Thursday, August 23, 2012

Aga Zaryan - Picking Up The Pieces (2007)

Aga Zarvan - vocals
Nolan Shaheed  - trumpet
Larry Koonse - guitar
Darek "Oles" Oleszkiewicz - doublebass
Darryl Munyungo Jackson - drums, percussion

Picking Up The Pieces (2007)

This is the 2nd album by the undeniable present-day diva of Polish Jazz, vocalist Aga Zaryan. Recorded almost five years after the debut album, which is an agonizingly long break especially in the initial stage of her career, the album is both a conceptual continuation of the debut and a giant step in her artistic development. The eleven tracks are again predominantly standards with just two originals: one by guitarist Larry Koonse with lyrics by Zaryan and the other by bassist Darek Oleszkiewicz. Koonse and Oleszkiewicz are the main accompanying musicians with percussionist Munyungo Jackson and cornet player Nolan Shaheed contributing on some tracks.

Musically the album is much more challenging than the debut, especially in view of the fact that Zaryan gives up the security of the usual piano-led quartet as her support group and presents mostly a series of intimate duets with the bassist or the guitarist or trios with both of them present. As already mentioned, only a few tracks are further ornamented with percussion or cornet sounds. Her rapport and affinity with her cohorts is absolutely stunning and deeply moving, being examples of the rare intimacy and telepathic musical cooperation like that of pianist Bill Evans and bassist Scott LaFaro.

The overall relaxed and intimate atmosphere hides of course a multitude of exquisite instants of sheer musical joy and there are absolutely no dull moments here from start to finish. One can hardly decide what to savor first: the beauty of the music, the sophistication of simplicity, the twists and idiosyncrasies, the elegance or the charm. Whichever way one looks at this music, it is utterly fascinating without a trace of being a cliché or a déjà vu.

In retrospect this is definitely a milestone recording in the history of contemporary Polish Jazz music and Aga Zaryan's illustrious career so far. It 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 Los Angeles in 2006 and released the same year on an independent label. This version of the album is 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

1. Day Dream
2. Throw It Away
3. Picking Up The Pieces
4. Woman's Work
5. Answer Me
6. The Man I Love
7. Here's to Life
8. It Might As Well Be Spring
9. Sophisticated Lady
10. Suzanne
11. Tender As a Rose

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