Alchemia, Kraków, Krakow Jazz Autumn 4/11/19
JAWWAAD TAYLOR (vocal/trumpet)
STEFAN GONZALEZ (vibraphone/drums/vocal)
INGEBRIGT HÅKER FLATEN (acoustic and electric bass)
JASON JACKSON (tenor and baritone sax)
JONATHAN F. HORNE (guitar)
FRANK ROSALY (drums)
This concert was unusual and very special for me in several ways. First of all I was waiting for it to happen since February this year. Second of all I had a pleasure to be a part of organizing this (first and only!) concert of The Young Mothers in Poland at Alchemia, together with one of a kind Marek Winiarski (artistic director of Krakow Jazz Autumn and founder of Not Two Records). What is more, these two days with the band in Kraków were probably at the top of my list of most exctiting and wonderful things in my life, so lean back, press play on Black Tar Caviar, and I will tell you this crazy story.
Excited more than ever, I’ve picked them up at the airport around 2 pm. Already there I’ve setteled with Jason that I will take them out to eat the best bigos (hunter’s stew) in town. He told me about his Polish roots and that his Mom, Sharon, sometimes makes this dish for him (and she always adds too much wine). As we were talking about Polish specialities, Ingebrigt announced: “We need food!”. So after few logistic arrangements, we’ve packed up the van and headed to city center – first to the hotel, and then straight to Alchemia for the food and soundcheck.
We knew we had a long night ahead of us, so the food was neccessary. We’ve sat by the table at Alchemia Od Kuchni and ordered tons of food and drinks with funny names. We even got one by mistake, we didn’t know who ordered it, and when Jonathan came back to the table, we’ve all asked chorally: Did you order this drink?! His answer was no, but he was more than happy to drink it anyway. Jawwaad told me everything about a composition he made for Robert Pruitt’s show “Devotion” which was presented at CAAM in L.A. He posted short pieces of it on Instagram and I have immediately fell in love with the music and wrote him a message. They were also curious how me and Ingebrigt knew each other, so I told them another story of my life, which was my Dad’s 50th birthday party in June this year, to which I’ve invited Ingebrigt to play in a duo with Fredrik Ljungvist for my whole family. I couldn’t omit mentioning my Grandma, who became famous for drinking Ingebrigt and Fredrik Ljungvist under the table at that party. But that’s a story for a separate post 😉
Then I told the short story about how it all started and happened that I’ve booked this concert for them, after talking with Ingebrigt in February, in Oslo – “I was looking forward to this concert since that very moment, actually”- I said and then Frank proposed a toast to the truest and biggest fan of The Young Mothers.
After the dinner, it was time to start the soundcheck. It lasted for about 2 hours and it felt like an opening gate to the wild and colorful musical world of The Young Mothers. A prelude to the evening-show.
I was truly enjoying being a fly on the wall and quietly listetning to the band warming up, hanging around and getting the backline ready on stage. My cousin, Klara, joined us shortly after they started. She flew in straight from London the same day, specially for this concert. First they were separately getting up on stage, testing the sound and instruments, playing main themes of their songs. They were constantly moving, playing solo for a while, then in a duo, or trio, until they all got up on the stage and played longer parts in a full line-up. They worked on every detail til the last minute so that everything would be perfect at the show, and the sound engineer was cooperatively and patiently listetning to their directions. Stefan sat by the wall and while listening to the double bass and saxophone duo, he made some notes in his tour diary. Jonathan was taking a picture of him at that moment, and after that he asked if he could take a picture of us:
The start of the concert was coming closer and closer. Alchemia was quickly filling up and empty seats were disappearing within minutes! I found Ingebrigt and Stefan at the bar getting mad dogs right before getting up on stage. Well, I had no choice but to order the 7th shot. We grabbed the glasses, spilled some on the way to the backstage and holding the door, while giggling of excitement. We’ve formed a circle and raised the glasses to make a toast for the concert. Suddenly Jawwaad said: To Grandma Hanna! Grandma couldn’t be at the concert, but I’ve promised her that we would drink her health, and we did! Then, with a big smile on my face, I said: “To The Young Mothers”, and Frank added: “To the drunk mothers!” with the emphasis on drunk… 🙂 Well, the concert was promising well!
