Damjans – GIIPUJA

Tradition , originality , uniqueness of expression – these are the elements of today’s musical projects that make interesting and accepted global music scene. It is customary to engage in these mature musicians , those with extensive experience and knowledge of different styles and different models of presentation of music. That’s why the album GIIPUJA , debut of young musician from Rijeka Damjan Grbac , caused astonishment and surprise in jazz circles. Specifically , this Rijeka bassist and composer is not , like most other young musicians, succumbed to the temptation to immediately show off everything he knows, but he devoted himself to a particular thematic framework – the study of Istria and Kvarner folk music and finding ways to interpret it as part of the infamous jazz expression. The idea is not new, it has successfully worked Bosko Petrovic , such as suite Istra in my heart that it was achieved with MatebSpada and Martin Glavas who played bagpipes and “roženice”, and this theme is occupied and some of the younger jazz musicians, not necessarily from the region for which is characteristic of this tradition. But rare are those who are, for example, like Tamara Obrovac, most of the creativity dedicated to contemporary vision of Istria and Kvarner indigenous music.

Aware that this is not a commercial venture, Grbac was decided to present the folk expression with language of modern jazz, in some segments of the ultra modern, abstract, free jazz. Why not? Whether the abstract collective improvisation, which boasted famous free – jazz musicians, were the qualities of early jazz, New Orleans jazz and Dixieland, of course in a different musical context ? Recourse to extremes – archaic traditional music in the clash with the contemporary improvised jazz – music proved to be a logical procedure that resulted in an organic compound, creating a natural alloy.

The logical choice is the musicians who make up the group Damjans. With Grbac, who plays bass and prepared all the arrangements, it is a drummer and percussionist Tonci Grabusic (both are jazz musicians who are well acquainted with the traditional music of his native area), ethnomusicologist Dario Marusic playing sopele , twin houses, cindra and singing (Brings indigenous folk sound and performance) and the German Klaus Gesing who plays soprano saxophone and bass clarinet (musician classical and jazz education, which has merged with this, to him till now foreign.
Grbac was not impinged in autochthony of original folk tunes which he selected and Marusic faithfully interpreted, but he decorated it with elements of jazz and thus presented in a new way. It was only in his own compositions: “Noć” (engl. night), which he performed in a duo with Grabušić , and “Mess”, which plays a solo, achieved by integration of such expressions, confirming composing talent and ability of putting the vision into an interesting and exciting piece of music.

(Taken from newspapers Cantus , no. 179 )
Author: Davor Hrvoj

Love Me or Leave Me – LeKAP

Koncert Al Jarreau Ljetna Opatija Lela Kaplowitz Damjan Grbac Toncÿi Grabrovic«Lela Kaplowitz was born in Croatia in 1977 and began singing jazz as a teenager. She studied privately, and after attending a Berklee workshop in Italy, Lela decided to move to New York City to pay her dues. During her five years in New York, she studied with many of her idols and performed with Arturo ‘Chico’ O’Farrill’s Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra, Doug Carn, Miles Griffith, Bill Saxton, Harry Whittaker, Dick Griffin, Craig Handy, Ben Tucker and many others.

On her debut CD, Lela establishes herself as a bona-fide jazz singer from the first notes of the opening track, Ellington’s “Bli Blip”. She opens the song with her relaxed, self assured and playful style, taking liberties with the rhythms and the melodies. She remains faithful to the song, but also exhibits the adventurous improvisational qualities of her idols Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald. Lela’s husband, pianist and musical director, Joe Kaplowitz, made a name for himself in New York as a band leader and sideman, before following his wife to live in her native Croatia. Joe has cooked up some exciting and surprising arrangements for this CD. On “Too Close For Comfort” he augments the quartet with Branko Sterpin on Trumpet and Denis Razumović on Sax, adding solos and beautifully voiced counter lines that perfectly suit Lela’s swinging style.

More than just a great interpreter of songs, Lela is determined to give the audience the full creative experience of a well-knit jazz group. The LeKAP Quartet has been delighting audiences in Croatia and all over Europe since 2007, and their rapport and musicianship really shine through. Young Bassist Damjan Grbac, a student at Tartini Jazz Academy in Trieste has already established himself as a gifted performer. Tonči Grabušić, a drummer with 25 years of experience in many genres, joined the group after having a near-death experience in an accident. This brought the group together both as close personal friends as well as a highly cohesive musical ensemble led by Joe Kaplowitz’s inspired piano playing and arrangements.

“Take Five” has many delightful twists, both in Joe’s wonderful reworking of the harmony and rhythms, as well as in Lela’s beautiful rendition of the melody and her imaginative vocal improvisation. On this song, and throughout the CD, Lela takes ‘scat’ singing to a whole new level. With a formidable musical talent for improvisation, and informed by years of study with the likes of Sheila Jordan, Mark Murphy, Jay Clayton and many others, Lela reached the point where she can use her voice as a solo instrument. When she takes a solo, you can hear her mastery of the entire history of instrumental and vocal jazz, blended with her own creativity and warm personality. The result is a unique experience reminiscent of the great Ella. Listen to Ellington’s “Bli Blip” for a great example of her swingin’ scatting, and how she blends into the arrangement in the opening of “Love Me Or Leave Me” before taking another great ‘scat’ solo. This track also features a great guitar solo by guest musician Darko Jurković Charlie.

“Pamtim Samo Sretne Dane” is a Croatian song made famous by Gabi Novak which speaks of remembering happier days. Lela’s version manages to bring out the beauty of the song, while staying firmly within the jazz tradition, as does her wonderful version of Portillo De La Luz’s Spanish pop ballad “Delirio”.
“Sand Story”, a Lela original, conveys the mood of the desert and showcases Lela’s ability to tell a dramatic story. The ballad “Lover Man”, which closes the album, is given an original treatment by Joe’s unique arrangement, perfectly balancing the depth and beauty of Lela’s voice and her emotional rendering. Joe’s excellent solo then takes the song in a completely new direction with an occasional nod to Keith Jarrett.

One of the many highlights of the album is “Sassy’s Blues”, for which Lela wrote original lyrics celebrating the great Sarah Vaughan. The lyrics say it all, and they show, once again, just how deep is Lela’s dedication to understanding and preserving the history of vocal jazz. With this wonderful debut album, Lela is sure to carve out her own niche in jazz vocal history.

Dan Adler, Jazz Guitarist and Writer, New York.