Hera with special guest Hamid Drake

Seven Lines
MultiKulti MPI 030

By Ken Waxman

Billed as special guest, Hamid Drake fills more than that role on Seven Lines. The Chicago-based drummer fits into this expanded edition of the Polish Hera band like incense within a censer. The reason is simple. Known for his sophisticated contributions as a jazz drummer, Drake is also at ease in so-called world music, playing in African-inspired and reggae bands. Hera bandleader, reedist Wacław Zimpel is his homologue. A frequent associate of jazzers like Ken Vandermark, the clarinetist’s compositions for Hera are based on Japanese, Iranian tribal and Tibetan themes. Moreover when Zimpel and Hera’s saxophonist Paweł Postaremczak play harmonium, and Raphael Rogiński’s guitar and Maciek Cierliński’s hurdy-gurdy join in, it’s as if the ensemble is made up of tabla, sitar and ektara (one-stringed drone instrument).

Nevertheless Seven Lines’ triumph is not that it is westernized world music of some shade; but is instead top-flight improvisation that calls on many strains of sound. Both Zimpel on clarinets and Postaremczak on saxophones are capable of outlining modern, swinging jazz; plus bassist Ksawery Wójciński and regular Hera drummer Paweł Szpura can lock into a groove with ease. Case in point is “Temples of Tibet” which mixes an introduction and coda featuring Drake’s devotional chanting plus frame-drum scrubbing with a middle section that’s pseudo-funk, as hurdy-gurdy and harmonium tones combine to produce organ-like chords alongside chesty roars from the saxophonist.

Other outstanding tracks are built around Zimpel’s clarinet finesse, which is sinuously stable whether dealing with themes sourced from a Middle Eastern tribe as on “Sounds of Balochistan” or his own composition, “Recalling Ring”. Knowing Poland’s multi-ethnic traditions, it’s no surprise there are Klezmer echoes in the clarinet solos which gradually work up to flutter-tongued multiphonics. Adding to the general excitement is Rogiński’s durable twangs which are one-third Roma, one-third Russian and one-third Roy Rogers. “Sounds of Balochistan” pinpoints Hera’s skills most effectively. Harmonium/hurdy-gurdy drones serve to introduce others’ sonic nuances. Soon sitar-like resonations are glimpsed translucently alongside taut free jazz reed split tones as a swaying drum beats joyously produce a rhythm uniting Middle East and Middle Europe.

Seven Lines proves that divergent musical cultures are emotionally attached. It also confirms that these exciting links can be stylishly and simply expressed by players with a background is exploratory improvisation.

Tracks: Sounds of Balochistan; Roofs of Kyoto; Temples of Tibet; Afterimages; Recalling Ring

Personnel: Wacław Zimpel: clarinet, alto clarinet, harmonium; Paweł Postaremczak: tenor, soprano saxophones, harmonium; Maciek Cierliński: hurdy-gurdy; Raphael Rogiński: guitar; Ksawery Wójciński: bass; Paweł Szpura: drums; Hamid Drake: drums, frame drum, vocal

—For The New York City Jazz Record June 2014