Five Spot | Petras Vysniauskas | Yuri Yaremchuk | Roberta Piket | Mark Tokar | Klaus Kugel | Poltva

Live in Lviv at Jazz Festival BEZZ 200

Petras Vysniauskas (soprano saxophone) | Yuri Yaremchuk (soprano and alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet) | Roberta Piket (piano) | Mark Tokar (double bass) | Klaus Kugel (drums)

Recorded live December-8-2007 at the Jazz Festival BEZZ in Lviv, Ukraine. Recorded by Andriy Voytuk and Bogdan Stefura, Lviv, Ukraine. Mixed and mastered by Ulrich Seipel, USM, Germany. Many thanks to Markijan Ivanchyshyn for the organizing and support of the project! All photos are by Konstantin Smolyanin Design – Lidia Vitkovskaya / Denis Mikhaylov

All comopsitions by Petras Vysniauskas (LATGA), Yuri Yaremchuk, Roberta Piket (BMI), MarkTokar, Klaus Kugel (GEMA)

Tracklist: 1. POLTVA – Part I – [24:08] 2. POLTVA – Part II – [7:51] 3. POLTVA – Part III – [23:39] 4. POLTVA – Part IV – [5:59]

There is not a great number of releases

from the Ukrainian free-jazz scene. Admittedly, this scene is not very crowded with performers; still, it has something worth documenting. One of the most interesting albums of 2008 is from the international quintet Five Spot and Poltva. The name of the album is symbolic: Poltva is the name of the river that flows beneath the surface of the city of Lviv, where the album was recorded a year before its release. And just as the underground river is both deep and hidden, so is Ukrainian free improvisational music.

Five Spot consists of people of different backgrounds. One of the better known ex-Soviet free-jazzers is Lithuanian Petras Vysniauskas, who now exclusively plays soprano saxophone. Russian-born (but now residing in Ukraine) reedist Yuriy Yaremchuk is the main force of the Ukrainian “new thing.” Yaremchuk’s frequent collaborator, and also a major figure in Ukrainian free music, is double-bassist Mark Tokar. The group is completed with American pianist Roberta Piket and German drummer/percussionist Klaus Kugel, who works extensively on both sides of the Atlantic.

The record is subtitled”Live in Lviv 2007, from Lviv’s Jazz Bez festival. The quintet’s work is unevenly divided over four parts: two almost half hour-long vehicles, and two shorter compositions that serve as transitioning and finishing parts.

Most of the players are long-time collaborators, thus it’s no surprise that the interplay is keen and intuitive. Not anchored too rhythmically, the reedists don’t soliloquize; rather, they find a way to complement and answer their partner’s narration or interrogation. Behind that is a quite deliberate and unsteady rhythmic base. Kugel’s open-spaced percussion or splash-like drumming creates free room upon which the horn players can expand.

On “Part I,” Vysniauskas delivers a feverish solo, showing his mastery of his instrument, working forcefully in the upper register, while Tokar’s arco bass and Piket’s eerie chords provide a variable framework. Yaremchuk reveals a looser play, employing growling and yowling before giving way to Piket’s intricate, melodic in-and-out playing. A lengthy bass solo at the end of the composition finds Tokar deftly using polyphony to the point where he sounds like he’s playing in duet with himself.

The album’s second number shows even more dissolute playing. The whole band erupts with sudden strokes, leaving the even meter far beyond, and concentrates on muscular blow-outs by both reedists. For the most of “Part III,” Vysniauskas and Yaremchuk engage in scintillating dialog, after which comes a lengthy and colorful, yet airy, solo from Piket—slightly supplemented by bass. While Kugel conveys drum layers, Petras’ soprano ecstatic howling leads to the album’s most energetic point.

The final composition summarizes the set in its point of maximal deliverance from any strict rhythmical order. Even with Kugel still playing, there is no beat to be found. The music is completely textural and layered with the quintet’s intention: creating sonic palette, rather than interweaving contrapuntal melodies. — by ALEX MARTYNOV

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Free jazz requires “deep listening skills,”

I’ve been told. Finding beauty in the apparent chaos and discovering magic in the disorganization can be tricky for unseasoned listeners, allegedly. Yet when the free jazz is done as accurately and as articulately as it is on Five Spot’s Poltva, it’s hard to suggest that any special skills are required at all to gain full enjoyment from the record. Perhaps it’s not even fair to call Poltva free jazz after all. Maybe it’s just free. Taken from a live recording in December of 2007 at the Jazz Festival BEZZ in Lviv, Ukraine, Poltva is four tracks of rewarding autonomy that unites the quintet under one creative cause.

The band is an international experience. German Klaus Kugel is on drums, American Roberta Piket is on piano and Lithuanian Petras Vysniauskas plays soprano sax. Ukrainians Yury Yaremchuk (soprano and alto sax, clarinet, bass clarinet) and Mark Tokar (bass) round out the group. The interesting thing about this particular recording is that the foundation isn’t built for various players to go off on tangential exercises of self-indulgence. Instead, they all contribute freely to the movement of the whole. Five Spot advances through the performance, as though working towards an ultimate goal with secure confidence. There are solos, sure, but they never appear peculiar or ego-driven.

If the group has a linchpin, it’s Kugel. His playing adds more than mere percussive elements. Listen as he provides smatterings of impact towards the conclusion of the first cut. Kugel’s desire to build tension is innate, springing out of a lifetime of learning and practicing more than just method and tone. Like all quality drummers, Kugel does more than provide a beat. He feels it, knowingly inserting himself in moments and emotions. The piano of Piket, too, provides tension. She cautiously makes an entrance on the second track of the record, plunking her presence as Kugel provides answers with a rolling squall of percussion. The intentions are clear and the quintet adds instruments until a storm is brewing.

Poltva consists of two longer tracks, both ranging over twenty minutes, and two shorter ones.

The development of tension carries throughout the entire Lviv performance and the appreciative crowd springs to life (or is it relief?) at the conclusion of the third track, responding to a blast of horns that gleefully seems to carry forever. The fourth and final track may well be a reward for their endurance. Fans of free music would do well to check out Poltva. It showcases another avenue of jazz, one seldom heard, and blends international traditions with lucidity and style. Five Spot is a group of care, pinned in the middle by marvellous drumming by Klaus Kugel and a truly sensitive piano performance by Roberta Piket. — by Jordan Richardson

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Roberta Piket

The band’s name reveals

that this is a quintet, with Lithuanian Petras Vysniauskas on soprano, Ukranians Yury Yaremchuk soprano, alto and clarinets, and Mark Tokar on bass, German Klaus Kugel on drums and Roberta Piket from the US on piano. All five musicians have solid backgrounds, both in traditional contexts as in a more free environment, as is the case here, for this live performance at the Lviv Jazz Festival in Ukraine in 2007, and it is free jazz in the spirit of the seventies, with the whole band working together on a coherent musical flow, rhytmic and forward-moving, with the musicians very concerned to build a unique sound rather than using the improvisation for personal expression. In the hands of lesser musicians this becomes a perfect recipe for either chaos or boredom, but you get the opposite here: discipline and deep listening skills, creativity and variation make this quite a captivating program.– Stef

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