The end of the 60’s is an important period in jazz, as well as rock music. Both in Poland and the rest of the world, the year 1969 was a caesura for those who saw in records such us King Crimson’s debut the birth of progressive rock, and those for whom Krzysztof Komeda’s death marked the end of a certain stage in Polish jazz. The boundaries are of course a totally contractual and unspecified matter, but definitely the turn of the 60’s and 70’s was an extremely creative period, which set the foundations for various styles and trends. In this time – the year 1970 – in Krakow, Laboratorium was also born – although its roots must be searched for in a more distant past…
Janusz Grzywacz, Laboratorium’s leader, set his first musical steps in Krakow. Basically throughout the whole high school period he regularly formed bands: Smiacze, Lamparty, Tytani, in which also played Marek Stryszowski, his school companion, who happened to live on the same street. In that time Grzywacz had also connections with Krakow’s cabaret scene and with the emerging STU Theatre. During his collage years in Polish studies he formed another band. Eventually a five-person lineup was set, consisting of Janusz Grzywacz (piano), Mieczyslaw Górka (drums), Waclaw Lozinski (flute), Edmund Maciwoda (bass, soon to be replaced by Maciej Górski) and Marek Stryszowski, who did the vocals and played the bassoon, to finally replace it by a sax.
Their live debut was on the Gitariada ’71 festival. They start to play fusion, jazz-rock music, as the predecessors of such sounds in Poland. The first years of their activity brought mainly acoustic music, cleverly escaping any definitions. The musicians searched and experimented. The situation in which Poland was at that time – the limited access to Western recordings and albums – was not an obstacle for the band. On the contrary, Laboratorium became an unique sound, which was often underlined in various reviews.
The band’s album debut was in January 1973. The record consisted of two tracks recorded in April ’72 in a studio that belonged to the PR III of the Polish Radio. That recording session was an award for taking second place on the Jazz Nad Odra ’72 festival. The tracks were noticed for a different approach both towards harmony and tension-building. The first song – ‘Choral’ – included also a vocal fragment by Marek Stryszowski. In the latter period his signing became an important and significant element building Labolatoriu’s style, although it limited only to vocalizations, often revealing the use of electronic voice-modulation effects – here, however, Stryszowski, as a ‘classical’ vocalist, sings the track’s lyrics.
In 1973 the band was again awarded on the Jazz Nad Odra festival, this time taking first place and the award for best composition (Janusz Grzywacz’s ‘Prognoza na jutro’). This prize actually meant an advance from the amateur status to professionalism. In 1975 Czeslaw Niemen, who just left his band Aerolit, offered the group his cooperation. He performed with Laboratorium on several shows and festivals, presenting music from the album ‘Katharsis’ along with new songs, which became the basis for a double-album ‘Idee Fixe’, released a few years later. The cooperation had however only a ‘guest’ character – Niemen soon formed a new band, while Laboratorium kept following their own path. The band met at that time with another musician – Tomasz Stanko, with whom they performed at Zaduszki Jazzowe ‘ 75. The music undergone some changes (Janusz Grzywacz replaced his acoustic piano for a novelty at that time – Fender Rhodes), so did the lineup. The band parted with Waclaw Lozinski and Maciej Górski was soon replaced by Krzysztof Scieranski (known from playing with Marek Grechuta), followed by his brother Pawel Scieranski, who became the first guitarist in the history of Laboratorium. In this lineup the band recorded its first official album – ‘Modern Pentathlon’.
The record consisted of a long, five-part title track – „Pieciobój nowoczesny’ and four shorter songs, apart from one (‘Grzymaszka’), strongly settled in the funky style. In the title suite we can hear electronically modulated vocalizations by Marek Stryszowski (whose experiments could resemble the style of Urszula Dudziak), as well as a rich usage of sound potentiality of a single, monophonic Roland synthesizer (which was operated at that time by Janusz Grzywacz) and accelerated, fragments based on twitchy, pulsating drums, and recalling the achievements of Mahavishnu Orchestra. What is important, the band with all those various references kept their artistic identity, confirmed with musical sensitivity and the musicians’ skills.
