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"(...)Guitarist Rafal Sarnecki, who was born in Warsaw in 1982 and moved to New York five years ago, also shows considerable accomplishment and even more potential. Less tightly wound than Kaczmarczyk but comparably adventurous, Sarnecki carries influences of the visionary American guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel.

Like Rosenwinkel, Sarnecki ventures far beyond the bebop and post-bop idioms of the past and into a freer - though still chordal - musical language. Sarnecki's original compositions merge the high-flown lyricism of Polish culture with an idiosyncratic, thoroughly disarming way of building long and winding musical phrases. He's clearly at the start of forming an improvisational syntax for himself, but it already shows originality and daring. (...)"

- Howard Reich, November 9, 2010, Chicago Tribune


"The Polish jazz guitarist Rafal Sarnecki casts a wide net. It's possible to hear minimalist classical, Latin dance, and folk—both American and Eastern European—in his music. Its foundation, however, is one of sturdy, smart, thoroughly contemporary jazz. Sarnecki is a composer, with a skillful touch at dramatic tension and pacing within his involved but highly melodic tunes; on record (his new one, Cat's Dream, just came out this week), they're laden with dense arrangements, but the underpinning is a light touch of single-note guitar lines that vibe like a piano. (Indeed, Sarnecki often doubles the guitar lines with piano.)"

- Michael J. West, August 28, 2014, Washington City Paper


Quotes from the Cat's Dream album reviews:

"Upon my initial listening, I realized that Mr. Sarnecki is an excellent musician, fine composer and intelligent arranger. He's also a smart bandleader; (...) There is nary a weak moment on these 8 pieces, songs that display variations in colors and rhythms with well-thought out melodies. (...) Rafal Sarnecki delivers a major statement on "Cat's Dream"; his music deserves to be heard. There are many fine solos on the recording, many of them building off the impressive melodic and harmonic structures Sarnecki has provided. The super rhythm section, Ms. Kicinska's supple and powerful voice, Lucas Pino's solid work on his different reeds and the guitarist's assertive playing all make this an album worth your time."

- Richard B. Kamins, August 8, 2014, 


"We’re always thrilled when arts council music doesn’t sound like arts council music. This Polish born Brooklynite guitarist has a knack for making free jazz for white people that checks in at the end of the spectrum where jazz blends into instrumental music, but certainly not the easy listening kind. Angular, edgy and retaining a sense of post bop swing, this is the sound of young people staying out too late that don’t care for EDM. Well done."

- Midwest Record, July 2014


"(...)Overall this is an ambitious effort, splendidly performed and beautifully recorded, adding up to an album of true artistic value, so rare these days. Sarnecki shows a distinctive process of growing up and developing his talents, one of which is surrounding himself with great musicians. This is definitely one of the most interesting recordings released so far in 2014 and I hope it will be received open-mindedly both by the audiences and the critics, which for projects like these is, sadly, far from being self-understandable. This is the kind of aesthetic approach I'd personally love to hear in many other recordings, especially those originating in the US, but in the case of Sarnecki he simply managed to maintain his European qualities unblemished. Brilliant stuff!"

- Adam Baruch, September 30, 2014,  


Quotes from The Madman Rambles Again album reviews:

"Very interesting record, very well composed and perfectly performed. Rafal Sarnecki is a composer and musician that we will surely hear about. You can feel the New York touch. Compositions are cohesive and interesting. It is a very pleasant listen. Awesome! I highly recommend it."

- Tomasz Stańko, Oct 8, 2010


"The Madman Rambles Again, Sarnecki’s sophomore release, is a huge step up from the 2008 debut Songs From a New Place, and places him squarely at the forefront of new jazz voices to the scene. (...) Madman is an album in its own class, and it has a lot to do with Sarnecki’s wise decision to let everybody step forward at the same time. The end result isn’t a series of people taking turns playing their parts, but instead a glorious layering of sound where concurrent solos intertwine and accompaniments circle without end, leaving the delirious sense of watching a tornado chase after its own tail.

