REVIEW: ‘Let the world be a question’ – Monika Lidke

SINCE IF I WAS TO DESCRIBE YOU, and through 2017’s Gdyby każdy z nas… (If all of us…), singer-songwriter Monika Lidke has seemingly been absorbing musical influences and experimenting with vocal styles to bring divergent atmospheres to latest album Let the world be a question.

Polish-born and London-resident, Lidke’s earlier output has comfortably breezed between light jazz, European folk and easy-going pop. But this collection of a dozen songs, self-penned or co-written, also reveals different facets to her vocal expression. So alongside the recognisably carefree numbers, there are others which display a seasoned edge; and a host of accomplished musicians (listed below, including guitarists Matt Chandler, Kristian Borring and Maciek Pysz) interpret the contrasting moods and grooves with attractive detailing. These are unashamedly direct pop songs – but the trick is that they avoid lovelorn clichés, focusing rather on deepening family relationships and the circle of life, as well as the quiet beauty of the natural world.

Some lovely scenes are painted, including the Paul Simon-like, country-guitar-enhanced shuffle of Making it up as we go, Lidke’s vocal occasionally veering towards that of Suzanne Vega. The characteristic innocence of her wordless (‘dooh-dooh’) melodies break into poetic profundity in A Winter Morning, Curious Puzzle and heartfelt Mother, while Lazy Detour’s bluesy electric-piano groove, including a feature for trumpeter Dawid Frydryk, suggests the illumination of new artistic pathways. Alle Choir London’s snappy backing brings frissons of delight to numbers such as gospel-tinted Not a Bad Bone and hip-swinging Samba, Biodra i Nogi; and soft-rock Słuchaniem być (To be listening) especially stays in the memory, with Matt Chandler’s fluid electric-guitar improv a real treat.

Initially quaint, Snowflake’s Dream’s lyric implies a touching mother-to-son conversation about life (“…always remember me shining… I’ll make a full circle… a teardrop in the corner of your eye”), then ramping up into a more effusive aspect of Lidke’s performance we should hear more of. Tango’s descending-bass mystery, too, has an attraction, the Polish-sung lyric of encouragement offering up pictorial lines such as “I’m not afraid [of] your words which fight like a windmill with light” before hitting a bright rock-out; and rhythmic W deszczu pod parasolem (In the rain under an umbrella) is joyously uplifting – Could it really have happened, a miracle between us.

Finally, alongside Zimowy Poranek (a Polish version of A Winter Morning) are three remixes by producers Happy Cat Jay and Wulfnote. While such arrangements can sometimes appear to be gimmicky or even questionable add-ons, these are imaginatively refashioned with a peppy, radio-play vibe. Wulfnote’s Lazy Detour, in particular, abounds with so much interest.

There’s a sense, from the depth of a clutch of these songs, that Monika Lidke’s journey could flourish in more challenging areas, perhaps led by a theme, a concept. Certainly her harder vocal timbres point that way… in a direction I’d follow.

Released on 8 October 2020, Let the world be a question is available as CD, vinyl and digital download at the monikalidke.com store.

 

Monika Lidke vocals
Alle Choir London* backing vocals (tracks 5, 6, 8)
Matt Chandler guitars (tracks 1, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15)
Kristian Borring electric guitar (tracks 4, 5, 14)
Maciek Pysz acoustic guitar (tracks 4, 5)
Adam Teixeira drums (tracks 1, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12)
Waldemar Franczyk drums (tracks 2, 6, 8, 13, 16)
Chris Nickolls drums (tracks 3, 4, 5)
Tim Fairhall double bass (tracks 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12)
Marcin Grabowski fretless bass (tracks 2, 13, 16), double bass (track 6), electric bass (track 8)
Shez Raja electric bass (tracks 4, 5)
Jan Freicher piano (tracks 3, 5, 6, 8, 14), vibraphone (tracks 2, 6, 13, 16), synth (tracks 2, 13)
Adam Spiers cello (tracks 1, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12)
Wayne Urquhart cello (track 14)
Dawid Frydryk trumpet (tracks 3, 6, 14)
Happy Cat Jay drums, piano (track 15), synth (tracks 15, 16), bass guitar (track 16)

*Alle Choir London are:
Marta Mathea Radwan director, backing vocal arrangements
Klaudia Baca, Anita Łazińska, Karolina Micor, Marta Mathea Radwan,
Justyna Rafalik, Krystian Godlewski, Krzysztof Suwała singers

monikalidke.com

MLCD002 (2020)

‘The Hidden Notes – Spirit of Adventure’ – John Martin

JohnMartin

CHARTING the lesser-known seas of saxophone multiphonics, this 2CD quintet release from John Martin is defined by its title – a spirited voyage of adventure in search of ‘the hidden notes’.

Martin explains that, around ten years ago whilst practicing, he discovered that the tenor sax had the potential to produce multiple overtones and textures; and for the past few years, he has set out to explore jazz in this context, developing a system to tempt out these “rather shy and often badly behaved notes.” Joining him on this recording are Ralph Wyld (vibraphone), Rob Updegraff (electric guitar), Tim Fairhall (double bass) and Tim Giles (drums).

Over ninety minutes, the vibe is of accessible post-bop jazz – yet, as with any expedition into unfamiliar territory, it can take a while to settle into the newness of the polyphonic experience. So the saxophone delivery might initially be difficult to fathom, as these ‘three-dimensional’ sounds are coaxed out of the instrument, with some more effective than others (first reactions, in places, might incorrectly suggest a lack of technique!). But Martin goes all out for experimentation, injecting his ten original compositions (plus three preludes) and otherwise full, clear, instrumental timbre with surprising piquancy.

Both the writing and the performances throughout are slick, the broad expanse of many of the tracks appearing to create an openness amongst the five musicians. The opening theme of Heptopia, for example, is so melodically warm, riding the gentle waves of Rob Updegraff’s luscious chords and Ralph Wyld’s bejewelled vibraphone; and often – as here and in Spirit of Adventure – this combination creates the kind of sweet repetition enjoyed in the music of Pierre Moerlen’s Gong or even Steve Reich. There’s much to excite, from Tick Tock‘s perky buoyancy, threaded with individual improv artistry, to swinging Folklore and Giant’s Stomp, both shot through with Martin’s gruff, harmonic clusters and richly-phrased soloing.

Pentacision – a sixteen-minute odyssey in two parts – ripples with episode after episode, as if traversing oceanic swells and reaching contrasting, breezeless conditions (the tricksy time signature riffs are pleasingly memorable). Eddies features more of Martin’s hypnotic riffs, which are especially effective here as the crescendoing and decrescendoing overtone patterns almost suggest a Doppler shift; and the joyous swing of The Optimistic Pessimist, bookended by more extreme tonal caws, is enriched by the saxophonist’s careful, melodic use of his system.

Employing an individual technique which might easily have been the ‘elephant in the studio’, John Martin’s release is full of engaging, jazz vibrancy – an expansive journey spangled with unexpected musical glints and refractions. A beautiful, dreamlike cover illustration, too, from Ellen Tovey.

The Hidden Notes – Spirit of Adventure is available from F-IRE.com and John Martin’s website. More information at thehiddennotes.com.

 

John Martin tenor saxophone
Rob Updegraff electric guitar
Ralph Wyld vibraphone
Tim Fairhall double bass
Tim Giles drums

Illustration by Ellen Tovey

thehiddennotes.com
johnnoblemartin.com

F-IRE Presents – F-IRE CD 92 (2016)

‘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)