Paulina Owczarek & Peter Orins – Press



About “You Never Know’

Free Jazz Blog / Fotis Nikolakopoulos

Sometimes things are just that simple. This duo of Peter Orins on the drum set and Paulina Owczarek on alto saxophone is one of the best things I’ve heard in a long time. Too bad I listened to this recording after I submitted my best of for 2021 list. It should be in there.
Both artists know each other for a while now and that’s totally transparent on You never know. Their interaction is amazing; it is like you are listening to one person playing two instruments at the same time. Quite simplistic, I know, but that’s the truth and there’s no reason to put it in another way.
The two main pieces of the cd, ‘How people behave’ and ‘Three rules that live,’   clock around eighteen minutes and they could stand on their own as digital tracks (a current trend but not my cup of tea) for any listener to get to listen to them for the first time. They master their instruments and are willing and able to travel the distance between free improvisation and free jazz (even high energy at some points) quite easily.
Orins seems in total command of his drum set, a master on small gestures, moves, noises. But not like a solo artist. He plays in unison, they play in unison. Owczarek’s alto has the capacity of playing any melody she decides, gargling and blowing out. Amazing stuff indeed. Sometimes, totally unexpectedly, they climaxed, allowing raw energy to pour out from the speakers. At other instances the explored the microcosm of their instruments in detail.
If you are into sax-drums duos, or any other label we tend to give to capitulate in front of a great work of art that defies all labels, well, you know. Buy it.


(…) Together, they embark on an improvised musical adventure that’s both unconventional and experimental. (…)

The result is now heard on “You Never Know.” The title is apt, as with these two artists, you never really know what to expect. It often requires guesswork to discern exactly what you’re hearing. Nevertheless, most can be distinguished with attentive listening. The music the duo creates emerges in complete freedom. There are no rules, no limits, no boundaries. The drive for experimentation is significant and resonates in the five pieces that make up the album. Don’t expect exuberant free jazz: Owczarek and Orins conduct their musical experiments in confined spaces, sometimes even on a square millimeter, with a few exceptions.

The music develops organically, devoid of defined rhythms, melodic escapades, or clear structure. The two musicians play in the moment, where anything is possible. Strikingly, despite the presence of a wind instrument, much of the music carries a percussive quality. Owczarek often doesn’t produce tones; she plays with breath, sucks, sputters, clicks, and murmurs using her instrument, providing the percussion and objects that come to life through Orins’ touches.

Though the music may be largely intimate, it is lively, possessing a heart and a soul. The joy of playing emanates from it, and the two musicians audibly challenge each other to extract even more from the music, even if it’s minute. The duo frequently sounds like craftsmen ingeniously constructing something, with all the accompanying sounds. It takes some effort to truly appreciate the sounds. Careful listening is required, or else you miss the details and essence of the music.

Yet even the essence isn’t rigidly defined. The music of Owczarek and Orins revolves around total and boundless freedom. This doesn’t yield the easiest music, but it does create music that lingers in your mind after the final notes have sounded. In all its freedom, the music isn’t carefree; the two musicians work intently, resulting in the convergence of experimental individual play. When Owczarek truly starts playing saxophone tones, free jazz emerges, unleashing an abundance of energy. Even then, or perhaps precisely then, the duo proves that musical freedom knows no limits.

On “You Never Know,” the Polish saxophonist and the French percussionist craft music that convinces through serious playfulness. Listen and experience that these aspects are not contradictory. For those open to musical experimentation, this is a profoundly beautiful album.

Revue & Corrigée / Joël Pagier

Face à Peter Orins, l’alto est nu et solitaire. Point d’effets ni de mise en scène, de mots ni de mouvements. Nous sommes ici dans un échange purement acoustique, tendu sur le fil de l’instant et ne dépendant strictement que d’une interaction que le temps et la pratique ont rendue probable, sans pour autant en assurer l’avènement. C’est le souffle qui induit la pulsation intrinsèque de la rencontre, qu’il palpite sur la caisse claire via les trémulations d’un ensemble d’objets boisés ou métalliques (fines baguettes écrasées, chiffon claquant, brosses frottant ou bol sonnant dans la luminosité de l’acier), qu’il s’échappe silencieusement des interstices ménagés dans le cuivre, préside au claquement discret des clés, module un sifflement léger ou s’épanouisse dans toute la volupté de son timbre libéré. Il y a quelque chose de profondément méditatif dans la répétition de ces exhalaisons intérieures, qui se fondent et s’étreignent en une seule vibration, le temps d’un même battement de paupières. Et si un cri parfois s’échappe du sax, souligné par le sourd grondement d’une mailloche égratignant la peau de la grosse caisse, c’est que le free, pourtant fort éloigné de l’échange tel qu’il se produit, ne s’est jamais vraiment perdu à la périphérie de cette musique et ne peut s’empêcher de pointer le bout de son nez rougeoyant dans l’ombre des coulisses, au risque d’embraser un instant la délicatesse de cette scène.

