The Cracow Klezmer Band. It's a very descriptive name though still deceiving. After all, Klezmer music comes in all manner of guises. CKB's is very much their own. This becomes apparent from the quartet's core instrumentation already, of violin, two accordions and double bass. Accordionist Oleg Dyyak alternately contributes clarinet and percussion for added colors.
The material on De Profundis covers actual and worked-over folk dances such as Romanian doinas and horas and freylekhs, niguns and related Hasidic Synagogue repertoire. A pronounced detour from popular expectations for Klezmorim -- towards the rowdier, free-wheeling cabaret-style end of the spectrum -- comes from CKB's execution. No talking clarinet antics, no blatty brass, no saucy lyrics, no focus on actual dance, alcoholic inebriation and raunchy earthiness.
CKB's aim is clearly on cultivating a more introspective condition for the kind of mystical energy field that is also at the heart of the modern musical Sufism Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Dhafer Youssef and Mercan Dede work in. The 9+ minute title track structurally nearly suggests a funeral march. Juxtaposed against that are crisscrossing, Balkan Gypsy-reminiscent accordion and violin interludes that add chromatically tweaked melancholy, build up to a jubilant bridge, then sink back into a sad hymn that fades out stately.
Dances like "Devil Circle" are concertized versions that use the preexisting rhythmic format as an exploratory launching pad for advanced instrumental spin-offs. "Awaiting" puts the simple but gorgeous nigun theme into the clarinet's low registers against which the upright improvises mellow plucked Jazz lines. Ostinato accordion chords and spectral overtone tremolo on the violin hold the sacred space until percussion intrudes to shift the rhythmic center, the accordion picks up double speed accompaniment, spins out brilliantly trilled runs on the side and the violin's upper-most registers regather the thematic strands in the coda.
"Aide Jano" is an odd-metered traditional with intermittent time gates and minor-key return phrasing. Octave-doubled accordion and violin introduce memorable timbres while, engine-like, the tune builds up cyclical momentum to crest, fall back and climax again. The recurring melody is very simple yet deep, as though deliberately stirring ancient memories from humanity's history.
"Secrets of Life" has the con arco bass introduce the theme. Dense dual accordion chords suggest a church organ and we're once again transported along a slowly ascending holy procession. Scenery along the way includes a moody half-tone bayan solo that feeds into a frenetic hora finale Russian primas style. Glistening arpeggios light up the scene, rollicking accordion accents drive relentlessly forward and soon the leit motif reappears to conclude the disc. As it turns out, the title De Profundis isn't cheap marketing propaganda. It's an accurate alert of what listeners should expect - to connect with 10 rich centuries of often tough Jewish tradition in Poland viewed through the alchemical eye of Jaroslaw Bester, arranger, composer and lead bellows pump of the Cracow Klezmer Band. Add superb mastering values compliments of JVC's K2 processing and this production is a top though esoteric World Music recommendation.