Mikolaj Trzaska - saxophone, clarinet
Macio Moretti - drums
By Adam Baruch
Shofar is an ancient Jewish instrument, usually made of ram's horn, which has been part of the Jewish tradition since its origins. It is mentioned in the Bible frequently and was used to announce holidays and other special events, but later on the sound of the shofar has been also associated with Jewish mourning for the destruction of the Temple and the Diaspora. Hearing the intense and deeply moving sound of the shofar is a mitzvah for any Jewish person. In the contemporary Hebrew language the word Shofar has an additional meaning, referring to a means of communication spreading ideology, bearing news and expressing the opinion of a group of people. It can be a person (announcer, spokesman, representative) or a medium (newspaper, radio station, etc.).
Regardless of the motivation, which stood behind naming the Polish ensemble Shofar, in retrospect it somehow encompasses both of the meanings of the idiom. Founded by guitarist Raphael Roginski, who also leads the excellent ensemble Cukunft, the trio also includes the iconic musician Mikolaj Trzaska and drummer Macio Moretti. This is their debut recording, which consists of their unique interpretations of six pieces taken from the enormous collection of the great Jewish ethnomusicologist Moshe Beregovsky and two famous Jewish liturgical pieces.
The sound of the trio amalgamates several quite diverse backgrounds: Roginski's guitar and Moretti's drums have a distinct Rocky feel whereas Trzaska is deeply embedded in Jazz and Improvised Music. However, there is no clash whatsoever here and the musicians manage to create a unique and quite specific ambience, which transforms the traditional Jewish music into contemporary world of musical expression, without trivializing it in the process, which is often done by the numerous Polish so called Klezmer ensembles, which often never go anywhere beyond being a chaltura (i.e. a worthless and artistically insignificant enterprise).
The onset of Shofar, which followed in the footsteps of Cukunft, announced (like a shofar does) the Renaissance of the contemporary Jewish music in Poland, that in retrospect turned out to be a most fruitful and fascinating development on the local scene, which is exploding with activity in many other musical areas as well. Is spite of the fact that there are practically only very few Jews living in Poland these days, the Jewish Culture, which bloomed on the Polish soil for almost a thousand years, has been apparently implanted into the local cultural fabric so deeply that even the Holocaust didn't manage to destroy it. The seeds planed in that soil are now breaking out with an astonishing vitality. Both Roginski and Trzaska were about to create many other Jewish-related projects later on, including a second album together.
But beyond the historical significance of this album, this is also superb music. The vitality and intrinsic joy of the Eastern European music passes over with full glory to the world of sound created by Shofar, which is also full of reflection, mystery and melancholy, mixed with the humor and ecstasy eminently present in Jewish music. The individual statements by these three musicians are of course first-rate but their magic exists primarily as members of the collective ensemble.
This album, although recorded only less than a decade ago, is already a part of a classic statement made on the Polish Jazz scene, opening a new chapter of the convoluted Jewish-Polish cultural (and otherwise) relationships, made in memory of the countless shofar blasts that reverberated over the Polish soil in the past Millennium.