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Garude Apsa ("Hidden Tears") is a beautiful production by a serious Austrian jazz musician playing, as he insists, "not jazz." The music is of a sort which has influenced jazz, rather than been influenced by it. It has more go than some things you'll hear called gypsy jazz. "Garude Apsa/Reprise" also demonstrates what John Lewis' composition "Django" is all about: harmony. Especially in its Eastern origins, this Roma music shares a lot in common with the Great American Songbook, the basis of much that went into jazz harmony from the 1930s onward.
Singers Ivona Ferencova (whose voice can bite) and Matilda Leko (softer-toned) can sound very Slavic singing together. On Stojka's "Pundrav" Leko sounds much more Western, but the tune resembles "All the Things You Are," still within the gypsy idiom rather than any "world" melange. The notes duly emphasise that Brahms, Bartok, and Haydn (the master harmonist) all drew on gypsy sources. Like some other instruments, Geri Schuller's piano isn't audible everywhere, but he produces brilliant echoes of Twentieth Century European concert music, a brilliant juxtaposition accompanying the pure, ancient folk song "Sapeski Gile."
There's also much rhythmic variety and percussion that at times is very witty. Stojka's amazing multi-note guitar is recognisable throughout, his solos never jazz but pure Roma, pre-Django Reinhardt, marked by those rhythmic-harmonic transformations his recordings generated within jazz. The bassist is Cuban, but other than for a few oddly funky bars toward the end of "Kore Sam," this disc represents a complete and complex integration into Roma idiom of everything any musician brought with them into this set. "Tschirikli" ("Bird") emphasises the dedication of this recording to the sixtieth anniversary of 1945 and the end of the worst of many successive persecutions and killings of gypsies and Jews.
Garude Apsa is a vocal record with intensely poignant songs in Romani, translated in the visually striking foldout with such genuinely poetic lines as those which call the lost love "the wind on a white horse." The music keeps coming back to dance, swing, soul, witty clatter. The accordionist brilliantly mimics the rippling-ripping force of Stojka's guitar on one track. There's a lot of variety of mood as well as instrumentation.
The notes insist that gypsies were the first true Europeans, but the music stays Roma, a version of good rather than bad European: strongly idiomatic and spiritually unconfined. That's a fair description of Stojka's jazz playing, too. An unlisted sixteenth track on my copy begins with several minutes' silence. Then, accompanied only by some smaller, ancient relative of Stojka's guitar, a woman delivers a direct, complex, ancient folk song. Amen? Hallelujah!
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.