Sarnecki’s sound on guitar really is good. He has a way of getting the melody to shimmer on the soft edges and burn on the hard. (...)When Sarnecki does raise his guitar’s voice up, it has a wonderful lyrical effect, not so much storytelling as providing an unconventional view of a fast car ride through a vast and dynamic city. (...) Madman was arguably album of the year for 2011. It’s one of those albums that each subsequent song makes me so happy that the album isn’t over yet."

- Dave Sumner, January 7, 2013, Bird is the Worm


"The Madman Rambles Again is a counterintuitive name for such a carefully constructed album. The compositions feature layered, periodically angular melodies, showing off tight arrangements and a serious dramatic flair. Far from being a madman, guitarist Rafal Sarnecki is a decidedly forward-looking leader with an intense aesthetic on this sophomore effort.

Instrumental leadership is not self-evident. The supporting instruments are at least as prominent, and often more so than the guitar, suggesting good things from Sarnecki's management. The importance of compositions seemingly supersedes individual statements, and a very egalitarian hand guides the arranging—both fine qualities.

"The Student Protest" is spun from several intertwined melodic statements: Beginning with a guitar drone, the track layers a three-note motif on the flute, followed by a mechanically boxy piano vamp, and finally a trumpet, adding a warm vibrato over the top. There is some tightly bookended improvisation before the sequence is repeated, but with a twist: the melodic components have all been rotated to completely different instruments. This is a technically challenging piece executed with flawless exuberance. Madman indeed.

The title track opens with a trumpet/tenor saxophone counterpoint duet that is again tightly composed. But here the music opens up a little, eventually breaking with a solid if unconventional walking bass line. The counterpoint remains integral, but plenty of room is given over to improvisation, notably a brilliant turn by pianist Pawel Kaczmarczyk.

"The Song Is You" employs broken meters and rhythms with an exceptional delivery by percussionist Lukasz Zyta. Sarnecki is also at his best here, turning in a clean, extended improvisation that confirms his chops as a soloist in addition to his obvious strengths as a composer. Tenor saxophonist Lucas Pino also makes a noticeably strong contribution. Perhaps the most straight-ahead track on the album, there are nevertheless plenty of neat tricks that keep the surprises coming.

The Madman Rambles Again keeps a lot of balls in the air, with inclusions of Latin Rhythms on "Hermeto," as well as some aggressive guitar effects on "Bucaramanga." But at the core of every track are disparate melodies tightly woven into whole cloth. Every second of this record is meticulously structured, with nothing left to chance except the solos, which themselves are highly contextualized by the surrounding compositions. It's clear that an enormous amount of effort went into crafting this album, and the result is worthy of a serious listen."

- Greg Simmons, All About Jazz, Aug 23,2011


"This is the 2nd album by the excellent Polish guitarist / composer / arranger Rafal Sarnecki, following his outstanding debut released a couple of years earlier. (...) The sextet format allows Sarnecki to develop a much richer orchestration and complex arrangements for his superb compositions, which he does beautifully, carefully avoiding overdoing it, which is a rare and commendable approach. The performances are of course stellar and these young musicians bring a wide smile on veterans' (like me) faces, seeing that Jazz has a future after all.

What I particularly admire about Sarnecki is his ability to eschew the Fusion trap – he manages to keep this album 100% Jazz, which is extremely rare for guitar albums these days. Polish Jazz legend Tomasz Stanko gives Sarnecki some warm compliments on the album's cover, and I'm only happy to concur with his opinion – this is definitely a great piece of music, which deserves repeated listening and an honorable place on the shelves of Polish Jazz discography. Wholeheartedly recommended!"

- Adam Baruch, June 2011


Quotes from the Songs From a New Place album reviews:

"It's amazing that this young artist already has so much to say...when you hear him it takes your breath away."

- Rzeczpospolita


"The youthful energy which emanates from every note on the CD perfectly corresponds with the surprising musical maturity of the leader, both on a compositional level and in its narrative drama and its
individual phrases."

- Konrad Żywiecki, Jazz Forum


"Through perfect teamwork the band creates a concise, logical musical structure, from which periodically emerges a pianistic display (by the great Pawel Kaczmarczyk) or a guitar solo."