Wacław Zimpel i jego zespół bez wysiłku przywołują klimaty kameralnego gamelanu jawajskiego, Lou Harrisona, Reicha z Rileyem, brzmienia Indii i Bliskiego Wschodu czy świętego minimalizmu Arvo Pärta i Johna Coltrane”a. Ich muzyka przechodzi od najbujniejszej gęstwy dźwięku poprzez niemal elektroniczne zakresy aż do całkowitej, nagiej ascezy; narracja prowadzona jest cierpliwie, organicznie, delikatne wzory wiją się stopniowo ku niespodziewanym zaułkom, pulsuje głęboki groove. Co ważniejsze, muzycy odnajdują ukryte ogniwa łączące te jakże odmienne style i wyplatają z nich rzecz spójną, bogatą, pełną ekspresji, piękna i mocy. To oszałamiający i zniewalający reportaż z podróży przez światową muzykę końca XX i początku XXI wieku.
This is the debut album by Polish Jazz clarinetist / composer / bandleader Waclaw Zimpel and his nonet called To Tu Orchestra (the name is probably a wink in the direction of the legendary Warsaw club Pardon, To Tu), which includes saxophonist Pawel Postaremczak, flautist Dominik Strycharski, hurdy-gurdy player Maciej Cierlinski, pianist Jacek Kita, bassists Wojciech Traczyk and Mike Majkowski and drummers Pawel Szpura and Hubert Zemler. The album includes six original compositions, arranged into three mini suites, of one, three and two parts respectively.
The music is in many respects a continuation of Zimpel´s earlier work with the group Hera, which combines elements of avant-garde, Jazz and contemporary Classical music with World Music from all over the world. The strongest influence on this album is minimal music pioneered decades earlier by Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Terry Riley and others, which Zimpel embraces, most evidently in the first of the three mini suites but in fact throughout the entire album. The repeated structures returning cyclically, typical in minimal music, which are normally produced by electronic or acoustic orchestral patterns, are created here by World Music patterns, like Balinese gamelan music, slowly changing and intensifying until they reach a massive sound, but do not reach an expected crescendo. Minimalism continues to be present in the rest of the compositions, simply changing the geographic colorization, using Japanese, Middle Eastern and other folkloristic influences.
Zimpel is undoubtedly a master of atmosphere and building tension, which accompany his earlier work as well, but come to a fruition and perfection on this album. The large ensemble allows him to „paint” much denser multilayered vistas, which move freely in the World Music universe. The music does not actually get into Jazzy improvisation until the very last piece on the album, so listeners anticipating that facet of Zimpel´s music are in for a disappointment.
What emerges here is a new type of minimal music which amalgamates the earlier forms of minimalism with World Music, creating a World Minimal Music. Zimpel evidently had a great fun creating this music and it is also very listenable, but the fundamental question as to what Zimpel wanted to achieve remains open, at least in my case. I have not been overwhelmed neither by the aesthetics nor by the musical result, which after all simply states nihil novi sub sole. But it is very well done for sure! ~ Adam Baruch
There is one last thing I would like to say: I have deliberately avoided a comparison with „Alaman” as the approach is a completely different one here. I still mention it though, to point out that this is yet another outstanding example of a great intercourse with the „Big Band” that has become slightly dusty in recent decades. It’s in particular the differences between these two wonderful recordings that show what is possible with this ensemble! And even though I’m aware that it requires not only outstanding musicians and orchestra leaders, but that it’s also a huge logistical challenge, I sincerely hope that more will dare follow this path! ~ Dirk Blasejezak
Polish clarinetist and composer Wacław Zimpel is known as the leader of ensembles such as Hera, Undivided, and his namesake quartet, as well as for his membership in groups like Mikołaj Trzaska’s Ircha Clarinet Quartet and Ken Vandermark’s Resonance Ensemble. His latest venture is the To Tu Orchestra, a uniquely-rostered nine piece band that makes its debut with Nature Moves. In addition to Zimpel’s clarinets, the Warsaw-based ensemble features a variety of saxophones and recorders, hurdy-gurdy, piano, two bassists, and two percussionists.
The foundation of Nature Moves is a loose grouping of “repetitive” musics—everything from Javanese gamelan to Terry Riley to ritual world music serves as an influence. Opening piece “Cycles” begins in a delicate Eastern mode. The song progresses in a fashion similar to Riley’s In C, where canonical rhythmic patterns gradually shift, with new patterns constantly emerging as elements are added and subtracted. This slow arithmetic becomes increasingly intricate and hypnotic—“Cycles” feels about half of its 28 minute length. In the last ten minutes, the piece really opens up, with the improvised counterpoint of the horns beginning to overwhelm the grounding, repetitive patterns.
The other pieces are of a similar mindset, though not all are in such rhythmic lock-step. “Nature Moves: River” advances in slow throbs until reaching a sudden crescendo of jagged piano chords and wailing horns. It’s the least authentic moment of the album—the intensity feels uninvited and misplaced—but it’s short lived, coming to an abrupt halt and opening up space for an incredibly emotional and intense recorder solo by Dominik Strycharski. Later movements find the band spinning through a harmonic prism, projecting new hues by alternating tempos and beat-emphasis around big, chiming piano chords.
While repetition and rhythm may be the rule on Nature Moves, the album’s real strength is its utter
mastery of timbre. Nine musicians is nothing to sneeze at, but at their best they sound even larger, and are often blended into a tonal wash that defies categorization. The warm drone that underlies the opening of “North: Where the Prairie Meets the Mountains” is a mixture of no less than four instruments, though the exact contribution of any particular one is maddeningly hard to tease out. Likewise, the final moments of “Nature Moves: Under Surface” have a shimmering quality that sounds like the most sophisticated electronic ambient music. Making your way through the album, what reads like a quirky, eclectic mix of instruments on paper begins to coalesce as genius: like the great Henry Threadgill, Zimpel’s grasp of unique timbral combinations results in profound, peerless music.
The coda of the final piece conjures the intensely spiritual jazz John Coltrane made just before his death, along with the Eastern and world music influences his wife and acolytes would bring into their own music. As the song reaches its zenith, it’s heartening to hear the same influences that fueled the creativity of Coltrane’s circle 50 years earlier reenergized and renewed through Zimpel’s efforts. It’s a breathtaking closing to a unique album. To be sure, it’s a bit of a shock when it all ends in silence: it feels like such a cathartic, concert-going moment that you fully expect a burst of applause—or, at the very least, the sharp exhalation of a tightly-held breath.
One of my favorites this year. ~ Dan Sorrells