The Paderewski Festival had something new in store for us last night at the Cass Winery. It was “Polish Jazz Night,” and if you expected to walk in and see a drum set on stage, and maybe a double bass leaning against the wall, you were in for a surprise. We were introduced to an unusual combination of three talented Polish musicians, singer Anna Jurksztowicz, violinist/pianist/composer Krzesimir Debski and guitarist John Storie. Also lurking in the background, although not officially a member of the ensemble, was pianist/composer/author/musical impresario and translator Marek Zebrowski whose talents popped up in various capacities every few minutes during the evening.
These musicians provided an enormous variety of styles and many different exciting sounds. Since most of the songs were in Polish, Marek, Zebrowski made our understanding a whole lot easier with readings, translations and amusing comments. One other performer added some luster to the evening, and that was featured Festival pianist Jonathan Plowright who dazzled us with an extraordinary performance of Paderewski’s “Caprice” that was tossed off with such easy jaw-dropping mastery you just had to see it and hear it to believe it..
Violinist Debski was no slouch either. Whether playing the piano, his electrified violin, or doing some very un-Polish yodeling (I though they only yodeled in Switzerland and Bavaria), his artistic flair and virtuoso abilities on seemingly any instrument to which he sets his hands was very impressive indeed. Madame Anna Jurksztowicz sang mostly in Polish, not a word of which I understood, yet the emotions and expressive qualities she projected were effective and charming. She surprised us at the end with a Polish/French/English version of that old favorite from the 1950s, “Autumn Leaves,” and it was a knockout.
Guitarist John Storie played a subordinate role during much of the evening, but when he did emerge into the limelight at the end of the program, it was instantly apparent that he is a very rare order of musician, who obviously is a master of every musical style. This was guitar playing that really grabbed you by the throat and commanded your full attention. Wow!
A large “standing room only” audience turned out to hear this concert and they were not disappointed.