Szafran, Lora

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This session was recorded in Poland and other than the fact that all the players are natives of the country, there's not much else to say about them. The liner notes have no biographical nor discographical information on any of the participants. That they are very good shouldn't surprise anyone, given Poland has long been one of the more active jazz scenes on the Continent. Although the album is billed as vocalist Lora Szafran's, playing time is equitably distributed among all the players. That this album is a collective effort is made clear right from the outset. On the initial cut, "Very Early," the trumpet of Piotr Wojtasik is the main attraction. His muted horn weaves in and out with Szafran's vocalizing for the first chorus, followed by a couple of choruses of his open trumpet. Pianist and leader of the group, Wojciech Niedziela's minimalist piano is also prominent on this cut. A similar playing sequence occurs on "Right Frog." The album's playlist is a mix of standards plus originals by Polish composers. The latter hold up well with the more familiar material. Some originals are sung in Polish, so appreciating the lyrics may be difficult. Szafran's vocal style reflects the influence of Ella Fitzgerald, but assumes the styling of Judy Niemack and the very fine Norwegian singer Karen Krog. Szafran is equally comfortable with the upbeat tunes such as "Perdido" and with ballads. Her rendition of "My One and Only Love" is especially effective with Jacek Niedziela's bass laying a perfect foundation. This interchange is followed by the muted horn of the ever-present Wojtasik. Szafran manages to avoid the emotional excesses other singers often adopt when doing "Lush Life." The album's coda is a smoky, blues-drenched version of "Teach Me Tonight."

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