Classical music combined with the syncopated rhythm of jazz under a blue Chicago summer sky in Millennium Park on Sunday, July 25. The esoteric jazz stylist Grazyna Auguscik joined a host of musical artists to celebrate the 200th birthday of Poland’s greatest composer, Fryderyk Chopin.
Sharing the stage with Auguscik were The Chicago International Trombone Ensemble, Jarek Bester on accordion, and Matt Ulery on bass. Guest appearances were made by the Andrzej Jagodzinski Trio, Grammy Award-winner Howard Levy on harmonica, Ian Maksin on cello, Ronnie Malley on oud, and Brasil’s Paulinho Garcia on guitar and vocals. (View performance here).
Only Auguscik could bring together such a wide array of musical talents on one single night to present the world music of Poland’s gem of a composer. The singer, arranger, and producer, one of the most innovative contemporary jazz vocalists on the music scene today, has a unique, unorthodox approach to arranging the classics. She is also a talented composer, having recorded fourteen albums.
Adding her flair to well-renowned Chopin masterpieces, she started the night off with Prelude E-min Op.28 No 4, arranged by jazz pianist Andrzej Jagodzinski. Since there are no vocals, Auguscik vocalized with sounds, projecting her voice like an instrument, sometimes even jazz scatting, much in the style of Ella Fitzgerald.
The Chicago International Trombone Ensemble gave the jazz-classical mix an unusual, full, lower register sound as only trombones can do. Bester’s accordion injected Polish-European flavor to the music, while Matt Ulery’s deep bass rhythms kept time. I had to remind myself this was Chopin.
Born near Warsaw in 1810, Chopin is the product of a French father and Polish mother. The young composer set his sights on Vienna, then Paris, finding a new home in the majestic city among other Polish exiles of the day. It was here in the French city of art and culture Chopin established himself as an accomplished pianist, composing original harmonies with technical scores.
The child prodigy who wrote two Polonaises at age seven, (G minor and B-flat), invented musical forms, enhancing mazurkas, waltzes, boleros, and polonaises. Chopin is described as the composer of small-scale works during the Romantic age. Perhaps his best-known work is Minute Waltz, Op.64, No.1. (Listen here).
In addition to Auguscik, I thoroughly enjoyed the Andrzej Jadodzinski Trio, blending Chopin’s Sonata in B-flat minor, Op.35 with a contemporary jazz sound that was incredible to hear. The work was arranged by the group’s leader and founder, Jagodzinski, who made a piece from the 1800’s sound so modern, so up-to-date. (Check out the Trio here).
Brazilian guitarist Paulinho Garcia, Chicago’s Jazz Entertainer of the Year for 2002, incorporated a familiar bossa nova beat for two Chopin numbers, Nocturn E-min, Op.72, No.1 and Sonata G-min, Op.65, 3rd movement, (Chopin didn’t give names to his pieces, only numbers). The sound was truly unique. (Grazyna and Paulinho here).
The birthday bash concert was celebrated by a large Polish community turn-out, uniting to highlight the accomplishments of their country’s favorite son. Chopin’s musical contributions are part of the World Beat, music that entertains the globe as we join in this worldwide celebration.
For more on Grazyna Auguscik, go here.
Info on Andrzej Jagodzinski Trio here.
Paulinho Garcia is here.
grazynaauguscik.com, centerstage.com, youtube.com, 8notes.com, jagodzinski.art.pl, paulinhogarcia.com