Saturday, January 5, 2013

Grzegorz Karnas – Sny (2004)

Grzegorz Karnas - vocals, composer, arranger
Michal Tokaj - piano
Damian Kurasz - guitar
Robert Kubiszyn - bass
Sebastian Frankiewicz - drums
Tomasz Szukalski - saxophone
Jerzy Malek - trumpet
Adam Oles - cello


By Adam Baruch

This is the second album by Polish Jazz vocalist / composer / arranger Grzegorz Karnas, one of the most unique and talented representatives of the young generation of the local Jazz scene. Born in the southern Polish province of Upper Silesia, Karnas graduated form the Jazz Institute at the Katowice Academy of Music, where a large percentage of the young Polish Jazz musicians get their initial graduate education. His debut album "Reinkarnasja", released in 2000, created quite a stir on the local scene and immediately established him as one of the most significant newcomers.

He is accompanied on this album by a superb team of excellent players: pianist Michal Tokaj (who plays the Fender electric piano here rather than his usual acoustic piano), guitarist Damian Kurasz, bassist Robert Kubiszyn and drummer Sebastian Frankiewicz. In addition several guest artists also participate: legendary veteran saxophonist Tomasz Szukalski, trumpeter Jerzy Malek, cellist Adam Oles (a future close collaborator, who also hails from Silesia), vocalist Patrycja Gola and congas player Bogusz Wekka.

The album consists of twelve pieces, ten of which were written (music & lyrics) by Karnas, one was co-written by Karnas and Oles and one is a standard. Karnas wrote all the arrangements, which are quite unusual and beautifully atmospheric. Of course Karnas' vocal performances are the focal point of the album, but his ability to involve all these wonderful players to become an integral part of the overall result is absolutely astounding. Szukalski plays wonderfully here, but for me Tokaj and his incredible electric piano phrasing are the cherry on the cake.

Karnas is a unique vocalist, a power of Nature. Although many of the tricks of the trade he so skillfully utilizes can be traced back to other great vocalists, like the great Bobby McFerrin and the Polish diva Urszula Dudziak, but he is truly original. First and foremost he completely disregards any conventions, allowing himself a total freedom as far as his vocal expressions are concerned. Regardless if he sings lyrics, vocalese, scat or just utters sounds from his throat, there are no rules involved. His pronunciation of the lyrics is completely off the wall and probably would give his primary school Polish language teacher a heart attack, but the effect is overwhelming. He also twists the melody any way he wants and his disregard of "proper" timing is simply scandalous; and yet all these elements put together create an amalgam, which is just so beautiful and intelligent, that any experienced music connoisseur simply melts away.

Vocal Jazz or more exactly interesting and challenging vocal Jazz is unfortunately a rarity on contemporary Jazz scene and therefore any Artists of the level presented by Karnas is a most welcome addition. People who truly love music will love this music immediately and unconditionally. Not to be missed!

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