Lech Wieleba – Poetic Jazz

Die Band Poetic Jazz: Lech Wieleba, Claas Ueberschär, Pawel Wieleba, Enno Dugnus (von links nach rechts)
Die Band Poetic Jazz: Lech Wieleba, Claas Ueberschär, Pawel Wieleba, Enno Dugnus (von links nach rechts)

“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 Jazzand 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 Balticaunder 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.