Robert Szewczuga Trio - Apostolis Anthimos

Robert Szewczuga Trio – Moonrise / Apostolis Anthimos – Parallel Worlds

Here we have two recent releases from Polish label Metal Mind Productions, jazzy in nature and with a crossover in personnel as both leaders appear on each others albums.

Apostolis Anthimos might be familiar as guitarist with long-standing Polish band SBB, since 1971, but first to a younger talent, bass player Robert Szewczuga.

Moonrise is Robert’s debut album as leader after many collaborations in the jazz, blues and pop fields, and it’s a lovely listen from start to finish, taking in plenty of variety and acting as a proper trio with keyboardist Michał Rorat and drummer Paweł Dobrowolski contributing hugely. The material generally stays within the confines of the trio but there is scope to seamlessly include guests, such as the aforementioned Anthimos who slings some tasty axe over the tribute track Apo. Atmospheric introductory piece Landing opens with lilting high-end bass from Robert, showing his melodic understanding, before some violin spikiness from Krzysztof Maciejowski, and when vocals appear on track 8, The Middle of Nothing, it comes as a bit of a surprise, but Jarek Krużołek adds his smooth voice to give the album a new texture, with keyboards from Dawid Broszczakowski. Finally, the perfect finale is the extended Trip + Outro, Polish artist Ghostman’s vocals offering a mix of dialects from around the world within exotic textures from the band. It’s a hauntingly fascinating conclusion to an album that is very worthy of your attention.

Elsewhere we get 13 with its leanings towards the sound of the Pat Metheny Group, Robert taking on Pat’s role with some wonderful drumming from Pawel, crammed full of enthusiasm and energy, delicately driving the melody along. There’s room for everyone to solo in an extended introduction to the band, but it’s not a technique showdown and all fit tastefully within the song’s structure. New-Old is an altogether funkier beast, the keys adding a ’70s flavour, alternating with Robert as each solo beautifully. The enigmatically titled …. is playful yet meditative, Salseson is as spicy and Latin as it sounds and Victoria is a heartfelt tribute to a loved one, Michał’s piano pushing the sound towards the late, lamented Esbjörn Svensson Trio as the piece progresses. Bachllada successfully adds another texture in a classically influenced solo bass piece from Robert.

Overall, Moonrise is a supremely listenable album that grows in stature with every play. Not showy or difficult in any way, it’s a wonderful showcase for the talents of all involved, including Robert’s skill as a writer. If there’s any justice it would be heard more widely than it no doubt will and gather the recognition that it deserves. Highly recommended.

01. Intro (Landing) (3:23)
02. 13 (8:40)
03. New-Old (4:43)
04. …. (4:44)
05. Apo (5:31)
06. Salseson (5:55)
07. Victoria (4:17)
08. The Middle of Nothing (3:56)
09. Bachllada (4:40)
10. Trip + Outro (7:47)

Total Time – 53:36

Robert Szewczuga – Bass Guitar, Moog
Michał Rorat – Keyboards
Paweł Dobrowolski – Drums & Percussion
~ With:
Apostolis Anthimos – Electric Guitar (track 5)
Ghostman – Vocals (track 10)
Jarek Krużołek – Vocals (track 8)
Krzysztof Maciejowski – Violin (track 1)
Dawid Broszczakowski – Keyboards & Production (track 8)

Record Label: Metal Mind Productions
Catalogue#: MMPCD0788DG
Country of Origin: Poland
Date of Release: 16th February 2018

Robert Szewczuga – Facebook

Guitarist and drummer Apostolis Anthimos has released four previous albums in his own name, for Parallel Worlds he’s in a quartet format and mostly concentrates on drums. He’s joined by bassist Robert Szewczuga, keyboardist Piotr Matusik and saxophonist Olaf Węgier. While Anthimos’ lead guitar work with SBB is in a progressive vein, here we are definitely talking jazz, hence, no doubt, the ‘parallel worlds’ tag.

Story I kicks things off, like Robert’s album with hints of Pat Metheny Group, but more from the perspective of Lyle Mays’ keys. It’s a bright and breezy intro with delicate guitar touches from Anthimos before a beautifully realised solo.

The longest track by far is Pinnochio’s Dream, a very different beast with Anthimos behind the kit for an edgy and avant exercise in freestyling. The improvisation is evident but Robert and Piotr are up for it and deliver excellently measured contributions before the piece settles into a strident rolling rhythm coloured with piano. Olaf’s sax enters and the piece emerges into a wonderful driving melody. Anthimos certainly know what he’s about behind the drums and within the freeform feel all of the players get the chance to do their thing, the deftness of the playing making for a captivating listen.

Apostolis’ guitar features heavily on the experimental title track and 2/5/1, where it takes centre stage in extended solos at the heart of the music, but sparingly elsewhere, like the funky Bar Wah Wah and the first of the two vocal tracks which sees Sylwia Klara Zasempa feature on the Oriental flavoured Goris, a light and wistful piece with thumping bass drum, sax following the vocal line. It’s almost a surprise when Anthimos adds a perfectly judged guitar solo near the end, so captivating has his drum work been, and the drumming is the main colour for all of the tracks, deftly conveying mood and adding textures. He certainly shows his talent as a writer too, piecing the music together in an invigorating way, like Back To The North, built on piano and sax textures, big chords and intricate lines weaving around each other as the pace picks up.

The side men certainly gather up the plaudits, particularly Piotr and Olaf, but Robert’s bass is a thing of melodic wonder when unleashed, as in the solo during Manhattan Circus, and it’s partner piece In The Big City, that high energy New York vibe never far away and Janusz Hryniewicz’s scat vocals adding something different.

Sunrise has a toe-tapping melody to go with its punching rhythm, and there’s another unexpected guitar solo to underline what a fine player Apostolis is, with a lovely bluesy edge. McCoi and Tata are built on busier rhythms with sax out front, while Mussaka In The Evening is more Latin than Greek with a wonderful setpiece melody, the whole album being brought full circle with a more full-bodied variation of the opening track in Story II.

All of the tracks give the players the space to stretch out and live is certainly where this music would really make its mark, but it’s a fine album of well composed pieces that’s well worth a listen, even if you don’t do jazz; the playing throughout is first rate and the whole thing is a compelling listen if you give yourself the opportunity to pay close attention on a decent system.

Two wonderful collections that show that Metal Mind’s jazzy side is also worth investigating, both beautifully recorded to present the players and the music to best effect.

01. Story I (3:34)
02. Pinnochio’s Dream (10:54)
03. Back To The North (6:52)
04. Goris (7:07)
05. Bar Wah Wah (8:59)
06. Manhattan Circus (4:27)
07. Parallel Worlds (4:24)
08. In The Big City (5:22)
09. Sunrise (5:37)
10. McCoi (4:36)
11. Tata (7:27)
12. 2/5/1(1:05)
13. Mussaka In The Evening (3:31)
14. Story II (5:14)

Total Time – 80:09

Apostolis Anthimos – Drums, Electric Guitar
Robert Szewczuga – Bass Guitar
Piotr Matusik – Piano, Keyboards
Olaf Węgier – Saxophone
~ With:
Sylwia Klara Zasempa – Vocals (track 4)
Janusz Hryniewicz – Vocals (track 8)

Record Label: Metal Mind Productions
Catalogue#: MMPCD0786DG
Country of Origin: Poland
Date of Release: 16th February 2018

Apostolis Anthimos – Website | Facebook