‘If I was to describe you’ – Monika Lidke

MonikaLidke

WARMTH AND BEAUTY, matching the Summer mood, pervade the air around me as I listen to an endearing and heartfelt new release, If I was to describe you, from Polish songstress Monika Lidke. Now resident in London, this collection of self-composed soft jazz/folk songs reflects Lidke’s Polish and French personas, each of its fourteen tracks imbued with appealing honesty, freshness and lyrical accomplishment.

An album made possible by an enthusiastic Kickstarter response, Lidke employs an enviable team of musicians to bring to life her very personal collection of life experiences and observations – and it’s very much the congruous compositional attention to detail in both words and music which grabs the attention, as well as the clear, fluent vocal delivery. Kristian Borring (guitars), Tim Fairhall (double bass) and Chris Nickolls (drums) provide the principal instrumental line-up, but there are contributions throughout from Maciek Pysz, Shez Raja, Mark Rose and many others who ensure a refreshingly eclectic recording.

Monika Lidke’s vocal tone possesses a silky richness, with crystal-clear diction, as demonstrated in the soft, bluesy opener They Say. It has a suppleness, too, which matches well the prominent electric bass grooving of Janek Gwizdala, Kristian Borring’s light guitar accompaniment and the ticking rhythm maintained by drummer Chris Nickolls. The more folksy title number If I was to describe you – a song of love or deep friendship – has a charm which is enhanced by cello and vibes, as well as Lidke’s beautifully layered harmonies; and carefree Tum tum song, with Polish lyric shared by Basia Trzetrzelewska, bounces along with gently effervescing amiability.

Already, then, it’s clear that Lidke displays an aptitude for carefully combining words with appropriate musical styles and rhythms – yet the varied tracklist coalesces well, with a proliferation of melodic hooks. Light under the bruises explores further themes of closeness (“I lift you up just to show you a new horizon”) – then, out of the blue… the jaunty-but-delicate Funny little dance swings to Mark Rose’s double bass and Maciek Pysz’s guitar embellishments; and with all the positivity and pace of a ’70s Gordon Giltrap hit (which could quite easily be an up-tempo interpretation of a traditional French folk song), Ensemble flows briskly to the electric bass of Shez Raja – feel-good factor ten!

The delicacy of Rozpalona kolyska is exquisite, Lidke vocalising in tandem with Borring’s tight guitar melodies, Fairhall and Nickolls providing the feathery double bass and drum motion. In contrast, Monika’s sunshiny love song of gratitude, Waves and curves, displays unabashed ‘pop’ folkiness; and the cheerful, cheeky Questions gênantes (Awkward questions) is irresistible in its trad. quirkiness, Borring pitching a suitably nimble guitar lead against the chirpy rhythm section. Bread on toast, a Jobimesque samba which eddies gorgeously to Kristian Borring’s rhythmic guitar, shows off both the purity and dexterity of Lidke’s vocals, whilst Footprints on the seashore revisits the writer’s easy-going pop/folk lyric and sound world (“We’re dangerous and beautiful; we make impressions that only last as long as ripples on the water”).

Oceany lez is another graceful Polish ballad which Lidke delivers with appealing simplicity; and the following Higher self swirls to the singer’s joyful assurance. Finally, self-accompanied on guitar, plus heavenly electric bass harmonics from Shez Raja (a wife and husband thing!), the miniature Kolysanka dla Janka holds the breath with its crystalline beauty… a fitting conclusion to an album which reflects a passion for songwriting, all delivered by a golden voice.

If I was to describe you launches in the UK at Pizza Express, Soho, London on 2 July 2014, released on 33JAZZ – check out a studio video of They Say, and audio taster compilation of the album.

