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Polish Jazz Forever III

01-17-2017 | By Wojciech Pacuła | Issue 90

Polish Jazz Forever

Remasters 2016

vol. 1 | vol. 3 | vol. 4 | vol. 24 | vol. 54 | vol. 63

COMPACT DISC | LONG PLAY

Warner Music Poland sp. z o.o.
Wytwórnia Polskie Nagrania
kontakt@warnermusic.pl
polskienagrania.com.pl 
warnermusic.pl 

The third meeting of High Fidelity readers with Polish Jazz Remasters (the so-called second "six", as the record label decided to launch six albums selected by the editor-in-chief of Jazz Forum onto the market each time) is also the first one at which it is not necessary to recall the history of previous releases, but it is possible to focus on the sound of the new versions prepared in Jacek Gawłowski's studio (reviews of the first "six" can be found HERE and HERE). So, the listening session included both CD and vinyl releases.

 

01

The text is divided into three parts: in the first one we provide quick descriptions of the musicians and the musical content of the albums (based on materials released by the record label), in the second one we look at the graphic design of the new releases and analyze their editors' choices, etc., while in the third one we focus on sound. At the end you will find a short summary of the whole article.

MUSIC

The second "six" that was premiered on 29th July 2016 consists of the following albums:

  • vol. 1 | Warsaw Stompers, New Orleans Stompers

Year of release: 1965

  • vol. 3 | Polish Jazz Quartet, Polish Jazz Quartet

Year of release: 1965

  • vol. 4 | The Andrzej Trzaskowski Quintet, The Andrzej Trzaskowski Quintet

Year of release: 1965

  • vol. 24 | Michal Urbaniak's Group, Live recording

Year of release: 1971

  • vol. 54 | Janusz Muniak Quintet, Question Mark

Year of release: 1978

  • vol. 63 | Stanisław Sojka, Blublula

Year of release: 1981

(vol. 1) The album of the Warsaw Stompers band released at the beginning of 1965 is the first album issued as part of the Polish Jazz series. The album features, in different configurations, a splendid ensemble of Polish jazz musicians (also those representative of modern jazz). What makes the album different from all other ones in the series is the fact that it does not contain any new recordings, but is a compilation of sessions released earlier by Polskie Nagrania on small discs, from different time periods (1959, 1962, 1963, 1964), in different line-ups. In total, there are 16 pieces on the album, all of them in a monophonic version.

02

One of the advantages of new releases is an excellent booklet with an essay and a lot of photos from the given time period

(vol. 3) The Polish Jazz Quartet entered a studio to record this album in December 1964. It was released on an LP in 1965 in a monophonic version. The 2016 reissue is a stereo version, both on CD and LP.

The Polish Jazz Quartet album, as the third one in the Polish Jazz series, is an important document in the history and development of the pioneering period in Polish jazz. The icons of Polish jazz: Jan "Ptaszyn" Wróblewski, Wojciech Karolak, Andrzej Dąbrowski and Juliusz Sendecki make up the quartet. This is a formation which heralds the emergence of modern jazz and such bands as Andrzej Trzaskowski, Krzysztof Komeda quintets, and Zbigniew Namysłowski quartet. A half of the album's repertory was composed by the leader of the quartet—Jana Ptaszyn Wróblewski and the other half includes pieces composed by Wojciech Karolak.

(vol. 4) The fourth album from the Polish Jazz series with recordings of Andrzej Trzaskowski Quintet is one of the most outstanding albums in the collection. It was recorded in 1965 and constitutes, next to Komeda's Astigmatic, the Polish jazz artistic manifesto of that time. Its author's influence on the development of this music genre in Poland is simply invaluable. The album faithfully reflects the compositional artistry of the leader, his improvisatory style and characteristic poetics of his pieces. It was originally issued in a monophonic version, now it is available on vinyl and CD in a stereophonic version.

(vol. 24) This is the first such comprehensive release of this excellent album. The new issue has the original cover, but also an additional bilingual booklet with a text written by Tomasz Tłuczkiewicz. The album is a recording of a concert which took place at the Warsaw Philharmonic in January 1971. It was released in the same year as vol. 24 of the Polish Jazz series. It is a special album—Urbaniak's debut as a leader and violinist, the "baptism of fire" for his new band and an indication of a revolutionary shift towards fusion.

