Thursday, November 13, 2014

Malerai/Goldstein/Masecki - Preparing To Dance: New Yiddish Songs (2014)


Michał Górczyński - clarinet, bass clarinet, voice
Dagna Sadkowska - violin
Mikołaj Pałosz - cello
Hanna Goldstein - vocal
Marcin Masecki - piano

Preparing To Dance: New Yiddish Songs


By Adam Baruch

This is a live recording of a concert, which presents a cycle of nine songs composed by clarinetist/composer Michał Górczyński with lyrics in Yiddish by the American poet Yermiyahu Ahron Taub. The cycle is performed by the Malerai trio, which comprises of Górczyński, violinist Dagna Sadkowska and cellist Mikołaj Pałosz, vocalist Hanna Goldstein and the enfant terrible of the Polish Avant-garde Jazz scene, pianist Marcin Masecki. Górczyński is known to Polish Jazz followers as the member of the clarinet quartet Ircha led by Mikołaj Trzaska and also as a member of the Pole trio. He cooperated with Masecki as a member of his Profesjonalizm ensemble. The concert was recorded in 2013 during the 4th edition of the New Jewish Music Festival in Warsaw.

This album is a very important statement of several realities concerning contemporary Jewish Culture. Firstly it proves that the Yiddish language is alive and kicking, not only as the lingua franca of Ashkenazi orthodox Jewish communities in Israel and the USA, but also as a form of expression of contemporary Jewish Culture, including poetry and literary prose, which are being created as we speak; this contrary to the popular opinion that the Yiddish language is practically dead and represents a wonderful heritage, which sadly is buried in the past. Secondly it once again emphasizes the incredible rebirth/resurgence/renaissance of the Jewish culture in Poland, especially in the avant-garde cycles of the young Polish Jazz community.

To put things straight this is definitely not a Jazz album or Jazz music per se; the best form of describing it would be drawing a parallel to the glorious days of German cabaret of the decadent era created almost a century ago and best portrayed by the music of Kurt Weil. Górczyński, perhaps subconsciously, uses similar musical/theatrical devices as classic cabaret, but brings them up to date by adding dissonance and free improvised instrumental passages as part of the arrangements of the songs. Masecki, who is the most avant-garde prone ingredient of this ensemble, plays the "grown up in charge" part, elegantly accompanying the vocals and displaying maximal restrain almost at all times. Goldstein's vocals fit the musical setting well and she's not afraid to "let go" and explore some vocal acrobatics, whenever appropriate. If only her Yiddish accent was a bit more authentic… Therefore, although not really Jazz, this music does have a lot of free spirited expressionism and improvisational elements in it, to become aesthetically related to Jazz.

Although Taub comes from a strict orthodox Jewish background, the subject matter of his poetry is completely secular and universal, often full of psychedelic imagery and free associative connections. Górczyński's music is a superb vehicle for these poems to cross over into a new dimension, mixing music and words to create a new identity. Górczyński and his team created an excellent piece of contemporary Art, which adapted heritage, tradition and contemporary artistic resources, amalgamating them into a class of its own.

Overall, although this album does not make any revolutionary discoveries, it has enough merit to be called a bold, important step forward towards creating contemporary Jewish Culture as much as enriching the existing heritage. In a reality, in which most music is completely devoid of any ambition or artistic merit, this is a wonderful example of creativity and intellectually challenging spirit. Bravo!

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