The album was released in the Polish jazz series (nr 49) in an unbelievable pace considering the Polish phonographic standards at that time. There often occurred such situations when the time from recording the album to releasing it took about a year or even longer, while Laboratorium’s debut – recorded in the beginning of summer ’76 – was launched in fall, during the next Jazz Jamboree festival. An innovatory (at that time) album premiere was organized in the Polish Recordings hall in Warsaw, along with record-signing (years after it was announced that the sales count for ‘Modern Pentathlon’ reached 115 thousand copies!). Following the success of their album the band begins to perform again, apart from playing in Poland it also visits Germany, as well as the exotic Jazz Yatra festival, which took place in 1978 in India and was another important step in the group’s career (apart from Laboratorium the Polish representation consisted also of Czeslaw Niemen’s and Zbigniew Namyslowski’s bands).
Even before the trip to the festival, in 1997 the group recorded another two albums with a lineup extended by Pawel Valde-Nowak, playing the congas. During the September shows in Warsaw’s ‘Akwarium’, an album for the „Bialy Kruk Czarnego Krazka’ series was recorded – ‘Aquarium Live No. 1’, which tried to capture the atmosphere present on Laoratorium’s concerts. Meanwhile, in Krakow’s ‘Rotunda’ the band recorded the album ‘Nurek’, which was supposed to be released by Polskie Nagrania, at the time of the Jazz Yatra festival. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. Simultaneously the band was contacting Helicon (the International Jazz Federation’s record label), which eventually released ‘Nurek’ under the English title ‘Diver’. As for Polskie Nagrania, the group prepared in 1979 a one-record album ‘Quasimodo’ (Polish Jazz series, nr 58), while the material meant for Elacoli, ‘Nogero’, was released on the German market by View Records. The first of the albums contained a few longer compositions intertwining with various and fascinating miniatures.
The end of the 70’s brought another personal changes within the band – the group parted with Mieczyslaw Górka, who was in Laboratorium from the beginning. Andrzej Mrowiec, previously known from Maanam, became Laboratorium’s new drummer. Soon after that Krzysztof Scieranski left the band and started a cooperation with Zbigniew Namyslowski (he was replaced by Krzysztof Olesinski, also from Maanam) and so did his brother Pawel (Ryszard Styla took his place in Laboratorium).
After a successful performance at the Zurich Jazz Festival, a Swiss agency Face Music took care of the band. In these years Laboratorium performed on less shows in Poland, more often visiting the West. In the turn of February and March ’82 the group recorded its performances in Krakow’s STU Theatre and released them on an album ‘The Blue Light Pilot’ (with the following lineup: Grzywacz – Stryszowski – Styla – Olesinski – Mrowiec). The band’s music slowly changed, so did the instrumentation – Janusz Grzywacz more often used various synthesizers, as well as one of the first in Poland, custom-made 16-step sequencer. On that album for the first (and only) time appeared a track which wasn’t written by the band – Thelonious Monk’s ‘Straight No Chaser’, arranged in an unique way, mostly thanks to the mentioned sequencer. In the title track, extremely mechanical and full of energy, there are interwoven various citations and references. The next album – ‘No. 8’ (1984) – continued the band’s search, giving more original ideas. Among them worth mentioning are the use of a vocoder, the enrichment of the rhythmic pattern by adding Jan Pilch’s various percussion instruments and the guest appearance by violin player Jan Bledowski, who later toured with the band. The last studio album with brand new material was prepared two years later. ‘Anatomy Lesson’ was another logical step in Laboratorium’s career. Sampled sounds appeared – yet another progress in the musical search. The album till this day intrigues with the variety of its sound, in the same time being compact and characteristic to the band’s overall creation.
