Grazyna Auguscik & The Andrzej Jagodzinski Trio in NYC
Venue/Location: Joe’s Pub, New York, NY USA, Date: March 7, 2007
This program of jazzy extrapolations on Frederick Chopin’s music brought together two potent musical forces and kindred spirits in Chicago-based jazz singer Grazyna Auguscik and Poland’s acclaimed jazz pianist Andrzej Jagodzinski.
The Polish-born Auguscik, a marvelous vocalist, adventurous improviser and world-class scat singer, follows in the free-spirited footsteps of her fellow countrywoman, Urszula Dudziak. A 1992 graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, she has made her home in Chicago since 1994, performing regularly at the Green Mill while also making appearances at the annual Chicago Jazz Festival each summer. With 10 albums to her credit, including six under her own record label, GMA Records, she is a perennial nominee in the annual Chicago Music Awards and has been named Best Jazz Vocalist three years in a row (2002, 2003 and 2004) by Poland’s Jazz Forum magazine.
Composer-arranger Jagodzinski is regarded as one of the best pianists on the Polish jazz scene. A graduate of the prestigious Frederick Chopin Conservatory in Warsaw, he has played with most of the best jazz groups in Poland, including the Zbigniew Namyslowski Quartet, The Jan Ptaszyn Wroblewski Quartet and Jarek Smietana’s Polish All Stars. His first recording by the Andrzej Jagodzinski Trio, Chopin, was named Best Record of 1994 by Jazz Forum and won the Fryderyk Award (the Polish Grammy) as best jazz record of the year. Jagodzinski’s organically swinging and highly interactive trio continued to explore jazz interpretations of Chopin on 1997’s Live at the National Philharmonic and 1999’s Once More Chopin, helping to launch a “Chopin stream” in Polish jazz.
The largely Polish audience at this rare encounter, co-presented by the Polish Cultural Institute and the Embassy of Poland in Washington, responded to the familiar Chopin themes with nationalistic pride and a certain amount of awe at what Jagodzinski did to them. The pianist-arranger reharmonized and radically re-examined Chopin’s works through a jazzy prism, accompanied by his empathetic and interactive rhythm tandem of drummer Czeslaw Bartkowski and upright bassist Adam Cegielski. On a hip, syncopated rendition of Chopin’s “Nocturne in E-flat Major, Opus 9, No. 2,” drummer Bartkowski tapped into a loose, swinging Art Taylor-Roy Haynes vibe, while bassist Cegielski anchored the proceedings with deep tones, flawless time and impeccable intonation. Together, the trio burned through Chopin’s “Prelude in E Minor, Opus 28, No. 4” at hyper speed as chopsmeister Jagodzinski nonchalantly tossed off a brief quote from “All Blues” along the way. While Poland’s elder statesman of jazz piano, Adam Makowicz, may still be regarded as “the Polish Art Tatum,” Jagodzinski reveals touches of a more modernist strain in his playing, represented by such obvious influences as Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and Keith Jarrett.
There’s a tinge of melancholy in the Polish soul, which was apparent in the trio’s rendition of Chopin’s “Prelude in C Minor, Opus 28, No. 20,” based on a Polish folk melody. As Auguscik announced from the Joe’s Pub stage, “Chopin wrote a lot of his stuff based on Polish folk tunes and it’s our inspiration as well.” And with that, she wove a spell on the audience with an evocative interpretation of the folk tune “Matulu Moja (My Mother),” extrapolating on the form with improvisational abandon. They tackled two other Polish folk tunes – “Krywan” and “Wolszynie” – with a swinging sensibility, using the simple melodies as vehicles for stretching. The playful call-and-response between Grazyna’s rhythmically assured wordless vocals and Jagodzinski’s mercurial keyboard statements on the exuberant “Oberek” (a familiar piece associated with the Polish National Dance Company) provided some real sparks. Auguscik also showcased some wild scatting abandon in a daring voice-drums breakdown with Bartkowski near the end of this explosive set-closer.
