Art & Culture
Inspiring docks connect violinist and her grandfather
Singer and violinist Alice Zawadzki ’s artist grandfather would come to London’s docks for inspiration. Although he died when she was very young, his pictures of this industrial landscape and the people who lived here were an ever-present part of her life.
So there’s a lovely connection when she responds to the docks in her own medium – music – with an unmissable performance at The Silver Building for Royal Docks Originals. And the renowned composer and performer, described as “a real force to be reckoned with” by Jamie Cullum, says developing this show makes her feel a closer connection to the man she never got the chance to know.
In a way, this project has been a way for me to not only get to know the docks, but also to get to know my grandad
“Growing up, there were a lot of his drawings on the walls in my mum and dad’s house. These pictures are so familiar to me – I can picture them right now in my mind’s eye. They’re almost forensic in their detail, and everything is very lifelike. You can really feel the love for the place through the way that he's drawn them. It's a very British kind of love – it's not overblown, but you can see it in the subtleties of the angles he's chosen, the broad sweep of the hull of a boat. The industrial scenes are created with so much respect and passion.”
At the show, Zawadzki will perform while projections of images from around the Royal Docks, interspersed with some of her granddad’s drawings, are shown. The pictures will inspire her improvisation.
“Musicians love going to a place and feeling its tempo, the momentum of the place, the velocity of the things happening around them, the colours, the textures, the smell, and sounds, and improvising from that,” she says. “Literally bringing the vitality of the docks indoors by way of images and footage allows us to witness the process of responding to them musically in a similar way to how he would have done.”
Trained in jazz singing and composition, Zawadzki is a true original. Blurring the boundaries of many genres from classical to gospel and jazz to soul, she’s had headline performances at major UK venues and festivals, including the Royal Albert Hall, Ronnie Scott’s, the London Jazz Festival, the Vortex, Celtic Connections, and around the world.
Since releasing her debut album in 2014, her work has become a regular feature of critics’ favourites lists, including a Radio 3 Album of the Week, a Guardian Best Albums of the Year, and featuring in Jazzwise’s Top 20 Releases of 2019.
“In a way, this project has been a way for me to not only get to know the docks, but also to get to know my grandad,” she says. “By trying to find some of the same sorts of places as he captured feels a bit like continuing his project through music.”
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