Chopin and changin'

Jazz meets classical in a performance that explores the musical relationship between Chopin and the art of improvisation.

chopin jazz 248.88 (photo credit: )
chopin jazz 248.88
(photo credit: )
This year's Opera House jazz series has spread its cultural net far and wide. The first installment, a couple of months ago, explored a blend of jazz and tango music and, later in the series, there will be intriguing synergies between jazz and Beatles music, soul and even improvisations on the works of one of our very own preeminent composers, Sasha Argov. This week's visit is by Polish pianist Leszek Mozdzer, who teams up with Swedish jazz bass player-cellist Lars Danielsson and Israeli percussionist Zohar Fresco, for the concert Improvising Chopin. It offers an alluring mix of the romantic yearnings of Chopin and jazz explorations seasoned with ethnic percussion colors and textures - courtesy of Fresco - from this neck of the woods. While the triangular, cross-cultural blend may, at first, seem like a genre-straddle too far, in fact Mozdzer, Danielsson and Fresco have been peddling their multi-layered musical wares across Europe, with considerable success, for several years now. The three-pronged confluence has also produced three albums in the process - The Time from 2005, Between Us and the Light in 2006, and Live in 2007. It must be said that, at least, Mozdzer and Danielsson share some common educational ground. Both are well versed in classical works with Danielsson attending the Music Conservatory in Gothernburg, and Mozdzer getting his classical grounding at the Stanislaw Moniuszko Conservatory in Gdansk. However, both quickly made the leap into more improvisational areas. In 1985 Danielsson formed a jazz quartet with American avant-garde saxophonist Dave Liebman, compatriot pianist Bobo Stenson and drummer Norwegian Jon Christensen. He has also performed and recorded with such global jazz leading lights as guitarist John Scofield, drummer Jack DeJohnette and saxophonist Charles Lloyd. Fresco was first noticed in this country, as a young prodigy, as a member of seminal east-west musical band Bustan Abraham. In the intervening 19 years, he has traveled the world with songstress Ahinoam Nini, and performed and recorded with the likes of stellar Indian tabla player Zakir Hussain and American percussionist Glen Velez. You couldn't say Mozdzer took too long to get into his musical idiom either. Born in 1971, he has been playing the piano since he was five. It was at "the grand old age" of six that he first encountered jazz, when his father gave him a birthday present of one of compatriot jazz pianist Adam Makowicz's records. However he began exploring the possibilities offered by the jazz genre in earnest at the age of 18 when he joined forces with celebrated Polish jazz clarinetist Emil Kowalski. A couple of years later he began working with a local jazz combo called Milosc, and in 1992 he received an individual award at the International Jazz Competition Jazz Juniors competition in Krakow. He'd made his mark. Since then he has made numerous forays to the States and collaborated there and in Europe with such jazz greats as bassist Buster Williams and saxophonists Billy Harper, Joe Lovano and Archie Shepp, as well as with high octane trumpeter Lester Bowie. Then again, Mozdzer has been active on so many musical fronts he almost defies categorization. Consider, for example, his synergy with Polish death metal band Behemoth, as well as a recording with Pink Floyd frontman David Gilmour. There is also the small matter of a Nirvana cover on The Time with Danielsson and Fresco. But Chopin remains one of his musical and emotional mainstays. "We've got Chopin in our minds and fingers," Mozdzer has said. "It comes out subconsciously in improvisation. He frequently quoted folk phrases and rhythms, although he considered them just an inspiration." Following that path so conscientiously, one might think that Mozdzer has become his country's quintessential jazz pianist. The 37-year-old is not sure. "How to achieve 'Polishness' in music, to that question I have no answer," he says frankly. Perhaps we will all be more enlightened in that department after next Friday's concert. Show starts at 10 p.m. tonight, Jan. 30. Tickets are NIS 115-199. For more information call (03) 692-7777 or visit