As regular readers might be aware, PM was on holiday in Krakow last week. One evening when we weren’t sampling the honeyed vodka, underground salt mines and a weird quivering old woman outside a local supermarket (we didn’t sample her, just sort of saw her…), we found ourselves in one of the city’s numerous live jazz venues. We had no idea who Joel Press was, or any clue of his work and what it might sound like, but he accompanied the evening quite charmingly.
While we spoke to him between sets (there were very few people in attendance), it became clear that his musical schooling was formal, but his expression freewheeling. Jazz this traditional in its execution shouldn’t, you might think, be performed with such an emotional bent, but Press’ consummate interpretations seemed completely appropriate after having shared a drink and a conversation. He is literate and illuminating, recommending which line-up of the Anthony Braxton ensemble might be most rewarding, telling us about his time as a student of classical clarinet, and various other urges of artists to explore.
What was perhaps most surprising was the sheer breadth of his experience and musical intellect. Equally a student of the avant-garde and traditional forms, Press’ continual desire to move forward seems to be his defining feature. Backed this evening by a band of Polish hired hands (one of them apparently a very notable jazz figure in Poland), improvisations tumble casually across the room until about 1:30 in the morning. Gradually, we realise that we’ve been treated to a private concert with an unsung master. They would’ve probably carried on even if the audience was less than us two, but it’s nice to pretend it was all for us.
Visit Joel Press’ website here.