(vol. 54) The Question Mark is Janusz Muniak's first own album, released in 1978 as vol. 54 in the Polish Jazz series. At the same time, this is his only album in the series and one of the most important releases in his career. Muniak's themes are wonderfully composed, concise, succinct, highly dynamic and releasing a considerable energy potential in improvisations. The leader confidently guides his thoughts with juicy pure sound, sometimes entering the domain of free jazz, which results, however, from the natural logic of the given musical piece. As Muniak himself said once: "In music one can never do everything. You are free to choose whatever means you think are suitable but that kind of freedom has to be accompanied by a high degree of control. Otherwise there will be no music, just gibberish."

(vol. 63) Blublula is the second album in Stanisław Sojka's discography, recorded and released in 1981 as No. 63 in the Polish Jazz series. At the time of the release, Sojka was a promising 21-year-old vocalist, student of composition and arrangement at the Faculty of Jazz and Popular Music of the Academy of Music in Katowice. The album was well received and chosen as the jazz album of the year 1981. An enormous (as for a jazz record) number of 100,000 copies was issued. Sojka is accompanied by Czesław Bartkowski (percussion) and Zbigniew Wegehaupt (double bass) in the rhythm section, while Wojciech Karolak, one of the founding fathers of Polish jazz, plays the piano. So, this is the second album recorded with Karolak in this selection of six records. What is interesting, none of the albums where Karolak was the leader had been released with the Polish Jazz logo until 2006 when the error was kind of corrected as the album Easy! was issued as part of the Polish Jazz Deluxe series.

(RE)ISSUES

Issues

All albums from the Polish Jazz series were originally released on vinyl discs. Some of the albums have been reissued many times, some not. Some of the discs were pressed with the thought of the "friendly" people's democracies—the Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic in mind. They were packed in the same covers as in Poland, but in the German version the back of the cover was different, i.e. there was a German (not English) translation of the essay. The albums released onto the Soviet market had fly-leaves with a track list written in the Cyrillic alphabet. Despite this, the discs were pressed in Poland.

03

Albums from vol. 1 to vol. 4 were issued only in monophonic versions. Subsequent ones, until the year 1973, were released both in monophonic (a rarity today) and stereophonic versions (symbols in the logo: XL and SXL, respectively). Their re-issues regarded the stereophonic versions only. After 1972, the remaining titles in the series were released as stereo recordings only (with the SX symbol in the logo).

I asked people working for Polskie Nagrania if there are separate mono and stereo masters. It appears that almost all Polish Jazz master tapes and their safety copies are stereophonic tapes. So, it seems that mono versions were created by summing two channels. An exception to the rule is the first album in the series (Warsaw Stompers) which only has a monophonic version in the archive.

The albums from this "six" were reissued earlier in digital versions on CDs. The first pieces were released already in 1989 in a series produced by Polskie Nagrania, but those were compilations presenting the works of the leading Polish jazzmen. The first whole album was released in 1997 by Power Bros Records and that was Polish Jazz Quartet (PB 00400). however, the album cover was changed and it was released as Jan "Ptaszyn" Wróblewski album entitled Polish Jazz Quartet.

The "right" re-issues, with remasters prepared by specialists from Polskie Nagrania were released only in 2004. One album was launched then—Michal Urbaniak's Group Live Recordings. The album was part of a 16-album re-edition of Polish records, distributed by the Anex company. The rest of the digital re-editions were launched in 2005 in two series. The Polish Jazz Deluxe series included Warsaw Stompers (Polskie Nagrania, PNCD 1001), Janusz Muniak Quintet (Polskie Nagrania, PNCD 1054) and Stanisław Sojka (Polskie Nagrania, PNCD 1063), while the 12-album series "Polskie Radio poleca" (Polish Radio recommends)—Polish Jazz Quartet (Polskie Radio, PRCD 531) and Andrzej Trzaskowski Quintet (Polskie Radio, PRCD 535).

