The human side of the World Quintet - drummer David Klein enjoying himself and lending a touch of warmth and joy to the performance
Michael Heitzler, clarinet
Olivier Truan, piano
Daniel Fricker, bass
Ariel Zuckermann, flute
David Klein, drums
Formerly known as Kol Simcha, The World Quintet comprises
Olivier Truan on piano and as composer and arranger, Michael Heitzler on clarinet, Ariel Zuckermann on flute, Daniel Fricker on bass, and David Klein on drums. The World Quintet's style, according to the PR, fuses jazz, classical and world music, mixing jazz improvisations with Mediterranean melodies and Eastern European rhythms.
The Union Chapel auditorium filled to a little over half capacity after some extra time was allowed, a small but very vocal Swiss expat contingent proving itself hard to ignore. Finally, the lights dimmed, and The World Quintet started their programme of all-originals with a dramatic and dramatically lighted opener. The excellence of Ariel Zuckermann's flute was to prove the major stand-out throughout this spirited performance by this excellent ensemble. While all its members proved themselves to be superb virtuoso performers, Zuckermann's flute clearly displayed an extra sparkle of brilliance.
Ariel Zuckermann, flute, with bassist Daniel Fricker in background
The performance was interspersed with introductions by drummer David Klein, far and away the most personable, even affable, member of the quintet. This provided a sorely needed human touch as otherwise the World Quintet sadly projected about as much warmth and charisma as an arctic pike. A certain almost Teutonic iciness was almost palpable and only made bearable through Klein's occasional touches of humour and light-heartedness. Don't get me wrong, these guys were good, very good, but they were just a touch too sure of that. The steady walking off stage or around the back of the stage during other players' solos, in particular by Ariel Zuckermann, proved a major irritation and distraction. An early interval, after some mere twenty-odd minutes, did little to enhance the atmosphere.
Michael Heitzler, clarinet, and Daniel Fricker, bass
But what of the music itself? Surely, this should have made for an exciting blend? The predominant element proved strong leanings towards avantgarde jazz. Touches of klezmer were few and far between, at least in that essentially there was very little evidence of the feel of Yiddishe neshome (soul). Technically certainly excellent, with some very spirited improvs as well, even intellectually very clever, overall, a human element made its lack felt for me in the World Quintet's performance. A piece titled Wedding Suite proved exceptional in providing a touch more human accessibility and good, solid melodic lines that were easily accessible. Approached from a more purely avantgarde jazz angle, this music might perhaps have proved more satisfying, at any rate for those who appreciate that particular form.
The World Quintet - Olivier Truan, Michael Heitzler, Ariel Zuckermann
Obviously, the World Quintet have their fans and aficionados, as evidenced by a fairly raucous element in the crowd at Union Chapel. But whilst clearly preferable to that other well-known Swiss export, cuckoo clocks, for me this performance lacked essential neshome (soul). Not necessarily Yiddishe neshome, just any kind of neshome. Nonetheless, the World Quintet's performance proved an interesting insight into the quirkier side of new Jewish music and into just how far reaching the influence of the Jewish music, and in particular klezmer, renaissance has become. If the Klezmer Beats on Upper Street series of concerts aimed to show the breadth of the contemporary spectrum of klezmer and klezmer related music, then surely the World Quintet was a valid inclusion and a great contribution towards achieving this aim. Vive la difference!
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Michael Heitzler, clarinet