Personnel: Grzegorz Lesiak (guitar); Tomasz Piatek (tenor saxophone); Lukasz Downar (bass guitar); Krzysztof Redas (drums).
Recording information: Andrzej Rewak Studio, Warsaw, Poland (02/11/2013-02/13/2013).
Photographer: Marcin Sudzinski.
Guitarist/composer Grzegorz Lesiak brings a Polish and Ukrainian folk background to the avant jazz-rock quartet Tatvamasi, but don't expect polka rhythms and accordions on Parts of the Entirety, the group's 2013 Cuneiform label debut. Across the 62-plus-minute album (recorded live in the studio, drily and cleanly without production effects), "folk" is delivered with cranked-up jazz-rock energy, infectious yet irregular rhythms, and improvisational ebb and flow. And while some may hear elements of '90s-era N.Y.C. Balkan jazzers in Tatvamasi's music, the Polish foursome is also funky as hell, even when grooving out in 13/8. The eight-minute opener, "Unsettled Cyclists Peloton," launches into multi-layered riffing with Lesiak in the left channel and tenor saxophonist Tomasz Piatek in the right (where they remain throughout the disc), each punching out a contrapuntal ostinato over the shifting meters of electric bassist Lukasz Downar and drummer Krzysztof Redas. A jazzy unison guitar-sax melody hints at uptempo Euro-folk until -- over the rhythm section's fractured tempo and rockish attack -- Lesiak introduces a motif with an even stronger Balkan flavor. But after Piatek joins the guitarist in the melody, Lesiak suddenly explodes the tune with scraggly blasts of wah-wahed guitar, leading into an alternately loose and tight funk-jazz jam with, in its latter portion, a flowing yet explosive tenor solo from Piatek. It's a good indicator of Tatvamasi's modus operandi throughout Parts of the Entirety.
"Collapse of Time" blasts out of the speakers with Lesiak thick, noisy, and pushing that wah-wah before the melody is broken into a fragmented guitar-bass-drums backdrop for another tenor feature from Piatek, building into powerful multiphonics. As the tension builds, Lesiak's accents are part Agharta-era Miles Davis, part Starless and Bible Black-era Robert Fripp. "Rhubanabarb" finds Tatvamasi sliding from folk-inflected themes to more funk-jazz jamming, starting lively and animated and ending more spaciously melodic, with Downar and Redas forming an alternately slamming and subtle bass-drums tandem beneath Lesiak's guitar crunch and Piatek's vigorous sax. "Shape Suggestion" begins as a 9/8 showcase for Lesiak's Balkan-flavored yet post-grungy guitar, after which the axeman's repetitive King Crimson-ish phrasing pushes Piatek into increasingly agitated territory. Although the nearly 12-minute "An Eccentric Introvert in a Study Filled with Broken Mirrors" isn't the album's first foray into 13/8, it is the funkiest; still, don't break out your dancing shoes (unless you're an interpretive dancer, that is), as fiery free improvisations meld with grooving interludes across most of the tune's duration. The 14-minute multi-sectioned album highlight "Astroepos" builds from an ambient-flavored intro featuring subtle guitar harmonics and loops into an 11/4 crescendo as Tatvamasi further explore the place where mid-'70s Crimson meets the '90s Balkan side of N.Y.C. guitarist Brad Shepik. And with a title hinting at the track's duration as well as its time signature, the concluding "Buy 2, Take 3" proves that Tatvamasi can steal your attention while jazzily swinging and punching their way through a comparatively brief musical package lasting only five minutes and change. ~ Dave Lynch