Mikołaj Trzaska - Bb, bass clarinets, alto saxophones
Wacław Zimpel - alt, Bb, bass clarinets
Michał Górczyński - Bb, bass clarinets
Mike Majkowski - double bass
Adam Żuchowski - double bass
Paweł Szpura - drums
Mikołaj Trzaska Gra Różę (2013)
By Ken Shimamoto
On "Mikołaj Trzaska Gra Różę", recorded live in front of a highly demonstrative audience, multi-reedman Mikołaj Trzaska leads a quintet that’s heavy on deep, woody sounds. The leader, his fellow clarinetist Waclaw Zimpel, and a third reedist, Michal Gorczynski, all play Bb and bass clarinets. Mike Majkowski and Adam Zuchowski play matching double basses, and Pawel Szpura is a masterfully supportive percussionist. Their music draws on free jazz and European free improvised music as well as modern classical music, while forging a distinctive group identity. Symphonic in scope, the seven tracks flow together seamlessly, as if they were movements of a single long piece.
The opening track, “By Boat,” is a leisurely voyage, alternating episodes of horn polyphony with others where the soloists spar with the rhythm section. At one point, the confluence of voices builds to a peak of intensity reminiscent of ‘60s freeblow freakouts, before taking a sharp left turn into more abstract waters. “Buckets On the Doorstep” is a stately chamber piece for the horns and basses. At first, a bass clarinet plays long tones against a pointillistic pizzicato bass. Snatches of melody slither to the surface, then gradually recede.
After this sedate opening, “Bicycle Herd” jars the listener awake with horns that blare and drums that clatter like Brotzmann and Bennink at their most anarchic, then enters a less crowded sonic space. The contrast heightens the impact of the quiet passage, throwing each sound into brilliant relief. A dialogue between bass clarinet, arco bass, and lightly tapped percussion ensues, followed by a lachrymose lament that gives way to a busier contrapuntal exchange. The track segues into the somber-sounding “Despair on Birch.” The group’s gift for empathetic interaction and dynamic variation is a thing of wonder.
“Walk To the Edge” features a stately theme, filled with spiritual longing, played first in unison, then with counterpoint by clarinets and arco bass. In between, the basses play a duet in which melody alternates with bowed multiphonics. Throughout, Szpura’s responsive sprung rhythm provides a sense of openness. On “Harvest Ax,” the jostling horns and basses build tension, while the expansive drums release it. As the piece winds down, a theme of striking simplicity emerges to provide a backdrop for snaky solo explorations, then closure.
The crowd roars its approval, then Trzaska and Co. encore with “Wedding, Boat and the End,” a slight return that carries a palpable sense of dread, ending the proceedings on an uneasy note. Overall, this record is a unified work that leaves the listener with a sense of completeness. An important release.