13 January 2008
There are times when a musical performance completely transcends our notions of what we think of as “good” music, regardless of the genre. Such is the case with Trafik, the new release from the trio Veretski Pass. When you are presented with such distinctive material, virtuosic musicianship, and excellent engineering, you have the ingredients for an amazing album.
The music originates from Eastern Europe in the Carpathian region, where the real Veretski Pass is located. The traffic referred to in the album title is the transiting of various peoples through the area. Musical styles from the neighboring cultures in the region are blended together and transformed into a sound that is unique to this group.
Trafik consists of nine suites, each with its own thematic idea. Some of the suite or track titles are slang phrases from the cultures represented; others are more descriptive. One of my favorites is Zero Dark Hundred, a beautiful Violin doina. Others, such as the suite Full Bow of Horse have the titles Dov the Cow Swimmer and Noisy Dog. There is also the lovely Tango Under the Influence, an accordion feature, with a steady rhythmic Bass line underneath. If you are curious about these titles go to the Veretski Pass website and Klezmer Podcast 18.
The trio consists of highly talented musicians Cookie Segelstein (Violin); Joshua Horowitz (Button Accordion, Tsimbl); and Stuart Brotman (Cello, Tilinca, Baraban). They have a communal approach to arranging their music, combining traditional melodies with original compositions in such a way that the line is blurred between the two. They have a way of making original works sound just like a traditional village melody. And it works the other way around, too. As Segelstein says: “We decided to just play music we like, and if we didn’t like it we’d rewrite it.” They also blend their own compositions with improvisations to come up with some very interesting musical forms.
One of the suites that I like a lot is The Pass, consisting of Red Mist and Risen Ground, with Brotman playing the Tilinca, or Carpathian Flute, a simple village instrument that seems to have a life of its own. We hear a Tilinca doina, followed by a lively dance. The last section, Klyucharkier Kolomeyke and Hutzulka is a fast dance with Brotman switching to Balaban (or Poik, a drum/cymbal setup) and Horowitz on Tsimbl.
But the music is more that just dances. The slower songs, like the Hora tracks are moving, but not in a sentimental way. They simply reflect the feeling of the music from this region. And the folk fiddle style is in high gear on Three Wheels Czardas. Segelstein is just as much a master of the folk fiddle as she is of the doina, and everything in between.
Now, just a bit about the engineering of Trafik. From a technical point of view, this album is a finely crafted work of art. The album was recorded “live” with very little editing. There are no overdubs or reverb. It was recorded in a recital hall with great natural acoustics. The only editing was to combine the best “takes” together. In fact, only 15 edits were made on the album. For a more in-depth look at the recording process look at Recording Trafik with Veretski Pass by Yves Feder, recording master for Tiny Radio
Productions on the Veretski Pass website.
The CD package has a minimum of information. Only track title information, credits, and special thanks are included. The group’s website has some additional information, such as a Glossary for both the Suite and Track Titles, bios, instrument information, photos, and the aforementioned look at the recording process.
I find Trafik to be a great look into the world of Eastern European village music. I highly recommend this album to anyone who has an interest in the Carpathian klezmer style, or who just appreciates a masterful performance of this deep and meaningful music. It is a celebration fit for the young and old alike. Don’t “Pass” this album up!
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