Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Krystyna Stańko – Aquarius: The Orchestral Sessions (2019)

Krystyna Stańko

Krystyna Stańko - vocals
Dominik Bukowski - vibraphone, marimba
Marcin Wądołowski - guitars
Piotr Lemańczyk - double bass
Cezary Konrad - drums
Mateusz Smoczyński - violin

Aquarius: The Orchestral Sessions


By Adam Baruch

This is the ninth album by Polish Jazz vocalist Krystyna Stańko, recorded with her more or less regular musical companions: vibraphonist Dominik Bukowski, guitarist Marcin Wądołowski, bassist Piotr Lemańczyk and drummer Cezary Konrad. Violin virtuoso Mateusz Smoczyński guests on a couple of tracks. Additionally the Sinfonia Viva Orchestra, conducted by Krzysztof Herdzin, who also wrote the orchestral arrangements, provides the orchestral accompaniment. The album presents ten songs, three of which were written by Antonio Carlos Jobim, two by Chick Corea, four are Jazz standards and one is a Polish cabaret song.

Musically this album is a direct continuation of Stańko's previous album "Novos Anos", which was characterized by a distinct Bossa Nova flavor, which is also present here. The same idea of presenting well known songs in a very personal interpretation applies also here. The superb instrumental work by the excellent musicians who accompany the vocalist, are enhanced here with the addition of the orchestral arrangement, wonderfully and cleverly put together by Herdzin.

Altogether the instrumental work on this album is every bit as impressive as the vocal parts. Bukowski uses the vibraphone and the marimba like a snake charmer, adopting his solos to every tune. Wądołowski plays quiet acoustic guitar parts but also excellent electric solos and consistently proves that he is one of the top guitar players on the local scene. Lemańczyk, as usual, keeps everything under control with his caressing bass lines, which fill all the spaces. Konrad is steady like the Rock of Gibraltar, and his delicate, but firm drum parts, which are the heartbeat of the music.

Herdzin's arrangements deserve praise not only for their sophistication, but more importantly for their incorporation within the overall framework of the sound, staying respectfully in the background and ornamenting the sonic whole rather that dominating it.

Stanko, as usual, balances between singing lyrics and vocalese, in order to keep the things interesting. Her sensuous and dreamy voice is charming as always, and she is not trying to sound like anybody else simply being herself, a quality I always admired in her career. Her understanding of the fact that there is nothing wrong with singing standards, as long as the result is both musically solid and uncompromising, is a key ingredient of her musical mission.

Overall this is a beautiful album full of superb music and outstanding performances, which can be enjoyed by a wide spectrum of Jazz listeners, from complete beginners to experienced connoisseurs, with each one being able to find something that touches them. Thank you again, my Baltic Siren, for sharing your musical heart with me and everybody else who will listen to this music and enjoy it. You are the one and only, as always!

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