Together with Marek, I had an honour to present the band for the audience. Everyone was patiently listetning to my fast and nervous rambling, but when I found my Dad’s warm and cheerful smile in the audience, I couldn’t help but smile back and laugh. I finally got to the part of presenting their names, and already after the first one, we could hear Stefan funnily repeating after me and other sounds of excitement from the band. They just couldn’t wait to finally take over the stage. “Ladies and gentelmen… Let’s give a big applause to THE YOUNG MOTHERS!”
And here we are – seeing The Young Mothers performing live for the first time, and as well it was their first and only concert on this tour in Poland! They’ve finally joined the forces again, after over one year break from touring, released the monster and blew Alchemia up!!! The first song they played, “Scarlet Woman Lodge”, is a new material they are working on right now, and trust me – if you thought that their two albums, “Morose” and A Mother’s Work Is Never Done, couldn’t be beaten, this song proves you all wrong. The tension was slowly building up, with “calm” transitions, and a beautiful, repetitive melody on a trumpet, and then exploding and turning into marching rythm. The cherry on top was Stefan’s growl in the background in this chaotic drum-eruption, but perfectly fitting in, and then psychedelic guitar riffs of Jonathan, with the angelic sounds of vibraphone, for good measure. Total and complete blast! After the new song, they’ve presented a mix of tracks from the first and the second album. Black Tar Caviar as the second made me and my sisters go wild and headbaning during the whole song!
Stefan was changing all the times between drums, deep and dark growl, to the magical and somehow fairy-tale-ish sound of vibraphone, like from hell to heaven – he was truly phenomenal! He had a short solo part before Bodiless Arms – playing with his mouth, and a drumstick by knocking on his teeth, then subdued scream perfectly corresponding and starting a dialogue with the saxophone and beggining the next song…
This performance was so vibrant and it really made me feel alive. Not only me, though – the response from the audience was truly amazing, and I couldn’t feel more proud to have my part in making this concert possible. Someone was screaming from the back of the room, other was hitting their head from excitement, but probably the best thing was that on “Wells, the original” each person sitting at Alchemia started headbaning and dancing to the rythm of the melody. Guys noticed it even from the scene and they admitted after the show, that this view was a knockout. Just listen to it. If it doesn’t make you feel alive and rip you from the inside, then I don’t know what does.
My little sister, encouraged by me and my cousins, shouted “The Young Mothers” in the break, with her pipy, angel voice, which immediately brought a smile on their faces and cheering from the audience. It was time for the thanking part and some more music.
Me and my Dad couldn’t wait for our favourite track, Attica Black, and we finally got it at the end of the main part. They presentet a new version of this track, slightely changed from the standard album-version, and of course we loved it! Sadly, it was the last song they planned to play for us, but we couldn’t let them go, not just yet. With stomping, squealing, high whistling and cheerful applause, the audience invited them to play some more. And even better – we got not one, but two encores! The first one was about 15 minutes with “Jazz oppression” and “Wells, the original”. That was freaking incredible! And of course not enough for the hungry audience, who forced them to come out again for the second encore! This one was short and lirycal, though. The show was over. People were screming and cheering from excitement and that may be the best possible reaction proving that the gig was beertastic and rousing!!!
After almost a two-hour show, the air at Alchemia was soaked with crazy good energy and the echo of the Young Mothers music was still resonating somwehere in the walls. People were thanking me after the show for coorganizing this gig nad I’ve never felt such warmth after hearing such kind words. My little sister went backstage and got a drumstick from Frank – then she made all of them to sign it. Everyone felt this special energy and was loaded with amazing vibes from head to toe. Alchemia was radiating!
After the show, good energy inhalation, post-show talks about the power of mind and thoughts with Jawaad, interviews and packing up, it was time to celebrate! It was not easy to get everybody at once and go upstairs to the reserved table, but another round of mad dogs was quite convincing. The afterparty has begun.
I guess drinking mad dogs at Alchemia is a must and it is a part of long tradition for musicians playing there. And that evening is now also forever written into the history of Alchemia.
