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ZONE K

Artist: Jan Kopinski

Date of Release: 12/07/2004

Catalogue no: SLAMCD 252

Label: SLAM

Price: £9.99

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Jan Kopinski saxophone, Wojtek Konikiewicz piano and Steve Harris drums.
High energy free jazz recorded live at various venues on UK tour during 2002.
Tracks
1 Corner Jam (K + K + Harris) 11.30
2 Night to Dream (Kopinksi) 14.40
3 Troika (Konikiewicz) 8.00
4 Impresja XV (Koni ....) 5.00
5 Trinity Meet (K + K + Harris) 7.35
6 Pool Fool (K + K + Harris) 6.45

 

Reviews

 

01/10/2003 Simon Adams

Jazz Journal, October 2003
Kopinski and Harris will be best known as members of Pinski Zoo, that extraordinary free-funk jazz outfit that blew out of Nottingham in 1980, Konikiewicz as a pianist, big band arranger and film/TV composer. Pinski Zoo has recently been on a well-earned sabbatical (although it is touring again this year), allowing its members time to develop such interesting individual projects as this live set. The trio’s sound is vast, dominated by Kopinski’s declamatory, occasionally banshee, saxophone and Harris’s cymbal-driven drumming punctuated by the sudden rimshots and bass bombs from the rest of his kit that provide the push and pull necessary for this urgent, driven music. Konikiewicz’s piano gets a little lost in the mix, while his electric keyboards are often too muddy to make much impact (and a tad predictable when they do), although his piano lines on Night To Dream and on the solo Impresja XV provide a thoughtful contrast to the tension elsewhere. A hi-energy set from a vibrant trio of innovatory musicians.
Simon Adams

 

01/07/2003 Ken Waxman

KOPINSKI & KONIKIEWICZ
Zone K
SLAM CD 252
Putting electric keyboards into a trio with reeds and drums can sometimes overbalance the sonority, so that it moves away from pure improv and closer to rhythmic simplicity. Because the gizmos are set up to hold and accentuate notes, it appears to be easier to create riffs, vamps and blends then investigate more cerebral experiments. This tendency can be further exacerbated if the keyboardist’s playing partners lean towards simpler syncopation as well.
ZONE K and THE THREE B’S -- both recorded live -- show what can and can’t be done in this format. The later is more thought provoking because the trio members choose the experimental over the popular every time. Not that, except for a couple of instances, that there’s anything cheap or pandering with the first CD. However both impressionistic accompaniment and obstreperous rock rhythms are emphasized over unreserved improvisations.
In a way this shouldn’t be a surprise. Two of the players --- alto and tenor saxophonist Jan Kopinski and drummer Steve Harris -- have been part of Nottingham, England’s almost quarter-century old Free/Funk/Punk Jazz quintet Pinski Zoo. The third, Polish keyboardist/pianist Wojtek Konikiewicz, who also composes in genres including orchestral, chamber, electronic and what he calls Progressive Jazz -- wasn’t that Stan Kenton’s catchphrase?-- has toured on-and-off with Pinski Zoo since 1987.
The basic tension in Pinski Zoo has always been the conflict between Kopinski’s impassioned, Coltranesque extemporizations on tenor saxophone and the basic rock pulse set out by Harris and others. Konikiewicz’s presence seems to overweigh the equation. As one of Warsaw’s busiest and most versatile performers his dexterity in so many genres may it difficult to track down the inner musician.
On “Troika”, for instance, the thematic funk he produces from the keys comes complete with a heavy bass line, which when coupled with on-the-beat percussion bring to mind Georgie Fame at the Flamingo or Graham Bond at the Roundhouse. Later on, his wah-wah clavinet textures seem to have migrated from a 1970s Herbie Hancock date, along with Harris’ bounces and ruffs. It gets so that Kopinski on alto sax takes on a Dave Sanborn persona, with nothing to relieve the buttery-smooth R&B smudges but a few half-hearted reed screams.
Although Kopinski manages to stick to tenor, the penultimate and final numbers don’t fare that much better. Both include an earsplitting buzz, which one would hope is a mixing board malfunction rather than the height of Polish electronica -- no joke, or offence intended -- with Harris accentuating every beat he can and Konikiewicz’s oscillating keyboard thumps. Well-modulated themes and long-lined cadenzas from the saxman sound as if they were created in isolation, with the endproduct conjuring up a picture of John Coltrane in a studio with Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer. The overall result is too rough to be radio friendly, but too smooth to be truly exciting.
Nadir is reached on “Impresja XV”, however, a solo feature for Konikiewicz. On acoustic grand piano his chameleon-like style is on full display. As flowery as it’s impressionistic, his strummed tremolos and extended arpeggios seem to change influences on almost every note, calling forth suggestions of Keith Jarrett [!], Art Tatum [!!], Frédéric Chopin [!!!], and Floyd Cramer [!!!!].
Thankfully the two first -- and longest -- tracks are much better. They may even save the disc for Kopinski fans. The saxman, whose allegiance appears to be with the modal Coltrane and earlier tenor men, spins out some smooth counterlines here, double timing in the lower register of the horn. Harris’ drumming is steadier, exhibiting a bopper’s reliance on cymbals, drum rolls and bomb dropping, and Konikiewicz’s comping encompasses modal runs, steady vamps and chromatic fills.

