Wisława Szymborska - voice
Tomasz Stańko - trumpet
By Adam Baruch
This phenomenal album presents a live recording of a momentous occasion, which pairs the Polish Nobel Laureate, poetess Wisława Szymborska and Poland's most renowned Jazz musician, trumpeter Tomasz Stańko, which took place on the 27th of January, 2009 in Krakow Opera. During the concert Szymborska recited poems from her last book of poetry published while she was still alive (she died almost exactly three years later) entitled "Here" ("Tutaj" in Polish). In between the poems Stańko improvised on solo trumpet a series of themes, inspired by her poems. Of course the seeds of Stańko's album "Wislawa", dedicated to Szymborska and her poetry, recorded three years later, were planted right there and then during this concert.
In 2012 the Polish publishing house Znak published a bilingual edition of "Here", with Polish and English versions of the poems, translated by Clare Cavanagh. That edition includes also this CD with the recording of the concert. This CD is not available separately and is only available with the book.
Polish Jazz and Polish Poetry have been closely related since many decades. Polish poets, musicians and other Artists and Intellectuals always constituted the fertile soil of Polish Culture, even during the dark days of the Socialist Regime, or perhaps especially then. The Poetry & Jazz phenomenon has been documented on Polish Jazz records many times over the last decades, and this album is a significant addition to that splendid tradition.
As Szymborska teasingly states at the opening of the concert, she was there on the stage entirely by mistake, since she came simply to listen to the trumpet… This is not the place to write extensively about Szymborska's poetry, which of course is absolutely marvelous and perhaps the most intelligently minimal piece of Polish poetry ever. Her poems, which I adore for so many years, have always been pearls of wisdom, which reveal new layers of perception every time I read them. It takes time for these poems to sink deeply into one's psyche, and therefore hearing them being recited by the author is a shattering experience. Sadly this experience is only available to listeners who speak the Polish language, although the book which comes with this CD does, as stated above, includes also the English translations of these poems.
Stańko's music does not need any translation of course, and speaks clearly and universally. These solo trumpet improvisations, which are all absolutely brilliant, have a life of their own, regardless of the fact that they were created vis-a-vis the recitation. Stańko is focused, powerful and yet lyrical and mystical, playing brilliantly as only he can, leaving the listeners simply breathless. Of course this is also an extra-rare opportunity to hear Stańko perform on his own, which reveals new facets of his complex artistic persona.
This album is something way beyond being just a piece of plastic, which contains a frozen memory of an event. It symbolizes the epitome of Polish Culture and is a National Treasure in every respect. If it was up to me, a copy of this book and the CD would have a place in every Polish household; alas these are just poetic dreams… If you can get a copy of this, don't dare to think twice!