The group also functioned as a trio: Grzywacz – Stryszowski – Pilch, performing with this lineup on festivals such as ‘Electric Music Island’ in Wroclaw (1984). Meanwhile, Jan Pilch permanently joins the band. In the last years of their activity, Laboratorium was supported by Jaroslaw Smietana, among other places they visited Switzerland.
In various press articles from the 90’s one can see the year 1990 as the end of Laboratorium’s career. During the next decade the band appeared several times on stage, also during the celebration of their 25th anniversary (which was documented by TV production ’25 Years of Laborka’) – all the band’s guitarists appeared together on stage at that time. Janusz Grzywacz is an active illustrative musician, he writes for the theatre (more than 100 premieres) and for the film, he also released two solo albums – ‘Muzyka osobista’ and ‘Mlynek Kawowy’. Marek Stryszowski performs with his band Little Egoist, he’s also the boss of a PSJ branch in Krakow. It’s impossible not to write about all of Laboratorium’s musicians – some of them are still active on the scene, others ended their careers in music. Laboratorium, however, gained a solid and unquestionable status in Polish rock and jazz music. Janusz Grzywacz sums it up: I think we had our fantastic.. no, not five – eleven minutes, which I sincerely wish to all musicians. We played more than a thousand concerts, were invited by major festivals and recorded 9 albums. I know that such thing is impossible to achieve in the jazz market nowadays. I also know that Laboratorium never really fell apart, to be honest. It’s because that our music is still inside us. In each of us there’s still the same way of thinking and playing, the same sensitivity and perspective towards music, which characterized Laborka. And it always will. (Michal Wilczynski)
This is the 2nd album by Polish Jazz-Rock Fusion ensemble Laboratorium, which was one of several great Polish bands (like Extra Ball for example) playing in that vein during the 1970s. Founded by keyboardist Janusz Grzywacz, the band’s founding members included also saxophonist / vocalist Marek Stryszowski and drummer Mieczyslaw Gorka. After an initial period of trying to find a musical identity, the band was joined by brothers Pawel Scieranski on guitar and Krzysztof Scieranski on bass (one of the greatest Polish bass players) and settled into the Fusion genre, with a musical approach and sound not far away from Weather Report. This, their second recording, presents them in their full power and the recording is quite stunning in its sophistication and instrumental aptitude. The music includes pieces composed by all members of the group. As opposed to most American Fusion at the time, which was mostly based on simplistic melodies and endless instrumental doodling, this music is atmospheric, intelligent, sophisticated, well developed and coherent, clearly well rooted in the European musical tradition. Fusion fans are well advised to try this out and explore this wonderful music, which is expanding the genre’s limitations to the max. This music will also interest fans Prog fans, as it is close in spirit to the Canterbury genre. Superb stuff (Adam Baruch)
In other words: High class Jazz-Rock !!!
Mieczysław Górka (drums, percussion)
Janusz Grzywacz (piano, synthesizer)
Krzysztof Ścierański (bass)
Paweł Ścierański (guitar)
Marek Stryszowski (saxophone, vocals, effects)
01. Przejazd (The Journey) (K. Ścierański) 1.35
02. I’m Sorry, I’m Not Driver (K. Ścierański) 7.07
03. Etiudka / Little Etude (Grzywacz) 1.26
04. Śniegowa Panienka (The Snow Girl) (M. Stryszowski) 8.16
05. Lady Rolland (M. Stryszowski) 1.44
06. Quasimodo (Grzywacz) 10.51
07. Kyokushinkai (Górka/P. Ścierański) 2.54
08- Ikona / An Icon (In Memory Of Zbigniew Seifert) (Grzywacz) 6.15
09. Etiudka (Grzywacz) 2.34
10. Sniegowa Panienka (M. Stryszowski) 11.08
11. Odjazd (Górka/Grzywacz/K. Ścierański/P.Ścierański/Stryszowski) 5.36
12. Zdrowie Na Budowie (Grzywacz) 6.46