Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Aga Zaryan - My Lullaby (2002)

Aga Zaryan – vocals

Tomasz Szukalski – tenor sax
Michał Tokaj – piano
Darek Oleszkiewicz – bass
Łukasz Żyta – drums

My Lullaby (2002)

This is the debut album by the undeniable present-day diva of Polish Jazz, vocalist Aga Zaryan. Recorded over a decade ago, when Zaryan was completely anonymous, it exhibits for the first time an outstanding talent, fresh and innocent on one hand and remarkably mature and daring on the other. Backed up by a classic Jazz quartet, Zaryan performs ten standards, which were arranged by pianist Michal Tokaj. The other quartet members are veteran Polish Jazz saxophonist Tomasz Szukalski, bassist extraordinaire Darek Oleszkiewicz and drummer Lukasz Zyta.

The fact that Zaryan received her primary school education in UK enables her to sing in English, free from a foreign accent, which often annoys English-speaking audiences. But the lack of a foreign accent is by far not what is so remarkable about this album. It is the choice of material and the highly personal interpretation of the songs, which is strikingly original and aesthetically pleasing. She is able to twist and turn the familiar tunes around her small finger so to speak, with ease and elegance which is simply charming and highly sophisticated.

Another forte of the album is Zaryan's extraordinary rapport with the quartet members, especially with bass player Darek Oleszkiewicz. Several of the tunes are by and large duets between the vocals and the bass and those are simply breathtaking. Szukalski is an ideal partner as well, constructing concise but wonderfully structured solos, always brilliantly complimenting the music. The entire quartet does a truly beautiful job, supporting the singer without overshadowing her for even a single moment. Such wonderful balance between a vocalist and her group is extremely rare and contributes immensely to the overall success of this recording.

In retrospect one can easily hear all the elements, which over time amalgamated into present day Aga Zaryan and her outstanding abilities. This debut album remains a timeless beauty and a favorite album, which I intend to revisit time and again. Extraordinary!

Side Note: This album was originally recorded in Warsaw in 2001 and released in 2002 on an independent label. This version of the album is a 2007 remaster, released on Blue Note in 2010, after the legendary Jazz label signed Aga Zaryan as the first Polish Jazz artist in its roster. The sound quality is simply marvelous!

By Adam Baruch

Tracklisting: 1. To See A World; 2. Waltz For Debby; 3. I’ve Got The World On A String; 4. My Lullaby; 5. You And The Night And The Music; 6. I Put A Spell On You; 7. Never Said (Chan’s Song)/Trust Me; 8. Still We Dream (Ugly Beauty); 9. I Hear Music; 10. Polka Dots And Moonbeams 

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