Ewa Bem is a vocalist and lyricist known as the first lady of Polish jazz. Before her retirement, she sang jazz, pop, and blues.
A vocalist, author of lyrics and graduate of the Stefan Batory Secondary School in Warsaw.
She began her music career in Warsaw, where she grew up and graduated from the prestigious Stanisław Batory High School. She made her debut in 1969 in the youth blues band Stodoła, in which she proved to be a talented singer. She was especially good at the swing style, which was quickly appreciated by prominent jazz musician Zbigniew Seifert. As a result, in 1970, she started her solo career as a vocalist in the Zbigniew Seifert Quartet.
She then became vocalist of the band Bemibek, created by her brother Aleksander Bem and Andrzej Ibek. They performed their own compositions as well as the music of Polish jazz giants such as Krzysztof Komeda and Zbigniew Namysłowski. The group debuted and received the main prize for jazz at the Odra Festival in Wrocław, then took part in festivals in Lublin, Opole and in Warsaw. In 1971 the band performed at the International Jazz Jamboree Festival in Warsaw. Bemibek went on many concert tours of Poland and abroad, including in the German Democratic Republic, the USSR, in Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia. The group’s most famous pieces are Nie Bójmy Się Wiosny, Kolorowe Lato and Podaruj Mi Trochę Słońca.
In 1973, Andrzej Ibeka left the band, and the name Bemibek changed into Bemibem. In 1991, Bemibek reformed only to again vanish from the music scene in 1993.
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Bem received the main award at the Meeting of Jazz Vocalists in Lublin in 1972, which have her the opportunity to start performing with many renowned jazz musicians, such as Jan ‘Ptaszyn’ Wróblewski, Jan Jarczyk, Janusz Muniak, Zbigniew Namysłowski, Wojciech Karolak, and Henryk Majewski.
Late 1970s and the 1980s were important for Bem’s career, as she gave many concerts, both in Poland as well as abroad. She participated in festivals in Cuba, Kenya, and India; her solo recordings were at the top of radio charts. In 1981, she released the album Be A Man, which was a part of the prestigious Polish Jazz Series. According to Jazz Forum, the official magazine of European Jazz Federation, in the years 1983-1985, Bem was the best Polish jazz singer and the fourth best in Europe.
Starting in 1987, she cooperated with jazz pianist Andrzej Jagodziński, who became her regular accompanist.
In 2001, Bem recorded the album Mówię Tak, Myślę Nie. Stylistically, it is slightly different from her previous jazz works as it features many pop influences. After its success, in 2004, the singer released the album ewa.ewa, where she sang new versions of her previous songs and covers of Marek Grechuta’s pieces.
In June 2018, after the death of her older daughter Pamela, Ewa Bem officially ended her music career. Although the first jazz lady of Polish jazz no longer gives concerts, her music is still present in the world of jazz and popular music.
A Foreigner's Guide to Polish Jazz
Zbigniew Seifert Quartet
- Be A Man (Ewa Bem with Swing Session, Polskie Nagrania, 1981)
- Ewa Bem Loves The Beatles (Polskie Nagrania Muza, 1984)
- I Co Z Tego Masz (Wifon, 1986)
- Dziennik Mojej Podróży (Ewa Bem and Bemibek, Soundpol, 1993) Bright Ella's Memorial (Koch International/Pomaton, 1997)
- Mówię Tak, Myślę Nie (Pomaton EMI, 2001)
- Ewa.Ewa (Pomaton EMI, 2004)
- Kakadu (Agora S.A., 2007)
Authors: Marek Romański & Magdalena Majkowska, January 2009, updated by MM, March 2019