Thursday, June 6, 2013

El Greco – Sing Cuckoo (2013)

Jorgos Skolias - vocals
Joachim Mencel - keyboards
DJ Krime - turtablism
Andrzej Swies - bass
Harry Tanschek - drums


By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by Polish ensemble El Greco, led by keyboardist / composer Joachim Mencel, which also includes vocalist Jorgos Skolias, DJ Krime who performs turntablism, bassist Andrzej Swies and Austrian drummer Harry Tanschek. The album includes ten tracks, eight of which are songs and the remaining two instrumental pieces. The eight songs are all composed by Mencel to lyrics by Polish poets (five of the songs, naturally sung in Polish) and literary texts in English (the remaining three, sung in English). One of the instrumentals is a group composition and the remaining one is by Gil Evans.

This is obviously quite an ambitious project, well within the Jazz & Poetry realm, which seems to be a favorite of the Polish music scene. However, contrary to many splendid efforts in this area this album leaves me quite cold. It's quite difficult to pinpoint the exact reasons for my opinion, but somehow the mixture of complex, sophisticated poetry with the rather simplistic music does not work for me. Anybody engaging in the poems of Cyprian Kamil Norwid must be aware of their masterly interpretation by the legendary Niemen or more recently by Stan Borys and in comparison the versions presented here seem to be quite pale.

The music seems to be by and large based on blues themes, with a modernistic rhythm patterns emphasized by the turntablism. There is a limited space for serious improvisation and the atmosphere is more of an alterative Rock album than a Jazz album, which of course might be just what the ensemble (or the leader) wanted to achieve. The only thing that makes this album enjoyable as far as I'm concerned is the truly excellent work by Andrzej Swies, who emerges as the star of this particular project and without whom this music simply wouldn't work at all. As usually the attempt to sing in English proves to be fatal.

Overall this is not a bad album and many people will probably enjoy it, but I just can't seem to be able to warm up towards it. Mea culpa!

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