composed by Łukasz Pawlik
LUKASZ PAWLIK/Long Distance Connections: A smart fusion piano cat makes a bunch of smart moves by bringing a crew of fusion cats that really matter who brought their chops along with them. The grooving kind of stuff that was plentiful before consultants turned the format into wallpaper, you can tell everyone is having a great time kicking out the jams. Pawlik also captures the sound of summer righteously.
Łukasz Pawlik was born into a family with a rich musical tradition. Both of his parents are successful concert pianists. His father Włodek Pawlik is one of the most celebrated jazz musicians in Poland, the first Polish jazz musician who won a Grammy (on SUMMIT). Growing up in such circumstances, he was exposed to classical music as well as jazz from an early age and started his musical education as a child.
Łukasz has had an opportunity to play in some renowned German orchestras, such as Düsseldorfer Symphoniker and Sinfonieorchester Wuppertal. He was also a prize-winner of many cello competitions, including the first prize at the K. Wiłkomirski Cello Competition in Poznań, enabling him to study in the USA, which proved to be a milestone on his musical path. It was during the time of his studies at Western Michigan University, when he became keenly interested in jazz. Five semesters spent studying the intricacies of different kinds of music, composition and counterpoint, creative interactions with other students spurred him to start to develop his own musical language, a musical language that is ever-so apparent and APPEALING on this recording.
The first, important platform for his compositional attempts was the international jazz-group Kattorna, a band that was formed to celebrate the music of Krzysztof Komeda, whose works Łukasz strived to popularize internationally. However, as the time passed, the group’s repertoire started to gravitate towards Łukasz’s musical visions, in the meantime, gaining top honors at many jazz competitions.
The music here creates space both to the extensive use of modern technology, but also to the individual expression of each musician featured on the record. It is the very first album, on which Łukasz appears as a performer, composer and a producer.
Incredibly well-played with world-class musicianship!
Lukasz Pawlik: “Long-Distance Connections” – Pianist and keyboardist Lukasz Pawlik has put together a great group of musicians for his new album, including Mike Stern on electric guitar, Tom Kennedy on electric bass, David Glówczewski on alto saxophone, Szymon Kamykowski on tenor saxophone, Randy Brecker on trumpet and flugelhorn, Gary Novak on drums, Cezary Konrad on drums, and Dave Weckl on drums. Dave Weckl’s presence is what especially got me interested in this release, and in addition to his work on drums, Weckl co-produced the album. The album contains all original material, composed by Lukasz Pawlik. It opens with “Indian Garden,” an instantly catchy number that features a really good bass line and of course some fantastic work from Dave Weckl. Phil South joins the group on percussion for this track. This is a lively number, with some funky energy. My favorite section comes approximately halfway through, when Lukasz Pawlik delivers a wonderful lead on keys. There is also a delicious lead on bass toward the end. And, hell, that’s just the first track. It’s followed by “A Matter Of Urgency,” which also features Dave Weckl on drums (he plays on only these first two tracks), and here his playing is at the center of the action at times, particularly in the second half. Its title feels appropriate, as this track moves at a decent pace, and there is something pressing about it. “Jellyfish” takes us into the deep, into a mysterious, dark spot in the ocean, where unknown creatures brush past us. But soon we are acclimated, and can begin to see the action. Randy Brecker contributes some expressive work on trumpet on “For Odd’s Sake,” with Cezary Konrad delivering on the drums. “Planet X” has a dark, ominous sound at the start, with Lukasz Pawlik on synthesizers as well as piano and keyboards, supported only by Gary Novak on drums. This track takes us on an interesting journey. “Reflections” is the most beautiful piece on the album, in large part because of Lukasz Pawlik’s work on cello. It’s the only track featuring him on that instrument. Then “Greg’s Walk” seems to promise intrigue as it opens. “Suspensions” has a somewhat mellow, soothing vibe, and features some nice work on keys…
-Michael Doherty’s Music Log
The piano virtuoso Lukasz Pawlik brings in an all star cast for Long-Distance Connections, where Mike Stern, Tom Kennedy, Gary Novak and Szymon Kamykowski, among many others, accompany him across 8 fusion friendly compositions.
“Indian Garden” starts the listen with Stern’s electric guitar, Dave Weckl’s proficient drumming and David Glówczewski’s well timed saxophone in the smooth and versatile opener, and “A Matter Of Urgency” follows with Pawlik’s dizzing acoustic piano alongside Kennedy’s strategic electric bass as flowing jazz ideas enter the playful climate.