For an encore, Auguscik joined with the Jagodzinski trio for a stirring rendition of Krzysztof Komeda’s haunting theme from Roman Polanski’s film Rosemary’s Baby, with Grazyna delivering the plaintive melody with just the right touch of melancholy as she sang: “I will remember you when I feel myself smiling.”
JazzTimes.com (Usa) – by Bill Milkowski, March 2007
Jazz on CD (England) – by Brian Morton
If Chopin really was a composer for the right hand only, as Wagner grouchily complained, then perhaps Andrzej Jagodzinski has provided a missing accompaniment. These are not jazzed-up interpretations of Chopin compositions but a set of jazz originals inspired by the great Pole’s most evocative pieces. While Jagodzinski takes the melodic and harmonic heart of the Waltz in D flat major, more often he takes nothing more than a mood, or a vague musical shape, and erects his own structure on top of it. As an act of homage, it is profoundly impressive and beautifully executed.
Interestingly and significantly, the Waltz is the only major-key piece in the set. The remainder have a more sombre and questioning tonality that often does – cliché though it is – suggest the blues. The Etude in A-minor has a dark and brooding quality that suggest Tchaikovsky at his most introspective, as is the Polonaise in C minor the key of the ‘Moonlight’ Sonata’s opening movement and of Rachmaninov’s darkest Prelude. The C minor Preludefalls almost ideally under fingers for piano player and it is here, about midwaythrough the set and just after the hokey Mazurka, that Jagodzinski really pulls out the stops (wrong keyboard metaphor, I know) and creates a performance of genuine intellectual and emotional penetration. What follows, the Waltz and reprise of the opening E minor Prelude, is inevitably an anti-climax.
In a famous review of the 1930s, the great Neville Cardus suggested that modern piano players had streamlined and polished what was essentially raw and emotional music, turning it into something befitting a conservatory recital hall rather than a concert in the true sense. Jagodzinski and his colleague bassist Adam Cegielski and drummer Czeslaw Bartkowski have made a fascinating piece of music in its own right, but they have also suggested new – or rather old – ways of listening to Chopin. His work is, after all, the acme of piano music and there is a straight line from it to Tatum and Bud Powell, even perhaps Cecil Taylor, Keith Jarrett, and beyond. That lineage makes this an important recording.
by Brian Morton, November 1994
A STROKE OF GENIUS – Jazz Forum Magazine /Poland/
The recording of the disc “Chopin”, played by the Andrzej Jagodzinski Trio goes beyond all experimentation done in jazz or pseudo-jazz with Chopin’s music. It is a high-level, splendid piece of work and, I would even say, a masterpiece of jazz improvisation in the classic-modern style.
Jagodzinski on this recording, has chosen six Chopin themes (the Prelude in E-minor, Etude in A-minor, Polonaise in C sharp-minor, Mazurka in F-minor, Prelude in C-minor, Waltz in D flat-major and Prelude in E-minor), developed them into compositions and organized them into a sort of suite, all within the framework of the Prelude in E-minor.
If my personal opinion counts, every jazz fan and Chopin lover, should get this record and find pleasure in listening to it as I did. What is most striking is the originality and perfection which melt into one, its fine taste and elegance – all signs of masterful art, the aristocracy of art in the most noble sense. Music lovers looking for a taste of something unusual, will find this recording alluring. It invites the listener to discover and translate the secret of the “grease-lightening harmony” that exists between the music of Chopin and the art of playing jazz.
Andrzej Jagodzinski takes themes from Chopin’s music in a large sense: clear structures, suggestive figures, pictures, and essentially melodic forms and sometimes inspired harmonic elements (chromatic in Etude in A-minor, in the Mazurka F-minor, ostinato series of chords in the Prelude in E-minor).
Jagodzinski in his genre, is a pianist truly touched by a stroke of genius. With an ability of playing beyond the piano – a characteristic of the jazz masters – and accompanied by two excellent musicians, he develops elements of Chopin’s forms into fascinating jazz compositions.
