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Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Cracow Klezmer Band - Remembrance (Tzadik, 2007) ****

The Cracow Klezmer Band keeps producing albums of the highest calibre. Als this one is a treat, yet unfortunately it is the dessert on their menu. Jaroslaw Bester, the founder of the band, started a new ensemble earlier this year : the Bester Band. And that's a pity, because this acoustic band with violin, bass, accordion and percussion (and once in a while a clarinet), brings klezmer music indeed, drenched in melancholy so typical for the genre, but they lift it to a higher level, without the dance, outside the song format, to an intense, chasing, menacing, dark, sad mix of traditional scales with modern structure and improvisation. And the four musicians excell at their instruments. This album does not offer any new songs, but gives us a live performance from somewhere mid-2005, with a selection of songs from their previous CDs, all released on John Zorn's Tzadik label : "Recollections of the Past", "Memento Mori", "Klezmer Rhapsody" come from The Warriors, "The Tree Of Life", "The Migration of Souls", "A Devilish Tale" and "The Colors Of The Heavens" are from Bereshit, and "Awaiting" from De Profundis. There is, as usual, not one weak moment in the whole performance. On the slow passages,as well as on the most repetitive, forward-moving uptempo pieces with speedy unisono lines, their musical expressiveness remains of the highest level. But the ultimate strength of this band, next to the sheer musicality they offer, is the tension they bring to every piece, and which keeps the listener attentive and captivated from beginning to end. A pity this is their last album. Let's look forward to hear from the Bester Band.