Ken Waxman http://www.jazzword.com

 

01/06/2003 Barry Witherden

JAZZ REVIEW June 2003
K and K go back two decades. They re-cemented their musical partnership with a tour during the saxophonist’s sabbatical from his venerable band, Pinski Zoo. This album draws on three of those gigs. The brooding, riveting “Pool Fool” is the earliest performance, in Nottingham on the last day of February. I’m not familiar with the Bonington Theatre, but the acoustics on this cut suggest an intimate space, with Kopinski supplying some extended perspectives by the occasional use of added echo and other electronic effects. A gig in Gainsborough six days later is represented by “Impresja XV” and “Trinity Meet”, the former a gorgeous, startlingly pastoral solo for grand piano, the second a passionate but controlled trio composition opening out from some eloquent drumming. Kopinski is in spellbindingly authoritative form here. The remaining tracks were cut in Newcastle the following day.
Even on the crowded harmolodic agenda of Pinski Zoo, Kopinski finds room for same ballad business, but the keenest PZ fans (amongst which I’d number myself) sometimes wish he’d allow himself a little more elbow-room, the chance to spread that magnificent thick tone and epic vibrato more generously over broader expanses, to develop his ideas in a more linear fashion than he does within the intense but closed systems of the regular band. He was last heard on disc in 1998 with Ghost Music, where his lyrical side was given full rein. Zone K paces the territory between that and Pinski Zoo. The PZ ethos derives largely from the world of Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time, though Kopinski’s own sound is closer to Albert Aylor. With this trio he navigates the other principal stream of the New Thing, sometimes using a light tenor tone sounding unusually like Coltrane. (He even quotes “Cousin Mary” on “Corner Jam”.) “Troika” carries us close to PZ territory, but the other pieces let us hear how adept Harris is with a less structured but no less dynamic pulse. Konikiewicz creates consistently engaging and fluent music on the piano, whilst his electronics stand in for the great Karl Wesley Bingham… or, perhaps, more like Stefan Kopinski who, in the current double-bassed edition of Pinski Zoo sets solidly funky diatonic figures against KWB’s pantonal harmolodic fantasies.
Impreja? It most certainly did.
Barry Witherden

 

01/06/2003 Nick Lea

JAZZ VIEWS
Month Reviewed: 016 - June 2003
Artist: Kopinski & Koniliewicz
Title: Zone K
Label: SLAM CD 252

Jan Kopinski (ts, as); Wojtek Konikiewicz (p, kyds); Steve Harris (d)
Recorded 02 &03/02

SLAM Productions have nothing short of an impressive and somewhat prolific catalogue emerging. If the selection that has been sent to Jazz Views for review over the last few months is anything to go by, label boss George Haslam, is amassing a body of recorded work that is wide and varied within will the general umbrella of improvised music, and help to dispel many of the notions that this is a difficult music and should be viewed with caution.

Jan Kopinski has been familiar to gig goers in this for the energetic outfit that he formed in the early eighties, Pinski Zoo, a band that could be readily described as occupying territory somewhere between punk jazz and free improv, with a slice of funk thrown in. Drummer, Steve Harris, was also a Zoo member, and heard recently on the excellent (and heartily recommended) ‘ZAUM’ (SLAM 253), whilst Wojtek Konikiewicz is a new name to me.

As a trio, they take a stance between semi-structured free jazz, improvising freely and collectively, and taking their cues on a several tracks from compositions supplied by two of the trio members; as on he extended work-out on Kopinski’s ‘Night To Dream’ and the solo piano feature for Konikiewicz on ‘Impresja XV’. A lovely interlude which helps to add relief to, and enhance the overall performance.

There is nothing in this music that is overtly abstract, indeed the trio operate with frameworks that permit the emergence and development of a melodic idea, as opposed to shying away from what might in some improvising pools as trite or contrived; and will work with defined beats and pulses that allow the music to flow with its own momentum and logic.

Another impressive release that deserves to be heard.

