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Jan Kopinski

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06/08/2006 allaboutjazz.com Chris May

Pinski Zoo
After Image
Slam CD 266

Pinski Zoo burst onto the British delinquent-jazz scene in the early '80s, around the same time as Neneh Cherry's Rip Rig & Panic.
Rip Rig & Panic sweetened their avant garde jazz content with vocals, guitars, songs with hooks, and some savvy rock and roll image building. Pinski Zoo, by contrast, made no concessions to the broader marketplace...or to anything at all. They served up a raw, unfiltered mix of John Coltrane and Albert Ayler-inspired tenor saxophone improvisations and rough-sex funk. And they peeled the socks clean off your feet.
This two-disc live set celebrates the band's uncompromising 25 years at the sweaty coalface of deep-seam free funk. The nucleus of the original quartet—saxophonist Jan Kopinski and keyboardist Steve Iliffe—still leads the assault. Bassist Karl Bingham joined in '85 and drummer Steve Harris in '87. So even today's core quartet has been together for very nearly twenty years. Kopinski's son Stefan joined on second bass in the late '90s.
The album was recorded across eight different venues in Britain during tours in '02, '03 and '05. There's both new material and re-arrangements of old favourites. Every tune, of course, is a band original, with Kopinski and Iliffe doing most of the writing.
The performances are as thrilling and unpredictable as any on the band's early-'80s breakout recordings. Utterly faithful to their original, post-Coltrane route to the jazz/funk shotgun marriage, Kopinski and Iliffe's playing is as shocking and in-your-face as it was back when they were freshmen.
Kopinski sounds practically untouched by the passing years. His playing is as hot and visceral and in-the-moment as it ever was, and his technique has grown beyond the merely formidable. He seems more comfortable with subtler nuances and lower boiling points, too: the unusually tender “Father Daughter (Ojciec)” here includes some rapturously lyrical playing.
Iliffe, who was always an arresting colourist and soloist, is on phenomenal form, with a tonal palette as broad as they come. And the rhythm section has never sounded so good: the twin-bass setup allows one player to maintain relentless, on-the-one, groove ostinatos while the other flies free above him.
In short, Pinski Zoo are still out there and still on cracking form. Organic, no-surrender, spiritually uplifting music, After Image is probably the best album the band has released to date. After 25 years at the barricades, that's an astonishing achievement.
Visit Pinski Zoo on the web.
_Track listing: CD1: Bounce; Spymistress; Father Daughter (Ojciec); Firepoint; Jab; Slim; Please Note; Polish Zigzag. CD2: Shed Bounce; Please Note After Image; Nu Choo; Night To Dream; Nathan's Song; Firepoint Sphinx; Stretcher.
Personnel: Jan Kopinski: saxophones; Steve Iliffe: keyboards; Karl Bingham: bass; Stefan Kopinski: bass; Steve Harris: drums.
Chris May

 

02/07/2006 Chris Parker JazzUK

02/07/2006 Chris Parker JazzUK
JAZZ UK
JULY/ AUGUST 2006 The VORTEX
PINSKI ZOO are seen by many (including US drummer’s Mark Holub’s Led Bib drummer) as the originators of what is now known as ‘power fusion’ – a mix of hammered bass, crashing drums, shifting keyboard textures and keening/roaring saxophone rooted in Ornette Coleman’s harmolodics and James Brown’s funk, but more jazz-based than either.
Intriguing, then to hear them (after a characteristically wide-ranging, witty and oddly-moving 40 minute solo-piano-plus-tapes set from the extraordinary Matthew Bourne) after Holub’s band in a June mini-festival at London’s Vortex, programmed by Led Bib. All the old Zoo power and roiling energy were in evidence, leader Jan Kopinski waiting until the band reached near boiling-point before tearing into his anthemic saxophone themes, keyboardist Steve Iliffe providing the textures and moods, bassists Karl Bingham and Stefan Kopinski complementing each other perfectly and drummer Steve Harris crashing out the industrial-strength beat. At full throttle, there’s no sound as full-blooded or viscerally powerful as Pinski Zoo’s – unless its Led Bib’s. The band played a short introductory set that was almost painfully intense subjecting everything from Erik Satie to simple musical hooks to their full-on, two-sax, no-holds-barred approach, powered by Holub’s pounding drums.
Chris Parker

 

12/06/2006 Chris Parker

At once a celebration of 25 years of operations in the power
fusion/free funk corner of the jazz world and a distillation of their
live sound into 143 minutes of recorded music, this double CD is as
close to a definitive Pinski Zoo album as youre likely to get. It
contains two storming versions each of anthemic live staples such as
Bounce, Firepoint and Please Note, but also captures the bands
subtler strengths: an attention to textural variation and nuances of
timbre (especially from keyboardist Steve Iliffe, but also from the
alternately stridently keening and multi-textured, almost Barbieriesque
Jan Kopinski) that would not be out of place on a Weather Report or Joe
Zawinul Syndicate album; a predilection for rubato musings where
bassist Karl Binghams unshowy virtuosity comes into its own; an
ability to sustain hypnotically regular beats (courtesy of new member
Stefan Kopinski and industrial-strength drummer Steve Harris) without
losing tension; a control of dynamic variation that results in the
climaxes seeming earned by, rather than gratuitously imposed on, the
music. In short, as well as being one of the most viscerally exciting
live acts currently operating, Pinski Zoo are a mature musical unit,
and should be given credit for spearheading what is becoming an
increasingly important and popular jazz movement, creating space for
such contemporary bands as Led Bib and Fraud.

