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Pat Metheny & Anna Maria Jopek: Upojenie

John Kelman By

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A cult favorite amongst Pat Metheny fans, Upojenie—originally released by "Anna Maria Jopek & Friends with Pat Metheny" in the singer's native country of Poland by Warner Music in 2002—has been long overdue for greater international availability. The Nonesuch edition hasn't been remastered (it doesn't need it), but will still be of interest to Metheny fans for the inclusion of three bonus tracks (one studio, two live) that flesh it out to nearly 75 minutes.

In contrast to the same-day reissue of Metheny's more spontaneous trio disc with bassist Dave Holland and drummer Roy Haynes, Question and Answer (Nonesuch, 2008), Upojenie's heavy production work more closely resembles a Pat Metheny Group project, although Metheny has never had a singer with as lovely a voice as Jopek's. Reworking material from Metheny's own back catalog in addition to traditional Polish songs and originals by Jopek, co-producer Marcin Kydrynski and other Polish writers, it's a soft, accessible album that spotlights Metheny's innate lyricism and Jopek's appealing tone. While others have put words to Metheny's music, most notably Kurt Elling's version of "Minuano" on Man in the Air (Blue Note, 2003), nobody has made it the focus of an album.

Sung in Polish, the meaning of the lyrics can only be gleaned from the liner notes, but what's most important is Jopek's voice. She's a star at home who deserves to be better-known abroad, with her ability to deliver in a pure, unaffected and subtly nuanced fashion making "Przyplyw, Odplyw, Oddech Czasu," based on Metheny's tender "Tell Her You Saw Me," from Secret Story (Nonesuch, 1992), all the more poignant. Metheny's often-covered ballad "Farmer's Trust" begins as a spare duet with Metheny on classical guitar, taking on a gentle, slightly bossa groove when bassist Darek Oleskiewicz and drummer Cezary Konrad enter, setting the stage for a beautifully constructed, melodic solo from pianist Leszek Mozdzer and a more dramatic build to the song's conclusion.

Another Metheny favorite, "Are You Going With Me?" and a more radical, balladic reworking of "Me Jedyne Niebo"—"Another Life" from Speaking of Now (Warner Bros., 2002)—feature Metheny with his signature horn-like guitar synth, while "Zupelnie inna Ja"—Secret Story's "Always and Forever"—adopts a folksier vibe with the baritone guitar Metheny used exclusively on One Quiet Night (Warner Bros., 2003).

In addition to the bonus tracks—the balladic Polish Christmas Carol "Lulajze Jezniu," the spare duet "Na Calej Poloci Snieg" and considerably brighter album closer, "Szepty I Lzy"—like Metheny's reissue of his classic Song X (1985, reissued by Nonesuch, 2005), the running order has been completely changed. There will be those who prefer the original sequence, but this version is improved by a certain seamless inevitability and narrative flow.

Upojenie will appeal to fans of Metheny's more lushly produced Pat Metheny Group efforts, and bring overdue attention to Jopek—a singer of pristine clarity and deserving of far greater recognition.

Visit Pat Metheny and Anna Maria Jopek on the web.

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).

Title: Upojenie | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Nonesuch Records

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