Sunday, January 5, 2014

Joanna Kucharczyk – More (2013)

Joanna Kucharczyk - vocals
Vit Kristan - piano
Max Mucha - bass
Karol Domański - drums

FISK 001







This is the debut album by young Polish Jazz vocalist Joanna Kucharczyk, accompanied by a piano trio with Czech pianist / composer Vit Kristan, bassist Max Mucha and drummer Karol Domanski. The album presents nine original songs, four of which were composed by Kristan, three by Kucharczyk, one co-composed by them both and the remaining one by Domanski. Kucharczyk wrote (or in two cases co-wrote) the lyrics to all the songs, which are all in English (see the Side Note below).

The songs are pretty straightforward mainstream efforts, where the ones composed by Kristan are significantly better and more eloquent that the others. Most of the material is soaked in the typical Slavic melancholy, which although deeply touching and beautifully atmospheric, tends to get somewhat repetitive and almost boring after a while. The trio performs the music with elegance and sensibility, again Kristan clearly arising as the most experienced and obviously talented player, deeply romantic and bringing to mind recollections of the young fellow Czech virtuoso Emil Viklicky when he was at the same age. The rhythm section does its job very well, with the firm bass pulsations and dynamic drumming perfectly suiting the music and pushing it forward, especially during the less exciting moments.

Kucharczyk emerges sadly as a limited vocalist, not taking any risks and providing little, if any, excitement. She employs almost no vocal devices other than simple singing, which of course is not nearly enough considering contemporary vocal standards. She struggles desperately with the English texts (which he wrote herself), losing time after time...

I'll give Kucharczyk the benefit of the doubt, considering this is her debut album, and if she records her next album with Polish lyrics I'll be ready to listen to "more". I truly pray she gets the message and wish her success with all my heart. Until then, adieu…

Side Note: I find it really disturbing when vocal Jazz albums originating from Poland feature English lyrics, and even more so if these are original lyrics written by the vocalists themselves (as opposed say to Jazz standards where the lyrics are already out there as part of the original songs). In almost all such cases the results sound simply ridiculous, incomprehensible and sometimes are even plainly painful to listen to. Why on earth would anybody, who is not a natural English speaker, want to sing in that language is a total mystery to me? It is plainly obvious that the articulation, the pronunciation and the accent will be always against you no matter how hard you try, so why do it at all? For Polish vocalists singing in English is a challenge, which makes them concentrate on trying to pronounce the foreign language, rather than simply sing, as they would do when singing in their mother tongue. And then there is the question why write lyrics in English, a foreign language that the writer knows only to a degree, usually almost embarrassingly superficially? No wonder that most such lyrics are shallow, primitive and pitiful. The assumption that if one can sing (which in itself is often a question) gives one the right to suddenly write their lyrics is completely unjustifiable. Usually one should restrain from writing publically unless one has something significant to say. The Polish Cultural Heritage includes thousands upon thousands of superb poems written over time by magnificent masters of the language, old and new alike. Why not use that legacy in your own work, sing in Polish and forget all that "singing in English" folly? And if you don't like your own language, sing wordless vocalese, shout, meow and scat, do anything but please don't sing in English! It's beyond my comprehension why nobody learns from the mistakes of others and why the people giving guidance to the singers (producers, managers, fellow musicians and most importantly teachers) don't discourage these self-destructive decisions? Well, c'est la vie…

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