Thursday 23 November 2017

EABS: "Electro-Acoustic Beat Sessions" [Interview]

'Repetitions (Letters to Krzysztof Komeda)' marks the staggering debut full-length effort from Polish jazz septet, EABS, who really solidify themselves as exciting and dynamic players in an already thriving jazz scene.

As alluded to in the title, the album marks something of a tribute to Polish film music composer and pianist, Krzysztof Komeda, who is best known for his film scores for Roman Polanski releases including 'Rosemary's Baby' from 1968.  Komeda's seminal and ground-breaking 1965 album shares its name with the independent record label home to EABS, Astigmatic Records.  For this project, EABS (Electro-Acoustic Beat Sessions) attempt to revive slightly lesser-known compositions from Komeda's extensive catalogue and the results are as inspiring as they are thrilling.

The US jazz pianist, Hank Jones, once said "I am the sum total of everything that I have experienced musically", and that is such an apt description for EABS' approach to their take on jazz: theirs is a wonderfully organic, all-inclusive and free-flowing melting pot of styles.  In the specific case of 'Repetitions', EABS pay tribute to Komeda, but their unique sound has been equally honed by legends from a more modern era like J Dilla and Pete Rock: hip-hop pioneers who have each embraced jazz as a springboard for their production techniques.  This concoction of styles births, what the band themselves describe as, a "personal interpretation" of contemporary jazz.

Although 'Repetitions' is the first official album release from EABS, the band have gifted fans with 'Puzzle Mixtape', which is also available from their Bandcamp page as a free download.  The nine-track selection features a collection of live performances recorded between 2012-2014 and through collaborations with M.E.D., Jeru the Damaja and Coultrain, this selection of tracks is perfect to showcase that level of improvisation and creativity that EABS boast amidst a live setting. [And for Dilla fans, make sure you take the chance to check out 'Reminisce' featuring Paulina Przybysz as it masterfully recreates Dilla's production of 'Reminisce' originally found on Bilal's '1st Born Second' album.]

Anything that could be said about how good EABS, and ‘Repetitions’, actually are would be an understatement.  Both ‘Repetitions’ and ‘Puzzle Mixtape’ are fully accessible, fascinating and charismatic pieces of work, and it's our great pleasure to have secured time with Marek Pędziwiatr from the band to discuss the band's evolution.

How did members of EABS come together to form the band?
Initially, Electro-Acoustic Beat Sessions was an event.  There were many jam sessions in Wrocław... so, we found our home: Puzzle Club.  The host band comprised of four members: Me on keys, Adam Kabaciński (bass), Marcin Rak (drums) and Spisek Jednego (turntables).  I created a book of hip-hop standards to explore them through live music.  There were many musicians and observers coming and going on our sessions.  Some of them joined us to play without any idea what it's all about and never came again, some of them joined us at each session and stayed with us forever.  At some point, we decided to quit switching hosts with other players, as in jam sessions.  So finally, we’ve realized that actually, we are not an 'event', we are the band.  This is where the story begins.

Who have been some of the biggest influences on the band's music?
The band has gone through three stages of evolution so far.  In the Puzzle times we were influenced by American and Polish hip-hop/jazz heritage like: Pete Rock, Madlib, DJ Premier, DJ Volt, Ahmad Jamal, etc.  Second stage was our work on 'Repetitions (Letters to Krzysztof Komeda)'.  Then we were inspired by more darkish artists: Komeda himself, David Axelrod, Jihad, Wu-Tang Clan, Lalo Shiffrin.  Now we are working on 'Slavic Spirits Suite' - the greatest influence is the 70s period of Czeslaw Niemen’s music.

How does the process of writing and creating new music usually work for the band?
Usually, I spend time on creating compositions/arrangements as if I was making beats using samples, mixing break-beats, recording keys.  I send these audio sketches to my people.  Then I write them down to bring it to rehearsals.  We work hard together on my vision until we play it correctly.  Then, I give my people total freedom to let them flow into this music, so the magic comes out.  This is the moment where I should mention our manager and visionary, Sebastian Jozwiak [Astigmatic Records] - he brings deep philosophy into our music and his impact is priceless.

What is it about Krzysztof Komeda that led you to explore his music?
There is such a thing as Komeda's standards.  We are diggers.  That is why we resisted to select songs which were interpreted billions of times.  We had to watch dozens of films and listen to the whole musical library of the composer before we started to arrange.  What we were looking for in Komeda's music was message, simplicity, melancholy and vibe.  The same thing happened in our previous works - if the source music is simple and has some space, we can easily fit in-between the cracks.  So then we were able to create a whole new substance naturally.

Can you talk a little about what went into the making of 'Repetitions'?
'Repetitions' took us a lot of work.  It required meeting a fairly large number of people, which is why this project took almost two years to see the light.  Although we are living in the digital world, here in Poland, the work process was almost analog.  Exchanging letters with Komeda’s heirs, watching films, digging unique recordings.  There is an interesting story behind Michal Urbaniak’s appearance.  The decision came when the album was already finished.  When I played it to Urbaniak, after the first song, he began to cry.  Before his solo career, in the 60s he played in Komeda's ensemble, so it brought him beautiful memories.  He asked me then if it was still possible for him to play on this album.  I was happy and confused.  Everything was ready.  Everything was played... I had to figure out the special place for Michal [...] which could have squeezed out freshness and roughness of Michal's sound.  'Free Witch & No Bra Queen/Suit' was the place to be.

Hip-hop seems to be such a prominent component in your music: to what extent has the genre impacted your style of jazz?
I was a hip-hop head since I was a little child, even before I started to play keys.  So every sound I make, even if it’s jazz, funk, soul, folk or even pop it always has this little flavor.  I think that rap music helped jazz to stay alive in its rough vibe.  Many young folks get into jazz via hip-hop.  So did I.

The Puzzle Mixtape features some very exciting collaborations: those performances must have been very exciting times?
Yes, and I remember the breakthrough.  It happened in 28th October 2012 when a Californian rapper Rashaan Ahmad came to Poland.  We managed to bring him to Wroclaw and organize an improvised concert without any previous arrangements and rehearsals.  The event was officially announced around a week before, and what was even worse, the concert was scheduled on Sunday.  We thought that we would play for a few music enthusiasts and leave the stage in a good mood afterwards.  But on the gig day, something completely unexpected occurred - the place was full of people!  We put on a brilliant, energizing concert, full of beautiful colours and the audience went crazy.  We had an after-party til 4am.  Few hours later we met in a studio to record a song together.  It was the beginning of a great adventure.  As Raashan’s band, we set off on concert tours all around the world, we visited France, Kazakhstan, and many more places.  Other propositions regarding collaboration were put to us by international performers such as Jeru The Damaja, Jesse Boykins III, M.E.D.  After having such a wealth of experience, we learnt how to play on an international level.

Who would be a dream artist for the band to either record or perform with?
EABS is a machine that makes your dreams come true.  It’s hard to say because it’s all happening now.  Now we are going to perform and record together with UK new jazz star Tenderlonious.  Probably, soon we will play with Polish trumpet legend Tomasz Stanko.  This is insane!

EABS are:
Marek Pędziwiatr: piano, synths, vocals 
Vojto Monteur: guitar 
Paweł Stachowiak: bass 
Jakub Kurek: trumpet 
Olaf Węgier: tenor sax 
Marcin Rak: drums 
Spisek Jednego: turntables

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