At the halfway point, “For Odd’s Sake” enters calmer territory, as Randy Brecker’s trumpet makes an impression amid Pawlik’s keys, samples and synth, while “Planet X” offers a darker approach complete with piano, keyboards, synth, samples and bass programming from Pawlik’s very capable hands in the cinematic landscape.
“Greg’s Walk” arrives near the end, and is one of the best tracks, in part due to flugelhorn from Brecker and Glówczewski’s warm sax prowess, and “Suspensions” exits the listen with no shortage of grooves cultivated by sax, bass, drums and Pawlik’s flawless key work.
Pawlik penned all these originals, and his contributions on various keys, and even cello on one track, help make Long-Distance Connections an ideal listen for those with an interest for collaborative jazz and timeless classical song craft.
-Take Effect Reviews
…Pawlik’s music on the album combines the elements of jazz, fusion, world music, electronics with the traditional sounds of the acoustic piano or the cello. Despite the structural complexity of the material, the themes of the songs are very melodic and they spur featured musicians to make passionate statements through their solos. The intense rhythms of the music are driven by the outstanding drummers (Konrad, Novak, Weckl).
Pianist and composer Lukasz Pawlik has released his new album, Long-Distance Connections, which assembles a who’s who of the jazz world. That includes a roster of Randy Brecker, Tom Kennedy, Gary Novak, Mike Stern, Dave Weckl, and more.
“Pawlik’s music on the album combines the elements of jazz, fusion, world music, electronics with the traditional sounds of the acoustic piano or the cello,” a press release states. “Despite the structural complexity of the material, the themes of the songs are very melodic and they spur featured musicians to make passionate statements through their solos.”
-Kevin Johnson for No Treble
Jazz artist/composer Lukasz Pawlik returned Friday with his sophomore album, Long-Distance Connections. Released through Summit Records, the eight-song record is an expansive presentation that will appeal primarily to his established audiences and to more casual modern fusion jazz. That is evidenced from start to end through the album’s featured musical arrangements. For all that the arrangements do to make the record appealing, the lack of any background on the arrangements detracts from the album’s presentation to a point. This will be discussed later. The record’s production rounds out its most important elements, as it directly impacts the album’s general effect. Each item noted here does its own part to make Long-Distance Connections a record that will mostly appeal to its targeted audiences.
Long-Distance Connections, the sophomore album from up-and-coming jazz pianist/composer Lukasz Pawlik, is a presentation that will connect with Pawlik’s established audiences and more casual modern fusion jazz fans alike. That is due in part to its arrangements. For the most part, modern fusion is what audiences get throughout the course of the album’s 62-minute run time. Even with that in mind, the arrangements each boast their own identity separate from one another . Case in point is the clear Indian influence exhibited through the flute and electronics in the album’s opener, ‘Indian Garden.’ The use of the flute and electronics makes that Indian leaning clear while the use of the guitar, drums, bass and other instrumentation gives the song more of a Weather Report-esque sound and stylistic approach. By comparison, a work, such as ‘Jellyfish’ is a more 80s-fusion style work. That is made obvious right from the song’s opening bars in the use of and sound from the keyboard line. That against the muted trumpet, bass, and funky drum line adds even more to that sense of jazz that was so commonplace during that era. It is completely unlike the arrangement featured in ‘Indian Garden.’ If that is not enough proof as to the variance in the album’s arrangements, that featured in ‘Reflection’ is yet another example of that variance. This nearly nine-minute (its run time is listed in the packaging at eight minutes, 40 seconds) is a beautiful, moving composition that is led by Pawlik’s performance on piano. His performance alone creates so much warmth and happiness. The subtle addition of the bongos (yes, there are even bongos here, though who plays them is not credited) alongside Pawlik’s performance on the cello and Gary Novak’s steady, gentle time keeping adds even more to that warmth. The whole is its own fusion style work, but is at least in this critic’s mind and ears, among the best of the album’s entries. When it is considered along the other songs examined here, as well as the even more unique ‘Planet X,’ the frenetic ‘A Matter of Urgency,’ the relaxed finale that is ‘Suspensions’ and the rest of the record’s songs, the diversity in these songs becomes fully clear. Keeping that rich diversity in mind, the album in whole offers audiences much to like. For all that the album’s musical content does to make it appealing, the lack of any background on those songs detracts from that appeal to a point.
