Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Ircha – Zikaron Lefanai (2012) ****1/2

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

KILOGRAM 024







By Adam Baruch

This is the third 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 was recorded live and consists of seven pieces, which combine original compositions by the entire quartet or individual band members with traditional folkloristic themes from different cultural backgrounds, like Gypsy, Armenian and of course Easter European Jewish music.

Ircha is one of several different ensembles that Trzaska leads or participates in, which in the last decade greatly contributed to the so called "New Jewish Music" which is being created in Poland, being also a part of a general Renaissance of the Jewish Culture in Poland. This quite surprising phenomenon seems to sweep the Polish cultural landscape like a tsunami, but a highly productive, rather than destructive one. Many of these attempts to create a new, contemporary face of the Jewish Culture is created by Jazz and Improvised Music Artists, like Trzaska, and many are released by the Kilogram Records label, owned by Trzaska and his charming wife.

It is quite difficult to imagine that just four clarinets can create such complex and emotionally overwhelming music. I had the pleasure to attend a concert by Ircha recently and the experience was simply awe-inspiring and spiritually enlightening. Of course Improvised Music is usually easier to absorb live than by listening to records, as the presence of the musicians and the visual element contribute to the immediate contact between the musicians and the audience. A concert recording is, after all, only a "second hand" experience. And yet sometimes the strength of the performance can overcome the barrier of lack of personal contact and reach the listener directly and powerfully, with this album being a perfect example of this.

Although mostly improvised, this music is based on very strong melodic elements, as well as atmospheric ventures, which make it much more accessible and immediate to a much wider audience than the usual Improvised Music crowd, which is a priori quite limited. With deeply melancholic and lyrical melodies and delicate, mostly quite low-volume performances, this music embraces the listener and extends a warm welcome, inviting and enchanting. Of course there are many levels by which the listener can relate to this music; it can be enjoyed on the purely emotional level, or the aesthetical level, or the intellectual level or perhaps all the levels simultaneously. The fact that this music is able to work on so many level is what makes it so remarkable, special and unique.

This album is a beautiful bridge between many artistic directions undertaken by Jazz and Improvised Music creators. It has a fair amount of many different elements, like melody, collective and individual improvisation, folkloristic influences, spontaneity and premeditation, innovation and tradition. This wonderful amalgam, which only happens quite rarely, is fully achieved here, making it an exceptional piece of High Culture.

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