On September 18, the official premiere of the new album by pianist JOACHIM MENCLA, on which he plays the piano and the hurdy-gurdy, an exotic instrument in jazz, will take place. The album BROOKLYN EYE will be released by the American label ORIGIN RECORDS.
Joachim Mencel - pianist, lyricist, composer, music producer, dr hab. - assistant professor at the Academy of Music in Krakow, decorated, among others The Silver Cross of Merit and the Bronze Medal for Merit to Culture - Gloria Artis, called the "romantic of Polish jazz pianism" - we read in the official biography available on the musician's website.
He graduated from the Jazz and Popular Music Department of the Academy of Music in Katowice. In 1992 - together with Mieczysław Szcześniak, Marcin Pospieszalski, Robert Cudzich and Piotr Jankowski - he founded the New Life group, and from 1993 in Janusz Muniak's band (the album Contemplation, which was released under the patronage of "High Fidelity"), and then also Andrzej Cudzich and Nigel Kennedy. He regularly collaborates with the American clarinetist Brad Terry. He wrote and arranged songs for Ewa Bem (all songs on the Kakadu album), Mieczysław Szcześniak, Anna Maria Jopek and the bands New Life and El Greco. Currently, he performs solo with a program of works for piano and lyre, and also performs with his quintet, with which he performs his own compositions inspired by folk dances. In 2018, the For Tune label released an album with this material called Artisena.
Joachim Mencel is a virtuoso of the hurdy-gurdy. It is an extremely exotic instrument for jazzmen, although in the circles of source music - classical. Earlier, Menzel delighted with his perfect mastery of this folk instrument on the Artisen album. The hurdy-gurdy is a stringed instrument that usually has 3 to 8 strings and is held on the lap while playing. With his right hand he turns the crank, and with his left hand he presses the melodic keys from below. The crank is connected to a wheel which rotates and rubs the strings just like on other bow instruments. The instrument also has dialectal names: lyre, curly lyre, grandfather lyre, beggar lyre, village lyre.
As we read in the press materials, the Brooklyn Eye album is a dream come true to record music inspired by America and to do it in New York, together with American musicians. As you can see - the dream has come true. the disc features works by Mencel, who plays the hurdy-gurdy and piano, and is accompanied by: STEVE CARDENAS on guitar, SCOTT COLLY on double bass and RUDY ROYSTON on drums. Cardenas is a respected musician, member of Charlie Haden's Electric Beebob Bands and Liberation Orchestra. Colly has played with such giants as Herbie Hancock, Craig Taborn, and Andrew Hill. Royston, on the other hand, is a member of Bill Frisell's band. Some of the tracks were demoed a long time ago and the musician played them in completely different versions, and some he wrote especially for this session and were first performed in a recording studio. Importantly, the recordings took place the day after the fire of the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, and the musicians sat in front of the TV in the breaks between sessions, staring at what was happening. This mood can be captured on the album.
The material for the Brooklyn Eye album was recorded at Bunker Studio http://thebunkerstudio.com in Brooklyn by Aaron Neveza within two days - April 15 and 16, 2019. In Bunker Studio you will find two rooms - A and B, completely lined with wood.
The realization of Mencel's album is classic for modern recording techniques. It's a clean, mature sound with slightly muted reverbs. You can hear that it was recorded in a studio with muffled acoustics. This gives a good selectivity, but slightly reduces the energy of the sound. On the reviewed album it is not particularly offensive, the more that the instruments have been shown in a good perspective and are not thrown "in the face". Care was taken so that the treble did not break out and irritate - it is quite warm sound. But it is also a dense sound, without "drinking", collected within itself and involving the listener.
The most important on this album is the midrange, which is why you hear the most beautifully with Steve Cardenas' electric guitar and the leader's piano, as in the song The Things. The drums are more interesting in the next track, Two Pieces With Beatrice. This is thanks to a strong and dynamic foot that has not been compressed too much, but has been left with energy. Anyway, the double bass sounds just as nice here.
The lyre is positioned on the axis with reverberation that places it a bit further away from us. Besides, people were playing with its sound and space, which can be heard nicely in the opening fragment of Photosynthesis, my favorite piece from this album. The guitar also sounded great here - warm, dense, "present".
This is an album that sounds better when listened to quite loud - apparently it was mastered this way too. When listening quietly, the dynamics and treble get lost a bit. But let's unscrew the volume knob and play the calmer Arrowsic, or the trance-like Come Holy Spirit (excellent track!), And everything will open and fill.
Thanks to the on-site replacement of the lead instrument, between the piano and the hurdy-gurdy, the album shimmers with different colors, it doesn't get boring. Although it seems extremely dynamic and "forward", most of the songs on it have a slow pace. Let's listen to the Psalm, where the drums are heard very nicely, and there is also a very good double bass to see what I'm talking about. But still, after all there is a motor feeling, like from the very cool The Last of the Mohicans. Even if the album closing the album is 9 minutes and 18 seconds long, Pelican starts a lyrical piano introduction and the piece develops into a ballad.
This is a very nice, "thick", nicely recorded and produced album that I will return to, just like I return to Charlie Haden's Beyond The Missouri Sky, recorded with Pat Metheny and Night and the City, on which Kenny Barron played with Haden - this is similar mood and energy. It lacked resolution a bit, but this is how the recordings mixed "in-the-box" sound and it cannot be changed, even with such good work of the mixer and mastering engineer as here. It is a very good music and nice sound, extremely energetic, despite the slow pace, an album with an instrument in the lead role, which does not happen in the jazz idiom. I recommend!