Sleep Safe and Warm (Rosemary’s Baby theme)
Ballad for Bernt
Vampires to Crypt
Bariera – 8
Sleep Warm and Safe (reprise)
Recorded November 2019
I’m afraid I have long since ignored artists who ‘curate’ things; select is
the word they are too highfalutin to use, but I make an exception here as
Adam Simmons is doing the ‘curating’ and what he’s selecting is the music
of Polish cinema and jazz composer Krzysztof Komeda. His wretchedly early
death, still in his thirties, in 1968 was not enough entirely to efface his
work; for Polanski in particular - Rosemary’s Baby most famously
but also Knife in the Water and Cul-de-sac amongst
This live concert was recorded at Deakin Edge in Australia on 29 November
2019 to mark Polish Music Day. It was also presented by Polish Cinema in
Australia to note the 50th anniversary of Komeda’s death and
contribution to film music. The overall concept of the evening belonged to
Simmons and Jean Poole. There are three interpolated Interludes in this
61-minute programme though one lasts 19 seconds, another 45 and the
longest, the second, actually stretches out for 2:21. It’s only the second
interlude that registers, since Niko Schauble’s percussion is foregrounded.
Otherwise I query their relevance.
The disc begins, and ends, with the theme to Rosemary’s Baby. It
allows one to savour the romanticist pianism of Tony Gould, whose eloquence
is unquestioned here and throughout. The remarkable wordless vocal comes
courtesy of Deborah Kayser, whose voice elsewhere is used instrumentally,
if again wordlessly, adding a rich sense of colour to the ensemble. Simmons
unveils a sinewy and strong sax solo in Crazy Girl whereas Ballad for Bernt draws out a supple piano introduction and some
genuinely pensive sax; altogether a well-crafted and a concise pleasure
that draws audience applause. Roman II shows a perceptive approach
to arrangements; the vibes of Nat Grant are prominent and so too the sax’s
repeated line, the bass and brass riffing away. Simmons draws a solo over
bass (Howard Cairns, strong toned) and Schauble’s drums. Trumpeter Gavin
Cornish takes a smoking solo in this swinging and verve-full opus full of
colour and space. The band wrongfoots the audience which breaks into
premature applause. For me this is one the highlights of the concert.
The most focused instrumental moment comes in Gould’s solo work on Moja Ballada which requires little translation. The refined
tracery of his phrasing, the limpidity of his touch and the romantic
artistry with which he plays is a perfect conduit for this exquisite
ballad. The band does well with the fragmentary elements of Astigmatic, one of Komeda’s most forward-looking pieces and
drifting colours – classy drumming here - and rhythmic variety are alike
features of this one. The warm sustained and evocative Kattorna –
nice flute here from Gideon Brazil and Kayser’s voice used as a kind of
canon with the saxes - generate a great sonority. Simmons ruminates on sax
and Cornish dovetails well.
Bariera – 8
is a solo saxophone reverie, and it refracts a melancholic soliloquy, an
Eastern European lament; Simmons’ dynamics are acutely perceptive, and the
feel is just right. Whereas there’s a solemn feel to the ensemble on Litania; a crisp trumpet and soaring vocal. Gould’s piano inclines
to the Baroque in PO Katastrophe and the sonorous band sounds
excellent – full, tonally rich, sprung by punchy, kicking rhythms.
This is a fine tribute to a much-respected musical figure. As noted, I
could have done without the scene-moving Interludes, which might have
worked on the night but don’t easily survive the trek to the CD drive.
Otherwise this is a successful disc, both punchy and reflective, as befits
the multifarious composer who is the worthy subject of the tribute.