Long-Distance Connections is hardly the first instrumental jazz album out there that has lacked any background on its songs. So it has that to its defense. The thing is that as with so many other records that suffer from this shortcoming, the songs are appealing. Having that background information would deepen listeners’ appreciation for each arrangement. That is because it goes without saying that there is some story behind the music. Not having that story results in listeners’ appreciation for said content remaining at a superficial level. That is unless of course it is known that said arrangements are/were improvised works. In that case, then there is no need for understanding any background information. However in a case such as this, it is clear that the songs were not improvised. So to not have that information here is not enough to make the album a failure, but it certainly would have been a boon to the album to have that information.
Now keeping in mind that the lack of any background on the song is not enough to doom this record, there is one more positive to note in examining the album. That positive is the album’s production. As already noted, the arrangements featured in this album are diverse in their sound and style. From one song to the next, this means that the utmost attention had to be paid to so many details in order to bring out the best in each arrangement. Those behind the boards are to be applauded for their efforts in this case. In a song, such as ‘Greg’s Walk’ for instance, the balance of Novak’s funky drumming to Pawlik’s work on the various keyboard lines and Tom Kennedy’s work on bass had to be perfectly handled. That is because within it all, there is so much going on. It really sounds so busy, yet those responsible for the song’s production did so well to make sure that no one part overpowered the others at any point. The result is a song that is so much unlike its counterparts in the record in its sound and style and even in itself, is so rich. That is again, thanks to the production that went into the song. ‘For Odd’s Sake’ (for some reason, it is listed as ‘Accidental Oddysey’ when played back on a computer’s Windows Media Player) is another example of the importance of the album’s production. Randy Brecker’s muted trumpet line serves as the song’s foundation, and it cuts through from beginning to end of the nine minute-plus arrangement. Thanks again to those behind the boards, Pawlik’s performance on the keyboards and Szymon Kapczuk’s performance on tenor saxophone serve wonderfully as support for that main trumpet line. They add just enough “flavor” – so to speak – to the whole to make the arrangement even more immersive and full. The end result of the expert production here is yet another work that shows the importance of the album’s overall production. When the work put into it, the other songs noted here, and the rest of the album’s entries, the whole shows clearly why the record’s production is just as important as its content. When the album’s production is considered alongside the noted content and even the lack of background content, the whole proves in the end that it will connect with Pawlik’s established audiences and with jazz fusion fans in general.
Lukasz Pawlik’s new album, Long-Distance Connections is a mostly successful new offering from the up-and-coming pianist/composer. That is proven in large part through the arrangements that make up the album’s body. The arrangements are diverse from one to the next. This is even as each largely sticks to a jazz fusion style sound and stylistic approach. That alone is reason enough for audiences to hear the album. While the record’s musical content does plenty to make the presentation appealing, the lack of any background on the songs detracts from the album’s appeal to a point. It is not enough to make the record a failure, but at the same time, it certainly would have made the album’s appeal that much more. The album’s production works with the record’s content to round out its most important elements. It shows how much time and effort went into making each song sound so appealing. Its end result is just that, too. Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the record’s presentation. All things considered, they make the album a work that Pawlik’s established audiences and jazz fusion fans in general will equally enjoy.
This is fusion of the highest order, the type of project that is easy to get excited about. The complexities of Polish composer, pianist, cellist and arranger Łukasz Pawlik’s compositions soar to new heights on his second album as a leader. Enlisting gold-star talent from both home and abroad, this amounts to about a fifty-fifty configuration of prominent musicians from the United States and Poland. Fusion legends trumpeter Randy Brecker and electric guitarist Mike Stern unite with Polish heavyweights tenor saxophonist Szymom Kamykowski and alto and soprano saxophonist Dawid Glowczewski, along with Pawlik, to create vivid exchanges through unforeseen passages. Pawlik strived for freshness in sound and communication in his rhythm sections as well. The first two songs were astutely captained by electric bassist Tom Kennedy and drummer Dave Weckl. Kennedy’s low end mastery and Weckl’s distinctly reactionary and inventive narrative are as erudite as the famed duo’s thick pocket. After that, an array of combinations, featuring Polish electric bassist Michal Kapczuk, Polish drummer Cezary Konrad , and American drummer Gary Novak as well as Kennedy and Weckl, bring their own unique skill sets and energy to the mix. The entire ensemble was able to communicate and express themselves clearly and freely, as they are all quite fluent in the same language—jazz.
