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Michal Urbaniak: Fusion

With the advent of Tony Williams Lifetime and later Weather Report and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, the jazz/rock fusion movement had spread to Europe. Among several important pioneers in the genre across the pond was Polish violinist Michal Urbaniak, who along with his band of Polish gypsies (including keyboardist Adam Makowicz) recorded the self-explanatory Fusion in 1973. Borrowing elements from Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express, Klaus Doldinger & Passport and especially the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Urbaniak and his compatriots cooked up a intense hybrid based on throbbing rhythms, disciplined unison lines and freewheeling improvisations provided by the violinist and his wife Urszula Dudziak, whose wordless vocals were often electronically enhanced with Echoplex. Dudziak’s otherworldly scatting is put to best effect on the 14-minute “Bengal” and the funk-driven title track.

All these elements-jazz harmonies and improvisation filtered through a pop sensibility and melded to bombastic backbeats-come together in spectacular form on the blazing opener “Good Times, Bad Times,” “Bahamian Harvest” and “Seresta.” On the album’s lone ballad, “Impromptu,” Urbaniak showcases his penchant for dark lyricism. And on “Deep Mountain” he incorporates Eastern European folk scales alongside wicked wah-wah laden statements.

Credit drummer Czeslaw Bartkowski for providing the Cobhamesque firepower that propelled the band. But the overall vision belongs to Urbaniak, classically trained violinist turned jazz enthusiast turned fusion pioneer.

Originally Published