(Re)

The re-editions prepared by Warner Music Poland were really well-made. We know the basic facts from the previous reviews, so let me just remind you briefly that the CDs were put in excellent digipack boxes with a booklet. The way the covers  and essays were prepared, with interesting photos, is exemplary. Only the records from the "Polskie Radio poleca" box could be compared to them, although the new ones are much nicer (by the way, the layout of the "Polskie Radio poleca" series was prepared by Rafał Lachmirowicz from RLM Studio, who later prepared Savage's albums—read HERE and HERE, both reviews in Polish).

04

Vinyl discs have thicker covers than the original ones, each with a "spine" featuring its title—something that the original versions did not have. Some of the covers are surprising for someone like me, i.e. a person who did not see the albums when they were released—the covers have a white, not yellow background 🙂 I've got so used to old yellowed versions that the new white ones seem to be completely different, even though they are the right ones. The discs were pressed in the Czech Republic using high quality 180g vinyl. The pressing is of really high quality because the travelling noise and the crackling sound are virtually non-existent—much lower than in all the original releases. One disadvantage is the change of the width of the grooves—now they are narrower than in the original versions, because of which the dynamics has to be slightly lower (this is how it works). It can be seen because the recorded part ends much further from the colorful central label than in the original editions.

Decisions, decisions…

While preparing the re-edition, Warner had to make many decisions, some of which were related to covers. It is known that in Polskie Nagrania archives there are complete files connected with the albums' graphic design, completed until the design was submitted by Mr. Szaybo or Karewicz. Similarly as in the case of the previous "six", there are a few changes compared to the original releases.

The backs of the covers are not scanned, but written again using font similar to the original one. This also relates to the lettering of the logotypes (numbers and letters). The spacing between graphics, inscriptions and the edges of the discs has been slightly modified, which is especially visible in the case of Michal Urbaniak's Group and Stanisław Sojka disc covers. However, the differences are really small.

Again, in two cases (the albums mentioned in the previous paragraph), wrong logotypes were used. The Live recording disc has the catalog number XL 0733 in the oval with the logotype. It only refers to the monophonic version of the album—the stereophonic version has the number SXL 0733. What is more important, however, is that the two numbers had always been used together (never separately) and this is what they looked like:

XL 0733

SXL 0733

The inscription on the cover spine of the digital version of the same album is Michał Urbaniak's Group, while it should be Michal Urbaniak's Group—the inscription on the vinyl version cover is correct.

When it comes to Sojka's album, it is the same story as earlier with Ewa Bem's album—it has an oval logo that had been used before 1980. Originally, the record had a rectangular logotype with a musical note.

05

These are minor issues, however. What seems more important to me are the choices connected with vinyl disc labels. Vol. 3 and vol. 4 have monophonic version labels, even though they are stereo versions. As the albums were originally released only in the mono version, their stereo versions should have been prepared, e.g. like in the case of Astigmatic. What I liked was the fact that the untypical color of Muniak's disc label has been maintained—orange is extremely rarely used in the designs of Polskie Nagrania. The labels have new lettering, modeled on the original versions.

Summing up, it must be said that these are very carefully prepared re-editions—the best ones in the history of Polish Jazz—both when it comes to CDs and LPs.

SOUND

I would divide the six albums that I listened to into four sub-groups: (1) Warsaw Stompers, (2) Polish Jazz Quartet and The Andrzej Trzaskowski Quintet, (3) Michal Urbaniak's Group and Janusz Muniak Quintet and (4) Stanisław Sojka. Each of them was treated in a slightly different way during the remastering stage, even though they all have features typical for Jacek Gawłowski's way of thinking about music.

The listening session was conducted and comparisons were made in the High Fidelity reference system, with a few additional components. Long Play discs were listened to using two sets:

Set 1 (total price: slightly over 210,000 PLN)

  • Döhmann HELIX 1 turntable
  • Frank Schröder CB arm
  • Shelter Accord cartridge

06

Set 2 (total price: 1790 PLN)

  • Edwards Audio APPRENTICE TT LITE Mk2 turntable
  • Edwards Audio EA101 arm
  • Edwards Audio Zephyr C50 cartridge

I used the following devices to listen to the Compact Discs:

  • Ancient Audio Lektor AIR V-edition CD player (ca. 60,000 PLN)
  • Amare Musica DIAMOND DSD TUBE DAC (14,600 PLN)
  • Marantz HD CD1 CD player (2,695 PLN)

When comparing vinyl releases, I used the original LP issues (both a stereophonic and monophonic version in the case of Michał Urbaniak's album).

