The globalization of jazz has long been a reality and its subsequent contact with ethnically diverse folk idioms has often produced exciting and creative music. This special synergy is no better showcased than on recent offerings from Taso Music. A Germany- based label, Taso has at the heart of its releases Polish born bassist Vitold Rek's desire for artistic freedom and compositional innovation. In keeping with the current trend of artist-owned labels, Taso has allowed Rek to join with musicians of his own choosing to present his compositions in unique and artistically inventive settings. Rek feels that this trend is a result of the major labels disinterest in creativity: "...the big labels are only looking for profit, squeezing out artistic innovation. Producing your own music is a way of keeping it alive. Through his combination of deep intercultural richness, classical precision and jazz style, Taso's ventures have turned into soulfully satisfying sessions. It also doesn't hurt that Rek is, quite frankly, an incredible bassist who, no matter what the format, amazes with his instrumental virtuosity. In the words of pianist/vibraphonist Karl Berger, "Vitold could be a classical virtuoso if he wanted to be.
Rek is comfortable pumping out a danceable rhythm or matching improvisational skills with the likes of world class reedmen John Tchicai and Charlie Mariano. He adds to this a magic bow that expresses delicate nuance or sets up wild harmonics. Tchicai is very much aware of Rek's special qualities: "Vitold Rek and I have a telephatic connection when we play and he is my preferred doublebassist. Compared to other bassists that I know, his abilities are hard to match in terms of his musicality, his tone and the pitch accuracy he maintains. His bowing is superb... I like his compositions and his roots in the Polish folklore and I think that concerning the lyricism in his music and in my music we are very similar.
Somewhat ironically, at the same time that many baby-boomer musicians in this country rediscovered their Eastern European musical roots, a move to Germany from his native Poland cultivated Rek's appreciation for his own Polish musical heritage. With The Polish Folk Explosion that features the folk ensemble Kapela Resoviana with Mariano, Tchicai, the late trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff and drummer Gilbert Matthews, Rek effectively melds the musical diversity of Southeastern Poland with world jazz.
Duets are the order of the day on 2 X 2 as Rek is paired with Tchicai or Karl Berger. Portrayed as a series of conversations, Rek alternately chats with Tchicai's bass clarinet and tenor sax or Karl Berger's piano and vibraphone. Rek has chosen his musical cohorts carefully and in his words "They are all musicians who respect me as a musical partner thus providing a platform for understanding on the stage and in the studio. Berger, a seminal avant gardist who co-founded the Creative Music School with Ornette Coleman, is stunning in combination with Rek. Their mastery of time and tone is evident on the unhurried classically driven "Gabissimo and the fun up-tempo "Imaginary Drums . Berger greatly enjoyed the duet format: "I love playing duets because of the conversational situation: responding to one impulse at a time, a real give and take, just like a great conversation on a theme that leads to some results, something new.
While seeking out musicians who respect him as a colleague, Rek also appreciates their uniqueness, "The artists must have their own musical personality and language... For me Tchicai has an unorthodox way of playing and composing which is always very fresh and inspiring. Mariano always interprets my music perfectly without any explanations and brings the music to a higher level on his depth of experience. I admire Berger's open and free interpretation of written music and his going into unexplored musical regions. Rek's bass and sense of folkloric compositional style can also be a powerful quartet centerpiece as evidenced by Opus Absolutum. Charlie Mariano's alto and flute are combined with Martin France's drums and Vladislav's Sendetzki's piano to produce a structured and commanding sound.
To truly experience Taso in the purest sense, Rek's Bassfiddle alla Polacca is required listening. A reflection of polyglot southeast Poland and its music, it brings together Polish, Romany and Yiddish influences into a single instrumental triumph. Through varied tempo and touch while alternating plucking and bowing Rek is able to be true to both the ethnic base of his writing and at the same time produce modern jazz. Taso's next project, Cathedral Vol. 1, again pairs Rek with Mariano and features Peter Reiter on pipe organ. This music has an organic depth borne out of the artist's sense of self. "The music is very personal and honest: I recorded the music I had in my body and being and it came out formed exactly as I had envisaged, Vitold comments.
With releases such as these, Taso is fast becoming an acknowledged meeting ground for creative expression in the context of ethnically rich compositions that demand expert musicianship.