Jazz artist/composer Lukasz Pawlik returned Friday with his sophomore album, Long-Distance Connections. Released through Summit Records, the eight-song record is an expansive presentation that will appeal primarily to his established audiences and to more casual modern fusion jazz. That is evidenced from start to end through the album’s featured musical arrangements. For all that the arrangements do to make the record appealing, the lack of any background on the arrangements detracts from the album’s presentation to a point. This will be discussed later. The record’s production rounds out its most important elements, as it directly impacts the album’s general effect. Each item noted here does its own part to make Long-Distance Connections a record that will mostly appeal to its targeted audiences.
Long-Distance Connections, the sophomore album from up-and-coming jazz pianist/composer Lukasz Pawlik, is a presentation that will connect with Pawlik’s established audiences and more casual modern fusion jazz fans alike. That is due in part to its arrangements. For the most part, modern fusion is what audiences get throughout the course of the album’s 62-minute run time. Even with that in mind, the arrangements each boast their own identity separate from one another . Case in point is the clear Indian influence exhibited through the flute and electronics in the album’s opener, ‘Indian Garden.’ The use of the flute and electronics makes that Indian leaning clear while the use of the guitar, drums, bass and other instrumentation gives the song more of a Weather Report-esque sound and stylistic approach. By comparison, a work, such as ‘Jellyfish’ is a more 80s-fusion style work. That is made obvious right from the song’s opening bars in the use of and sound from the keyboard line. That against the muted trumpet, bass, and funky drum line adds even more to that sense of jazz that was so commonplace during that era. It is completely unlike the arrangement featured in ‘Indian Garden.’ If that is not enough proof as to the variance in the album’s arrangements, that featured in ‘Reflection’ is yet another example of that variance. This nearly nine-minute (its run time is listed in the packaging at eight minutes, 40 seconds) is a beautiful, moving composition that is led by Pawlik’s performance on piano. His performance alone creates so much warmth and happiness. The subtle addition of the bongos (yes, there are even bongos here, though who plays them is not credited) alongside Pawlik’s performance on the cello and Gary Novak’s steady, gentle time keeping adds even more to that warmth. The whole is its own fusion style work, but is at least in this critic’s mind and ears, among the best of the album’s entries. When it is considered along the other songs examined here, as well as the even more unique ‘Planet X,’ the frenetic ‘A Matter of Urgency,’ the relaxed finale that is ‘Suspensions’ and the rest of the record’s songs, the diversity in these songs becomes fully clear. Keeping that rich diversity in mind, the album in whole offers audiences much to like. For all that the album’s musical content does to make it appealing, the lack of any background on those songs detracts from that appeal to a point.
Long-Distance Connections is hardly the first instrumental jazz album out there that has lacked any background on its songs. So it has that to its defense. The thing is that as with so many other records that suffer from this shortcoming, the songs are appealing. Having that background information would deepen listeners’ appreciation for each arrangement. That is because it goes without saying that there is some story behind the music. Not having that story results in listeners’ appreciation for said content remaining at a superficial level. That is unless of course it is known that said arrangements are/were improvised works. In that case, then there is no need for understanding any background information. However in a case such as this, it is clear that the songs were not improvised. So to not have that information here is not enough to make the album a failure, but it certainly would have been a boon to the album to have that information.
Now keeping in mind that the lack of any background on the song is not enough to doom this record, there is one more positive to note in examining the album. That positive is the album’s production. As already noted, the arrangements featured in this album are diverse in their sound and style. From one song to the next, this means that the utmost attention had to be paid to so many details in order to bring out the best in each arrangement. Those behind the boards are to be applauded for their efforts in this case. In a song, such as ‘Greg’s Walk’ for instance, the balance of Novak’s funky drumming to Pawlik’s work on the various keyboard lines and Tom Kennedy’s work on bass had to be perfectly handled. That is because within it all, there is so much going on. It really sounds so busy, yet those responsible for the song’s production did so well to make sure that no one part overpowered the others at any point. The result is a song that is so much unlike its counterparts in the record in its sound and style and even in itself, is so rich. That is again, thanks to the production that went into the song. ‘For Odd’s Sake’ (for some reason, it is listed as ‘Accidental Oddysey’ when played back on a computer’s Windows Media Player) is another example of the importance of the album’s production. Randy Brecker’s muted trumpet line serves as the song’s foundation, and it cuts through from beginning to end of the nine minute-plus arrangement. Thanks again to those behind the boards, Pawlik’s performance on the keyboards and Szymon Kapczuk’s performance on tenor saxophone serve wonderfully as support for that main trumpet line. They add just enough “flavor” – so to speak – to the whole to make the arrangement even more immersive and full. The end result of the expert production here is yet another work that shows the importance of the album’s overall production. When the work put into it, the other songs noted here, and the rest of the album’s entries, the whole shows clearly why the record’s production is just as important as its content. When the album’s production is considered alongside the noted content and even the lack of background content, the whole proves in the end that it will connect with Pawlik’s established audiences and with jazz fusion fans in general.
Lukasz Pawlik’s new album, Long-Distance Connections is a mostly successful new offering from the up-and-coming pianist/composer. That is proven in large part through the arrangements that make up the album’s body. The arrangements are diverse from one to the next. This is even as each largely sticks to a jazz fusion style sound and stylistic approach. That alone is reason enough for audiences to hear the album. While the record’s musical content does plenty to make the presentation appealing, the lack of any background on the songs detracts from the album’s appeal to a point. It is not enough to make the record a failure, but at the same time, it certainly would have made the album’s appeal that much more. The album’s production works with the record’s content to round out its most important elements. It shows how much time and effort went into making each song sound so appealing. Its end result is just that, too. Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the record’s presentation. All things considered, they make the album a work that Pawlik’s established audiences and jazz fusion fans in general will equally enjoy.
Long-Distance Connections is available now through Summit Records. More information on the album is available along with all of Lukasz Pawlik’s latest news and more at:
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