WARSAW STOMPERS

New Orleans Stompers | vol. 1

First issue: Polskie Nagrania "Muza"

XL 0246 (mono)

Remaster 2016: Warner Music Poland

9 59601 9 (LP mono) | 9 59602 0 (CD mono)

07

Warsaw Stompers is an album originally released in the mono version and the only one whose original tapes are only preserved in this form—there is no stereophonic version in the archive of Polskie Nagrania. It sounds completely different from other albums in the series. Its tonal balance is set high, there is little bass (almost none) and the focus is on the strike, attack, the almost "street-like" hustle and bustle. Therefore, the original LP version sounds bright, its tonal balance is shifted high towards the top and the most important elements are the upper midrange and the cymbals. Today, we associate the "upper midrange" with errors and brightening up. Despite this, the Warsaw Stompers album is not brightened up—although it is bright. However, it is hard to talk about a realistic representation of the band's music, as the double bass is almost absent and one can hardly hear the low frequency sounds of the wind instruments.

I can almost see Jacek Gawłowski as he shakes his head. I respect him even more because even though he made quite significant changes to the sound, more serious ones than in the case of the other "first twenty" Polish Jazz records, he has maintained the character of the sound and the album itself.

08

The cover of the original LP issue is covered with the noble patina of time—hence its yellowish color

In Gawłowski's remaster, Warsaw Stompers are set lower and we can finally hear the double bass which is not emphasized, however, but made audible—it is very hard to do, as there is a big difference between the two. The midrange is much warmer and that makes most of the difference. The treble is warmer and more "golden", i.e. its attack is rounded. Almost everything is clearer and more "present"—it seems that the average volume level has been raised by about 1.5-2dB, so let us increase volume when we listen to the original version while comparing the two issues. The new version presents the recordings in a more homogeneous way, i.e. it shows better what they have in common. The album was recorded between 1959 and 1964, and the differences in quality are clearly heard in the case of the original version. Jacek equalized them by leveling up the older recordings so that they do not differ in quality from the material that was recorded later. It is worth emphasizing that the traveling noise level is much lower in the new version—it is not high on the original album, but still always present. When it comes to the crackling sound, it is similar in both cases—there is not much of it.

09

The differences in favour of the original version consist in higher (subjective) dynamics and much better resolution of the treble. I think that we cannot do anything about it and if a tape is not used for 50 or more years, we need to consider a decrease in the energy of the treble and higher noise. The latter cannot be heard and I think that Jacek withdrew it slightly. However, the fact that the cymbals and wind instruments have a stronger "bite" in the original version is simply plain and clear. Therefore, the original edition will still remain the "right" version for collectors. However, the remaster is going to be just as fine for "people", all the more because the new version, with a stronger midrange and bass, and a distinct foreground, will sound more attractive and modern with inexpensive turntables.

It is similar in the case of the digital version—you can read more about the differences between the Polish Jazz Deluxe edition and Remaster 2016 in the section on Stanisław Sojka's album.

SOUND QUALITY

Long Play: 6/10

Compact Disc: 5-6/10


POLISH JAZZ QUARTET

Polish Jazz Quartet | vol. 3

First issue: Polskie Nagrania "Muza"

XL 0246 (mono)

Remaster 2016: Warner Music Poland

9 59601 4 (LP stereo) | 9 59601 8 (CD stereo)

10

The third album from the Polish Jazz catalog has sound quality similar to vol. 0, i.e. Kurylewicz's Go Right. It is well recorded, both when it comes to the timbre of the instruments and their proportions, dynamics and resolution. The original album has a "cult" status among collectors and is very highly priced (even for medium quality). If it is in a "very good +" condition, it may cost from 300 even up to 500 PLN. I do not think I have ever seen the "mint" version.

Comparing the monophonic original version and the stereophonic re-issue is like comparing apples with pears. So, one has to keep a certain distance as it is only a rough comparison. However, it is possible to delineate the general framework for it. The remaster shifts sound towards the bass more. It does not emphasize it, but fills up the lower midrange, giving breath to Wojciech Karolak's piano and Jan "Ptaszyn" Wróblewski's saxophone on the one hand, and Juliusz Sendecki's double bass on the other hand. So, we get a fuller version of the original recording.

