“Attention – an artistic happening!” was the headline on the two-weekly paper Moje Miasto (English: Our Town) in Słupsk on the 27th September 2014. The paper said that the jazz ensemble Poetic Jazz and the Polnische Philharmonie Sinfonia Baltica (Polska Filharmonia Sinfonia Baltica had given a “sensational symphony concert” there at the 48th Polish Piano Festival (Festiwal Pianistyki Polskiej) on the 10th September. In spring 2015 the album “Lech Wieleba – Poetic Jazz Symphonic” was released, a live DVD of the concert: the CD, recorded some days later, contained a 22-page booklet. Wieleba’s compositions for Jazz quartet and symphony orchestra were arranged by Bohdan Jarmołowicz, the leader of the Sinfonia Baltica and a professor at the Musikakademie Bydgoszcz (Akademia Muzyczna Bydgoszcz), and Jerry Gates, a composer, conductor and professor at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Gates travelled especially to Poland for the concert, where he conducted his own arrangements. The recording was mixed in the Fattoria Musica sound studio in Osnabrück and mastered in the Dogmatic Sound studio in California. The films for the DVD were shot by the Polish media artist, Wojciech Jakub Bielawski, and cut in his film studio in Peißenberg.
Two years of preparation were necessary before the compositions and the arrangements of the ten pieces – they were between eight and ten minutes long – were ready to be performed. True, Wieleba had worked on the idea for almost five years. But the project was given a boost by his visit to Słupsk in September 2012, where he played at the opening of an exhibition by his friend, the painter, designer and graphic artist Jerzy Chartowski – he lives in Düsseldorf – in the Museum für Mittelpommern (Muzeum Pomorza Środkowego w Słupsku). Wieleba has close connections with Słupsk. He was born in Lębork in 1950 and went to secondary school in Słupsk where had his first lessons in music. In 1984 he left his parents and sisters to move to Hamburg with his wife and child. In November 2011 he and his band Poetic Jazz took part in the Komeda Jazz Festival, named after the internationally well-known Polish jazz pianist and composer, Krzysztof Komeda (1931-1969), and set up in 1995 by Leszek Kułakowski. In 1978 Wieleba had founded the jazz band Antiquintet in Danzig with Kułakowski, who is also a composer and jazz pianist. The group existed till 1981 and also featured the drummer Józef Eliasz and the saxophonist, Antoni Śliwa. During the time he was preparing for “Poetic Jazz Symphonic” Wieleba followed an advanced correspondence training course in Music Composition for Film and TV under Ben Newhouse, a professor of composition at the Berklee School of Music. Newhouse recommended Jerry Gates as an arranger for the new programme. On 12th April 2015 “Poetic Jazz Symphonic” was heard once more with the Polnische Philharmonie Sinfonia Baltica under Jarmołowicz and Gates at the music festival in Danzig (Gdański Festiwal Musyczny) in the concert house of the Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra (Polska Filharmonia Bałtycka im Fryderyka Chopina w Gdańsku).
The album “Lech Wieleba – Poetic Jazz Symphonic” is the first ever recording made by a Jazz ensemble and a classical symphony orchestra. In an interview Wieleba said that a mixture of a jazz band and a classical orchestra was highly unusual: “We simply waited for the right moment”. And Bohdan Jarmołowicz added in the DVD that the collaboration between an orchestra that traditionally plays from sheet music with a jazz ensemble that plays long phases of improvisation, was a creative challenge. You can hear from the audience reaction that the performance by Poetic Jazz took on a greater depth: indeed they greeted the music by Lech Wieleba “with open arms”. Brief everyday tales were inserted into the programme. As Weber says: “We all know what it’s like to wait for a telephone call in vain and the number “Waiting for the Call” was meant to express this feeling. “Everyone hates the rain”, he says, “but I remember one morning in Provence when after sixty days of draught and heat it suddenly began to drizzle and the sun came out. I had never been so happy to see the rain and that’s why I wrote “La Chanson de la Pluie” and dedicated it to the rain”. “Dla Ireny” and “Zbynio” are homages to his mother and brother. “Tangeczko” (English: Little Tango), personally arranged by Wieleba, and “Blue Tango Nuevo” can also be recognised as variations on a tango, even by people unacquainted with the style. And if you listen carefully you will not only hear references to classical orchestral music. In “Mazur” (“Mazurka”) the description of the landscape in Masovia opens out into a folk dance from the region, just as Smetana’s description of the “Moldau” move on to become a dance at a peasants’ wedding celebration. And Wieleba’s “Dance of the Elves” seems at least to be inspired by the opening sequences of Debussy’s “Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune”, before the jazz improvisation gives it a new dynamic.