Eight original compositions by Pawlik (the son of Grammy winning jazz pianist Wlodek Pawlik) are the heart and soul of this record. Each song is its own separate masterpiece which ascends into another world, where fusion is explored and examined with new perspectives. It is certainly not uncommon for a composer to write to the strengths of the musicians involved in a project. Here, if it were an Olympic event, Pawlik would take home the gold medal Vintage Stern, with guitar riffs flying and stretching unbridled into a multitude of directions. The seminal Brecker, nurturing and caressing each note—the complete illustration of the importance of every note. Beautifully, there are moments for every player to go inside themselves.
Long Distance Connections begins with the never withering momentum inside the “Indian Garden.” Layers, big horns, Pawlik adding flute-like sounds from synth and samples, Stern frying up a one-minute egg, a true jazz piano trio section of Pawlik, Kennedy, and Weckl, a fueled bass solo, and Glowczewski’s alto bliss all stirred into eight and a half minutes of constant and heavenly motion. The energy continues with the aptly named “A Matter of Urgency.” Glowczewski powers through space creating a sumptuous void for Pawlik to frolic. With Pawlik on his acoustic piano, the trio kept the energy level high without ever sounding rushed. Pawlik’s playing is of equal wit to his composition. Weckl’s powerful and improvisational soloing kept the space open and creatively led Glowczewski to pepper through the closing frame.
Not just any change of direction leads to the “Jellyfish.” Immediately we are under the sea. An entirely different universe is engagingly and melodically manipulated by the sophisticated guitar of Stern. It is then bookended by the strength of Kamykowski’s soothing lines. Pawlik and Novak submerge and bring a wealth of sound aesthetically from the ocean’s floor. “For Odd’s Sake” puts a bounce into the fusion step of Brecker and Kamykowski. While Pawlik delicately creates and maintains the groove, he also solos with grace, riding the undertones of Konrad and Kapczuk’s infectious and spirited rhythm section gait. It is though the sparkling Brecker and Kamykowski conversation that boldly ignites the piece. Brecker intelligently counters the bounce with a pulse of warmth and integrity.
Pawlik then takes a tandem adventure with Novak to “Planet X.” The duo travel to and through a new environment steeped with sharp angles and diverse changes. Pawlik packed his overnight gear, utilizing his acoustic piano, keyboards, synthesizers, samples, and bass programming to navigate Novak’s pocket of invention with space age improvisation. The piece flows instinctively into a time for “Reflection.” Pawlik and Novak are joined by bassist Kapczuk in this stunningly beautiful and heartfelt ballad. The “Reflection” is felt knowingly by the pure elegance of Pawlik’s cello. With symphonic edges Pawlik demonstrates his enormous skillset merging jazz with a touch of classical. Clearly in his element, Pawlik’s emotional cellist renderings are showcased honestly, if not reverently.
Pawlik creates a full landscape of movement for all to move freely and with intensity on “Greg’s Walk.” With the rhythm section now Kennedy and Novak, Brecker stretches out with vigor on his flugelhorn, and is joined in conversation by Glowczewski’s simmering alto. Kennedy’s pulsating low end combined with Novak’s thunderous movement around his kit, brings this Pawlik gem to a peak of sensation. An arrangement of perfection now has Stern enter stage left with fiery lines spawned from his own peerless set up. As he is wont to do, Stern gets a volcano of air under his strings, as the piece explodes into musical euphoria.
The epic outing concludes with a luscious piece, that if it were a piece of candy, would melt in your mouth. Yet another richly honed composition from Pawlik organically opened into a structure gleefully filled by a sonic soprano sax outing from Glowczewski. So empowered with joy, his sax, at times, mimicked the sound of laughter. Kennedy, now with his third rhythm section partner, asserted the foundational glue that lifted the piece into the air, and also allowed Konrad the freedom to add bursts of soulful flavor without straying from his meticulous pocket. Pawlik’s own keyboards brought the flourish to “Suspensions.”
Compositionally and musically, this is a project of epic proportions. Boasting melodicism within structural complexities, Long Distance Connections is an exceptional work of art.
-Jim Worsley for All About Jazz