Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Ilona Damięcka/Tomasz Licak Quintet - Pieśni Polskie Vol. 1 (2020)

Ilona Damięcka/Tomasz Licak Quintet

Ilona Damięcka - piano, vocal
Tomasz Licak - tenor saxophone, bass clarinet
Michał Jan Ciesielski - tenor saxophone
Paweł Grzesiuk - double bass
Adam Golicki - drums



Piesni Polskie Vol.1

PRIVATE EDITION

By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by the Polish Jazz quintet co-led by vocalist/pianist Ilona Damięcka and saxophonist Tomasz Licak, which also includes saxophonist Michał Jan Ciesielski, bassist Paweł Grzesiuk and drummer Adam Golicki. The album presents six songs by Polish Classical composers: Stanisław Moniuszko, Feliks Nowowiejski and Mieczysław Karlowicz, arranged for the quintet by Licak. The music was recorded live at the Radio Gdańsk studio and offers a remarkable sound quality.

The music is an interesting Jazz-Classical Fusion, and although personally I am not a great fun of the original music, composed mostly in the 19th Century, these Jazz arrangements manage to transform it into the Jazz idiom rather successfully. The swinging treatment transforms the original melodies, many of which are based on Polish Folklore, into a much more vigorous environment and the resulting modern mainstream zest serves them well.

The ballads emphasize the typical Polish melancholy, again deeply rooted into Polish Folk music, and those also work out very well in the up-to-date dressing. The closing song on the album gets a much more adventurous treatment, and perhaps points to a direction of the follow up album? The entire transformation process is done with taste and sophistication, which deserves to be praised.

The members of the quintet are all seasoned musicians, which is clearly obvious by the splendid level of the performances herein. The idea of the double saxophone front line is excellent, but sadly although the two saxophonists perform beautifully on their own they do not play together enough, which might have intensified the result. Damięcka plays some wonderful piano soli and her treatment of the original lyrics, which are replaced by her vocalese, is also excellent, albeit somewhat minimalist. The rhythm section swings passionately and carries the tunes forward, as expected from professionals.

Overall this is a superb debut effort and a most enjoyable listening experience, which as the title pledges, is just a first glance of the future plans by the quintet. Passionate performances, great soloing and swinging fluidity - what else can one expect form a mainstream modern Jazz album. Wholeheartedly recommended!

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