Friday night saw an unprecedented programme at Jazz Juniors. First the stage was taken by two students from Cracow’s Academy of Music, pianist Bartek Leśniak and drummer Artur Małecki. In the second part of the evening, our star was the bandleader of Tim Berne Trio – an alto saxophonist and doyen of New York’s jazz scene. It was a Polish-American night of absolutely unbridled improvisation.

Bartek Leśniak and Artur Małecki attracted the attention of Jazz Juniors Festival’s artistic director Adam Pierończyk: ‘I first heard them play at an improvisation workshop that I conducted at the invitation of the Cracow Academy. I invited them to appear at our Festival as a duo with a brand-new improvised programme,’ says Pierończyk.

Having accepted this invitation, the musicians indeed presented a totally unbridled improvisational set. ‘It is, I believe, the most sincere form of artistic expression,’ stressed the pianist in the beginning. Then he and the drummer opened their jazz-driven hearts to the audience. Much is happening there…

The Cracow-based pianist, music producer, and composer Bartek Leśniak studies piano in the class of Piotr Wyleżoł. He composes music in different styles; himself he plays the piano and all kinds of electronic keyboard instruments or synthesisers. He already boasts a rich experience as an arranger and studio artist.

Artur Małecki, a student in Łukasz Żyta and Wojciech Fedkowicz’s percussion class, has presented his original music at such jazz competitions and festivals as Blue Note Competition Poznań, Jazz on the Odra, Tarnów International Jazz Contest, and Krokus Jazz Festival, among others. He is the leader of ‘Artur Małecki & The Creature’, and winner of the ‘Jazz Debut Album 2022’ scholarship programme of the National Institute of Music and Dance. His debut album Widoki [Sights], which came out on 9th July this year under the well-recognised improvised music label ‘Fundacja Słuchaj Records’, has garnered many positive reviews in such magazines as ‘Era Jazzu’ and the weekly ‘Polityka’, among others.

The second part of the concert featured Tim Berne and his Trio. This US musician, active in the international scene for 40 years, has recorded more than 50 albums as bandleader, released under various labels. In 1996 he set up his own record label, Screwgun Records. Since setting root in New York in 1974, Berne has never strayed off the path of free improvisation. He has drawn inspiration from such second-generation avant-gardists as Julius Hemphill and has himself come to be regarded as a patriarch by a new generation of similar risk-taking enthusiasts.

‘What I am as a musician and a person is 99.9 per cent the result of my collaboration with Julius Hemphill and being inspired by his art,’ said Tim Berne at the start of the concert, paying homage to his idol.

Together with composer-guitarist Gregg Belisle-Chi and cellist Hank Roberts, they presented at the Cracow concert new compositions written by their leader specially for this line-up. The programme proved fascinating and a true revelation.