Open House- Vandenmark/Owczarek/Bożek/Moretti

I’ve just returned from a concert by a new band, Open House, featuring Ken Vandenmark, alto and baritone saxophonist Paulina Owczarek, bassist Marcin Bożek and drummer Macio Moretti, and I think I’ve witnessed the creation of a truly unique ensemble.

This group is, in a sense, the antithesis of contemporary jazz music, yet another in Vandenmark’s decades-long artistic transformation.
I don’t know which one, because I simply go to his concerts (and will continue to do so) with a completely empty mind, an open heart (I always think at these concerts about my own loneliness, the fragility of relationships, buddies who are no longer with me, my parents – it’s all connected to a powerful personal experience I had many years ago, listening to the DKV Trio and how, in a way of such bad moments, that music that night at the Jazzgot club saved me.
Hence for years I have been going to Vandenmark concerts with gratitude, not expecting anything, surrendering to what he has to do on stage that evening. I try to calm my thoughts and, through these moments, just let myself forget a little. This music helps with this because it is the genre and style of music that I call ‘boundless’, but not even in the sense of artistic freedom that I, a little teddy bear, am supposed to enjoy when watching the ‘giants of jazz’ or even the craftsmen of the genre.
Of course, Vandemark is for me, musically, somewhere between Frank Gratkowski, Mats Gustafsson, Jean Luc Guionet or John Butcher/Urlich Krieger when I listen to Ken’s breathtaking solo concerts, but that’s not what boundlessness is about….
So going into this concert I had no expectations.
It’s been a long time since I lost myself in improvised music as much as I did during their performance. It was an incredibly intense experience and the music was incredibly accessible to listen to, with decidedly bright colours. It was a joy to listen to.
Open House is in no way an artistic disinclination or capitulation to easy and obvious solutions. Rather, it is the chosen “ludic” archetypes and the rigid matter of the compositions and the very subtle solo performances of the other instrumentalists, which, thanks to the leader, Ken Vandenmark, very easily, gracefully and extremely accessibly submitted on this evening, to the power of the American’s mature musical language.
In general, the description that this is a new Vandemark project is somewhat inappropriate. He is undoubtedly the leader, but what happens between him and the other musicians, the themes developed, the solos, lose none of their autonomy, especially if one knows the output of the accompanying musicians and their skills (and limitations).
In this sense, this band is just simply a very solid collective!!!
And because, as I said, I know the musical background of the Poles – it is all with their autonomy and extremely frankly given to the audience.

So, if we talk about Macio Moretti’s playing, it is something that, from the beginning, guarantees us a good (although not obvious, especially for someone who would accidentally come to this concert thinking that it would be jazz concert) fun.
Moretti starts the concert with something that is a cross between grind core and Naked City and basically repeats these gestures a few more times during the performance. Accentuating quite strongly and simply, Vandenmark’s harmonic displays or Vandenmark-Owczarek common themes played with great precision, which is always simply very pleasing to the ear. In this sense, this punk, metal Mr. Spoil-Joy provides a good counterpoint and adds even more non-obviousness to the whole performance.
His other recurring play element is this kind of stand up minimalist-repetitive play in the style of Isotope 217 or Tortoise. This is always a very cool and recognizable trade mark of his, especially when he adds his own deliberate stumbling or delayed strokes to this minimalism.
It’s everything this drummer does that pairs well with bassist Marcin Bożek. There’s a lightness and humour about it that I’ve never heard from Moretti and yet it’s another of his trademarks.
Marcin in general is the good-soul of the band. His stage demeanour is simply something you cannot pass by indifferently. It’s a show! And the moment when he blows the bass guitar is mind-blowing.
The quirky, charming playing of these two guys was the anchor and backing of the whole thing that evening.
I’ll say it again, it’s funny but not silly, it’s light but not crude. The band is not playing with itself. Above all, this band knows that they are on stage for us and infect us with their good vibe.
Paulina Owczarek also gave a very interesting performance.
I had an unmistakable impression, while listening to her playing, that she is very subtle in what she does on stage, despite her rock experience; during this concert, she did not run ahead, she did not get into solos, she avoided sudden changes, instead, she focused on exploiting the timbre of sounds. This was in several moments such a beautiful understatement. This was particularly fantastic and strongly emphasized in those passages when she played the baritone saxophone. When she were on baritone she reminded me very much Hanne De Backer.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had so much fun at an improvised music concert and left with a sense of lightness.
Such music makes the world a better place, at least for a while.


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