There's a hell of a lot of abuse of language going on in the music world nowadays. Take terms like 'legendary', 'seminal,' 'genius', and 'maestro'. Great words but none of 'em mean a damn thing any more, dammit! Blame it first on PR people and then on my fellow inkslinging crit-creatures. Puts a burr under my saddle, it does, and so I approached this disc with caution. 'Summit'? Really? Cautiously, timidly, trepidatiously, I slipped the aluminum and plastic contrivance into my desk-top player, backing slowly away lest I become wroth should the wrong provender emerge: the Sony corporation would not take it well were I to rend its sacred product to smithereens. And what, you ask, issued from those speakers?
Ahhhhhhhh, nothing less than ambrosia, I'm telling you, a soul-fulfilling smorgasbord of the blessed clarinet, many of them all at once in fact, in an array of forms and genres ranging from Satie-vian mellifluity (Za Moc Oza) to klezmer to Arabic strains to folk to Classicalism to avant-garde and many points between, some of which I can't even find a name for.
Many Languages - One Soul is indeed a summit meeting of gents highly sensitive to the clarinet's possibilities, not just instrumentally but emotionally, soulfully, sometimes even bizarrely, every one of the players an artist in the fullest sense of the word. Whether you dig the licorice stick itself, the shenai, ney, duduk, oboe, or whatever other variant of what's actually one of the oldest of Earth's sundry musical apparatuses, you're going to find yourself swept up in this very long (72 minutes! a twofer!) exposition of 14 xlnt songs. Severniaski Tanc, for instance, comes across like eagerly anticipated evening festivities in the middle of a boisterous modern caravanserai, jumping back and forth between swing, trad, jazz, Bollywood pop, and just plain bubbling high spirits. The chops in it are dazzling, the interplay cybernetic, and the brio palpable, something to be consumed just as much as listened to.
Then Nostalgic Dances combines elder balladic Balkan refrains with essences of Saint-Saens, Pachelbel, and adagistic wistfulness, a langorously floating serenade with no destination and in no hurry to get there, content to dream…until the 5-minute mark, that is, and then fairies, elves, and dakinis leap out from the underbrush to close the number in a quick tarantella. Snake Lick Jab next unwinds itself as though Jimi Hendrix were playing some kind of metallophonic didjeridoo with Carl Stalling and Raymond Scott whispering in his ear. Tyran's Daughter commences moody as hell, glowering and morose, until it kicks into dervish mode, pulls Tevye down from his prances on the roof, and turns him everywhichway, A Tasmanian Devil of a tune frolicking with a toothy grin.
Breaza takes up where Tyran's Daughter left off, merrily leaping from the old cobblestone house and out into swaying meadows, whirling in the wheatfields where…but wait! I'm letting the cat too far out of the bag! So you're just going to have to listen to Balkan Clarinet Summit for yourself to get the fullest cornucopia. And why not? In a world overflowing with lunatic politicians, psycho clerisy, hellgrammite bankers and businessmen, you badly need a vacation away. I suggest the Balkans, and you needn't pay a lord's ransom aboard an overpriced jet to get there either…just so long as you have a CD player…and it doesn't have to be from Sony!
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2015, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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