Monday, January 4, 2016

Ewa Bem – Tribute To Marek Bliziński (2015)

Ewa Bem

Ewa Bem - vocals
Marek Bliziński - guitar
Janusz Strobel - guitar
Jan Borysewicz - guitar
Jarosław Śmietana - guitar
Wojciech Waglewski - guitar
Jose Torres - percussion

Tribute To Marek Bliziński


By Adam Baruch

This is a wonderful archival 2CD album by the Polish vocalist Ewa Bem, which she dedicates to the memory of the superb and tragically prematurely departed Polish Jazz guitarist Marek Bliziński, who died from cancer just a few days before his forty second birthday. Bliziński was the first modern Polish Jazz guitarist of international class and for many years during the 1970s and 1980s was considered the top guitarist on the Polish Jazz scene.

Bem and Bliziński recorded together several times as a duo and these recordings were collected on the album "Dla Ciebie Jestem Sobą", released by the Poljazz label, which is reissued here as the first CD of this album. The album consists of eleven songs, nine of which were written by Polish composers and lyricists, and two are standards with lyrics translated into the Polish language. In retrospect, although over three decades have passed since this music was recorded, these songs sound remarkably fresh and sparkling, losing none of their original charm. As noted in the liner notes, these duo recordings were inspired by the Ella Fitzgerald/Joe Pass sessions, which produced four superb albums released in the 1970s and 1980s. Blizinski's virtuosic guitar riffs are beyond reproach, precise and incredibly sensitive, and he proves being not only an exceptional player, but also a most sympathetic musical partner. Bem's youthful energy and obvious talent come to full fruition on this recording, presenting her as fully mature vocalist in complete control of her vocal abilities. Her interpretations of these songs show that she feels comfortably in a Jazz environment, but easily moves into Cabaret and Pop, with the same seriousness and dedication.

The second CD of this album presents a live recording of a concert from 2000, which was a tribute to Bliziński and which presents new versions of the songs originally recorded on the duo album with Bem being accompanied by four Polish guitarists: Jan Borysiewicz, Janusz Strobel, Jarosław Śmietana (who sadly also died from cancer in 2013) and Wojciech Waglewski. The vocal/guitar duos are accompanied by percussionist Jose Torres. In addition to the songs from the original album the duos perform also songs written by the guitarists. Everybody seems to be in top form and the music flows splendidly from one song to another with Bem being on top of things at all times. Her vocal abilities are in excellent form during the entire concert and she elegantly moves between genres, whether it is Jazz, Pop or Blues. The entire concert is a very heartfelt tribute to the memory of Blizinski, who of course deserves to be remembered for his invaluable contributions over the years.

The entire album has excellent sound quality and is carefully produced and packaged, bringing back to life an important segment of the Polish Jazz history, and as such is of course most welcome.

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