Singer Auguscik rebuilds after a tragic loss

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Grazyna Auguscik

Jazz singer Grazyna Auguscik at Katerina's in Chicago. (Alex Garcia / Chicago Tribune / February 17, 2014)

"I try to prepare this night to be nice ... and not very sad," says Auguscik.

One Chicago musician who has worked with her longer than most, singer-guitarist Paulinho Garcia, feels hopeful about Augusick's future.

"She's been OK, she is trying to cope with the loss," says Garcia, who knows something about what Auguscik is going through. He lost his wife in 1996, when she was 42.

Bajson, says Garcia, "was a very, very nice man, a very good friend of mine. He was a great help for the two of us. He would do everything for us. ... He was not just a fan of hers but amazing help.

"But she's been OK. She's trying hard. She's a very strong woman. ... She's going to be around for many, many years."

Certainly she has a great deal to say in music. On Saturday afternoon, she will celebrate music of Chopin at PianoForte Studios accompanied by pianist Ben Lewis. Augusick has become one of the world's leading jazz interpreters of Chopin's work, as anyone who attended her massive, bicentennial tribute to his birth at Millennium Park in 2010 can attest. Here were Chopin preludes, nocturnes, mazurkas and other works transformed through jazz improvisation by Augusick and several leading Polish and Chicago instrumentalists.

Saturday's recital with Lewis clearly will be far more intimate in scale, but the ethereal tone and uncommon liquidity of Auguscik's vocals always have been the central appeal of her work.

As guitarist Garcia observes, "She has a very beautiful voice (and) her intonation is so good that it is a challenge for me. When you play the guitar, you play a lot of complex chords, and with speed it's hard to control – sometimes you go a little out of tune. Once you have a very good singer like Grazyna, who has very nice intonation, it's a challenge to keep it in tune. She's like an instrument."

After the Chopin concert, Auguscik will catch her breath for a few hours, then head to Katerina's, where on Saturday evening she will reprise a project examining the music of British songwriter Nick Drake, marking the 40th anniversary of his death.

Subsequent shows at the Green Mill and further European tours suggest Auguscik is putting her life and music back together, despite all that has happened.

Her friends and family have gotten her this far, she says.

"We can talk about preparation, but there is no such thing like that – when the thing comes, we know how we are going to react," says Auguscik. "And it's coming to me right now, with every little detail, every little place in my mind, I see Marek everywhere."

Even so, she continues to sing.

"I will stay with this till the end of my life," says Augusick, who perhaps heals by healing others.

Grazyna Auguscik performs jazz interpretations of music of Chopin with pianist Ben Lewis at 3 p.m. Saturday at PianoForte Studios, 1335 S. Michigan Ave.; $20; pianofortefoundation.org or 312-291-0291. She explores music of Nick Drake at 10 p.m. Saturday at Katerina's, 1920 W. Irving Park Rd.; $15; 773-348-7592 or katerinas.com. And "We Will Play for Marek," a memorial concert for Marek Bajson, will feature Auguscik and colleagues 8 p.m. March 22 at the Jesuit Millenium Center, 5835 W. Irving Park Rd.; grazynaauguscik.com.

To read more from Howard Reich on jazz, go to chicagotribune.com/reich.

hreich@tribune.com

Twitter @howardreich

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