Monday, November 25, 2019

Joanna Bejm – Jesteś (2019)

Joanna Bejm

Joanna Bejm - vocals
Rafał Stępień - keyboards
Marcin Skaba - violin
Wojciech Pulcyn - bass
Sebastian Frankiewicz - drums

Jesteś

SOLITON 972


By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by Polish vocalist/songwriter Joanna Bejm recorded with a Jazz trio consisting of keyboardist Rafał Stępień, bassist Wojciech Pulcyn and drummer Sebastian Frankiewicz. Violinist Marcin Skaba plays on six tracks and several additional guests participate on selected tracks. The album presents ten original songs, all composed by Bejm or co-composed by her and Skaba. All the lyrics are by Polish poetess Halina Poświatowska, one of Poland's most striking literary figures. As such the album falls comfortably within the Polish Jazz & Poetry idiom.

As someone familiar with Poświatowska's poetry I admit approaching this album with great anticipation mixed with some trepidation, considering the depth and intellectual complexity of the literary layer. I am glad to say that Bejm managed to embrace the poetry with considerable talent and respect, carefully selecting the poems and dressing them in appropriate musical attire. There is always a danger that profound literary work could be trivialized by inappropriate musical treatment, which sadly does happen from time to time, but certainly did not happen in this case.

The music is, as expected, full of typical Polish melancholy and lyrical emotionality, which Polish Jazz warmly embraces on a day to day level, but in particular within the Jazz & Poetry projects. Low key ballads with slow intrinsic motion are like a gentle wind carrying the words like yellow autumn leaves. The deep sadness, which characterizes the poetry, is somewhat softened by the music, making it perhaps more approachable to the listeners.

The instrumental parts are all excellent, as expected from these seasoned veterans. The rhythm section is steady like a rock and sensitive like velvet, Stępień is a superb player both on the acoustic piano and the electric keyboards, always playing only what is truly needed and his piano soli are the cherry on top. The guests add their part amicably and the entire album offers a coherent musical continuity.

Bejm manages the vocal parts with respect and restrain, which of course is ideal in this case. She is an instrument delivering the poems, which are the focus of this album and she cleverly eschews unnecessary theatrics, which would have spoiled the magic. Considering the fact that this is her debut album, she does a remarkable job.

The only small criticism I could think of is the packaging of the album, which sadly does not include the printed version of the poems – an addition that as a Jazz & Poetry buff I consider absolutely necessary. Of course there are copyright issues, etc, but it would have been nice to have them. Overall this is a beautiful piece of Art, an absolute must for all Jazz & Poetry lovers around the world, even those who are not native Polish speakers – the music transcends language barriers. Well done Milady!

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