The story of legendary Polish prog band SBB is rooted in 1971 when classically trained Jozef Skrzek meets two musicians named Anthimos Apostolis (guitarist of Greek origin) and drummer Jerzy Piotrowski. They begin rehearsing as a trio named SBB (Silesian Blues Band). Later this year, they are invited by Polish musical icon Czeslaw Niemen. The three albums they recorded together are still considered as important, bright, innovative and brilliant albums in the Polish rock history. In 1972 Niemen and his musicians are playing at the Rock And Jazz Now concert in Munich featuring also Charles Mingus and Mahavishnu Orchestra. Skrzek is delighted when he witnesses Mahavishnu live. That music, combining musical virtuosity and improvisational skills, thrills him and his two companions. But in 1973 Skrzek and Niemen decides to take different roads. Jozef, Anthimos and Jerzy returns to the name SBB, which now means "Search, Break & Build". In April 1974 the band gives two sold-out concerts in Warsaw, these shows are recorded and released as an LP simply entitled Live, it gets an overwhelming reception. The next album New Horizon is a solid jazz-rock album with great Moog synthesizer parts. On their third one entitled Memory the band drifts towards progressive rock with long suites (including an absolute 20-minute masterpiece) and excellent guitar and synthesizer solos. The fourth album is named With A Word I Run To You. In 1977 the band records the album Follow My Dream in West-Germany, it gets an overwhelming reception, and even turns into a commercial success. In 1978 SBB performs in Dortmund as a main star, with Colosseum II and Soft Machine and also gives a gig in Roskilde for an audience of 300,000! After this gig the British newspapers name SBB "the best rock trio after The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream". They also record another excellent album in West Germany, Welcome. SBB tours massively, releases Memento With An Ordinary Triptych but conflicts rise within the band, and in1980 SBB call it a day. However, they will reunite en reform many times. SBB is considered as one of the forerunners of progressive rock and jazz-rock and attracted many influential jazz musicians, who often performed with the band. The group regularly toured Czechoslovakia, East and West Germany, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Hungary, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium, and gradually gained a kind of cult status within the world of prog rock.
Live Cuts Köln 1978:
In 1978 SBB had never before been so many days on the road, just ahead of Christmas the band did gigs in Germany (the Follow My Dream tour), now released as a 2-CD entitled Live Cuts Köln 1978. The line-up is Józef Skrzek (vocals and synthesizer), Apostolis Antymos (guitar and drums) and Jerzy Piotrowski (drums). Incredible, how unique this bands sounds, almost epitomizing the eclectic approach within progressive rock, so adventurous, creative and daring. On stage SBB were even more eclectic, surely during their improvisations. The one moment spacy synthesizer flights with soaring strings, or sensational pitchbend driven Minimoog soli (Mountain Melody and Chimery II) like Jan Hammer from Mahavishnu Orchestra. The other moment swinging rhythm guitar with fiery bluesrock like Eric Clapton (in Improv: Przy Okazji), or a long drum solo (in Drums-Battle). And even a beautiful version of Silent Night (Cicha Noc), indeed, Christmas time. The long composition Improv: Snow And Rhine features SBB in its full splendor on stage (and why SBB was named the Silesian Blues Band) : first a swirling mouth-organ solo, then a funky rhythm-guitar and growling bass followed by a fat synthesizer solo with pitchbend, and finally a fiery rock guitar solo, wow, what an unique and adventurous sound, by excellent musicians!
Live Cuts Esbjerg 1979:
In the year 1978 SBB got a lot of praise during their tour in Scandinavia. After a 3-month break in the spring of 1979 the band played in Poland, Germany and then returned to Scandinavia, to Esjberg (the longest North Sea Port) in Denmark, at a local hotel, the relaxed setting was a real boost for the musicians. After a classic set of pieces in the first part, they filled the second set with improvisations, including a short one by a technician from the band on the Polymoog! The line-up was Józef Skrzek (vocals and synthesizers), Apostolis Antymos (guitars) and Jerzy Piotrowski (drums). These recordings on two CD's are from May 1st, 1979 in Esbjerg, Denmark (total running time 97:29).
On CD-1 you can hear that in 1979 the band has turned into a tight and experienced unit, due to extensive touring. Jozef Skrzek surrounded himself with a wide range of keyboards and synthesizers, inspired by Keith Emerson. On several tracks he delivers exciting work on the Minimoog with sensational use of the pitchbend, especially in Walkin' Around The Stormy Bay and Mountain Melody, apart from delicate play on soaring strings and the distinctive electric piano. The composition 3rd Reanimation contains a catchy mid-tempo, with a dynamic rhythm-section, strong interplay, and a long and fiery guitar solo, finally a mellow atmosphere featuring soaring strings and spacy sounds. And Loneliness - Theme delivers a slow rhythm, with soaring strings, and a moving electric guitar solo with howling runs. The final track Improv: Esbjerg Run showcases the awesome interplay from the trio, in a swinging rhythm with a funky sound, embellished with fiery guitar, dynamic drums and bombastic synthesizer layers, the crowd loves it!
CD-2 features 7 improvisations, I am pleasantly surprised that it is not too freaky or too experimental, and it showcases the varied sound of the band, from electronic or soaring strings with tender guitar, to a funky rhythm or rock guitar.
Live Cuts Köln 1978
***+ Erik Neuteboom
Live Cuts Esbjerg 1979
CD-1 **** Erik Neuteboom
CD-2 *** Erik Neuteboom
(edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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