Some informations about Silesian Blues Band (SBB)

My informations about this group is really poor. I decided to write some lines cause no one else didn't do it.

This blues, jazz, rock band after activity in distant past is still interested for many fans on whole world as very universal and their music still is up to date. Really on polish scene group was unique not only in artistic dimension but also social. In that time man with long hair (leader Józef Skrzek) was perscuting by censorship. After all band was continuing activity. Today after finished leadering he don't realize continuing. He tell me "I never retreat..." and ".. it was uncontinuouns concerts in buildings and halls. Now I am interested in playing in strange places...". Therefore probably last concert at spring in Zabrze (Poland) 1994 is really last and never can't be repeated.

The story of SBB (Search - Break - Build) (from Piotr Szymczak)

SBB came into being in 1971 as Silesian Blues Band founded by Jozef Skrzek (who was by that time renowned bassist - known for his work with 'Breakout' - the famous (in Poland, of course) polish blues group. Skrzek was classicaly educated as a pianist). The other members of the band were Jerzy Piotrowski (drums) and Apostolis Antymos (guitar). The trio made some radio recordings but it was very hard for them to break through into the polish musical market. However, they were noticed by Czeslaw Niemen (a kind of a king of polish rock - he became extremely famous in Poland in 60's, when he was performing pop and soul songs. In early 70's he turned to the experimental, progressive music balancing on the edge of rock and jazz. I can heartily recommend his 70's stuff - it is a true progressive and original music). As a result, they joined him in the NIEMEN group, taking part in his artistic explorations and making music, which can be best described as 'impressionistic' and 'aleatoric' . Together they recorded "Requiem dla Van Gogha" [Requiem for Van Gogh] and "Marionetki" [Puppets] - two records with truly unforgettable music.

In 1974 they parted with Niemen and begin to play on their own. They shortened the name of the band - leaving just three letters SBB, which they explained as Szukaj, Burz, Buduj [Search, Break & Build]. It was a kind of their musical credo - to search for the new possibilities in music, break the barriers and build the new music. They got very popular - mainly because of their concerts, which were without any parallels in polish rock of 70's - suites with lots of improvisations, incorporating hard jazz-rock 'Mahavishnu or Hendrix - like' pieces as well as more soft 'classical ELP-like' Skrzek's piano entries and masterful Piotrowski's drumming (which can be compared to that of Billy Cobham). They were surrounded by a kind of cult among fans, became a symbol of young generation revolt (Apostolis had at that time probably the longest hair in Poland:-). Their first longplay (SBB 1) is a recording of concert from April 1974 and is an impressive document of an early live-SBB. The second one (Nowy Horyzont [New Horizon]) is a kind of musical manifesto - a sort of musical collage, combining bits with modern harmonies and Ravel - like climates with strongly rhytmic guitar and synth improvisations and naturalistic dissonance effects together with masterful piano cadenzas. 'The music is everywhere - Skrzek was saying - in Bach fugue, rock song or whistling. We like to play music - that's all. We don't care for borders and barriers - they are artificial. We want our music to be free, that's why we are never playing according to any programm'.

Their third album (Pamiec [Remembrance]) is much more stylistically clear than the first two. One may say that the logic and construction is joining the musical freedom here resulting in (in my opinion) the best SBB longplay. Skrzek's dreamy vocals are at their best. (The lyrics are writtem by the poet Julian Matej - full of metaphores and mystery). Fourth album („Ze słowem biegnę do ciebie” [I am coming to you with a word]) is quite different from previous. It is more symphonic - rock like and 'spacy' (one may think about Gong as a parallel) with lots of synths (although Apostolis guitar is still here and well). There are only two pieces on this LP (each one about 20 minutes) - a good example of music played by SBB at this time (during concerts they created a sort of a 'continous form' - music with no ending or beginning, full of fragmentary impressions, different paraphrases and frisks with sound). In 1976-79 SBB was trying to conquer foreign audiences - they played in Austria, West Berlin, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, West and East Germany and Hungary. They recorded 4 Lp's abroad - two in West Germany, one in East Germany and one in Czechoslovakia. These two released in West Germany were "Follow my dream" (1977) and "Welcome" (1978). Music presented here is much more compact, it is clear that SBB is trying to make their compositions more accesible for the listener. They are producing shorter forms (rather songs that suites), the music is a bit more commercial and poppier. Lyrics are in English - they are not written by Julian Matej any longer (which is a shame, as far as I'm concerned). Nevertheless their music remains to be very unique and its still full of new musical ideas and innovations.

Despite all these efforts, SBB failed to conquer western markets. It was after all the beginning of the disco and punk era in West. So in the next LP ("Memento z banalnym tryptykiem" [Memento with a banal tryptych]) there was no more the desire to attract western listeners. Julian Matej is back again with his mystical lyrics, Skrzek came back to the ideas from before Welcome, the record sounds in a way like a continuation of Pamiec, although there are some new elements here, as well as an additional guitarist - Slawomir Piwowar (who played before with the jazz group Paradox as well as with Czeslaw Niemen). This album could well be a good beginning of a new phase in SBB history, but it turned out to be their last album before the breakup in 1981. Since then Skrzek continued to compose and perform. It is impossible not to mention here the album "Ojciec Chrzestny Dominika" (Dominic's Godfather) - his absolute opus magnum. Skrzek is playing over 30 instruments here as well as singing (Matej's lyrics, of course) and, in my opinion, it is one of the best polish lp's ever recorded. His other works include, among others, music for Piotr Szulkin's film "Wojna Swiatow" [The War of the Worlds] - the heaviest album that he ever recorded; "Jozefina" [Josephine] - with English lyrics and original SBB lineup and "Pamietnik Karoliny" [Caroline's Diary]. He has never stopped performing and I will always remember his light-and-sound shows at Silesian Planetarium. The other SBB ex-members were very active too. Piotrowski became the most wanted drummer on Polish musical market and played with several groups, Apostolis turned to jazz and in mid 80's moved to NYC, where he worked as a session musician, recording with many jazz and rock bands including Pat Metheny as well as composing his own music.

It didn't seem very probable that they will ever play together again so it came as a great surprise when it was annouced that they will give a charity concert in 1993. It was a great show (documented by the album "Live 1993") and after it they decided that they will try to reactivate SBB. "We told each other that we have to play, because there is still some potential inside us. And, besides, we simply like each other..." - Skrzek told in an interview. New SBB lineup features, apart from Skrzek, Piotrowski and Apostolis, also Hryniewicz (vocal and acoustic guitar) and Rusek (bass). In this new incarnation Hryniewicz became a kind of new frontman and Skrzek is singing less, concentrating on his keyboards. They gave several concerts in Poland, which were in a good old SBB style featuring mainly the old material with some new pieces and, of course, lenghty improvisations. This year they went to USA, where they toured and recorded an album "Live in America". They are due to record a new studio album in the immediate future. "Our best album is still to come" they say.


Some concerts

SBB Members

If you know polish try polish version of this page.

Thanks Piotr Szymczak cause help in preparation and correction.