Lech Wieleba studied double bass at the Konservatorium in Danzig (now Zespół Szkół Muzycznych w Gdańsku-Wrzeszczu) under Stanisław Rosiek, with whom he also completed his course in 1977. For the next four years he played at the State Opera House and in the Philharmonic Hall in Danzig. But he had long been interested in jazz. As early as 1975 he appeared at the Jazz Jantar Festival in Danzig (founded in 1973) in a band put together by the American Don Cherry (1936-1995). In 1980 he was awarded the Krzysztof Komeda Prize. In the same year he was the winner of the Jazz nad Odrą (English: Jazz on the Oder) Festival in Breslau with the band Antiquintet and appeared at Poland’s oldest international jazz festival, the Jazz Jamboree Festival in Warsaw. In 1982/83 he went on a tour of Europe with Polski Teatr Instrumentalny that had been set up by the saxophonist Ryszard Misiek (1947-2010) in Danzig.
After moving to Hamburg in 1984 Wieleba began to establish himself in the German music scene. He accompanied the song maker Franz Josef Degenhardt (1931-2011) on three CDs (1986 “Junge Paare auf Bänken. Franz Josef Degenhardt singt Georges Brassens”, 1987 “Da müssen wir durch”, 1988 “Stationen”), and on Udo Lindenberg’s album “Hermine” in 1987/88: all the albums were released by Polydor. In 1987 Wieleba worked on the soundtrack for a two-part TV documentary drama directed by Horst Königstein. In the same year he played Celtic music with the Californian band Golden Bough for the LP “Winding Road” on the Arc Music label. In 1993 he joined up with Bernd von Ostrowski (vibraphone), Hans-Jörn Brandenburg (piano) and Hans-Peter Stiller (drums) to create The Classic Jazz Quartet and coproduce a CD with “Modern Jazz Classics” that was recorded in the Lichtwarksaal of the Carl-Toepfer-Stiftung in Hamburg. He also worked in musical productions in Hamburg, like “The Phantom of the Opera”, “Closer than Ever” and “Fiddler on the Roof”. For six years he worked with the action artist and cultural manager André Heller, including a period as the musical director of the Berlin Wintergarten-Varietés on a tour of Germany, Switzerland and Austria between 1993 and 1995. In 1998 and 2002 he joined up with Witek Kornacki (clarinet) and Angel Garcia Arnés (guitar) to form the Sureste Tango Trio and record the CDs “Soledad”, “Pasión en Tango” and “María de Buenos Aires” with music by Astor Piazzolla. Between 1998 and 2005 he toured a huge number of European countries with the Sureste Tango Trio. He also composed the music for theatre productions like “La Musica”, based on a book by Marguerite Duras, in the Theatron in Hamburg and “Chawale” in the Theater am Hechtplatz in Zürich.
Since the turn of the century Wieleba has increasingly performed in Switzerland and the area around Lake Constance. In 2002, for example, he was involved in the theatre production “Rothschild’s Violin”, based on a short story by Anton Chekhov, in the Théâtre La Fourmi in Lucerne. In 2002 he presented his programme Sureste Tango, and in 2004 a programme of tango, jazz and Klezmer music in La Chaux-de-Fonds in western Switzerland. As early as 1995 he began work with the Hamburg actress Paula Quast on a poetry and music portrait of the Jewish poet Mascha Kaléko (1907-1975) who originally came from West Galicia in Poland. The show was presented in German-language countries until 2007.
But Wieleba’s new programme of “Poetic Jazz” has been the centre of his work since 2002 was his”. The first CD album “Open The Heart” appeared in the same year. It was recorded live in the concert hall of the Augustinum in Aumühle near Hamburg, with Jan-Peter Klöpfel on the flugelhorn, André Mornet on piano, Ali Husseini on drums and, of course, Lech Wieleba on the double bass. The CD contains the first versions of “Waiting for the Call” and “La Chanson de la Pluie”. Reviewing it in the Allgäuer Zeitung on the 14th February 2003 Christoph Pfister wrote: “A miraculous lightness fills this music formed from the deepest origins of jazz, formed from the pastel autumn melodies of Slavic musicians and the high art of classical music”. In 2005 Poetic Jazz, played concerts in places like Düsseldorf Berlin and Nuremberg, partly with a new line-up.
