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Joe McPhee, Mikolaj Trzaska, Waclaw Zimpel, Paweł Szamburski, Michael Górczyński: Lark Uprising

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For any bandleader, it is a challenge to pull together a group whose members work well with each other, especially as an improvising unit. Polish multi-reedman Mikolaj Trzaska achieved success with the musicians he assembled for his clarinet quintet: Waclaw Zimpel, Paweł Szamburski and Michael Górczyński. Trzaska put the icing on the cake by inviting reedman Joe McPhee to fill out the quintet playing alto clarinet for recording Lark Uprising.

The four Polish musicians play a variety of clarinets, including the bass, alto and tarogato. A striking contrast in colors develops out of this tonal mixture; but just as importantly is how the colors are juxtaposed to elicit their unique character and resultant organic sonority. The ensemble is harmonically unified. Yet, McPhee’s clarinet sound is strikingly different; in fact, when the purity of his tone rises from the whole, its origins lurk mysteriously.

Generally, the music is formal and direct. It touches on the process of phasing, but emphasizes highly rhythmic changes, as in the first thirteen minute “Ant-Hill Builder.” The bass clarinet does its job to anchor all the instruments. Melody floats above the solidly grounded music-scape. The gleeful pleasure that the players must feel in actually playing abounds from multiple series of phrase repetitions. The building of the structure of each piece is unfettered. Mid-album in the brief “Sleeping Deep in the Moss,” the poetry is inescapable. The work begins with breaths through reeds; McPhee’s alto sears through the air with a dreamlike high-pitched song, which is quickly entrenched in the tittering of the clarinets, like insects bound in the hot night.

Originally Published