Exposé / Peter Thelen

It’s evident from the very start of the opening cut, “What Might Happen,” and all throughout the album’s five tracks that the duo is thoroughly immersed in the joy of their unlimited freedom and sonic experimentation. So what does this sound like? My first reaction to the opener was that it was out there, like really out there. One hears Orins making odd random percussive sounds, while Owczarek plays a sax without putting any wind through it, so one just hears the keys clicking and such, making it a percussion instrument as well. The miking and mixing is such that all sounds get an equal level, making the whole endeavor quite interesting, beyond jazz or any other recognizable form, just pure experimentation with sounds. With “How People Behave” we begin to hear saxes more as expected for the instruments that they are, beginning with just breath and squeaks and eventually putting forth melodic sounds while Orins makes all kinds of curious sounds. The track is over eighteen minutes, so it has plenty of time to develop as it goes forward, the tuneful sax melodics kicking in at around the five-minute mark, though one needs to listen with patience, as everything here evolves slowly. And so it goes with the remaining tracks, seeming to alternate between the free melodic and the purely percussive sounds. There’s a lot going on here, quite interestingly it remains very free and expansive all the way to the end, a groove is never found, but it exists as pure sonic exploration. Probably not one’s idea of everyday listening, but as I listen to this for the sixth or seventh time, it does make for an interesting and enjoyable journey.

Salt Peanut / Eyal Hareuveni

The title of the album captures faithfully the unpredictable and risk-taking approaches of Owczarek and Orins. The first of five free improvisations, «What Might Happen», sketches an abstract and ethereal ambiance comprised of almost silent breaths and minimalist squeaks of objects. The following extended «How People Behave» builds on the minimalist and abstract textures but slowly and methodically ornaments it with more tangible sounds and delicate melodic veins. The short «On Anything» dives back into abstract, sparse and minimalist territories, but the extended «Three Rules That Live» patiently releases the raw energy of this duo and briefly relates to the saxophone-drum duo in the legacy of free jazz. Owczarek and Orins close their challenging meeting with «In The House Next Door», which begins in a typical austere and cryptic manner but surprises with a playful rhythmic coda.

Nieuwenoten / Ben Taffijn

Firstly, in “What Might Happen,” Orins, with the same creative approach to the drum kit as in his solo album, uses it as a means to create a sonic world that initially associates more with field recordings than with percussion. Owczarek soon joins in with an equally undefinable and very subtle sonic spectrum, a trajectory she continues in “How People Behave.” It’s only later in this rather lengthy piece that we hear her qualities optimally, drawing long crystal-clear lines. Remarkable is also the sonic universe these two musicians serve us in “Three Rules That Live.” Here as well, initially, we seem to be dealing more with an array of environmental sounds than musical expressions.

HisVoice / Petr Slaby

The album titled “You Never Know” opens with an entirely abstract “overture” aptly named “What Might Happen,” where individual sounds seem to be born in a still considerably indistinct form. The next piece, the eighteen-minute “How People Behave,” begins with gentle ringing and rattling, and a more distinctly audible saxophone, gradually confronting us with “ways of human behavior” in the sonic realm, leading to final lively drums and urgent blowing. “Oh Anything” introduces breathing through the saxophone, drum creaking, and has an overall “erotic” touch with a certain roughness towards the end. Particularly captivating in its variability is the following eighteen-minute track “Three Rules That Live,” starting with a persistently probing saxophone, drumming, cutting, and clattering, moving through mysterious passages toward “classic” free jazz and back to abstract patterns. The concluding instantaneous composition “In The House Next Door” somewhat returns to the initial abstraction, but just before the end, everything begins to materialize into jumps and trumpet-like sounds, intensifying in both intensity and speed. A free improvisation without idioms, par excellence.


Le duo pose le son et réussit même dans le silence à créer une tension. L’écoute est précieuse, la technique au service de la musique, tant d’ingéniosité, tant de variations dans les sonorités que de nommer les bols, les percussions en bois, les pierres, les souffles, crissements n’y ferait pas plus que ce qu’on écoute là sur les cinq morceaux du disque acheté ce soir là : de la musique libre, minimaliste et franchement captivante. (…) Discrètement ils se laissent aller à l’autre sans chercher à brusquer l’auditeur mais plutôt à rendre beau et ce qu’ils aiment jouer tous les deux. Une rencontre d’un charme fou.

Spontaneous Music Tribune / Andrzej Nowak

The album opens with a buzz from the saxophone tube and an array of delicate sounds straight from the percussive snare drum, as well as from an unidentified source. The musicians weave an intricate tapestry of sounds, immediately suggesting that their artistic proposition is definitively music meant for headphone listening. In truth, this convention will likely emerge two or three times during the hour-long journey. In the first improvisation, the artists conclude the phase of prepared noise only towards its end, previously coloring the narrative with dreamy, ritualistic rhythms that indicate a direction but are adorned with many question marks. The narrative almost imperceptibly assumes a meditative character here, sounding very austere, but in its own way, incredibly striking.

