Kroke, the Polish world music band that is highly popular abroad, in countries like Germany and Spain, has released a superb album titled Traveller. As the name indicates, the recording reflects the experiences the band members accumulated during more than two decades of touring.
I saw Kroke live a few years ago in Norway and the three virtuoso musicians put together a wonderful show. On Traveller, Kroke’s is equally great. The ensemble showcases its multi-faceted musical essence with a mix of Polish folk, Balkan, French, Spanish and Pat Metheny-style contemporary jazz.
Although Traveller is essentially an instrumental album that highlights masterful viola, accordion and bass work, multi-instrumentalist Tomasz Kukurba delights the listener with falsetto wordless vocals and charming whistling on one track.
The songs titles in English, Polish, Spanish and French indicate the expansive world view of this excellent Polish trio.
The lineup includes Tomasz Kukurba on viola, vocals, violin, whistling, flutes, darbuka, cajón, percussion and mouth percussion; Jerzy Bawol on accordion; and Tomasz Lato on double bass. Guest musician Slawek Berny appears on percussion and drums.
Traveller is an exquisitely-crafted album that crosses musical boundaries and uncharted worlds, and celebrates the international travel experiences of Kroke.
Tomasz Kukurba was born in Cracow, Poland in 1969. He started playing the violin in elementary school. At the age of ten he sang in the Cracow Philharmonic Choir and toured Germany and France, performing the works of Krisztof Penderecki.
During his time in high school, at the age of fourteen, he started to play the viola, which became his main instrument. Kukurba worked with the avant-garde jazz ensemble Mixtura. Like the other members of Polish band Kroke he studied classical music at the Music Academy of Cracow.
He was member of the Academy’s String Quartet and various other chamber orchestras, playing primarily the music of Penderecki, and joined, along with Tomasz Lato, the Sinfonietta Cracovia and an experimental jazz group.
The Yiddish word Kroke means “Cracow”. The group Kroke is strongly linked to Kazimierz, a Jewish settlement that had been an autonomous Jewish town up to the 19th century and then became the Jewish neighborhood of Cracow. Until 1939, Cracow and especially Kazimierz was one of the most important centers of Jewish cultural life in Europe.
The group was created in 1992 in Cracow on the initiative of three lifelong friends and graduates of the Cracow Academy of Music: Jerzy Bawoł (accordion), Tomasz Kukurba (bratsj) and Tomasz Lato (bass)
Having gone through the successive phases of education in classical music, and then fascination with jazz and progressive music, as Kroke they concentrate on playing and composing with the realm of authentic Jewish music. Each member of Kroke is equally strongly engaged in the creative process of the group.
Though the label “Klezmer” may indicate a certain direction, the music of Kroke is not necessarily linked to any of the styles nowadays connected with this concept. Using traditional material as the foundations on which to build ingenuous arrangements and improvisations, exploiting their previous experience, transmitting the profundity of man?s feelings and nature, Kroke creates new, unique compositions as well as a sound which is thus far unheard in Jewish music.
The release of a first cassette entitled Kroke in 1993 led to numerous invitations to festivals and concerts all over Europe. Beside their regular concerts in Cracow the group started to tour extensively. Among many other successful concerts there were highlights like the E.B.U. Contemporary Folk Festival (Roskilde/Denmark) in June 1996 and the WOMAD Festival (Reading/U.K.) in July 1997. At the same time the group intensified their work on the improvement of their technique and – through study of the sacred books – investigated the tradition and philosophy of the Jewish nation.
The mystical atmosphere of Kazimierz, the unshaken dignity of its six-hundred-year-old tradition, reflection on the sufferings of the past, on the present, on hope and trust in man, as well as common creative work found their outcome in the album titled Trio (Oriente RIENCD04), which was released 1996 in Berlin/Germany.
Kroke are: Tomasz Kukurba – violin; Jerzy Bawol – accordion; and Tomasz Lato – double bass