Jacek Raganowicz Quartet
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Jacek Raganowicz Quartet

Szczecin, West Pomeranian Voivodeship, Poland | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF

Szczecin, West Pomeranian Voivodeship, Poland | SELF
Established on Jan, 2014
Band Jazz Fusion

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MW: When did you first become interested in playing guitar?

JR: My first memories of playing guitar go back to childhood. My mum bought me my first guitar when I was twelve. I was into The Beatles, then Yes and Genesis. I always hummed melodies and songs on my way to school. Learning to play guitar was problematic at the time as there wasn’t really any professional teachers. For instance, my first teacher had very long nails on both hands; her stories about playing guitar are what I remember as particularly amusing.
I’m rather constant in pursuing my goals, so I kept looking for people who would help me fulfil my intention of achieving a professional career. In Szczecin, where I grew up, I found a teacher who helped me prepare for entrance exams at a local Music Community Centre, from which I graduated extramurally. The next step was Musical School, which turned out to be a problem, as after high school it was necessary to pursue higher education. However, I found a professional guitar teacher and moved to the other end of Poland to study at Music Education Faculty, where I had the opportunity of obtaining musical knowledge and musical training at the Music School. It was there that I learned the classical guitar techniques while learning to play on electric guitar with a pick by myself.

What artists shaped the style that can be heard on Return to Myself?

During my studies I went to the musical workshop in Chodzież, where I learned standards and the basics of improvisation, which had an influence on the music I make today. It was there that I got to know the history of jazz, as well as the music of Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Scofield, Pat Metheny and many others. The guitar teachers there were Marek Bliźiński and Jarek Śmietana, who taught me the basics of playing electric guitar, as well as many various ways of exploring this instrument.
At the same time at school I was getting to know the Preludes and Etudes of Heitor Villa-Lobos and other strictly classical composers. All that influenced the way in which I approach writing musical themes and improvising. I go by the rule of easily remembered, catchy themes and eurhythmics of improvisation.

It is known that a couple of years ago you underwent an accident, please tell us what happened.

It was during a period when I was already writing themes for the album, for example The Last Fly. I went to get shopping by car and when I was going back, I ran into a puddle under which there was a hole; I got carried to the left side of the road and a bus ran into the right side of my car. My arm was broken in half and had to fuse with a metal plate screwed to both sides of the bone. Playing with a plate in your arm is rather impossible, so I had to engage in other activities. After a couple of years the plate was taken out, but even before the operation I already wrote with my left hand, as the right hand was inert. As I recall both operations, I think I was very lucky to be taken care of by excellent surgeons: only people of supreme education and professionalism could help me regain control in my right arm. Afterwards it was a matter of many rehabilitation exercises and finally the first attempts of playing guitar again.


How did it affect you as a guitarist? Did you link your professional future with guitar before that incident?

Of course, all my professional plans connected to guitar had to be postponed until the prospective regaining of the full control over my arm; during that time I had to keep myself busy with earning a living.
As a sales representative, I drove about 240 000 kilometers a year and used up three cars. During my rides I listened to very diverse genres of music, but unitary in terms of melody and rhythm. When I regained the control in my fingers and slowly started to play again, it was natural to think of new themes and ways of performing them.

I think that the battle you fought to come back to being an active musician is particularly interesting. How much effort did it require?

I started to familiarize myself with guitar again during weekends and days off work. I did it for my own pleasure, playing to express the mood of particular moments. This is how the sad blues The Break Up was created. It is the first piece written after years, and it expresses my mood at that time.
Afterwards there came other pieces, perhaps more uplifting, until I started to come back to those written before the accident, which were harder technically. I always employ classical guitar techniques while playing electric guitar, especially in my right hand. I often change them, shifting from playing with my fingers to playing with a pick, which sometimes makes it hard to play in time. I also started writing new songs.
Then my wife, family and neighbors started telling me that they like what I do and that I should try to come back to playing professionally. I was afraid to make that decision, as I’m aware of the passing of time and the amount of work that needs to be put into it. However, when I made that decision, I felt I was coming back to myself; that’s why the album is called Return to Myself.

Let us now discuss the accompanying musicians. Are they your old acquaintances or people hired specifically for the session?

When I decided to get back to playing and writing, I started to look for musicians in and around Szczecin, who could perform the material I wrote. It turned out variously as it often does in this profession. A bit of luck and good circumstances are always necessary in order to find adequate musicians in adequate time and place.
Around that time, I saw Robert Czech’s album in EMPIK (a record shop). We went to school and played our first jazz standards and compositions together. I phoned him and he recognized my voice. Then it went quickly, as I send a demo and sheet music to Robert and he asked Piotr and Łukasz, who were interested in that kind of music. I went to Rybnik, where we met for a couple of rehearsals, after which we went into the studio and recorded all of the material. Personally I am very pleased with the fact that they played on the record and that it all turned out without redundant talks. They are very good musicians, easy to work with. I’d now like to complete the task and start touring in September: I already have half the material for the next album, which I’d like to record with slightly different musical foundations.

