The Cracow Klezmer Band

Balan: Book of Angels, Vol. 5

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The first striking thing about the Cracow Klezmer Band's reading of John Zorn's tunes from his Book of Angels, on Balan, is the sound -- crystalline, full of separation and space. The next is Jaroslaw Bester's bayan -- hunted, witchy, signaling from some far-off place to Oleg Dyyak's hand drums, Wojciech Front's double bass, and then the small army of strings provided by the band's own violinist, Jaroslaw Tyrala, and the DAFO String Quartet. They respond as if gathering in some hidden terrain, and begin to dance. And it is about dancing, folks. Thus begins "Zuriel," the first cut from this entrancing, ingenious, and by all means exotic recording. On the following cut, "Suria," the seemingly random guttural vocals of Jorgos Skolias enter into the mix along with Ireneusz Socha's minimal electronics. Skolias becomes an Eastern soul singer by the track's middle as the strings envelope him in ether. On "Kadosh," the track melds traditional klezmer, symphonic cadenzas, and free improvisation into the mix, but the result is no less songlike. Bester's bayan commences "Asbeel," with a single note played obsessively and repeatedly, which is answered at first by Tyrala's plucked violin and then the entire band swirling like drunken Gypsies around the lone note that has now become one song, then another, and then yet another ranging from classic klezmer and Yiddish folk melodies to manic Gypsy tunes and even French bistro pop amid crazily shifting dynamics between group play and soloists. Bester arranged all of this material, and has done something utterly unexpected -- something, ironically, that listeners have come to expect from this entire series of recordings -- in pushing the klezmer genre to its limit and then past it, letting in a flood of other musical approaches and ideas. While all of Zorn's Book of Angels recordings have been wonderful thus far, Koby Israelite's beautifully intoxicating Orobas and this volume push the Masada material into entirely new sound worlds. Beguiling.

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