A rampant oasis: Klezmerson's brand new Tiferet


Tiferet, which translates to beauty, is the sixth of eleven albums that make up John Zorn's: The Book of Beriah from the Masada compositions. Benjamín Shwartz took over nine pieces, giving them a new sense of their own. The path is somehow linear, like a journey that can only take place on a foreign land by riding a mysterious train through inhospitable lands, in pursuit of distant dunes.

"Each Klezmerson album has been very different,"  Shwartz says, "this project has been constantly transforming; I don't like repeating the rules: what can you play with, what can't you play with; and this was no exception, you can hear a more resolute Klezmerson. I feel that this record landed in a very strong place: aggressive and a lot more discordant". Hashawah makes a discrete appearance; as it lays low, arid rattles settle around us, outlining the confines of our surroundings. These surroundings expand as we start to pierce them; our destination, even when it's rather far away, is implied. The instrumentation strides in layers, confrontation is constantly taking place, the different voices of the ensemble chase and respond to each other, their conversation is driven theatrically by the robust clattering of the rail tracks and as sharp as the beams of noon.  A patter fluters about while Middot leans out, shyly, to burst with a delicious shrillness, the layers have changed their texture: these silken and rugged coats combine their pace as they melt into the trajectory, in between serene sceneries, irregular intervals of tremor and wind take over for a while, they decompose slowly or abruptly into the main motive, to be left behind. Movement is the only thing we rely on, and the only witness to all these games: María Emilia Martínez's flute constantly rushes in, lively in its flight; the abstract figures from Todd Clouser's guitar roar along as well. In between the members, we find Carina López at the bass, Gustavo Nandayapa playing drums, Federico Schmucler also at the guitar, Chatrán González playing percussions, Carlos Metta on the jarana as well as on the percussions, and on the saxophones, we find Mauricio Moro "Osito". "That's the base line-up, but some friends joined us too" Shwartz explains, "There's Mischa Marks, he played the horns and the latarra, Fausto Palma played the sarangi and the oud, Alex Otaola played the guitar. I went to Monterrey to record musicians such as Jair Alcalá that played the accordion and northern percussions, they're very cool; they also recorded bajo sextos over there, in Monterrey. A Huasteco group named Los cantores del son, collaborated too with some Sones inside the pieces". 

The third piece, Reshimu, is probably one the most outstanding and voracious. It begins with an erratic and agitated tone, almost exalted; pronounced gasps pant about as they arise delicately with a turquoise gleam that bursts into an exuberant and energetic march that doubles it's speed, chasing after more exotic landscapes. Contrast makes yet another act of presence with an amalgam of perspectives that are re-signified under the shades of heat, from time to time its sweetness gives way to brutal, yet playful, turbulences that fizz up and down with elegance; they handle their dynamics acutely. This lucid narrative is seized, out of the blue, by a Son Huasteco; the brass jumps along too, distorting our sense of destination; now, the scenarios appear to be moving through us instead. This rarefied trek resembles reverse. It soars through the sky. It wriggles underground, and it reaches its climax colliding with its very own reflection: the scale of our trajectory appears before our eyes like a mirror and we find ourselves returning from where we came from. "I've always been a huge fan of Mexican music, I've loved it since I was a little boy. I'm very intrigued by the way it's played, and I've learned, through different journeys, the way Sones are played in different places. Sones are very honest, very pure, and I think that Klezmer is, at its core, the same: very honest music, very pure; both styles suit each other very well, they're very compatible; it's not properly a fusion, both genres run into each other and intertwine from time to time, but they don't lose their shape to become one, it's more of a romp. I've had the fortune of traveling to different parts of Mexico, to make field recordings of the Son Huasteco in Veracruz, in San Luis Potosí, in Hidalgo, and then you find the differences and the different traditions throughout different towns... It almost resembles a research project, but it's not, it's a project of pleasure, of learning and incorporating it into my own work." 

Our journey stumbles into a tangible night with Sapir, the brass emanates symmetrical sets of clouds for the flute to hover around prominently, such hover, takes the redden remains of a hot day with its cold gale; this part of the journey is more stable; elegant, yet casual, like an exotic gathering that is taking place far away from its departure point and far away from its destination. Night abducts every shape from the landscapes, it blurs them. Ratzon arises from the murk. The fauna remains hidden, leaving but a percussive trace. The impulse behind us is under a completely different light: Tiferet unravels with a wide range of textures, each of the musicians involved has a very personal language that elaborates on vast spaces, sometimes on narrow yet intimate stretches surrounded by cicadas and uncertainty. Shwartz lives in Mexico City, a place as brisk and as varied as his music. "I wouldn't know how to delimit a scene" he confesses, "because by 'music scene' you could refer to free improvisation; it could be the rocker's scene or the scene of the jazzmen, and since I'm always in between unknown territories, sometimes they label us as jazzmen, yet it's not for rockers, it's not traditional music nor world-music; we are always going from place to place". Afterwards, he describes for us a little bit of how you become immersed by the musicality of a city such as Mexico's, "We're all splattered in this city by the horns, the dogs, the motorcycles and all the noise we live in: the traffic jam, the cumbias playing on the buses, and on everywhere you go; I like every kind of music, it calls my attention; so the simple fact of living here makes us create music in a unique and peculiar way". A great deal of the material that makes up The Book of Beriah, including Klezmerson's, had already been recorded around mid-2017, "I've had the fortune of encountering many of the musicians that collaborate with Zorn, we're in the same package of ensembles that play his music. They're musicians I admire, whom I've been able to play with, to exchange opinions, it's very cool. We've become a family, a little bit distant from my side"  he narrates, "they all live in New York... I think we're the only ensemble that resides in Mexico." 

Nekevah is also a jewel, a perfumed melody that escapes a ruby; it unfurls sensually, like a whisper, an embrace that takes your weight away before it flutters in a coppery dance that lifts us up gracefully. It reveals something to us, and facing towards this epiphany we allow ourselves to join the celebration. An iridescent flame is born from the strings to become its main character, it changes its tone as it swarms through space like a mirage. Zivugim follows this oneiric line; some sort of inertia drags us, hissing through space, through a lucid drowsiness, an exhaustion just as immense as a delirious desert that recreates the routes of our jaunt. The sense of movement has changed, the way we relate to the space we inhabit has altered. We're aware in the middle of a dream, and wakefulness is still beyond our reach. As we languidly get there, our surroundings disintegrate marvelously: fragments of land go missing, in between rampant oasis and plentiful sunsets, a glimpse of our destination appears at the distance. "Klezmer is part of my culture, of my tradition and my history. Even when I wasn't always in contact with it, when I was studying music I re-encountered this music. It had always been present, but I had never taken it as my own, though it existed alongside me. When I took it, it made a whole more sense. We're multicultural, I'm Mexican, Chilango, Jewish, Polish, Lithuanian; it's not just black and white, we're many hues of gray and color. I've learned that Klezmer is like a stray dog with plenty of spots, it's a type of music that goes from town to town, and wherever it goes it picks up a new spot; it's like a kitchen plate, and each ingredient they toss in it depends on where it comes from, and it suits Mexico very well to put these ingredients in the mix."

Tiferet says goodbye with Ayin. The awakening is as fresh as it is gentle, our destination greets us as it sheds its pulse through our senses with a tender familiarity. We've grown still; a lofty conurbation awaits solemnly with a limpid, somewhat dystopic chaos to it that jolts us, accompanied by an unsurpassed tenderness. The need for movement remains, the voyage is not yet over: it's a reunion and a farewell.