I know, of course, that the monophonic LP version sounds like what it sounds like due to a lack of a stereophonic perspective, but if we listen to a stereophonic Compact Disc re-edition prepared by Karolina Gleinert, we hear that only a new remaster really shows the original tape's fullness, depth and saturation.

The original version is better than the stereophonic re-edition when it comes to the resolution of the treble and openness. It is something that has already been observed in the case of Warsaw Stompers and is going to appear again when I write about the Trzaskowski Quintet, but it really must be mentioned as it is the reason why collectors are still going to look for the original version of the album. What I would like to tell all of them, however, is something that I am going to repeat when I write about vol. 4: buy the new edition! It is the only way to hear a really well-made high-resolution stereo version. Indeed, the dynamics is a bit lower than in the original and the cymbals are more closed and sweet, lacking the openness of the monophonic version. Apart from that, however, the new remastered album has only advantages.

11

Listening to the Polish Radio Compact Disc version again has (again) confirmed Karolina Gleinert's great talent and sensitivity to sound. Of course, the decade that has passed since that remaster has changed the digital world, providing us with tools that we could only dream about in 2004 and 2005. When combined with Jacek Gawłowski's studio and experience, they make a real difference.

The old version, i.e. "The Polish Radio recommends" was prepared in such a way that it places instruments close to us. Therefore, everything is tangible, full and dense. The cymbals, really important in the case of this album and also very well recorded, are sweet in timbre, strong and distinct. Their attack is rounded and they seem to be cut at the top of the range. There is virtually no noise, which implies that noise reduction circuits were used here. The volume of the recordings is 2dB higher than of the new version, which suggests stronger compression (that would explain the proximity of the foreground).

The 2016 version is much more open and has a less clear cut lower range that is quite strongly emphasized by Ms Gleinert. The sound of the new remaster is more nuanced, much more dynamic and more detailed. I think that Ms. Gleinert gave us sound that we know from good vinyl releases—with all their advantages and disadvantages—and the new remaster resembles more what I know from the analog tape. It is rougher and less predictable as a result. There is some noise which does not disturb the listener, however, and the incredible "breath" that allows a percussion to strike and decay during a solo.

12

The Polish Radio recommends edition on the left and the Warner Music Poland edition on the right

As a collector, I would like to have both of the versions as each focuses on slightly different aspects of the recorded material. Jacek Gawłowski's remaster shows it in a way closer to the analog master tape, while Ms. Gleinert's version is closer to the original vinyl pressing, but in a mono version (I am talking about the type of presentation, not the number of channels). The new version should be more important for "people".

SOUND QUALITY

Long Play: 8-9/10

Compact Disc: 9/10

Big RED Button AWARD


THE ANDRZEJ TRZASKOWSKI QUINTET

The Andrzej Trzaskowski Quintet | vol. 4

First issue: Polskie Nagrania "Muza"

XL 0258 (mono)

Remaster 2016: Warner Music Poland

9 59601 3 (LP stereo) | 9 59601 6 (CD stereo)

13

At the beginning let us say that the frequency range of this album is cut, especially at the top, because of which the cymbals sound a bit "plastic"—I am talking about both the original and the re-issues. I do not know why it is so, but the modification is significant. The remaster does not attempt to change this, but adds energy to the cymbals, emphasizing their lower range. It is more distinct on the LP, while the sound on the CD, paradoxically, seems to be better balanced. The new LP version sounds very good—it is energetic and dynamic. The quite high level of noise (recordings, tapes) is disturbing and cyclic low-frequency noise can also be heard when we listen to the first track.

However, the music is outstanding and compensates for the shortages of sound, all the more that the new remaster brings out a lot of flavors of the album, placing the double bass and the rest of the band in the right perspective which was unbalanced in the original version. The piano sounds a bit as if it was recorded by Rudy van Gelder, i.e. from a certain distance, with emphasis on the midrange, which also has its charm. What surprises the listener is the swing—it is an album which is very quiet and calm at the beginning, but then explodes and rocks with full power for a long time. And people will like it! The double bass solo in Synopsis is clear, explicit, nicely saturated (as for this type of a recording) and has good resolution. In the original mono version it sounds less expressive and disappears a bit in the noise.

