Thursday, January 8, 2015

Theo Jorgensmann & Oles Brothers – Alchemia (2007)

Theo Jorgensmann & Oleś Brothers

Theo Jorgensmann - basset clarinet
Marcin Oleś - double bass
Bartłomiej Brat Oleś - drums



By Adam Baruch

This is the fourth album by Polish Improvised Music heroes, brothers Marcin Oleś (double bass) and Bartłomiej Brat Oleś (drums) collectively know as Oleś Brothers, with the German clarinetist/composer Theo Jorgensmann. The music was recorded live at the legendary Alchemia club in Krakow, which in the first decade of the new Millennium served as one of the epicenters of the Polish avant-garde scene, and includes five original compositions: two composed by Jorgensmann, one each by Marcin and Bartłomiej and one co-composed by Marcin and Bartłomiej.

This music was recorded just two months after the live recording that produced the "Live In Poznan 2006" album and covers mostly the same material and yet these two dates are quite dramatically different. The Alchemia concert is a pinnacle of this trio's cooperation at the time, summarizing a process of development from the first encounter to the close intimacy achieved herein. The relaxed and contemplative atmosphere of this session and the expanded versions of the compositions, which are present on this album, create a magic moment which was encapsulated for eternity. The special ambience of the club itself might be also responsible for the extraordinary amalgam achieved here by the trio.

This music is also much more "organized" than that presented on the earlier recordings, with a clear emphasis on the compositions and structures rather than the on improvised parts that dominate the earlier recordings. Of course there is plenty of improvisation and wonderful expanded solo sections, but the music, at all times, stays within clearly defined melodic and rhythmic patterns, even at the very climax and up-tempo frenzy. This wonderful balance between the freedom of improvisation and the structure, mostly imposed by the rhythm section, is absolutely stunning.

Of course the individual abilities of these extraordinary musicians are at full display throughout this album, as always. It's worth to listen to this album several times, each time concentrating on just one of the participants in order to be able to fully absorb their individual contributions. But of course only the glorious threesome achieves the full synergy, and the proper way to listen is to try and absorb this synergy into our brains.

This is surely one of the finest examples of the European avant-garde scene at the time it was recorded and a true gem of an album, which has but a few equals. The fact that the prestigious Swiss Hat Hut label decided to include it in its roster is surely an acknowledgment of eminence, which in this case was fully earned. The hearsay has it that Hat Hut has another Oleś Brothers session in their vaults that remains unreleased – now that is a crying' shame!

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