Is Return to Myself your studio debut or can you be heard somewhere else, perhaps as a guest musician?

It is my debut because of the accident but I think that other records will follow it. I feel an exceptionally strong sense of energy and motivation to play and write, especially when I have an opportunity to work with such good musicians.

Tell us about the backdrop of recording Return to Myself. It is a very joyful and melodic record. Are these the features that you can personally relate to?

Indeed, these are qualities that I search for in writing themes, as well as in improvising. The accompanying musicians are very helpful in playing that kind of music; Robert’s, Piotr’s and Łukasz’s improvisations make playing differently impossible. This is exactly how I imagine collective playing.

What instruments were used on the record and how much of the natural, acoustic sound is the contribution of the producer?

When it comes to instruments, I used my first electric guitar – Aria Pro II – in pieces The Last Fly and Helmut!!! Take it Easy! All the other ones were played on a guitar made on request by Jarek Olejniczak, a luthier from Szczecin. He made a very good instrument, which allows me to change the tone of the sound depending on a specific role and character of the guitar sound in the given piece.

I have a Pick Holder stuck to my guitar, which allows me to quickly grab picks and change the way I play, as in Talking with a Wife or The Lights of Stars. These changes make the piece diverse in sound, as I simultaneously change the positions of adapters. The last two songs are played on an acoustic guitar with a possibility to plug it into the amplifier.

When it comes to the second half of your question, this sound of the record was a foundation from the start. During my first meeting with Grzegorz Gutowski, when we were setting up the date of recording, I asked him if it was possible. He replied affirmatively and said it certainly had to be done. Grzegorz took care of setting up microphones; him and Michał Cholewa recorded all of the album. It was a record debut at MAQ Studio, which was then being built; maybe that is why it sounds so natural.

Before that I was considering recording on tape for the sole reason of the natural quality of the acoustic sound.
Before the recording I listened to a couple of records by various musicians and the ‘plastic’ sound was the single thing that struck me. Even improvisations are plastic and devoid of emotion. Is it bound to be this way because of the rapidly growing recording technology?

That is why I wanted my music to be complying with the idea of transferring emotions, as that is its original definition. If a blues is sad, it has to cry and not pretend to cry.

Where can we buy Return to Myself by the Jacek Raganowicz Quartet?

As for today the record is available on the internet in the Fonografika shop, as well as many other internet shops. Aside from that, samples of pieces are available on my website – www.jacekraganowicz.com

I am pleasantly surprised by the number of buys and entries to the samples on my website. A month after the debut the pieces are played in the States, Malaysia, Spain, England, Germany as well as Japan and China. It’s very inspiring and it encourages to keep on creating. To me it also means that one should never give up and always fight for their dreams…

Thank you. - Maciek Warda


".... Jacek's technical efficiency on electric guitar and classical is amazing. Sometimes, his fluent passages reminiscent of Pat Metheny or John McLaughlin. For Raganowicz, melodies are most important. His ambition is to compose a guitar themes and improvise playing such the listener was able to hum it, and later - to remember. I must admit that in most cases, the musicians manage to fulfil this task. The themes are melodious, light, with another study could serve as canvas of songs. Stylistically, the album places between the delicate playing Latin, blues and jazz easy listening. It is therefore rather nice, lightly and nicely, but at the same sophisticated. It is worth reach for the "Return To Myself."

Marek Romanski, Jazz Forum 12/10 - Marek Romanski


Discography

1. CD "Return To Myself"
2. On the web side www.jacekraganowicz.com you can listen and see few songs from our concert and press articles

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Bio

Like most of my generation in the early, I was fascinated by the Beatles. From that period, I gained the love of melody. Then came a period of great change in rock music and listened mostly Yes, early Genesis, and Pink Floyd.

At the same time, I began to explore jazz with his depth of rhythm, improvisation, and the elusive atmosphere of swing. Learning at school and opened my musical studies on classical music. All these trends were mixed and shaped my approach to music. With time, the burden of interest comes clearly in the direction of jazz, but I never forgot and I cut off myself from the roots. In that time, I discover the works of such musicians as Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, but also the Yellowjackets, GRP, Michael Brecker, Keith Jarrett and Heitor Villa - Lobos. Fascinated me most in these unusual melody, rhythm and a unique, distinctive individual sound of each.

The development of music is constantly changing, and therefore constantly looking for new means of expression, something that is personal and unique and yet natural. Therefore, after years of playing standards, I felt that I was ready to implement their own project and his own compositions. CD Return to Myself is a registered copyright on the stage of my musical journey. Unique emotions that accompanied the recording of that album inspired me to take further steps and to continue developing their own compositions and music project Jacek RAGANOWICZ Quartet.

Band Members