Wojciech Myrczek - vocals
Paweł Tomaszewski - piano
FOR TUNE 0038
By Adam Baruch
This is the debut album by the Polish Jazz duo: vocalist Wojciech Myrczek and pianist Paweł Tomaszewski. Myrczek recorded his debut album three years earlier while he was still a student at the Katowice Academy of Music, where he is now a member of the faculty. Tomaszewski, a graduate of the same Academy, is a seasoned and much respected pianist with an impressive recorded legacy, mostly as a sideman. The album presents ten classic vocal standards performed by the duo, recorded in a Swiss studio with astounding sonic quality.
In many respects this is the most surprising album released on the Polish Jazz scene in 2014. I mean the sheer chutzpah of these two guys fooling around with the holy grail of Jazz vocals? Who do they think they are? The trifling comparison often quoted in the duo's PR material and other reviews referencing this album to the archetypal Tony Bennett & Bill Evans albums from 1975 & 1977 is completely counterproductive in this case. This music sounds nothing like the referenced albums, which of course is all for the good, since letting the bygones be bygones is the only way to get anywhere.
Initially the album has everything working against it. The Polish Jazz male vocalists are few and far between, and with rare exceptions are all quite insignificant. The standards all feature lyrics in English and Polish vocalist singing in English usually simply stink (again with very few exceptions). But most importantly: the concept of this duo, which places a vocalist, who uses conventional (well mostly) techniques against a pianist who plays completely unconventionally, often pretty wildly and freely, is absolutely atypical for a vocals/piano setting.
And yet, against all odds, this album is simply a gem from start to finish. Myrczek arises as a gifted vocal magician, able to use a wide vocabulary of possibilities, from crooning sweetness to improvised scat, vocalese and imitating bass lines vocally. It is obvious that he is having a great time and there is no tension (other that creative tension of course) limiting his performances. Although there is not much innovation as far as Jazz singing is concerned, with obvious references ranging from Kurt Elling to Bobby McFerrin, the overall effect of his singing is simply irresistible. There is also an obvious pinch of humor omnipresent herein, most evident when Myrczek recites a fragment of a book in the Polish language in the middle of one of the songs. Even his English accent and pronunciation are only very slightly off, which can be considered as charming, rather than disturbing.
Tomaszewski, in complete contrast to Myrczek, treats the music completely on his own terms, playing anything but what would normally be expected of him and taking liberties with the melodies, the chords and even the time, which although must have been very difficult for Myrczek to sing along with, is wonderfully effective, creating a much more expressive result than the usual vocals/piano setting. Comparing his work on his earlier recordings, including those featuring vocalists, his playing here is the more adventurous and daring than ever. His work on this album definitely marks him as one of the Polish Jazz pianists who deserve a much wider exposure than what he enjoys currently.
So here we are again; the Polish Jazz scene is able to come up with another pleasant surprise, which is pretty astonishing, considering the overly excellent level of music released in Poland. The music this album offers is nothing but pure joy, elegance, class and panache, all of the highest caliber. It is definitely one of the nicest releases of 2014, which should stay with the listeners for many years to come.
Another surprising element is the fact that this album was released by the For Tune label, which is usually associated with avant-garde and other alternative music forms. It is heartwarming to see that the label recognized the fact that seemingly conventional music can also be challenging and adventurous. The album is the label's debut on the new "pink" series (the exact meaning of the various colors of their releases is kept in deep secret), and regardless of the "pinkness", will be very had to beat.