Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Anna Maria Jopek – Lustra (2011) ****1/2

Anna Maria Jopek - vocals
Robert Kubiszyn - bass
Pawel Dobrowolski - drums

UNIVERSAL 602527835242

By Adam Baruch

Polish vocalist extraordinaire Anna Maria Jopek (a.k.a. AMJ) never stops to amaze her faithful fans and devoted listeners, but this, her latest box set (or rather book set), which consists of not one, not two but three full-fledged musical projects released simultaneously, is simply awe-inspiring. The three projects, entitled "Polanna", "Haiku" and "Sobremesa", were also released separately, but this set includes all three of them packaged with a marvelous book full of photographs and background information, elegantly designed and exquisitely printed, in a format similar to her previous 3 CD set "Dwa Serduszka Cztery Oczy", released three years earlier.

The three projects, although diametrically different from each other, form a coherent "whole", which reflects AMJ's complex artistic vision of this world, which bridges different cultures, traditions and backgrounds, finding the common beauty in all of them, and engulfing her inner spirit. Obviously she feels completely "at home" with her music, regardless if it is rooted in the Polish melancholy, Japanese introversion and minimalism or Portuguese / African pulsations. Spanning the entire world this music is simply a living proof that geography, language and nationality have absolutely no meaning when artistic expression is concerned.

As usual AMJ is surrounded by excellent musicians, some from Poland, other from around the world. The list is very long and can be studied by reading the book, but the most significant names include Japanese pianist / composer Makoto Ozone, Cuban pianist / composer Gonzalo Rubalcaba, American keyboardist / producer Gil Goldstein and many more. Polish musicians include, among others, bassist Robert Kubiszyn and drummer Pawel Dobrowolski. The music on all the albums is superbly recorded and mastered, being not only perfect musically but also sublime sonically even to the most uncompromising sound quality connoisseurs. This is a "total" listening experience, which is so incredibly rare these days.

I must say that every time I confess my love of AMJ's work my Jazz friends give me a "funny" look, which I find often infuriating. This is not Free Jazz, it's not freely improvised music, and in fact it is only marginally Jazz at all, or rather a Jazz-World Fusion. So what? I find it fulfilling, challenging, aesthetic and meaningful nevertheless. The fact that this music can be enjoyed by a wide circle of listeners without losing an iota of quality and dedication testifies of its inherent value, which I'm always ready to defend.

So overall this is a serious piece of excellent music, diverse and surprising, deeply heartbreaking at times and unboundedly cheerful at others, but always honest and straight to the point, again a rare quality these days. Keep doing what you are doing girl, never look back!

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