Thu. Jan. 24, 2019

Henryk Debich – Kameleon (Polskie Nagrania Muza)

Most wanted! Henryk Debich & Orkiestra PR I TV W Łodzi – Kameleon (Polskie Nagrania Muza)

A subtle impression of déja vu floats around this piece of music. And how da hell could it be different?!? Here we go with nothing else but a cover version of Herbie Hancock‘s seminal ‘Chameleon’. But not any of the likes… The one courtesy of the Lodz Orchestra of Polish Radio and Television under the direction of Henryk Debich!

No need saying how this appeared like quite an event on many aspects at the time. First, because it stands as another illustration of the Polish Jazz scene resistance facing the communist regime back then (1975). Second, because this would be Henryk Debich‘s only foray into Jazz/Funk despite such a promising approach. And third, because we’re talking about the reinterpretation of a monument in the genre.

‘Kameleon’ is without a single doubt one of the definitive jewels from Debich & Co’s ‘String Beat’ album. A reinterpretation somehow flirting with ambient, with rearrangements courtesy of Jacek Malinovski. Meanwhile Andrzej Olejniczak (Big Band Katowice) stands the comparison with Bernie Maupin (Hancock‘s saxophonist) on the exercise.

Of course, rare are those of us coming from the Western countries whose attention got caught up by this. And how could this ever have been different at the time?!?
Hopefully though, Berlin collective of DJ’s/producers Jazzanova have perfectly recaptured the atmosphere via a series of dedicated compilations. They released for instance ‘Formation 60’, geared towards Jazz from the former east Germany, ‘Go Right’ and ‘Polish Jazz’. As many pricless documents illustrating the existence of countless talents in the former Eastern Block.

(*) Henry Debich (Jan. 18, 1921 – Jul. 04, 2001) born and buried at Pabianice, was a Polish conductor, composer, arranger and educator. Born in a family of musicians, his father, Bernard Debich, was a bandmaster from factory’s orchestra. Before the war, he had private lessons on piano, trumpet and trombone. He graduated in Theory, Composition and Conducting at Lodz Academy of Music.

He was arrested soon after the beginning of the World War II, on May 16, 1940, as part of a large share of the Lodz Gestapo. This led him to be placed in a camp in Radogoszcz, and then in Dachau. After the War, he took a job teaching in Pabianicka music school and began working with the Polish Radio. At the same time he continued his studies at the Conservatory H. Kijeńska-Dobkiewiczowej. He would work on music theory and conducting.

Debich was the co-founder and since 1952 the conductor and artistic director, of The Entertainment Orchestra of Polish Radio and Television in Lodz. Being a multi-annual music director, conductor and juror at festivals in Opole, Sopot, Kolobrzeg and Zielona Gora. He was the second conductor of the Philharmonic Orchestra (1956-1958). And together with its ensembles, he recorded music for over 20 films. He eventually released more than 50 LP’s throughout his brilliant career!

As a conductor and arranger, the maestro worked with orchestras in Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece and the Netherlands. But also in Cuba, East Germany, Portugal, USSR and so on. He also collaborated with opera and Musical Theatre in Lodz.
(* Words: Gabriel Aguillar)

Gabriel is the author of a comprehensive subject about Henryk Debich and the Polish Jazz scene on Interstellar Medium.

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