Violinist/composer/arranger Alicja Śmietana has prepared a very special concert program to celebrate the life and music of her late father, one of the legends of Polish jazz, guitarist Jarek Śmietana (1951-2013).
With her on stage at the Jazz Cafe POSK on Saturday April 23, a leading British trio: James Pearson on piano, Jeremy Brown on double bass and Ed Richardson on drums.
Śmietana has been a member of some of the best chamber orchestras in Europe: the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and Kremerata Baltica. She was a founding member and co-founder with Nigel Kennedy of the Orchestra of Life. In 2010, she founded the Ensemble Extra Sounds, bringing together young talents from Poland, England and Australia.
Also a fine improviser, she performs in a wide range of jazz and contemporary music contexts, including the Quincy Jones Orchestra with Quincy himself, and with many other jazz artists: Jan Ptaszyn Wróblewski, Wojciech Karolak, Gwilym Simcock, Krzesimir Dębski, Larry Goldings, Peter Bernstein, Darek Oleś… Interview/overview by Tomasz Furmanek
Alicja Smietana. Photo credit: Dmitry Simakov London Jazz News:
What is the story of your father Jarek Śmietana’s “Jazz Suites”? Alicja Smietana:
The suites are incredibly unique works by my father. They consist of a beautiful collage of some of his early individual compositions (some from the early 70s) and more recent compositions, but in this case they have been rearranged to form a kind of symphonic poem. They were carefully selected by my father to form this unique set of compositions, and what is fabulous about them is that they are incredibly flexible. They offer endless possibilities as to how they can be performed, which is why I chose them for this particular gig.
Each suite (Fall and Spring) was arranged for a jazz combo (with different “star” instrumentalists leading as special guests for recordings and concerts) and a string orchestra. The original Fall Suite recording features a phenomenal roster of jazz stars like Eddie Henderson, Ed Schuler, Bennie Maupin, Dave Liebman, Nigel Kennedy, as well as Polish heroes like My Dad and Krzesimir Dębski. LJN:
Do these pieces have a personal meaning for you?AS
: This particular combination of classically written strings accompanied by a jazz ensemble is something that I have always felt particularly comfortable with, which is probably why these pieces have an even deeper meaning for me, both both musically and emotionally. LJN:Have you ever played these sequels before
: I have run them several times. And in fact, it was one of my first “jazz records”, because the first recording of the suite was created at the time of my life when my father saw fit to ask me to create an orchestra for him. . So this fact also has a strong meaning for me because it was practically the first professional project that we ever did together on stage. LJN:
Is playing in a jazz quartet format something rather new for you or was it before? AS:
The jazz quartet is something I’ve been involved with on and off for many years now, but has never really established itself as a full-time existing band. I think this particular line-up is the start of something that will stick with us and the dear audience for a long time. LJN:
What is the story of your collaboration with James Pearson? AS:
I am incredibly lucky to have met James through a few mutual friends (my dear friends Nigel Kennedy and Lizzie Ball) and my religious visits to Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club where James was Artistic Director for many years.
What immediately charmed me was his ability to move from one genre to another within the same musical phrase and I immediately thought he was someone with whom I could do a lot. James is an amazing instrumentalist and a fascinating person both on and off stage, which I guess is the key to a successful collaboration.
We are now beginning to work together on our debut album which will consist of our favorite material from American composers who have felt equally at home with jazz as they have with classical music. So like us. LJN:
Is jazz becoming more important? AS:
Of course yes, although I will never try to pretend to be a full-fledged jazz violinist. I certainly can’t imagine my life without it as part of my career. I’ve been incredibly lucky to be able to collaborate with amazing jazz musicians over the years and to invite some of them to collaborate on my own projects. A perfect example of this was my “lockdown” split-screen series which involved the likes of Larry Goldings, Darek Oleś, Peter Bernstein and many more. LJN:
What have you been doing musically lately, what are your projects? AS:
The whole period of confinement has of course been extremely difficult for almost all performers around the world. But it was a good opportunity to do something outside of the usual touring life.
A part of my career has always been devoted to arranging and during all this time I have managed to create quite a few unique arrangements which have recently been premiered live at concerts in Poland and the UK.
I was also blessed to have my first “official” composition for chamber orchestra and jazz combo titled “Impressions on HMG” (based on themes by Henryk Mikolaj Górecki) premiered by the wonderful Silesia Philharmonic last December. So I guess that whole period was spent developing all those skills that sizzled beneath the surface of endless touring and performing. LJN:
Could you please invite the public for the Jazz Café POSK concert in your own words? AS:
It would be a great honor to see you all at the JCP for a wonderful concert celebrating the life and music of my dear father Jarek Śmietana. My quartet’s star line-up with James Pearson, Jeremy Brown and Ed Richardson is an incredibly exciting prospect as we’re about to bring you not only music from my dad, but the music that inspired him. and inspired me during my time with him, as the music in our house was always present day and night. Everything, including the arrangements of his music, will be unique and it would be wonderful to finally be able to perform live for all of you.
Tomasz Furmanek is artistic director of Jazz Cafe Posk LINKS: Book your tickets for the concert on April 23Alija