Rafal Sarnecki – “The Madman Rambles Again”

Not sure what causes it to happen, but it’s not so rare in jazz that I haven’t noticed the pattern happening before with other jazz musicians…  The artist puts out a debut album, one that’s perfect listenable, but doesn’t exactly set the world on fire.  And then the second album comes out and everyone’s left stunned and looking around the cinders and ashes for who was holding the damn match.

In this instance, it’s Rafal Sarnecki who’s got the flame.

Rafal Sarnecki - "The Madman Rambles Again"

The Madman Rambles Again, Sarnecki’s sophomore release, is a huge step up from the 2008 debut Songs From a New Place, and places him squarely at the forefront of new jazz voices to the scene.  Ironically, it may have been Sarnecki’s wise decision to take a step back that got him to the front of things.

Songs from a New Place suffered from its conventionalism.  It sounded like so many other guitar-led jazz albums, with the guitarist out front, stepping aside politely for other ensemble members to speak up for a little while before they, too, returned the gesture and let the guitar back in for some closing statements.  In that, there’s nothing wrong, but to excel in music, it helps when the musician’s voice sounds like their own and only their own.  Madman is an album in its own class, and it has a lot to do with Sarnecki’s wise decision to let everybody step forward at the same time.  The end result isn’t a series of people taking turns playing their parts, but instead a glorious layering of sound where concurrent solos intertwine and accompaniments circle without end, leaving the delirious sense of watching a tornado chase after its own tail.

Sarnecki’s sound on guitar really is good.  He has a way of getting the melody to shimmer on the soft edges and burn on the hard.  Jerzy Malek plays trumpet on the album, and his opening statement on the opening track announces vividly that this ain’t just another jazz album.  Lucas Pino on tenor sax plays these long rising notes that nearly lift the tunes’ intensity up and down all on his own.  The percussion unit of Lukasz Zyta, Pawel Dobrowolski, and Jose Manual Alban deftly navigate the obstacle course set by others without sacrificing any of their bang and pop.  Sarnecki on guitar, Pawel Kaczmarczyk’s piano and Wojciech Pulcyn’s bass are the binding force that keeps everything from spiraling apart.

When Sarnecki does raise his guitar’s voice up, it has a wonderful lyrical effect, not so much storytelling as providing an unconventional view of a fast car ride through a vast and dynamic city.

Sarnecki is a Warsaw, Poland native relocated to New York City.  I’ve been discovering some excellent jazz coming from the Polish scene, from both residents and ex-pats alike, some who I’ll feature in this blog.

The Madman Rambles Again clocks in at an hour and twelve minutes of excellent modern jazz.  It was released in 2011 on the Fresh Sound New Talent label.

Here’s a link to the Rafal Sarnecki site, where you can listen to all (or most of) Madman for free.

Here’s a link to the AllAboutJazz site where you can download a track from Madman for free, courtesy of Rafal and Fresh Sound.

Here’s a link to the Fresh Sound label site.

Available at Amazon: CD MP3

Madman was arguably album of the year for 2011.  It’s one of those albums that each subsequent song makes me so happy that the album isn’t over yet.