Friday, February 5, 2021

Lena Piękniewska - Coś Przyjdzie: Miłość Lub Wojna (2019)

Lena Piękniewska

Lena Piękniewska - vocal
Jacek Kita - piano
Michał Górczyński - clarinet, saxophone
Wojciech Pulcyn - double bass
Sebastian Frankiewicz - drums

Coś Przyjdzie: Miłość Lub Wojna


By Adam Baruch

This is a live recording at the Polish Radio of a wonderful Jazz & Poetry project by vocalist Lena Piękniewska and her quartet, which includes clarinetist/saxophonist Michał Górczyński, pianist Jacek Kita, bassist Wojciech Pulcyn and drummer Sebastian Frankiewicz. It presents ten songs composed by Paweł Skorupka with lyrics by Jewish/Polish poets, mostly children, who all bar one perished during the Holocaust. They were Abram Cytryn from Łódź, who died in Auschwitz at the age of seventeen, Zuzanna Ginczanka (real name Sara Ginzburg), who was executed in Kraków at the age of twenty seven, Janka Hescheles (today Janina Altman), who is the only survival now living in Israel and finally Abramek Koplowicz from Łódź, who died in Auschwitz at the age of fourteen. One poem is by an unknown author, found in Auschwitz after liberation. This project was premiered during the third edition of the Singer Jazz Festival (2016) in Warsaw, of which I am the Artistic Director.

It is impossible to describe the emotional upheaval involved in listening to this song cycle, especially to people like myself, who have a direct Holocaust involvement. Everything connected with the memory of the Holocaust, and in this case also Holocaust children, is always immeasurably painful and this is why when I was first introduced to this project I did not hide my skepticism. I am very happy to say that Skorupka, Piękniewska and her team managed to shatter my skepticism completely and when the music was over my eyes were full of tears but my heart was full of joy upon realizing that this project certainly does not trivialize the memory of the Holocaust victims and pays a loving tribute to the loss and the bitter destiny of Polish Jews, being an important document of times and souls lost but not forgotten, as well as the integration of Polish Jews in creating Polish Culture.

Of course this project can be also viewed on pure aesthetic ground, detached from its historic legacy. Skorupka composed truly beautiful melodies, full of the typical Polish Jazz melancholy, which suit the often extremely difficult lyrics absolutely ideally. The instrumentalists, some of Polish Jazz finest of course, stand up to the challenge with flying colors, as expected. Górczyński is the absolute star of the evening as his brilliant soloing expresses simply magnificently the anguish and suffering inherent in these songs, sometimes only indirectly, emphasizing the dichotomy between some of these poems and the circumstances in which they way created, which is often astounding and heartwrenching. And finally Piękniewska, with her delicate, as if reserved delivery, manages to create the magic atmosphere of this project. She beautifully eschews theatrics and unnecessary boastfulness, which might have hurt the essence, deciding to take the "less is more" path, with grace and elegance as well as full of deep emotion.

I would like to thank all the people involved in this project for creating such an important tribute to the tragedy and pointing towards hope. It is wonderful to see this project finally available on record, better late than never of course. This is an absolute must have for every Polish Jazz connoisseur and Jazz & Poetry lover, wherever they might be.

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