Friday, December 13, 2013

Anna Gadt – Breathing (2013) ****

Anna Gadt - vocals
Łukasz Ojdana - piano
Maciej Garbowski - bass
Krzysztof Gradziuk - drums

UNIVERSAL 602537564392

By Adam Baruch

This is the third album by Polish Jazz vocalist Anna Gadt (a.k.a. Ania Stepniewska) and her first collaboration with the fabulous RGG trio: pianist Lukasz Ojdana, bassist Maciej Garbowski and drummer Krzysztof Gradziuk. The album consists of eleven original songs, ten of which were composed by Gadt and nine of which feature her lyrics, all in English. The tenth song uses a quote by American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, combined with another quote by American opera singer Beverly Sills, with the entire quote credited only to Emerson? The remaining song was composed by Garbowski and features lyrics by Polish poet Miron Bialoszewski. The album was recorded at Poland's finest recording facility, Studio Tokarnia, engineered as usual by the man with a pair of best ears in Poland, the studio owner Jan Smoczynski.

At the first glance this album had the potential to achieve the status of one of the best Polish Jazz recording in 2013: the finest Polish Jazz piano trio active on the scene, fascinating music, highly sensitive vocal delivery, superb sound quality, in short a dream come true. Sadly this potential proved to be unfulfilled as a result of committing one single mistake, the same unforgivable mistake which hunts the Polish Jazz vocal scene consistently since decades, namely the unexplainable desire to sing in English. Why on earth would anybody, who is not a natural English speaker, want to sing in that langue is a total mystery to me? It is plainly obvious that the articulation, the pronunciation and the accent will be always against you, so why even try? Time after time all Polish Jazz vocalist fall into the same trap and nobody's learning; what a pity. This album is no different; the vocals sung in English sound odd, unnatural and even bizarre at times. As if to prove the case, the only song with the Polish lyrics is simply heavenly and untouchable, as are the moments when Gadt is utilizing wordless vocalese. On the bright side, the music composed by Gadt is simply excellent from start to finish. Intelligent, atmospheric, versatile, moving, in short she made no mistakes whatsoever in that department and deserves all the praise.

Of course there are plenty of wonderful moments left to be enjoyed. The trio plays delightfully from start to finish and stands up to the challenge of accompanying a singer, which is quite different and in many respects more difficult that playing by themselves. Together with their astounding album "Szymanowski" released earlier this year, these two recordings firmly reassure their prime and unchallenged standing, which withstood the ground shaking personnel change they went through. They are simply beyond words. The way the trio improvises "around" the songs Gadt composed is simply a genius at work. In spite of the problem created by singing in English, Gadt is obviously a great vocalist, with exquisite sensibility, musicality and musical intelligence. All these qualities come through against all odds in these circumstances. One can only imagine what a brilliant, superb album this would be if she had decided to use Polish lyrics.

All things considered this is an amazing album after all, even magnificent at times. A magnificent failure? Well not quite, simply just another step on the long way which has no beaten tracks and leads to a place worth going. You win some, you lose some, c'est la vie…

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