“The woods are still when I look in from the outside. The more I listen, the more I can hear them. My blood is spiked with emerald and I become green, glowing, sprouting new shoots from all over my body…”
Diffracting through a greenwood canopy, the poetic words and music of vocalist/violinist/pianist Alice Zawadzki illuminate her unique artistry and the concept behind new album Within You is a World of Spring – the follow-up to acclaimed Whirlwind debut release China Lane. Zawadzki leads an inspiring band of musicians and improvisers in realising her extraordinary, often moving, occasionally droll, original songs: Fred Thomas (piano, drums, percussion, banjo, organ), Rob Luft (guitar), Misha Mullov-Abbado (double bass) and Hyelim Kim (taegum). Integral to the impressive, layered detailing is the Amika String Quartet of Simmy Singh, Laura Senior, Lucy Nolan and Peggy Nolan, and engineer Alex Killpartrick.
“The title represents the journey that many of us can go through”, reveals Zawadzki, whose striking bodily transformation for the front cover was painted by artist Charlotte Mann. “We get to a certain age and begin to understand more about the brutality and turbulence of the world, experiencing heartbreak, social injustice, etc. My songs focus on the idea of remembering, during those times, that there’s a seed inside us which carries the life force to help us blossom again – we can change.”
Urgent portamento strings and intense drumming powerfully energize the title track, its words (‘When I feel done and done, your Spring returns to heal’) inspired by an Emil Aarestrup poem. Working in the ‘Calais Jungle’ proved life-changing for Alice, witnessing the resilience, dignity and goodness of many people there. So ‘God’s Children’ asks us not to forget their plight (‘Do you dare to dream? Are dreams not for all men? Let me ask you again - are dreams not for all God's children?’) through diaphanous, tumbling phrases and anthemic affirmation. “Tears can act as a conduit between us”, explains Zawadzki, “building the foundation for understanding.” Near-operatic ‘Superior Virtue’ recalls a beautiful, unfulfilled encounter, as violin, guitar and piano textures twinkle, while tongue-in-cheek romance ‘Es Verdad’ jigs with infectious, whimsical abandon.
Fluttering bamboo taegum (Korean flute) evokes Zawadzki’s woodland discovery as ambient swirls cushion her path through a love poem to one who could not cry, yet finally… ‘The tears running down his face are more rare and precious than jewels’. Sumptuously soulful ‘Keeper’ emphasizes the thread of ‘change’ – described as “those moments where the passage of time refracts and bends, where the end is the start and the start is the end” – heightened by blissful blue guitar. Sinewy violin in ‘Twisty Moon’ announces a scintillating imagined overture to a detective movie; and in elegantly traditional style, with Buenos Aires backdrop, ‘O Mio Amore’ speaks of heartbreaking separation across the Atlantic.
“Sometimes I try to court a kind of naivety when writing, at least at the start”, says Zawadzki, “to follow my curiosity or instinct without an agenda of what the piece should end up being. It keeps things fresh. All these musicians are brilliant and unique improvisers, so the spirits of jazz and folk are here, both sonically and in the themes of consciousness, humanity and love.” This is for the Spring that lies within you… within us all…
London has become the epicentre of a new wave of jazz and jazz related sounds, and amongst the scene there is a deep pool of artists and labels who have all contributed to this shift in musical-direction. One such label is Whirlwind Recordings: a musician-owned and operated indie that has released an eclectic catalogue of over 130 albums since its inception in 2010, while garnishing a global following of fans and supporters. The label provides a platform for showcasing adventurous & visceral music that spans genres, is rooted in originality and has a key emphasis on the improvised. The artists on the label range from established masters to guiding lights of their generation to undiscovered stars in the making.
“Whirlwind Recordings gives modern jazz a fresh, new face. The label’s inspired roster of talent bridges genres, instruments and generations—a testament to founder Michael Janisch’s insight into not only where jazz has been, but where it’s headed.”