 

01/06/2003 François Couture

All-Music Guide
Kopinski, Jan/Konikiewicz, Wojtek
Zone K
Slam
SLAMCD 252

This album has been put together from three concerts in February and March
of 2003, while sax player {$Jan Kopinski} and keyboardist {$Wojtek
Konikiewicz} were touring England with drummer {$Steve Harris}. Three of the
six pieces are credited to all three musicians, which would indicate their
improvised nature, and indeed they sound like jams, but more striking is the
presence in them of Konikiewicz¹s electronic keyboard, which tugs the music
away from the realm of jazz. And yet, Harris¹ self-effaced swing and
Kopinski¹s hard-bop soloing keep things rooted in the idiom. Konikiewicz
himself is a man of contradictions, improvising chord changes on the piano
while triggering electronic sweeps in {&³Trinity Meet.²} {&³Corner Jam²} is
a more straightforward improv, the keyboardist sticking to an electric piano
setting that evokes the worst moments in the history of jazz-rock (luckily
the music doesn¹t get that bad). {&³Night to Dream²} is the only composition
contributed by the sax player. An expressionist ballad, it gets a bit too
soggy; Kopinski doesn¹t have the roundness in sound and soul to make the
piece rise above its clichés, On the other hand, his sharp tone works very
well in Konikiewicz¹s {&³Troika,²} a tricky modern fusion workout, and in
the funky {&³Pool Fool,²} oddly left hollow between the keyboardist¹s piano
stabs and synth blurbs.

François Couture

 

02/05/2003 John Fordham

THE GUARDIAN, 2 May 2003
Jan Kopinski, the half-Polish Leeds-based saxophonist and teacher, is best known for sporadically leading one of the British jazz scene's rare cult bands, the avant-funk trio Pinski Zoo. A unique collision of American free-jazz, Ornette Coleman's Prime Time and east-European music, Pinski Zoo was an underground sensation of the last 1980s.
This group, Zone K, includes Zoo drummer Steve Harris but is mainly based on the duo of Kopinski and Polish pianist and film composer Wojteck Konikiewicz. It features just as much of Kopinski's raw, spookily hollow and haunting saxophone sound, with plenty of off-the-wall grooving too.
The music covers many of the Zoo bases, but in a more impressionistic manner. Corner Jam is a piece of urgent, battring funk over dolorous organ chords - and the excellent Konikiewicz deploys phrases not unfamiliar from an electric Corea or Hancock album in his electric keys solo.
The pianist's linear melody-making is in sharp contrast to Kopinski's, who improvises in texture more than line, and often achieves effects more suggestive of trumpets and trombones than saxophones. Harris is constantly active, sometimes taxingly so; he clatters his sticks, inserting restless, rattly snare patterns and cymbal sounds like nails scattered on to glass.
The closing Pool Fool coyly camouflages a funk-saxist's phiasing - like a pop song trying to break out of a jazz club. A little monochromatic at times perhaps, and Kopinski can run out of solo steam once he has laid out all his broad palette-knife effects, but this is music of character and bite. JOHN FORDHAM

 

01/04/2003 Martin Longley

THE WIRE April 2003
Kopinski & Konikiewicz
ZONE K
SLAM CD 252
Alto and tenor saxophonist Jan Kopinski has been leading Nottingham’s free-funk jazz quintet Pinski Zoo for 23 years. The group have just reconvened for an album and tour after two years set aside for the various solo projects. Kopinski’s collaboration with Polish keyboardist Wojtek Konikiewicz stretches back almost as far to the early 1980s, when they began a regular programme of touring and recording. This live set was recorded in February and March 2002 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Gainsborough and Nottingham. Kopinski has captured a big, open sound, even if it hasn’t enough reverb to fill between the instruments. Pinski Zoo’s drummer Steve Harris seals this trio with his perpetually suspended percussion smears. He keeps up a cascade of ringing snare and flashing cymbals, anticipating and facilitating the shifting momentum of their lengthy workouts. The trio share a vocabulary of jazz fusion, albeit with a gritty edge tht discourages any backsliding. Though some of Konikiewicz’s sounds shimmy straight out of his keyboard’s standard settings booklet, his attack gives them a slightly distorted edge, and a crackling immediacy. Kopinski, meanwhile, sometimes smears his lines with electronic effects, wah-wah pedalling or harmonizing them into chortling abstraction. The opening “Corner Jam” is a tense 13 minute prowl that sprawls over into “Night To Dream”, with Kopinski ruffling his sore-flesh tone with a rough vibrato. When he switches to alto for “Troika”, he’s more evidently in thrall on Ornette Coleman, as Harris underlines the track’s folksy bounce with a curtly snapping tattoo. The restful solo piano interlude of “Impresja XV” is soon erased in the closing standoff between Kopinski’s electronically distended saxophone and Konikiewicz’s quicksilver piano rushes.
. Martin Longley

 

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