Saturday, September 21, 2013

Janusz Szrom / Zbigniew Wrombel – Spiewnik (2012) ****

Janusz Szrom - vocals
Piotr Wrombel - piano
Zbigniew Wrombel - bass
Krzysztof Szmanda - drums


By Adam Baruch

This is quite an unusual project, which transfers fifteen Pop / Rock songs written in Poland in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s into modern Jazz arrangements. The songs are performed by Jazz vocalist Janusz Szrom and a piano trio which consists of pianist Piotr Wrombel, bassist Zbigniew Wrombel and drummer Krzysztof Szmanda (see Soundcheck). All the songs have been intelligently arranged for the Jazz environment, sounding as if they were taken from the Standards songbook. Of course for listeners, who are familiar with popular music originating in Poland at that period and performed by local superstars like Czeslaw Niemen, Breakout, Niebiesko-Czarni, Czerwone Gitary and other legendary performers, this album has also a strong nostalgic angle, which is not a priori negative.

Most people living outside of Poland have very little knowledge about the incredible musical scene that flourished there during the dark days of the Socialist regime, State censorship and bureaucratic dictatorship, which often saw in Pop & Rock music the enemy of the "People" and much as a subversive force that endangered the very fabric of society. And yet, against all odds, Polish musicians and writers managed to produce an incredible amount of wonderful music, which sadly gets often forgotten these days, where instant success is the name of the game. Projects such as this one are a blessing, bringing this music back into life and showing how timeless true Art really is.

Of course the Jazzy arrangements and execution change the original environment, in which these songs were born. However, due to the intelligent and careful approach demonstrated by this album's creators these songs still sound magnificently up to date, losing absolutely nothing of their original power and intrinsic beauty. As far as individual contributions are concerned, this album is full of simply splendid musicianship. Szrom sings with his usual confidence and expressiveness, Piotr Wrombel masterfully states the melodic themes and accompanies the vocals with exceptional sensitivity. Zbigniew Wrombel is a virtuosic bassist and his warm and full sound is the platform upon which the entire music stands. Szmanda, as usual manages to combine freedom of expression and a sixth sense of rhythm.

Overall this is a wonderful album in every respect. Superb music, excellent performances, great sound quality and most importantly an obvious love and respect towards the subject matter. One can only salute these musicians for carrying this project out and for adding one more brick to the pedestal of Polish Cultural heritage. Hats off!

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