Basia, Barbara Trzetrzelewska
Born 1954-09-30, Jaworzno, Poland
Basia is emerging with her strongest work yet, It’s That Girl Again, an album that brings her trademark global pop/jazz sound into today. From the first track “If Not Now Then When” —the bouncing melody, soaring horns, and the feeling that you’ve landed in a small fiesta—it’s as though she has never been away. Basia and her collaborator Danny White have always drawn from timeless influences: the rhythms and styles of Latin music, the sound of classic American soul and R&B, and the polish of ’50s and ’60s jazz; yet the sound is undeniably fresh. There is nothing about this album that is stuck in the past, rather it presses forward, building upon their many accomplishments during the course of their career.
Poland-native Basia Trzetrzelewska was introduced as a vocalist with the group Matt Bianco and hits “Get Out of Your Lazy Bed,” “More Than I Can Bear” and “Half A Minute.” She and the group’s main composer, keyboardist Danny White, departed to begin work on their debut, Time and Tide. The album was successful throughout Europe and Japan, but it took some adventurous D.J.s to import the album to a new radio audience stateside. The buzz led to Time and Tide’s official US release and three Adult Contemporary hits there (“Promises,” “New Day For You,” “Time and Tide”). Basia proved unique, defying categories and appealing to a wide audience. This versatility earned her two consecutive number one Billboard Contemporary Jazz albums upon the release of the follow-up, London Warsaw New York, which topped that chart for most of 1990. A second tour full of sold-out marquees followed, pushed by the breakout success of the single “Cruising For Bruising,” and resulting in a second platinum record.
A more vivid portrait of the artists emerged with 1994’s The Sweetest Illusion as a more organic sound was developed, with a full band and a deeper variety of musical texture. Once again their appeal continued across genre lines as “Drunk On Love” became a #1 Billboard Club Play hit while The Sweetest Illusion rode the pop album chart. The resulting world tour culminated in a two-week run on Broadway, recorded for the live album Basia on Broadway.
Danny, along with guitarist/vocalist Mark Reilly, pulled Basia back into the fray to recast their early sound for the 2004 Matt Bianco album Matt’s Mood. The collaboration combined pop, swing, Latin, lounge and spy-soundtrack sounds to great effect, and when on tour they were met with enthusiastic response from a loyal, dedicated fan base thrilled to see Basia back in action. The encouraging reaction gave birth to a fruitful creative period leading up to It’s That Girl Again.
The songs on It’s That Girl Again reprise Basia’s global pop sound, fusing stick-in-your-head-for-days melodies with complex arrangements that don’t overshadow the heartfelt lyrics or stunning instrumentation. Each song is a dedication to someone in Basia’s life, though her narratives describe characters many can relate to. The musical backing is inspired and inventive, taking the listener to surprising places. “If Not Now Then When” is the perfect reintroduction to the Basia sound, with an irresistible melody, romantic lyrics and lively percussion. The honest confession of “A Gift” is set to a lilting melody framed by acoustic guitars, and “Someone for Everyone” sees Danny pulling out all the stops with piano, gospel-tinged organ and keyboard. “Everybody’s On The Move” jets in with an upbeat rock feel while “There’s A Tear” is a plaintive ballad recalling Stevie Wonder’s 80s love songs.
Intensity reigns in the sharp tango of “Love Lies Bleeding” and within the stunning “I Must” as a measured verse surprisingly explodes into a chorus out of a Bond film chase scene. “Blame It On The Summer” is an ideal warm-weather chill-out track while the multilayered vocals of “Two Islands” give way to an island feel that counters the tender subject matter. The lighthearted “Winners” brings to mind the joy of Carnaval, and the smooth polish of “They Know Nothing About Us” highlights Basia’s emphatic lyric. “Amelki Śmiech” celebrates new life with a raucous party scene and buoyant heart that defies language, leading nicely into the evocative title track.
Joining Basia and Danny is a tight band of accomplished musicians including guitarist Peter White, trumpeter Kevin Robinson (Simply Red, Incognito) and drummer Marc Parnell (Joan Armatrading, Damian Rice).
In this age of highly processed and compressed vocals, It’s That Girl Again reminds us what it’s like to hear honest, straightforward singing with genuine feeling again. From the first strum of the guitar to the last cheer from the crowd, the album is a great showing from an established artist firmly planted in the here-and-now. Those long- frustrated by the current state of pop music are craving something original and real. Just in time comes Basia and It’s That Girl Again.