08 September 2008
New bands are always appearing on the Klezmer scene, but one of the most exciting bands I have found is Klezmafour, a fabulous, high-energy group based in Poland. I’ve been listening to their hot new album, the self-titled Klezmafour for some time now, and it has become one of my top favorites for this year.
The band has been performing since 1999, mostly in Poland and neighboring Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Slovakia, and Czech Republic. With the release of this CD, Klezmafour has put their name on the world Klezmer map. I’m sure they will be touring widely very soon.
The music is a combination of traditional Klezmer tunes mixed with original material. The music is quite lively and, in the right places, very emotional. They blend styles and make just the right transitions, putting the music front and center, making this a magnificent listening experience. While the music is aimed at the younger crowd, there is plenty here for the more seasoned listener to appreciate. The lead duo of Andrzej Czaplinski and Wojciech Czaplinski (Violin and Clarinet, respectively) are brothers from a musical family. Together, they lead the band through a broad range of Klezmer styles, with some Balkan and Middle-Eastern influences. The music is fresh, and I find it irresistible.
Opening the album, The Storm, an arrangement by Wojciech, sets the tone for all that is to follow. A nice groove is set by the rhythm section, then the Clarinet enters with a Klezmer melody. Later they switch to a tune I know as Tantz, Tantz Yidelekh, but they play it at half tempo, with a fast rhythmic background. Very effective. There is even some thunder added for effect, hence the track’s title.
My favorite track has to be Psalm, arranged by Andrezej. It begins with a series of long electronic chords, that give a feeling of other-worldliness. Lots of ambiance behind the soulful violin solo. The Clarinet and Violin alternate with the melody in a very slow tempo, then suddenly we are up to speed, and the band kicks into high gear with the fast melody and some wizardry from the Bass.
Suite Part 1 and 2 are further examples of some very creative arranging by Andrzej and Drummer Tomasz Waldowski. Suite Part 1 is slow, ethereal, with a nice Clarinet melody, and subdued background. Part 2 opens with some wild Bass, leading to a great melody- first by Accordion, then with harmonized Clarinet/Violin. There is even room for Accordion and Clarinet solos. Then they sing and clap in a slower tempo, speeding up gradually to the original tempo, followed by a Drum break before ending. This has to be the most fun track for the band. You can’t help but sing along.
The Middle-Eastern influence is most apparent on Safar Al Omr. with a heavy beat from the Drums, particularly the Toms. It’s a very interesting track, with the Clarinet melody played over some very interesting rhythms from the Bass/Accordion/Violin combination. If you like Drums, this is the one for you!
Lublin Station and Bialystok Station (both by Wojciech) are a short suite wiith some contemporary elements. There is even a bit of Bulgar rhythm. Together they show the range and versatility of Klezmafour. This is the essence of their music, and I find it very engaging.
The sound quality is outstanding. Of course, the bass and drums sounded magnificent on my home theater, but the mix is balanced and each instrument is clear and distinct. The mix also held up well in the car as well as on computer speakers and earbuds.
These songs all fit together very well. There wasn’t anything on the album that I didn’t like. Klezmafour has hit on a new sound that, I believe, makes a bold statement on the the future direction of Klezmer. For more on Klezmafour, listen to my interview with Wojciech on Klezmer Podcast 36.