 

Monika Lidke vocals, acoustic guitar
Basia Trzetrzelewska vocals
Janek Gwizdala bass guitar
Kristian Borring guitars, arrangements of tracks 1, 4, 7, 8 & 11
Tim Fairhall double bass
Mark Rose double bass
Chris Nickolls drums
Shez Raja bass guitar
Genevieve Wilkins vibraphone, percussion
Maciek Pysz acoustic guitar
Adam Spiers cello
Jerzy Bielski acoustic guitar
Paul Reynolds mandolin

monikalidke.com

33JAZZ – 33JAZZ242 (2014)

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‘Soho Live’ – Shez Raja Collective

ShezRaja

IT’S HARD TO IMAGINE JAZZ/FUNK on the current scene with quite such the invigorating edge and retro passion of the Shez Raja Collective. Captured live, and drawing material from studio albums Magica (2007) and Mystic Radikal (2010), ultra-dynamic electric bassist Shez Raja and his augmented personnel serve up a decidedly high-powered performance in this new release, Soho Live.

Raja’s no-holds-barred grooving is redolent of the seminal and psychedelic jazz/rock fusion of The Mahavishnu Orchestra, the hypnotic energy of the Zawinul Syndicate and legendary bass genius of Stanley Clarke and Marcus Miller – but there is bite and electricity here which demonstrates the genre’s ongoing relevance and explains Raja’s own fervent following, especially when guests Gilad Atzmon, Soweto Kinch, Shabaka Hutchings, Jay Phelps and vocalist Monika Lidke leap on board for what was evidently an unforgettably vibrant gig.

The core line-up steams through this 55-minute set with quite breathtaking verve – Aaron Liddard on alto and tenor saxes, electric violinist Pascal Roggen, Alex Stanford on keys and Chris Nickolls on drums. Adding Shabaka Hutchings into the mix, as clarinettist on opening number Adrenalize, simply revs up the excitement as his improvisations spiral unfalteringly. Electronics are a significant part of the band’s make-up and, with Stanford able to maintain the bass ‘raga’, Raja is free to solo extensively and colourfully.

Karmic Flow‘s deep bass riff against the mesmeric soundmix of tanpura, violin, saxes, drums and wordless vocals sets the tone for Soweto Kinch’s freestyling rap, much to the delight of the Pizza Express audience. And if ever there was a saxophonist whose instrument appeared to be simply an extension of their creative being, it must surely be Gilad Atzmon. In upbeat mid-groove FNUK – which finds Shez Raja soloing so fluidly, high on the fretboard, to infectious wah-wah keys and unified horn section – Atzmon grabs the the opportunity to wind up his tenor soloing from initial placidity to identifiable and outrageously rapid in-and-out-of-key brilliance – a joy to hear.

Taking on a Mahavishnu feel, thanks to the band’s unison melodies led by Pascal Roggen’s electric violin, Quiverwish bubbles to the slap’n’pop of Shez’s bass, Atzmon again in the midst; and Eastern Revolution melds violin and sitar sounds to great effect over whizzing electronics and Chris Nickolls’ high-impetus drums. Chirpy Chakras On The Wall features the lissome, scat-like vocals of Monika Lidke coupled with purposeful violin; South African in flavour, it includes, from Raja, a notable reverse-bass simulation (Paul Simon’s You Can Call Me Al, anybody?!).

Announced as “our funkiest track”, Junk Culture summons for me the memory of Jeff Beck/Jan Hammer classic You Never Know (There and Back, 1980) – certainly an infectious dazzler from this band’s nucleus involving a frothy keyboard frenzy from Alex Stanford. Finally, Freedom offers more of that African sunshine, courtesy of gyrating brass and clav over Raja’s swirling bass, Jay Phelps’ trumpet and Soweto Kinch’s alto determined to keep this party bouncing!

Released on 7 April 2014, on 33 Jazz, this is one spectacular jazz/funk celebration!

Check out the videos at Shez Raja’s YouTube channel.


Shez Raja
electric bass
Soweto Kinch alto saxophone, rapping
Gilad Atzmon tenor saxophone
Shabaka Hutchings clarinet
Jay Phelps trumpet
Monika Lidke vocals
Aaron Liddar alto and tenor saxophones
Pascal Roggen electric violin
Alex Stanford keyboards
Chris Nickolls drums

2014 gigs announced:
16 & 17 April: Album launch at Pizza Express Jazz Club, London (album launch)
6 June: The Forge, Camden
3 August: Erie Jazz Festival, USA
August: Australia and New Zealand tour

33 Jazz – 238 (2014)