Alice Zawadzki - vocals, violin, piano
Alex Roth - guitars
Andreas Lang - double bass
Kit Downes - hammond organ
Jon Scott - drums
Shirley Smart - cello
Emilia Martensson, Fini Bearman - vocals
Eva Thorarinsdottir, Steven Proctor - violin
Lucy Nolan, Tahan Stevens - viola
Peggy Nolan, Rosie Toll - cello
Recorded by Les Mommsen at 4AM Productions & the Union Chapel
Track 7 recorded by Ben Cottrell at Matt and Phreds Jazz Club
Mixed by Alex Bonney
Mastered by Peter Beckmann
Produced by Alice Zawadzki
Co-Produced by Alex Roth
Executive Producer - Michael Janisch
released June 16, 2014
ABOUT THE ALBUM
Amongst the burgeoning talent on the London alternative music scene, singer-songwriter, violinist and pianist Alice Zawadzki stands out from the crowd. The past few years she's acquired a buzz from musicians, critics, club owners and fans alike, the result of her ability to communicate through her music with simple yet profound purity; she's being talked about as one of the most infectious singer/songwriters to appear in some time. Her diverse background and ability to perform across genres- while retaining her own intelligent musical style- give her a unique accessibility. Says London Jazz about Zawadzki, "The range of textures and colors, the expressive possibilities seemed more or less infinite."
China Lane is the debut album from Zawadzki. Written and arranged over five years it encompasses a rich collection of influences: from ancient Sephardic songs about loss, exodus and prejudice to Zawadzki's modern fairy tales full of mischief, whimsy, obsession and magic, as well as Bartok-inspired folk stories about young love, with magnetic ballads and groove-infused delights. Zawadzki, who wrote most of the material on the album and performs as vocalist (singing authentically in multiple languages), violinist and pianist explains: “I finished writing the title track 'China Lane', in Berlin, in the summer of 2012. I had started writing lyrics for it in my old home of Manchester, moved by the beauty of the city at sunset and a deep sense of nostalgia. A simple description of what I could see soon became, in some way, a homage to living in the moment. The gentle background sounds of humming beer fridges mixed with passing Manchester buses on the recording makes me smile.”
And the supporting cast on China Lane features a combination of new bandmates and long term collaborators in Alex Roth (guitar), Kit Downes (Hammond), Andreas Lang (bass), and Jon Scott (drums). Each bring playfulness and cohesion to the repertoire, with an evidently natural empathy. The purple sounds of Kit Downes’ Hammond permeate the trip-hop inspired 'Cat'; “it’s something of a modern fairytale to me”, says Zawadzki. “The ghost of a murdered feline finds it’s way into the body of a woman with excellent consequences.” Fantastical notions continue into ‘Ring of Fire’, with driving interplay between Scott and Lang eventually bringing the detailed folk melodies into a soulful jam. Darker episodes, however, have their place in ‘You As A Man’, described by Adrian Stevenson of the Manchester Jazz Festival as "a brave and touching expression of feelings on the topic of obsessional love that most singers would struggle to get close to.” Compositional influences from Steve Coleman’s M-Base serve to intensify the songs poignant lyrics.
The album is carefully augmented with layers of cello, violin and and additional voices. Cellist Shirley Smart features in one of the Sephardic interpretations. A brooding and languorous introduction between the cello and violin later gives way to Smart’s virtuosic sound, full of intent and unique language. This ancient tradition is just one of many influences to be found on the record; it’s subject matter just as relevant today as when it was written. “As any kind of artist, you are dead when you stop putting yourself in other peoples shoes,” says Zawadzki.
The joyfully simple, cinematic and powerful ‘Low Sun; Lovely Pink Light’, features vocalists Emilia Mårtensson and Fini Bearman, with soaring wordless vocals and the delightful rises and falls of Alex Roth’s solo guitar. Inspired by the tiny island of Strynø in Denmark, Zawadzki writes: “It was deepest winter and the landscape was harsh and witchy. The sky, sea and land had all turned the same color, as if a painter had taken their brush and swirled the scene in circles with water until all blurred into one. And in the distance the sun was rising, amber and rose, the most beautiful I'd ever seen.”
A uniquely expressive performer and a gifted storyteller, Alice Zawadzki's star is set to rise with the release of China Lane. It's a brave and assured debut which takes the listener on a journey of love, compassion, conflict and joy.
"A genuine original."
★★★★ The Guardian
"With her glacial, folksy vocals and puckish fiddle, Alice Zawadzki would be notable enough. Add her compositional range and whimsical hyper-creativity and she becomes something of a phenomenon."
★★★★ MOJO Magazine
"Uncategorizable, beautiful – a real force to be reckoned with.”
Jamie Cullum, BBC Radio 2
"This debut album from singer-songwriter, violinist and pianist Alice Zawadzki is a many-splendoured collection that pulls you in a myriad of emotional directions. It would be difficult to imagine a finer introduction to Zawadzki's music."
★★★★ Jazzwise Magazine
"China Lane confirms Zawadzki’s status as a major vocal, instrumental and song-writing talent."
★★★★ The Jazz Mann
"At times conjuring thoughts of Bjork or Kate Bush while sounding like neither."
★★★★ Jazz Journal
"2014 has already been a triumphant year for female jazz vocalists. China Lane, the debut album from singer-songwriter and violinist Alice Zawadzki, may just be the most exciting of a rich crop. Zawadzki is a distinctive and individual presence, both as a singer and as a writer, and her own diverse background and immersion in different cultures makes for a compelling and entrancing listen. This is inclusive music that deserves to be heard."
★★★★ Music OMH
"She showed that she not just an immensely able singer with a wide range of vocal timbre, but also a songwriter AND a lyricist AND a violinist AND a pianist AND an entertainer.... The possibilities are just limitless."
"As enchanting to experience ‘live’ as in this fine recording, Alice Zawadzki is most definitely one of contemporary’s jazz’s stars of the present and the future, possessing, as she does, remarkable musical dexterity and personality. A fine solo album debut."
"A debut album with a truly unique sound world."
★★★★ Jazzwise Magazine
"Beguiling, unorthodox tunes and pure vocals."
Independent Radar (Highlight of the Week)
Time Out London
"On China Lane, Zawadzki sounds like Zawadzki—it's a sound that's definitely worth hearing. A strong debut, the arrival of a musician with a distinctive voice and songwriting style."
All About Jazz
"As a showcase of what Zawadzki can do China Lane is superb and Zawadzki clearly has a great deal to offer."
"A superb collection of songs that draws upon many influences yet ends up sounding distinctive and unique. Evocative vocals and lyrics are combined with inspired improvisational passages."
★★★★ The Jazz Mann
"She is also a composer of gliding, melodically unorthodox tunes that connect to contemporary classical music as much as jazz or pop, and an expressive lyricist... This debut took five years, and it's plainly very close to Zawadzki's heart."
★★★★ The Guardian
BBC Radio 3 (Album of the Week - May 2014)
"The album was recorded over an extended period of five years, and in so doing captures the distinctiveness and breadth of Zawadzki’s musical endeavours."
Bebop Spoken Here
"Zawadzki, with her highly expressive voice, can switch at will from sounding like a pop singer on the title track to immersing herself in the Sephardic folk of ‘Dicho Me Habian Dicho’, in equal measure... A promising debut."