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 as a matter of fact… And how the hell could it be different at the end?!? Here we go with nothing else but a cover version of Herbie Hancock‘s seminal ‘Chameleon’. But not any of the likes at the end… The one courtesy of the Łódź Orchestra of Polish Radio and Television under the direction of Henryk Debich back in 1975!
No need saying as to how this appeared like quite an event on many aspects back then. First, because it stands as another illustration of the Polish Jazz scene resistance facing the communist regime at the time. Second, because this would be Henryk Debich‘s only foray into Jazz/Funk. And this despite such a promising approach. Then third, because we’re talking here 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. Itself 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 living in the Western countries whose attention got caught up by this back then. But how could this ever have been different at the time?!?
Hopefully though, Berlin collective of DJ’s/producers Jazzanova have perfectly recaptured the atmosphere. This while putting out of a series of dedicated compilations. Beginning with ‘Formation 60’. Itself geared towards Jazz from the former East Germany. But also ‘Go Right’. Not to mention ‘Polish Jazz’. As many priceless documents therefore illustrating the existence of countless talents in the former Eastern Block at the time.
A native of Pabianice, Henryk Debich grew up in a family of musicians. Beginning with his dad who was a bandmaster of the orchestra of the largest textile factory in the area. Meanwhile his mom, brothers and sisters happened to sing in choirs.
He had private lessons on piano, trumpet and trombone. Later on graduating in Theory, Composition and Conducting at the Łódź Academy of Music. He sadly got arrested soon after the beginning of the World War II. This as part of a large operation of the Gestapo in Łódź held against the male youth. A tragic event which got him to first be placed in a camp in Radogoszcz, then in Dachau.
After the War, he took a job that brought him teaching in Pabianicka music school. Then he began working with the Polish Radio. Although pursuing his studies at the Conservatory H. Kijeńska-Dobkiewiczowej. Meanwhile focusing on music theory and conducting.
Debich co-founded The Entertainment Orchestra of Polish Radio and Television in Łódź back in 1950. Thus becoming its conductor and artistic director two years later. And he also managed to collaborate with various festivals. This in addition to becoming the second conductor of the Philharmonic Orchestra between 1956 and 1958. Eventually recording music for over 20 films and releasing more than 50 albums. Then also coming to work with countless orchestras abroad.
Henryk Debich sadly died on Jul. 04, 2001 in his native hometown at the age of 80.