Sunday, October 2, 2011

Mikolaj Trzaska Ircha Clarinet Quartet at Cheder Cafer (30.09)

photo by Krzysztof Penarski
I've written about Ircha's debut cd "Larks Uprising" (with Joe McPhee) that was recorded during the Tzadik Festival in Poznan. While the music on the cd had close to none elements of jewish tradition to it, Ircha's connection to this heritage was strong from the very beginning, as they seamlessly forge improvisation, modern composition and some of the oldest jewish melodies. The concert in Krakow took time during the jewish New Year period. 
The clarinet quartet (with occasional duduk or fujara in the mix) sounds full and complete and quite unique. And the sense of structure and direction is absolutely compelling, they pass the fragrant melodies between each other as they form a soloist - choir roles, or a double duo (as they assume different roles they walk and set the formations on the stage), creating on the spot almost transparent arrangements in the way a 4-voice vocal ensemble or a string quartet would be set. With a rhythmic line in the bass clarinet, a repetitive chord structures, a clear line of ancient melody soaring over, transforming into an succession of everchanging minimalistic melodic and harmonic patterns.

And in the music there's the entire history of God's Chosen People, the sorrow disonance of banishment from they Egypt, the whispering doubts of perennial wandering, the cries of wrath, the joy of celebration and finally the inner peace found everlasting faith and hope in search for the Promised Land. This music reaches out of the space and time metaphorically and literally - when Pawel Szamburski opens the window and plays the clarinet facing the street and follows with a soaring solo accompanied by a choir of three clarinets, The roles will get reversed when he'll play a two-chords base line to support the rest of the group soloing simultaneously, a myriad of  delicate and everchanging harmonies and probably the most uplifting moment of the concert. The quartet plays "Lonely Woman" as the encore, minor scale, sorrow melody slowly transformed, emerging as a pure choir chant where the melody is lost within the harmony.
There's a purity, a crystal clear construction that might be unusual considering what Trzaska or Zimpel usually play, the modern compositions, plays on serial changes, minimal harmonies flow into some of the oldest, cerebral melodies known to the human culture, intensified by the spiritual playing, the ethereal emotional quality (Coltrane is there). Ircha Quartet does not play religious music, but there's a religious dedication and passion to the music they play. And within all those contexts, moments of staggering, exhilirating beauty appear. 
ps. The concert was a first one of a MuLaKuŻ cycle (Musical Laboratory of Jewish Culture). I'm looking for more to come.
ps 2. From a quite chat with Mikolaj after the concert - the group recorded enough material to make two separate cds - one with arrangements of traditional jewish melodies, the second one with their own contemporary compositions - I hope we will be able to listen to them soon. In the meantime I recommend their aforementioned "Larks Uprising" with Joe McPhee.
Ircha Clarinet Quartet:
Mikolaj Trzaska
Waclaw Zimpel
Pawel Szamburski
Michal Gorczynski
(all musicians playing bass clarinet and clarinet; duduk and other instruments were used occasionally like a whistle or a slide toy flute)

Cheder Cafe. Krakow. 30.09.2011

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