Here’s To Us – Kaukasus
"Here’s To Us" is a chamber jazz group of four musicians, three Swedish and one Portuguese; Josef Kallerdahl - double bass, Lisen Rylander Löve - saxophone, Nils Berg - bass clarinet and Susana Santos Silva - trumpet.
Their second album is inspired by the traditional male voice choir music of Georgia; the chorale like ensembles sometimes recall Gabrielli and Dowland, bound together by gentle counterpoint and leavened by sections of jazz improvisation and timbral effects. The group retain the modal melodies and harmonies of Georgian sources; the blending of Georgian and Swedish sensibilities creates a very pan European music.
All eight pieces are in a stately mid-tempo which means the album is superficially short of variety but there is plenty going on beneath the surface. A vivid and spacious recording captures the unusual combination of instruments, the bass clarinet adding a mysterious edge. It is often played in its upper register to blend with the sax and trumpet, whilst the double bass is bowed for much of the time. The inspired arrangements feature expressive playing with pitch inflections and subtle changes between unison lines, harmonised sections and some enjoyable open fifths. The impression is of four voices working together rather than solos.
Double bass player and composer Josef Kallerdahl has been fascinated by Georgia and its culture for decades now. The unique choral tradition inspired him and other young Swedes to start singing themselves and later to visit the country several times. A wish to combine this tradition with his own work as a jazz musician becomes reality in this project. He explains that the idea was "to see what happens when you combine improvisation with strict ancient tradition. Some chorals, drinking songs and working songs were transcribed for the instruments and became starting points and inspiration for improvisations."
Georgia is a mountainous country in south eastern Europe known for its folklore and traditional music, with the world’s oldest tradition of polyphonic singing, sometimes about God, or work or love, and often about wine. Parts of Georgia have been occupied by Russia since 2008.
The titles are mysterious and google translate doesn't help much with names like "Aghmosavlidgan mzisa"; it would be interesting to know a little more about the background to each tune because it's sometimes hard to tell the religious ones from the drinking songs!
This fine album captures a warm humanity, music to immerse yourself in. It is available on Hoob Records and various streaming or download services.
© Stephen Godsall