Pat Metheny & Anna Maria Jopek: Upojenie (2008)
An oddity this one, even within the variegated discography of Pat Metheny. It features the guitarist alongside Polish singer Anna Maria Jopek and a group of mostly Polish musicians, recorded in Warsaw during 2002. Half the set features lyricised and re-titled versions of Metheny compositions, sung in Polish; the other half are originals composed in the main by Jopek and her husband, Marcin Kydrynski, plus a couple of traditional Polish tunes. Originally released in Poland, where it has sold upwards of 100,000 copies, the album has now been released internationally, with the addition of three bonus tracks (two of them live) and a newly put together, English language liner booklet including full musician credits and translations of the lyrics.
Metheny met Jopek at a jazz festival in 2001, when the singer approached him with the concept for the album. Over the next few months, Metheny familiarised himself with Jopek's recordings, fell in love with her voice and decided to proceed with the project. Upojeniewhich means ecstasy in English, but which to Poles also implies a degree of darknesswas recorded between July and October the following year.
Stylistically, the album sits closer to Metheny's layered and intricately produced work with the Pat Metheny Group than it does to his straight-ahead recordings with acoustic trios and quartets. Individual track line-ups are more or less evenly divided between eight to 11 piece electric groups and smaller electro-acoustic settings. Yet even the latter are meticulously post-produced and Jopek's multi-layered vocals give them a rich sheen akin to the electric tracks.
The degree to which members of Metheny's straight-ahead constituency will enjoy Upojenie will depend on how much they enjoy singers and how much they enjoy Metheny, as a composer and improviser, at his most blissed-out and supra-lyrical. On its own terms, the album is a charming, at times magical, confection of ethereal music, by no means ambient or background, but with a mellifluous, soothing vibe, in which PMG keyboardist Lyle Mays' lush lines are channelled through the playing of pianists and keyboardists Leszek Mozdzer, Pawel Bzim Zarecki and Maateusz Pospiezalski.
The standout track is coincidentally the longest, an 8:35 version of Metheny and Mays' "Are You Going With Me?". It's essentially an instrumental, with Jopek's wordless vocals providing color and texture. The main interest is Metheny's soaring, extended solo on Roland guitar synthesizer, which begins by close-referencing his solo on PMG's Travels (ECM, 1982) and concludes riding the tune's alchemical bass riff/hook, irresistibly delivered by Marcin Pospiezalski's Fender jazz bass and several keyboardists. It rocks.
About as far away as you can get from Metheny's "pure" jazz discography, let alone his work with saxophonist Ornette Coleman or his oeuvre, Upojenie is a curious one alright, but one the guitarist's fans will find well worth checking out.
Track Listing: Cichy Zapada Zmrok (Here Comes the Silent Dusk); Mania Mienia (So May It Secretly Begin); Biel (Witness); Przyplw, Odplyw, Oddech Czasu (Tell Her You Saw Me); Are You Going With Me?; Czarne Slowa (Black Words); Lulajze Jezuniu (Polish Christmas Carol); Upojenie (Ecstasy); Zupelnie inna Ja (Always and Forever); Piosenka Dla Stasia (A Song for Stas); Letter From Home; Me Jedyne Niebo (Another Life); By On Byl Tu (Farmer's Trust); Polskie Drogi (Polish Paths); Tam, Gdzie Nie Siega Wzrok (Follow Me); Na Calej Polaci Snieg (The Snow Falls All Over the Place); Szepty I Lzy (Whispers and Tears).
Personnel: Pat Metheny: 42 string Pikasso guitar (1, 6), electric guitar (2, 8), baritone guitar (3, 9), classical guitar (3, 7, 13), soprano guitar (4, 14), Roland guitar synthesizer (5, 6, 12), keyboards (5, 10), acoustic guitars (6, 10, 15), guitar synth (17), soprano acoustic guitar (16, 17); Anna Maria Jopek: voices (1-10, 12, 13, 15-17), choirs (4), "soap opera" vocals (5), backing vocals (6, 8, 12, 15), Fender Rhodes (6); Leszek Mozdzer: piano (2, 4-8, 11, 13, 15, 17), Pawel Bzim Zarecki: keyboards (2, 4-6, 8, 12, 15, 17), percussion (4), loops (4, 5), keyboard programming (10); Bernard Maseli: vibes (2); Darek Oleszkiewicz: acoustic bass (2, 4, 7, 8, 10, 12-14); Cezary Konrad: drums (2, 4-8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17); Piotr Nazaruk: backing vocals (2), recorder (2), flute (4-6, 15), additional shaker (4), hammered dulcimer (5), additional male voices (15); Wojeich Kowalewski: shakers (2, 4-6, 15), temple blocks (2, 6), timpani (4), crotales (4, 6, 12), bongos (4, 6), tambourine (5), bells (5), vibraslap (5, 12), congas (6), claves (6); Mateusz Pospieszalski: keyboards (2), loops (2, 12), orchestral chart (2, 12), conductor (2, 12); Marek Pospieszalski: turntables (2), classical guitar (8); String Ensemble: strings (2, 12); Marcin Pospieszalski: Fender jazz bass (5, 6, 15), loops (15); Henryk Miskiewicz: soprano saxophone (8, 9); Mino Cinelu: udu drum (8), triangle (8), shakers (8, 12), crotales (8), conga (12), wavedrum (12), percussion (17); Marek Napiorkowski: classical guitar (8), strumming guitar (17); Robert Kubiszyn: double-bass (17).