In April 2005 the quartet was invited by the Jazz in Olten Society to come to Switzerland for a guest appearance in the Vario-Bar in Olten. Announcing the concert Silvano Luca Gerosa – he was president of the society until 2008 and is now a part-time member of the editorial staff of the Swiss jazz magazine, Jazz 'n' more – wrote that “elements of classical music are fused with jazz with Slavic melodies, thereby creating music that is rare, moving, wonderfully political and lyrical”; and in more detail: “Indeed Poetic Jazz are neither afraid of beautiful dreamy melodies, nor of melancholy tones. It is rare for a jazz band to be so emotional and get under your skin so deeply. This is surely because of the very special line-up of the band featuring Claas Ueberschär’s lyrical flugelhorn. Wieleba’s son, Pawel, is the drummer: more correctly, he does not drum but caresses his instrument. The Polish pianist Vladislav Sendecki, deserves a special mention. He made a name for himself as the pianist in the NDR Big Band and has played with such greats as Jaco Pastorius, Joe Henderson and Billy Cobham.”
In Dezember 2005 the CD “Danzarina” appeared on the market, once again with Klöpfel on the flugelhorn, Vladislav Sendecki on the piano and Pawel Wieleba on the drums. The album contains the first versions of “Dla Ireny” and “Blue Tango Nuevo”. In April 2006 Poetic Jazz made a guest appearance in the Berlin Museum of European Cultures for the “finissage” of an exhibition entitled “Polenbegeisterung. Deutsche and Polen nach dem Novemberaufstand 1830” (English: Enthusiasm for Poland. Germans and Poles after the 1830 November Uprising), that had been presented to mark the German/Polish year 2005/06. On 12th December 2007 the band appeared at a Christmas concert in the Hamburg Laeiszhalle, where it played its “Danzarina” repertoire and extended it with arrangements of music by the Polish composer, Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) who had died seventy years previously. In 2009 the CD “Mazur” was released, subtitled “To poezja bez słów” (English: Poetry without Words). “Mazur” features Enno Dugnus on the piano and contains the first versions of “Zbynio” and “The Dance of the Elves”. The band played a “release tour” through smaller German towns like Lippstadt, Rendsburg, Cloppenburg, Grefrath and Krefeld. In 2010 the band played concerts in towns and cities in northern Germany as well as gigs in Schloss Seefeld in Upper Bavaria and Schloss Rapperswil on Lake Zurich: the latter was the closing concert to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the Rapperswil Polish Museum. In 2011 they gave ten concerts throughout the whole of Germany and also appeared on the programme at the Komeda Jazz Festival in Słupsk.
The latest album by Poetic Jazz, “Poetic Jazz Symphonic”, features Claas Ueberschär on the flugelhorn and trumpet, Enno Dugnus on piano, Pawel Wieleba on drums and Lech Wieleba on the double bass. Pawel Wieleba was born in Danzig in 1981. His mother, Ewa Bautembach-Wieleba, works in music education. Whilst Pawel was growing up he learned to play the piano and drums. He studied for three years at the Achtelik & Co music school in Hamburg where he learnt popular music styles from the drummers, Robbie Smith and Lorenz Hoppe. He then played in rock and funk bands before moving over to jazz. In 2009 he completed his studies in “Systematic Music Science” at the University of Hamburg with a thesis on “Concepts of Jazz Drumming”. Enno Dugnus, (born 1959), studied classical piano and trumpet from 1982 to 1987 at the Musikakademie der Stadt Kassel and has lived in Hamburg since 1991. He has contributed to a huge number of theatre shows at places like the Lübeck Theatre and the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg, as well as being the head of music for productions at the Altonaer Theater in Hamburg and working for theatres in Berlin. Dugnus has his own trio with whom he played compositions by Krzysztof Komeda and rarely heard Brazilian music in the Hamburg Bar Italia in January 2016. Claas Ueberschär, (born 1966), studied at the Hochschule für Musik and Theater in Hannover and the Folkwang Musikhochschule in Essen, where he gained his diploma in 1992. From 1993 to 1995 he was awarded a scholarship by the Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst (DAAD) to study at The New School and the Mannes College of Music in New York. At the end of the 90s he moved to Hamburg, since when he has been a fixed part of the jazz scene in the city. He also has his own band, the claasue4 quartet, which features the Polish jazz pianist, Matthäus Winnitzki “ who was born in 1977 in Tychy. In February 2006 the combo brought its second album onto the market.
http://www.poetic-jazz.com, as well as a huge number of web pages on the internet.
We should like to thank Lech Wieleba and Simone Louis for the information and corrections.
Krystyna Danilecka-Wojewódzka / Andrzej Obecny: POETIC JAZZ symfonicznie na Festiwalu Pianistyki Polskiej, in: Moje Miasto, Nummer 18 (269) Słupsk, 27.9.2014, http://www.mojemiasto.slupsk.pl/index.php?id=6840
Silvano Luca Gerosa: Verträumt und melancholisch. Olten. Poetic Jazz gastiert in the Vario-Bar, in: Oltener Tagblatt, 15th April 2005
Captions: Lech Wieleba