A true giant of Polish Pop music comes out of the wilderness to join up with a Polish Jazz giant who purposely went into its wilderness to create a masterpiece of Coltrane-influenced Spiritual Jazz…one influenced by the Coltrane we tend to forget. You see, Samarpan has all the touchstones of one Turiyasangitananda Alice Coltrane.
As a young man, Sławomir Kulpowicz could have been considered the Polish McCoy Turner. Studying and graduating from Academy of Music in Katowice, where classical giant Henryk Górecki also graduated from, Sławomir should have followed a similar path into that staid world. Sławomir had other plans. Deeply inspired by the music of John Coltrane, and jazz in general, Sławomir bounced around jazz groups that devoted themselves to performing in the style of John. While concentrating in his solo work, a chance opportunity opened up allowing Sławomir to perform in India as part of the Jazz Yatra Festival. This trip to India would completely change his life.
In India, Sławomir would discover both a spiritual and musical quest. Spiritually, the Eastern philosophy he encountered laid full bare something within him to want to openly express this spirituality. Musically, while performing with Indian sitar master Shujaat Khan and Turkish oud master Burhan Ocal, he discovered those sources of influence that once moved his musical idol John Coltrane. Unshackling himself from the early “free” and “avant-garde” Coltrane-indebted playing style he had worked for years honing, now he was discovering this new rung of jazz music with far more to teach him. Not knowing where to turn to learn this spiritual musical side, he befriended John’s widow, Alice Coltrane.
Under Alice’s guidance Sławomir would uncover ways to roll his spiritual awakening into his work. Taking cues from the Vedantic music of India, Sławomir applied from it all sorts of musical techniques and ideas into the creation of Samarpan. And in turn, Sławomir’s jazz grew increasingly far more Eastern-sounding. In this third way music, electronic embellishments became more droning and expansive. Non-western instruments began to take more pronounced roles. Somehow, by turning away from John Coltrane’s music he got closer to John’s true ideals. And much like Alice, blurring the lines between New Age, avant garde, devotional, and jazz until those boundaries are simply erased. What still surprises me is just how Czesław Niemen fits into all of this.
Czesław Niemen somehow takes a five year furlough from music and figures out enigmatic vocal phrasing that you’d be hard pressed to hear him use anywhere else but here. Meditative and floating in tone, it’s Czesław’s mantras that undulate around the music, finding that eternal dance within its melodies. As tablas, saxophone, and harp (which sounds unsurprisingly indebted to Alice’s style) round out all these arrangements, the daylight between Sławomir’s work and Alice’s Ashram work really was so small. When jazz snobs were literally laughing and ignoring all the great work Alice was doing during these years, here was a young Polish musician who ignored the naysayers and recognized all this potential in it. Knowing this, I deeply believe Samarpan has the potential to come out of its wilderness as well. You know what they say: a prophet only needs one believer…