Akumla Torres laid down by Jaroslaw Smietana and Extra Ball [Jaroslaw Smietana on guitar and piano, with Jose Torres holding down the beat on percussion, Jacek Pelc on perkusja, Antoni Debski reinventing the bass lines, along with Adam Kawonczyk who soars on trumpet], was recorded live for Polish radio back in August of 1978.
The album is heartfelt controlled and structured jazz that incorporates elements of rock that drives, is filled with an undefinable smooth intensity, yet is never deliberately presented in a manner to attract attraction for attention’s sake. Though … having said that, with a moniker like ‘Extra Ball,’ the word ‘exhibitionist’ does come to mind, which implies the deriving of sexual gratification from fantasies or acts that involve exposing one's genitals to a non-consenting stranger. But then jazz musicians were always famous for having a bit of tongue in cheek fun with sexuality, with Herbie Mann’s Push Push instantly coming to mind; but I digress. The show must have been astonishing to see and hear live, as the album reaches the highest of artistic jazz levels, and swings with an effortlessness, yet is remarkably laced with understated personal visions.
Consisting of but four lengthy tracks, the outing never fails to communicate, wholly captures the listener’s attention, and creates an easy going atmospheric vibe from a man who holds more musical honors than most artists ever dream of. And if that weren’t enough, he’s smartly added his temperament and inspiration to the likes of Freddie Hubbard, David Gilmore, Eddie Henderson, Art Farmer, Carter Jefferson, along with a list of others that would go on endlessly. I suppose that the best compliment I could lay on this seminal artist is that he was a more than talented musician, and a superb teacher.
Born into some of the darkest days of Polish history, Jaroslaw Smietana died far too young at 62, born in the same year as I was, meaning that at the time of his death, he was still coming into his stride, still forging new concepts and ideas, still captivating audiences as an engaging performer who would lace the most interesting stories in between songs, a true musical storyteller far before the term was ever made popular.
There’s an attention to detail found here, and for that detail to shine so wonderfully, even during a live performance, is a testament to the skill and vision of a relentless man always seeking to give not only more to his audience, but to himself … because after all, the first person an artist must please is themselves; after that, it’s all about the smile as others relish in the joyous reverberations.