 

12/06/2006 Chris Parker Vortex online

At once a celebration of 25 years of operations in the 'power
fusion/free funk' corner of the jazz world and a distillation of their
live sound into 143 minutes of recorded music, this double CD is as
close to a definitive Pinski Zoo album as you're likely to get. It
contains two storming versions each of anthemic live staples such as
'Bounce', 'Firepoint' and 'Please Note', but also captures the band's
subtler strengths: an attention to textural variation and nuances of
timbre (especially from keyboardist Steve Iliffe, but also from the
alternately stridently keening and multi-textured, almost Barbieriesque
Jan Kopinski) that would not be out of place on a Weather Report or Joe
Zawinul Syndicate album; a predilection for rubato musings where
bassist Karl Bingham's unshowy virtuosity comes into its own; an
ability to sustain hypnotically regular beats (courtesy of 'new' member
Stefan Kopinski and industrial-strength drummer Steve Harris) without
losing tension; a control of dynamic variation that results in the
climaxes seeming earned by, rather than gratuitously imposed on, the
music. In short, as well as being one of the most viscerally exciting
live acts currently operating, Pinski Zoo are a mature musical unit,
and should be given credit for spearheading what is becoming an
increasingly important and popular jazz movement, creating space for
such contemporary bands as Led Bib and Fraud.

 

03/03/2005 Andy Robson, The Wire

Jan Kopinski
Earth
Slam Slam CD255 I * * *
_____________________________________________

Jan Kopinski(s), Steve Iliffe(p), Stefan Kopinski(b) and Janina Kopinska(vla). Rec. 8, 10,18 September 2002 and2003
_____________________________________________________

Pinski Zoo goes to the movies…Earth is an extraordinary, visionary film created in 1930 about the Stalinist collectivisation of Ukrainian farms. It toes the party line while transcending it with a take on family life deeply rooted in the soil. So not a bundle of laughs, but rare and special, not unlike Kopinski's soundtrack . As a fine artist himself, Kopinski has a sensitivity to visuals as reflected in other scores he's performed for silent movies. And by using his own family in the band Kopinski evokes the intimate, inexplicable binds/bonds of family life that are integral to Dovzhenko's silent film. There are various paradoxes within Kopinski's music; he evokes Slav folk music, melancholic and lost to an irrecoverable past, but Iliffe's broken chords also reflect the equally lost world of discordant modernism that this brave new era of revolutionary cinema was going to usher in. There are moments of lyricism but essentially there is a hushed chamber music feel throughout, with Kopinski close-miked and intense; even moments of release, like the joyous funeral, are underlined with a sense of tears that pervades the whole composition.
Review by Andy Robson

 

02/05/2004 Ben Watson, Hi-Fi News

• Hi-FiNews
Music Choice - Jazz
JAN KOPINSKI
Earth: Music To Dovzhenko's Film Zemlya
Slam 255 66m 56s (£££)

For tenor saxophonists, the legacy of John Coltrane is an unwieldy albatross. Those that make the best of his legacy are players on other instruments, like guitarist Sonny Sharrock or singer Phil Minton. Those who pick up on the modal bliss-outs of late Trane (Pharoah Sanders, Zusaan Kali Fasteau) betray both their own individuality and the real meaning of his universalising musical language. Kopinski is different. With his band Pinski Zoo he developed an unlikely cross between harmolodic funk and Polish folk to mesh with his Traneish sax.
Here his quartet - son and daughter Stefan and Janina on electric bass and viola, the Zoo's Steve Iliffe on grand piano - lacks the pounding groove of yore, but manages to maintain the wonderful sense of slowly-unrolling time which is Kopinski's forte: appropriate indeed for accompanying old film stock.
Kopinski looks at life through the squint of eternity - music nostalgically recalled rather than actively pursued - but his funereal solemnity is leavened with black humour and sarcasm in true East European style (on the foldout, his profile is positioned so it resembles one of Dovzhenko's mighty bulls). The band has an internal rhythmic coherence and bovine dignity which is truly rare.
PERFORMANCE MEASURED, SOMBRE
RECORDING WARM, RESONANT
Review by BEN WATSON

 

02/05/2003 John Fordham The Guardian

Kopinski/ Konikiewicz
Zone K (Slam)
Jazz CD Releases ***
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 late 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 Wojtek 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, battering 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 phrasing - 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.
_______________________________________________________

 

03/04/2003 Martin longley, The Wire

THE WIRE, April 2003
Also 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 that 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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