Monday, April 25, 2011

Passion in jazz part II: Undivided - The Passion (2010)

Waclaw Zimpel - bass clarinet, clarinet, tarogat
Bobby Few - piano
Mark Tokar - double bass
Klaus Kugel - drums

Multikulti 2010

This cd got some decent exposure, winning the Happy New Ears poll on well-known Stef's blog. Fact is that it may be one of the most ambitious projects in jazz music for quite a while. Waclaw Zimpel composed "Passion" as a collage of vocal and instrumental themes from the subject's musical history, adding his own parts to it and glueing and expanding thus created rhetorics with improvisation in an effort to create a musical and universal reflection about pain and sorrow, as described in biblical Passion of the Jesus Christ.
Any jazz musician enters an intertemporal dialogue with the jazz history, but, for an improvising musician, to add to this dialogue classical music masters (beginning with Medieval music, through Johann Sebastian Bach, reaching Krzysztof Penderecki) is extremely uncommon, quite unique in fact. 
Zimpel enters also in a dialogue with one of the most important cultural texts written. The scenes selected upon their impact strenght follow the Gospel order : Night / Getsemani / Treason of Judas / Ridiculed King / Denial of St. Peter / Way of the Cross / Crucifixion / Death / Despair / Resurrection. As stated in the liner notes, composer's idea was to translate scenes into the sounds and to do that he would follow the rhythm and the melody of the sentences translating them into intervals.
So that's the idea, and one might have many doubts whether such a vision is adaptable for jazz music at all. Overthought? Overachieving? Overambitious? But the realization is a definite success. The music is (melodically) rich and (harmoically) deep. Solemn motivs are interlayered with cries of pain and despair. Powerfull, thunderous chords (Bobby Few is after all no stranger to fire and passion fueled music having played with Albert Ayler) meet dark and brooding tones of Zimpel's clarinets, thus creating the dramatic tension that will be at the core of this narration. Tokar is his usual raw, sometimes even brutal and Kugel can both add dark, contemplative shades (bells, gongs, wood objects) or bring out the true full-scale storm. But as much as the singular performances are stellar and particular motivs are of incredible touching nature, this is about the big picture, about the vision, and that vision succeeds. Zimpel's composition is incredibly evocative and the performance makes it also emotive and one can literally see the scenes happening through sounds.
This music is not about religious experience but a personal vision, it is also universal in a way it provokes a reflection on the theme of suffering and pain, but also brings hope. If you still don't know this one as this cd presents some of the most touching and beautiful to be found.

part of the performance of "The Passion"

Author: Bartek Adamczak

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