The second story is opened by waves of pure acoustics flowing from the entire surface of the percussion set (if only we could see it!). Alongside, the saxophone rattles and growls. The sounds increase, the dynamics rise slightly, but the narrative doesn’t position itself on a rising curve. Quite unexpectedly, it subsides directly into the arms of progressing silence. The musicians seek details; they’re far from narrative generalities. On Orins’ side, a whole parade of fake sounds. How we miss the image here, yet there’s no shortage of unrestricted enthusiasm. The Frenchman’s tale tonally resembles cleaning up the kitchen, as if the musician were washing and wiping dishes after a delicious dinner. Owczarek is right there, seemingly supplying some objects directly to the percussionist’s hands. She produces wind-like chants, watches over the performance, and stands ready to assist at any moment. The improvisation flows through a wide riverbed of sonic surprises. Cymbals resonate, saxophone drones bore a hole in the ground or leap to the skies. The musicians feel remarkably comfortable in the vicinity of silence, doodling sounds leisurely and smiling gently at us. At one point, Orins starts constructing an acoustic wall of sound, reminiscent of Vasco Trilla and his quintessential no-drumming percussion. After many minutes of laborious journeying, however, it’s the saxophonist who awakens the narrative from its somewhat dreamy atmosphere, imparting an almost fiery expression.

The third story, again shorter, is born very leisurely. Suspended slowly drums and sinking sax! The musicians seek minor phrases, leaning over each sound. In the background, however, a certain nervousness quivers, stimulating their creativity. Silence seems to persist, but the dynamics of the improvisation grow; a zephyr appears like a sail on a small vessel. Paulina and Peter – two delicate spiders ceaselessly weaving.

The fourth improvisation, although its end horizon is far away, begins unexpectedly dynamically. Flirtatious saxophone, nervous drumming, and compulsive dynamics are the core elements of this part of the improvisation. And on the snare drum, the miracles keep on coming – first, a brush race in great health, then a few kitchen incidents. The saxophone, with a soul on its shoulder, blows and howls, but it also indulges in nostalgia. Preparations, resonances, smacks – a multi-dimensional flat surface maintenance. This long tale, of course, has several phases, but as the minutes pass, more noises, rustles, and bursts of dry air appear. In the meantime, like an interlude, there’s a slight phase of increasing dynamics with a few spirited phrases from Paulina and Peter’s multi-layered narration. At the end, the musicians voluntarily bid farewell to dynamics and engage in non-committal weather talk. Bells appear, the saxophone nozzles rustle. The last few phrases are played with a slightly greater force.

The final improvisation of this incredibly delectable album initially exudes a full celebration of tranquility, befitting true victors. Percussion-minded nozzles, several mysterious objects on the snare drum, the rustling of falling papers. A few loops, and suddenly a new spirit enters the musicians. Two dance steps, three spins around their own axis! Such carefree cheerfulness accompanies them until the last sound.

JazzMania / Eric Therer

Un disque de souffles et de bruissements, d’à-coups et de contrecoups. Un disque sciemment affranchi des styles et des modes.

Take Effect Reviews / Tom Haugen

“What Might Happen” starts the listen, and offers a minimalist quality where strategic tinkering sounds and no shortage of ambience unfolds with an iconoclastic approach, and “How People Behave” follows with an equal amount of unpredictability that squeaks and shuffles before Owczarek’s soulful brass enters the building climate that ends up with swift drumming.

The middle track, “Oh Anything”, then might be the most bare, with soft drumming and raw, experimental noises, while “Three Rules That Live” quivers with bright sax and unusual jazz nods that you can’t help but admire.

“In The House Next Door” finishes the listen and offers both sparse moments of barely audible manipulation, as well as firm bouts of sax amid the thumping drums as the two interact with adventurousness.

Owczarek brings her improvisational and experimental background to these very curious compositions, and Orins’ artistic and inimitable drumming only adds that much more allure to this unusual and fascinating effort.

Revue & Corrigée / Claude Colpaert

D’abord retenue conjointement dans un échange de frottements et de jeu de clés, la rencontre en duo, qui a depuis le CD donné lieu à une tournée européenne, se développe dans You Never Know en feulements de la part de la saxophoniste et en atmosphère quasi champêtre, clochettes et scintillements cristallins pour le batteur, chaque protagoniste trouve du répondant aux idées de l’autre. Quand Peter fait rouler des billes dans des bols tibétains, cela libère chez Paulina des phrases plus bucoliques. Autant dire qu’on est loin ici des débordements free dévolus d’ordinaire aux duos sax/batterie, même si çà et là des emportements peuvent pointer le bout de leur nez.