Adam Makowicz once studied at the Chopin Secondary School of Music in Krakow, Poland. The Polish pianist fell in love with American jazz by listening to Art Tatum records. Last night at Blues Alley, Makowicz combined the clean, classical touch of Chopin with the improvisatory flair of Tatum. He was joined by American bassist Major Holley, a venerable veteran of the Duke Ellington and Woody Herman bands.
Makowicz proved to be a dazzling technician. Displaying a light, deft touch, he played quickly but gave every note the precise accent he intended. His left hand would pursue a catchy rhythmic figure while his right hand ran through 32nd notes in its wide-ranging adventures. Makowicz played standards like "Days of Wine and Roses" and "Lover Come Back to Me" with Holley and originals like "Upstate Georgia" by himself.
If there is a criticism of Makowicz, it's that he is simply a virtuoso imitator of swing and bebop pianists with no real statement of his own. Far more soulful in his playing was Holley, who was not above putting some humor and strutting into his playing. When Holley bowed his instrument, he sang rumbling, guttural vowels that were a delightful counterpoint to his hymnal bowing.
Adam Makowicz and Major Holley return to Blues Alley tonight. Makowicz can also be heard at the King of France Tavern in Annapolis May 27-29 and at Wolf Trap July 2.