Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Ircha – Watching Edvard (2011) ****

Mikolaj Trzaska - clarinets
Waclaw Zimpel - clarinets
Michal Gorczynski - clarinets
Pawel Szamburski - clarinet


By Adam Baruch

This is the second album by Polish clarinet quartet Ircha, founded and led by Mikolaj Trzaska, which also includes Waclaw Zimpel, Pawel Szamburski and Michal Gorczynski. The quartet members play a range of different instruments belonging to the clarinet family and create a completely unique sonic experience, which is unparalleled and completely original. This album consists of sixteen short pieces, which include original compositions by the entire quartet or by individual band members. The pieces vary in length from a minute and a half to over six minutes and could be conceived together as a continuous improvised suite.

Although obviously a part of the Polish Improvised Music camp, Ircha is quite unique in many respects. Seemingly limited by the fact that the musicians use only clarinets, an instrument usually not associated with highly developed improvisational environment (with few remarkable exceptions of course), the group proves that limitations are only present in humans, not in the instruments, and with dedication, talent and virtuosic ability all limitations can be simply triumphed over. Together the quartet offers such a depth of sonic layers and emotional vistas, that the listener completely forgets the fact that there are only clarinets involved.

The music firmly belongs to the Improvised scene, but there is an element of obvious careful planning involved, which defines the ground rules and the overall order of things. The purely melodic element is of course deeply hidden beneath the improvisational approach, but it is there for those who listen carefully. The level of cooperation between the quartet members is their innermost strength, upon all this music is firmly based. This is not four individuals making music together, but a higher-class group spirit of combined consciousness, which presides herein.

Since this is a studio recording, there is no interaction with the audience, which in Improvised Music is often essential. Nevertheless this album, as opposed to many other of its kind, works very well under these circumstances, perhaps because the overall atmosphere of serenity, relaxation and above all mutual respect. There are no attempts to prove who can outplay anybody else, who can play the fastest or the most astounding solo, etc. on the contrary almost all of the music is a dialog, trialog or a quatrolog, and therefore a cooperative effort.

Overall this is an excellent piece of Free Jazz / Improvised Music, which should fully satisfy even the sternest connoisseurs of the genre, and yet at the same time be accessible to many open-minded listeners beyond any specific genre classification.

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