Dreams are there to make them come true! Polish jazz pianist (also playing the hurdy-gurdy) Joachim Mencel dreamed of recording an album in New York for years, with American artists accompanying him. The assumption was that the music was also inspired by North America. All this was achieved in one fell swoop thanks to the publishing house "Brooklyn Eye".
In Poland, Joachim Mencel does not have to prove anything to anyone. For years, he has been a valued pianist and leader, who is great at both playing jazz and folk (he proved it with the album " Artisena" (2018). What remains for the artist in such a situation? It's simple: go beyond the country's borders and try to gain a new market. For example - America! Mencel does not hide that he has long dreamed of recording an album in the United States. And that he wanted musicians from across the Atlantic to accompany him in this work. The first step on the way to achieving this dream was made in the spring of last year (April 15 and 16), when he recorded full-size material in the New York Bunker studio (in Brooklyn). Then the time of searching for a publisher began, culminating in the signing of a contract with the Seattle-based Origin Records label this summer. And then it all happened at the speed of a waterfall ...
Apart from Mencel, three artists took part in the session. And although they are not musicians from the front pages of trade newspapers, they are performers with great experience and rich achievements. Guitarist Steve Cardenas, not counting his own formations, has collaborated with, among others, saxophonist Chris Potter, double bass players John Patitucci and Steve Swallow and drummer Paul Motian (as part of The Electric Bebop Band). The double bass player Scott Colley supported with his talent pianists Enric Pieranunzi and Fred Hersch, guitarist Nels Cline and the legendary vibraphonist Gary Burton. Black drummer Rudy Royston can be heard, for example, on the records of trumpeters Dave Douglas and Ron Miles, as well as guitarist Bill Frisell. Each of these names is impressive and guarantees quality. So it can be considered "Brooklyn Eye" is a fully original album of the Polish jazzman. He is the author of all ten compositions, which - as he himself points out - have been created over the years (some of them quite recently) and have now been selected thematically. This does not mean, however, that Cardenas, Colley, and Royston remain only in Mencel's shadow; A Pole willingly shares time and space with them, being fully aware that the trust given to them will pay off accordingly. Despite the predetermined goal - that they should be songs "referring to the experiences related to American music and culture" and "American way of life" - they are very diverse, vary in many colors. As a result, a peculiar concept album was created, which consists of ten chapters of a story, which guides listeners through the decades-long history of jazz in the United States. You can hear here inspirations of swing and post-bop, fusion and modern jazz. There are many references to Bill Evans and John Abercrombie, Jack DeJohnette and Pat Metheny (many more artists could be mentioned). But there are also sounds characteristic of Slavic folk music thanks to the hurdy-gurdy.
Opening track, "I'm Yo Man" has the most entertaining and relaxed character; hence, on the one hand, the swing buckle fastens it, on the other, the solo presentations of Mencel (on the piano), Cardenas and Royston (Colley is the only one who still has to wait for his moment). The subtle "The Things" is kept at a very slow pace, and the tone is set mainly by the leader's piano improvisation, loyally supported by the guitarist. "Two Pieces with Beatrice" is the first song on the album to feature a lyre. In our country, this instrument is associated mainly with folk and early music; Mencel, however, finds its use in a completely new style - and does it with special taste and refinement. At the same time, he does not avoid interacting with others, which in this particular case results in a beautiful melody played by Steve on the guitar. "Full Immersion" captivates with a nostalgic mood, although the Mencla piano goes through several phases - from a nostalgic introduction, through increasingly dynamic improvisation reaching its climax, to almost fairy-tale tones, almost heavenly, at the end of the piece.
An interesting experiment is the composition "Photosynthesis", which is deeply absorbed in folk, which the author based on a duet of lyre and guitar. It is followed by the dynamic "Arrowsic" - another very strong point of the album, with an exposed double bass (in the first movement), a piano solo and a looped guitar motif (in the second), and finally with Cardenas' show, which is not far from progressive guitarists. , and a strong rhythm section (in the ending). There are also many songs on "Brooklyn Eye", as evidenced by the titles, of a sacred nature. They should not come as a surprise, considering how important a role the Christian religion plays in the lives of Americans (especially its various Protestant factions). "Come Holy Spirit" is a romantic, lyre-based hymn to the Holy Spirit; the same instrument dominates the poignantly melancholy "Psalm 88", in which at some point the narrative effort is taken over by the guitar - and this is one of the most beautiful moments of the entire release. At the same time, due to the universalism of the subject, Mencel also allows himself pure Slavic inclusions, which additionally color the composition.
The title of the penultimate issue - "The Last of the Mohicans" - is immediately associated with the classic adventure and history novel by James Fenimore Cooper and its most famous film adaptation by Michael Mann from the early 1990s. This is another very stylish, though sometimes quite dramatic story (mainly due to the leader and his piano), in which, for a change, Steve Cardenas plays the role of the one who tones down emotions. At the end, Joachim Mencel chose not only the longest piece (over nine minutes long), but probably also - although I admit that it is hard to measure - the most delicate. "Pelican" is primarily a performance of a pianist and guitarist, who do not need virtuoso, solos crushing into the armchair (or another seat) - they only need a subtly conducted dialogue in which every word (or sound) is of great importance ... When the artist announces that his dream has come true, the question immediately arises: What next? While we may enjoy the Brooklyn Eye for now, it is also worth turning a questioning glance towards the project leader. May this album be his first step on the road to conquering America. It deserves it!