Alice Zawadzki/Fred Thomas/Misha Mullov-Abbado.
(Sands Film Studios, Rotherhithe. 22 May 2023. Review by Oliver Weindling)
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The loss of gigs during lockdown in 2020 inspired Sands Film Studios in Rotherhithe to start a regular series of live events. A mix of jazz and classical, often baroque. These concerts are all available online, using excellent video and sound. The audience make voluntary contributions, depending on how much they have enjoyed the event!
One of the prime movers for the music programme there is Fred Thomas, both for jazz and baroque. So here he brought in a ‘supergroup’ trio, with Alice Zawadzki on violin and vocals, and Misha Mullov-Abbado on bass for an evening of mesmerising intensity.
Thomas has always been strong in smaller formats. Such as his trio playing Wagner (Dick Wag), his recent trio album of Bach for ECM, and, though not actually as leader, the band with Elina Duni and Rob Luft, who actually did a concert at Sands soon after lockdown started, and where he plays percussion, bass and piano (with a new ECM album due soon).
This line up has similarities, in that he plays piano and percussion. He’s a sympathetic musician, whose involvement both enhances Zawadzki and the eloquent bass of Mullov-Abbado. The repertoire is diverse, reflecting the wide range of sources that they have found. Through the evening, there are songs in Spanish, Ladino (the Sephardi language), Polish, French and just one in English.
Often songs of love and longing, many have such varied origins and originally date back centuries. Yet the group manages to give them a refreshing modern life and energy and give a clear musical arc to the show. Perhaps it’s because of the imagination due to their strong jazz approach which gives a new life to what could seem like distant and dusty songs. But also through the passionate and knowledgeable introductions by Zawadzki, putting them in context, such as a Ladino song which was sung en route from Thessaloniki on the way to the Polish death camps during World War 2.
She has a great curiosity and enthusiasm, which comes through in her vocals and violin playing. But she seems to have a clear enthusiasm for all types of Jewish musical history, and it’s worth catching up on her recent BBC Radio documentary on rediscovering Yiddish songs by the Jews who escaped from Poland to Kazakhstan in 1940.
Here’s hoping that this project will be recorded soon. But it’s certainly possible to stream the gig (as well as many others from Sands)..
Watch the stream of the concert HERE (NB donation link)