14

It is a must-have for collectors. Apart from the original mono edition, they also MUST buy the new 2016 stereo version as well. It has so many new shades and such a different expression that you listen to it as if for the first time, even if you had been familiar with the Polish Radio stereo CD version before. The new digital version is also excellent! Everything that I wrote about the Polish Jazz Quartet album is also true here—Jacek has done a fantastic job.

SOUND QUALITY

Long Play: 7/10

Compact Disc: 7-8/10

RED Fingerprint AWARD


MICHAL URBANIAK'S GROUP

Live Recording | vol. 24

First issue: Polskie Nagrania "Muza"

XL/SXL 0733 (mono/stereo)

Remaster 2016: Warner Music Poland

9 59601 1 (LP stereo) | 9 59601 2 (CD stereo)

15

A comparison of the original version and the remaster of Urbaniak's album shows that these are two different stories. In the case of the previously described albums it was possible to point out the advantages of one or the other version, but here it is quite different.

The LP remaster sounds lower—it is something we have got used to, having listened to the Polish Jazz records previously released by Warner. However, it is dynamically smoothened and has a more restricted color palette. It is a concert recording, so one cannot demand miracles from it, but the original has got the freshness which used to make Urbaniak's music so fascinating. The mastered vinyl version shows recordings kind of as if they were recorded in a studio, i.e. in a more balanced way, with a shorter "breath" and closer to us. Tone adjustment has led to reducing the energy of the whole album.

16

It is different in the case of the CD version—it is the best version of this album, apart from the stereophonic original, and perhaps represents the same level. Digital technology has not killed the vitality and emotions recorded on the magnetic tape, providing low noise, better image stability and more distinct sound planes at the same time. Lowering the tone proves much better in the case of the CD version—when it comes to the LP, it was too strong and explicit, which reduced the dynamics and vitality of the recording.

SOUND QUALITY

Long Play: 7/10

Compact Disc: 8/10


JANUSZ MUNIAK QUINTET

Question Mark | vol. 54

First issue: Polskie Nagrania "Muza" SX 1616

Remaster 2016: Warner Music Poland

9 59600 6 (LP stereo) | 9 59600 5 (CD stereo)

17

Muniak's album recorded in 1978 reflects a change in the method of recording, mixing and mastering sound (although it was the same process at that time). The sound is more suppressed, as if it had gone through a lot of compressors—this is what Dolby A noise reduction sounds like. The former method was probably used here, as noise is still present.

Therefore, the sound of the original version is not too dynamic. The remaster attempts to "make up" for that using better color manipulation and producing a denser musical message. The original LP disc sounds lighter but is not more open at all because of that. The new versions, both the LP and the CD, have more noise than the original recording, but it is good that Jacek Gawłowski did not attempt to aggressively cut it off. Thanks to this, it is the new CD version that sounds better. It maintains better balance between the tone, dynamics and energy. The new Long Play version is smoothened, i.e. does not have the same energy.

18

On the other hand, the vinyl remaster is very "listenable"—perhaps not as much as the CD, but still. Do you know the term "playability" used in the domain of computer games? I have something similar in mind. The new version (CD and LP alike) enters our ears easily and both recordings can be listened to as background music, e.g. when we read a book, and also when we focus on the music, as the whole recording can be listened to easily.

As I am a collector, I would not force myself to search for a vinyl version, but I would find the digital one satisfactory. For all other people the vinyl version will be as attractive as the original or even more attractive—if you use an inexpensive turntable, you hear all the flavors better, get nicer bass and, generally speaking, get the impression that the Remaster 2016 brings more "sound within sound". Only an expensive system or a large collection of original LP records will show that the first edition has better resolution and higher dynamics, as well as a stronger strike of cymbals.