It was only a third round, and Jawwaad already got “a double mad dog” – just for the strongest heads. Stefan showed me his tour-diary, which was a couple of sheets from a notebook, where he noted down all the concert of TYM on their European tour in an interesting, graphic form, and some notes on the side. He asked me suddenly: “What is your last name? Like your familiy name.” Next to the Kraków-show he wrote down: “Witkowski/Witkowska family”. After a couple of another rounds, good talks and laughs, it was time to record the most important part of this evening – greetings from the Young Mothers for Wschodnie Triady radio show (My “This is” series wouldn’t be complete without it). As I put down the recorder in the middle of the table, it was laying there in the next… 25 minutes. We got on the record a whole 25 minutes of rambling, screaming, laughing, weird talks, Stefan growling or even sniffing the recorder. In the meantime they also got a quick Polish lesson (Jason was waking up his Polish roots, Stefan was growling, Jawwaad had many questions, Ingebrigt couldn’t repeat the name correctly even after his first attempt in Oslo two months ago, Jonathan was shyly nodding his head and trying to understand what was actually going on and Frank was also recording the recording).
I wrote down the “cheat sheet” and explained what they should say, but allowed them to do it their own way. “We have to rehearse” – Ingebrigt was announcing, while the others were trying to pronounce the “holy name of the program” correctly. Apparently, they like the way I’ve put “fucking” in the middle of the band’s name (“Is it even allowed to say fucking on the radio?”, asked Jason when we finally got the perfect recording). Jaawwad proposed that someone uses a finger as a bouncy ball, so it would be easier for them to read the whole thing toghether at once. “And you have to growl” – said Ingo to Stefan. After a while of laughing, joking around and rehearsing, we finally got it. Then Stefan added “drums”, me and Klara were constantly humming “Black Tar Caviar” main theme and guys joined us eventually… and that’s how the jingle was made. If you are curious how it went, simply check out This is for a piece of that moment. The whole 25-minute recording will be my sweet secret and memory of this beautiful evening.
This photo of Frank perfectly sums up what happened later. It was a really long night, but the rest of the details I will keep to myself. Or if you meet me in person and ask, I won’t hesitate and tell you everything, but prepare at least two hours of your time.
The next day was a day off for the band and sightseeing time! I made a group chat and named it “Blueberry pierogi, bigos and prosecco” around 4 am in the moring at Alchemia the night before, Ingebrigt, Jonathan and I came up with an idea, that prosecco would go perfectly with blueberry pierogis and bigos). But first things first – our goal was getting Polish souvenirs at Sukiennice and we’ve started with wandering around Old Town with Stefan, Jonathan and Joanna. Then Frank joined us for some food and quick essential tour shopping, like a hat, glasses or.. nail polish. Frank and Jonathan picked their favourite colours at Rossmann (local drugstore). While waiting for the rest of the guys to join us and eat some proper Polish food, we found a small bar next to the restaurant. Frank took out his nail polish and announced – “Well, we have some time until everyone gets here, so it’s a good time to do my nails”. I immediately suggested, that I would be happy to do it. And then, we turned the bar into a nail salon – The Young Mothers nail polish session in Kraków! Here’s the proof of this joyful and unexpected moment:
That was certainly so much fun! Jawwaad, Jason and Ingebrigt were somewhere lost on their way from the hotel to the city centre, or more the uber was lost, but after an hour (!) they finally got to us and we could eat pierogi and bigos! Just across the street, we found a cosy, little restaurant “Domowe Przysmaki”. They had delicious Polish food – of course blueberry pierogi, bigos and.. they even had a small bottles of proseccos. I think we’ve ordered all of the bottles they had in the storage! It was cosy, it felt like home and we’ve all enjoyed the food very much. Bigos has passed the test. Blueberry pierogies with prosecco – checked! Great summing up of the Young Mothers’ stay in Poland!
But it was not over, not just yet. When we got to the hotel and it was this sad moment to say goodbye (4.15 am lobby call the next morning for the guys!), I just received a message from Frank, who was already at the hotel, saying- “Bring me a shot”. That explains it all, doesn’t it? After a long and warm goodbye with the others, me, Stefan and Jonathan went to a local night shop (read: Żabka) and equipped ourselves with another Polish delicacies – Żubrówka and orange juice. More talking, joking around with Frank who wouldn’t join us, taking selfies and long talks and opening up! Couldn’t be a perfect way to end up this two-day ride!
It’s impossible for me to sum up this concert, meeting the band and hanging out with them. This story speak for itself. It will stay in my heart forever.
My Dad’s words right after the show: “Malwina, I have organised many good concerts in my life… but yours was truly the best I’ve ever attended!”.