Rob Adams, heraldscotland.com, MONDAY 30 JULY 2012
Polish saxophonist Maciej Obara’s group won’t easily forget their Edinburgh Jazz Festival debut.
Due to unforeseen circumstances, they were forced to bring a substitute drummer – not that you’d have known from the quality and assurance of their set – and not only did they have the tempo of their final number established by the sound-checking blues band in the neighbouring tent, but their bassist’s trickiest line, which must have taken a run-through or 10 to nail, was completely obscured by said blues band.
The audience won’t forget the gig in a hurry either, although that’s more to do with the fascinating blend of thoughtfulness, freedom, passion, superb improvising skills and structural discipline that the quartet presented. Obara likes to make strong, brief opening statements then bow out and let the others bring pieces into fruition spontaneously. The opening number had something of the tone and shape of the Scandinavian sounds brought to wider prominence by the ECM label in the 1970s until it took off down its own path and grew organically, dramatically and rhythmically through Obara, inset, and pianist Dominik Wania’s searching playing and some sharp, shape-shifting drumming.
Another piece appeared to be drifting towards complete abstraction until a brilliantly executed, intricate collective figure brought it to a breathless conclusion. That there are elements of folk music also in Obara’s work was borne out by the ease with which their guest, Fraser Fifield’s pipes and whistle fitted in alongside them – and vice versa – for the final two pieces, a collaboration that should be encouraged, even if just to give us the encore we were denied.