19

SOUND QUALITY

Long Play: 6-7/10

Compact Disc: 7/10


STANISŁAW SOJKA

Blublula | vol. 63

First issue: Polskie Nagrania "Muza"

SX 2320 (stereo)

Remaster 2016: Warner Music Poland

9 59600 9 (LP stereo) | 9 59601 0 (CD stereo)

20

When it comes to recordings, the 1980s are yet a different story than the 1970s—in most respects it is another step backwards. In the Polish reality of that period it not only meant having the same problems (that emerged alongside with the development of multichannel recording and omnipresent compressors/limiters) as other people in the domain of music recording all over the world. There were also other problems, typical for the Polish economy of that time, in which people constantly lacked some basic resources—hence the low-quality tapes or vinyl on which music was recorded.

While listening to the remastered 2016 LP version, we will acknowledge the incomparably lower level of noise and crackling sound, compared to the original. In this respect, the new pressing unquestionably wins over the old one. The 1981 version has a high level of noise and frequent crackling noises, even if we listen to a "mint" version cleaned using a top-of-the-range vinyl disc washer. The new version is very quiet even without cleaning. Another problem is, paradoxically, the popularity of this album. As it was an edition of over 100,000 copies, the master copies were exploited to the maximum. So, we can both find very nice and dramatically weak pressings—and we never know what we get. So, let us look at the number next to the label—next to the letter indicating the side there is a digit showing which lacquer master it is. All discs above A-2 and B-2 have a quite high level of noise, whereas those labeled as A-4 and B-4—very high, alongside with weaker dynamics. So, buying a second-hand copy of this album is a bit like playing the lottery.

21

However, if we are lucky and get an ideal version that is well-pressed, we get really good sound (as for the standards of the 1980s). The original recording shows Sojka's vocal in a more balanced way, with a better visible "body" which somehow escaped from the vinyl remaster. The filling of the bass in both versions is similar, but more colorful in the original. The remaster, in turn, provides us with a better arranged picture of the whole musical message—the original pressing lacks a "clamp" that would hold everything together as a whole.

The case of digital remasters is a bit different. The version prepared by Karolina Gleinert who was responsible for the sound of recordings from the Polish Jazz Deluxe series has a better filled vocal than the LP from the year 1981. This definitely improves proportions that were out of balance in the original vinyl version because the upper midrange was raised. Sojka's vocal sounds nasal in the vinyl version, as if the singer had a little cold. Ms. Gleinert corrected that really nicely, so the vocal "settles" in the mix better than in the original version. In this respect, the new vinyl remaster is closer to the original, but it is not as nice to listen to. The vocal is raised and nasal, which makes the recording similar to the new vinyl re-edition.

22

However, not everything is equally good in the 2005 version. The bass is considerably weighted down and there is simply too much of it. The original vinyl recording has a strong bass, but it does not dominate as much as in the Deluxe version. When it comes to noise, Ms. Gleinert removed them to a large extent, whereas Jacek did not focus on removing them so much. He also compressed the whole recording less, thanks to which we get higher dynamics. The Deluxe version has less noise and is louder (by 2dB), but also "swings" less, due to higher compression and cleaning up the treble. So, when it comes to the digital version, I choose the new one and buy a second-hand vinyl copy. However, if you have no time for searching and simply want to listen to good music, the new vinyl version will also meet your expectations.

SOUND QUALITY

Long Play: 6/10

Compact Disc: 7/10

SUMMARY

I should probably repeat what I have already said twice in the previous reviews of the 2016 Remaster—people have done a really good job here. The printed materials and sound are of very high quality here. The digital versions of all albums are better or much better than anything we have dealt so far and I would say that these are versions close to what I have expected from these albums. So, I regret we do not have a downloadable hi-rez version (this is what Harmonia Mundi does—we get a file download code with a CD; more HERE) or a USB version, like in the case of Rudy Van Gelder's series released by Blue Note, or microSD, like in the case of Maria Callas recordings (more HERE and HERE).

In the case of vinyl discs a lot depends on the given album. If you are not zealous collectors, you can buy them "blindfold" because they deliver good (sometimes fantastic) sound, are not noisy and do not produce crackling sounds. Collectors should have at least two of the new editions. I can see that one of the best series in the history of Polish jazz (and perhaps Polish music in general) is being born—Remaster 2016 has all the features that can make it a classic.

Text: Wojciech Pacuła

Photos: Wojciech Pacuła

Translation: Ewa Muszczynko

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