By Adam Baruch
This phenomenal box set, or rather book set, combines three albums by Polish vocalist / songwriter Anna Maria Jopek (a.k.a. AMJ), recorded over a period of several years in the mid 2000s. It includes the album "ID", a CD full of demos and outtakes which did not make it to be included on "ID" and the live album "JO & CO". Together these three CDs summarize the "ID" period, which was a groundbreaking step in AMJ's development as an artist. Packaged with a marvelous book full of black & white photographs of AMJ and the participating musicians, elegantly designed and exquisitely printed, this is a piece of Art in every sense of the word.
Surrounded by a group of wonderful musicians form Poland and the world over she performs mostly self-written songs, mixing Jazz and World Music with the typical Polish melodic / lyrical atmosphere, which dominates the proceedings. The list of world famous musicians participating on "ID" is most impressive and includes saxophonist Branford Marsalis, bassists Christian McBride and Richard Bona, drummer Manu Katché, percussionist Mino Cinelu, oud player / vocalist Dhafer Youssef, guitarist / vocalist Oscar Castro Neves and pianist Tord Gustavsen. Polish musicians include keyboardist Pawel Bzim Zarecki, guitarists Marcin Kydrynski and Marek Napiorkowski, pianist Leszek Mozdzer, trumpeter Robert Majewski, pianist / arranger Krzysztof Herdzin, who is in charge of the string quartet and orchestral arrangements (performed by the Sinfonia Viva Orchestra). The live album includes also organist Jan Smoczynski, saxophonist Henryk Miskiewicz, bassist Robert Kubiszyn and drummer Pawel Dobrowolski.
The music presents a complex panorama of sounds and ideas, which include many cross-genre excursions, vocal experiments, poetic vistas and intimate dialogs between the Artist and the world that surrounds her. AMJ has one of the sweetest voices on this planet and her big artistry is all about not to make sugary music, which would be quite natural for many other singers. She also has an incredible sense of rhythm in general and Jazzy swing in particular, which is quite rare. Her affinity to music originating beyond her native Polish / European sphere of influence is also quite remarkable. All these, combined with her unique expressionism as a singer and delicate, elegant, intricate vocal delivery make her one of my favorite singers of all times.
AMJ enjoys a superstar status in Poland, which usually is a sign of tasteless commercialism and total lack of any artistic values. Her ability to be extremely popular and at the same time produce first class music is therefore especially impressive. Although some snobbish Jazz circles in her country deem her commercial and populist, this is simply completely unjustified and probably a sign of narrow-mindedness if not worse. I find it hard to believe that anybody listening to this music would feel anything but total admiration, as it is simply perfect.