This type of jazz contains something of Chopin’s soul: its prodigious dialectic of classical proportions, symmetry and romantic asymmetry and extension. Even more, Chopin and jazz meet here on the same improvisational plateau: remember that Chopin’s sublime music finds its source, its spiritus movens in romantic improvisation, the charm for which his contemporaries praise him.
by Bohdan Pociej, May 1994
Music and Media /England/
One of Poland’s leading jazz pianists interprets the music of the country’s greatest composer. The melancholy Prelude in E Minor, one of classical music’s most beautiful miniatures, is transformed into a nuanced bossa-nova presided over by the spirit of Antonio Carlos Jobim, and succeeds not only in charming the listener, but in capturing the beauty at the heart of the piece. The pianist is a fount of melodic invention, aided by inspired interplay from bassist Adam Cegielski and drummer Czeslaw Bartkowski. One of the best examples of classical jazz since Art Tatum tackled Massenet.
La Marseillaise /France/
This remarkable polish pianist, (who seems to receive all the awards given in his country), has found a way of making the Etudes of the most recognized romantic man’s well-known sadness his own. This racy, elegant and imaginative pianist captures the ear with the precision of fingering and the quality of his phrasing. I am sure that this CD will make him known in France and will open the door to our festivals for him. Remarkable
by Francois Postif
Jazz Magazine /France/
Now in his forties Andrzej Jagodzinski has made many records since 1979 with the trio. Having started with the French horn, he chose the king of instruments of romantic Poland, the piano. Known and appreciated in his own country, he deserves to be discovered here as an equal to our best pianists. His trio functions a little like that of the late Bill Evans, less rounded and more nervous if you like. In brief, he belongs to the generation who also listens to Keith Jarrett and loves Kenny Barron, to mention only a few.
by Phillippe Meziat
The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD
Most attempts to jazz up are doomed to failure but Jagodzinski manages to avoid the “switched-on Bach” approach, listening out for those aspects of Chopin’s celebrated pianism which are most jazz-like, rather than attempting to impose it from the outside. This is a convincing exploratory essay, containing some very beautiful and unaffected music. It may be hard to overcome initial scepticism, but it will be worth the suspension of disbelief.
by Richard Cook & Brian Morton, Third Edition – 1996
Classic CD /England/
With more than a hint of daring the Polish trio Andrzej Jagodzinski interprets eight of Frederic Chopin’s pieces on Metamorphosis (OPUS 111 OPS 30-285, *****), and with satysfying results.”metamorphosis” is a release of virtuosity and great interplay between the traditional line up of piano, bass and drums. (…) Bolstered by particulary good audio quality, “Metamorphosis” is an excellent “halfway house” between the original works and the full flexibilities possible within jazz idioms.
by Jason Sidwell, November 1999
Sunday Times /England/
ANDRZEJ JAGODZINSKI TRIO / Chopin Metamorphoses / Opus 111 OPS-2013
A TRICKY business, this idea of crossing over to the classics. The secret, I suppose, is simply for jazz musicians to play to their strengths – which explains why Chick Corea’s new Sony hybrid, a piano concerto and reorchestration of his tune Spain, doesn’t really work. Poland’s Andrzej Jagodzinski – a new name to me – fares much better on this sparkling potpourri of nocturnes and études, because improvisation always takes priority.
Jacques Loussier may be a dirty word in some quarters, but there’s little doubt that his much-maligned trio provides at least part of the inspiration.
Felicitous touches abound, for instance in the way Adam Cegielski’s double-bass delicately traces the melody of the B Minor Prelude.
Integrating the drums always causes difficulties, but Czeslaw Bartkowski tiptoes around the salon without breaking too much of the porcelain.
The Sunday Times, 21 November 1999
Radio 3WBC FM – Australia
(…) We did receive the promos (ZPR Records – ZCD-042A/B) and they rate as amongst the best we have received to date.
The production and interplay is excellent; as a trio the total delivery has to rank amongst some of the best jazz I have heard recently.
It is not often that we receive material of this quality and to experience the trio is a magical trip in itself.
Tony Bates 3wbc.org.au, August 2003