Enter Enea Festival 2024, Poland

Szymon Ratajczyk saw Leszek Możdżer directing a festival that included John Patitucci, Brandee Younger, Malgorzata Kuś and Natalie Tenenbaum

At Enter Enea Festival 2024, clockwise from top left - Leszek Możdżer, Małgorzata Kuś, John Patitucci and Natalie Tenenbaum. Photos © Szymon Ratajczyk

On Sunday, 26 May 2024, a festival unique on the Polish concert map – the 14th annual Enter Enea Festival, featuring Leszek Możdżer as the artistic director – began on Lake Strzeszyńskie in Poznań.

The event was inaugurated by Leszek Możdżer’s musical tribute to the recently deceased Jan A.P. Kaczmarek. Then came ShataQS, which is, Malgorzata Kuś with her band consisting of Maciek Czemplik – guitar, Bartek Chojnacki – double bass, Dominik Klimczak – drums, and Kasia Pakosa and Michal Rudaś – backing vocals. The artists were accompanied on piano and Fender electric piano by none other than Możdżer himself. Małgorzata Kuś is a graduate of the Department of Jazz and Popular Music at the Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music in Katowice, as well the winner (in the repertoire of Edyta Geppert) of the final of the 8th edition of the TV programme Szansa na sukces (chance for success). The singer also gained experience as an actress at the Buffo musical theater in Warsaw. She has two albums to her credit – 2019’s Fenix, written in the tuning of A = 432 Hz (said to have good effects on the human body), and 2023’s WEDA, which refers to the philosophy of old peoples from Vedic times.

At the end of the festival’s first day, the stage was taken over by “creatures from under the ground” – “Crete” by French artist Philippe Quesne, leading the audience to the opening ceremony of the new facility designed by Krzysztof Maniak in Poznań’s Visual Park.

The second day of the festival (27 May 2024) began with a tribute to the recently deceased Jan Ptaszyn Wróblewski, whose funeral took place that very day in Warsaw. A piece commemorating the legendary saxophonist from Kalisz was performed as a duet by Leszek Możdżer and Tomasz Wendt.

Another strong highlight of Monday’s programme was a performance by Scandinavian band Gard Nilssen’s Supersonic Orchestra. The Norwegian percussionist and composer’s multi-member project brought together as many as 17 musicians on stage, including seven saxophonists, two trombonists, two trumpeters, three double bassists and three percussionists. It should be noted that the ensemble includes Polish saxophonist Maciej Obara, who has been working with Gard Nilssen for years.

The festival guests were also treated to an energising performance Monday evening by Colombian pianist, vocalist and saxophonist Jesus Molina, considered as a rising star of the international jazz scene. The musician was accompanied by Korean guitarist Rock Choi, American bassist Alex Polydoroff and Brazilian percussionist Danilo Amuedo.

Jazz excitement on the second day of the festival was crowned by the first ever performance in Poland by Natalie Tenenbaum, a critically acclaimed pianist, composer, music producer and singer. Among other things, she is the author of the arrangements for the cult Broadway musical Mean Girls by Tina Fey. Her second album, Standard Repertoire Vol. 1, is released this month. Leszek Możdżer played a piano duet with Natalie on Monday night, presenting the audience with, among other things, a jazz interpretation of works by Frédéric Chopin.

Participation on Tuesday’s concerts on Lake Strzeszyńskie was quite a test of stamina and… water resistance for the Enter Enea Festival participants. Strong storm clouds gathered over Poznań from midday, so most of the concerts had to be watched in the company of an umbrella and rain jacket. Fortunately, the musicians performing during the third day of the festival wonderfully compensated for these inconveniences!

Accompanied by a light drizzle, American harpist Brandee Younger gave her first ever concert in Poland as well. The artist also fulfils herself as a composer and educator. She was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2022. Younger boasts collaborations with musicians such as Pharoah Sanders, John Legend, Stevie Wonder, Beyoncé and the band The Roots. The harpist was accompanied during her performance in Poznań by double bassist Rashaan Carter and drummer Elle Howell.

Another performance on Tuesday evening was dedicated to Krzysztof Penderecki, and was played by the Atom String Quartet (Dawid Lubowicz – violin, Mateusz Smoczyński – violin, Michał Zaborski – viola and Krzysztof Lenczowski – cello) and Leszek Możdżer. The compositions performed were commissioned by the Italian Romaeuropa Festival. The concert confirmed the thesis that music affects not only listeners but all matter: with the end of the last piece, the rain also stopped, giving the listeners a moment of respite in the break before the climax of Tuesday’s jazz excitement.

The third festival day ended with a performance by the Dream Trio. Pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Dave Weckl played for the Poznań audience. These artists need no introduction to jazz lovers. Each of the musicians is considered a virtuoso of his instrument, and the concert and album achievements of each of them inspire respect and admiration. The men joined forces, treating the audience to an amazing musical spectacle.

The final day of the festival, 29 May, began with a performance by Linda May Han Oh – a Malaysian-born bassist and composer and Grammy award winner – and her American jazz quartet consisting of: Will Vinson – alto saxophone, Fabian Almazan – piano and Ziv Ravitz – drums. The artists were accompanied by a quartet of Poznań Philharmonic soloists: Ewa Kozieł-Suszycka – 1st violin, Olga Winkowska – 2nd violin, Przemysław Mrowiński – viola and Józef Czarnecki – cello. The musicians performed works from – as it turned out – Leszek Możdżer’s favourite album Aventurine

Wednesday’s second concert was an expression of explosive, energetic musical eclecticism. Kassa Overall – percussionist, vocalist, but also emcee and musical producer – took the stage with his band consisting of Bendji Allonce – congas, Tomoki Sander – soprano saxophone, percussion and Matt Wong – keyboards. The musicians treated the audience gathered at Lake Strzeszyńskie to an unusual, expressive demonstration of a masterful fusion of jazz and rap.

The festival’s culminating event was the eagerly awaited première by Voo Voo and Leszek Możdżer. It’s hard to believe that these musicians haven’t had the opportunity to play with each other until now. But, that’s what the Enter Enea Festival is for – to make musical history! Voo Voo played with a lineup familiar to all fans of the band: Wojciech Waglewski – guitar, vocals, Mateusz Pospieszalski – saxophone, vocals, Karim Martusewicz – bass and Michał Bryndal – drums. The artists prepared arrangements of the band’s songs enriched with Leszek Możdżer’s piano. During the performance, Możdżer revealed his next talent and, to the audience’s surprise, also… sang. A heart-grabbing moment was the performance of the song Stillness, to which Możdżer’s piano gave an extra, almost magical depth. After the last song, the audience did not give up and with thunderous applause “won” as many as two encores.

Unfortunately, this was the last feature of the Poznań jazz festival, and fans of the genre are left to wait until 1 October 2024, when the festival’s signature concert by Jan Garbarek with Trilok Gurtu will take place.

Text and photos: Szymon Ratajczyk (ratajczyk.art). Editor: Damian Kacprzak