Bester Quartet & Grazyna Auguscik
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Bester Quartet & Grazyna Auguscik

Kraków, Lesser Poland Voivodeship, Poland

Kraków, Lesser Poland Voivodeship, Poland
Band World Jazz


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""The Warriors""

The power of klezmer revival means that nowadays there is almost an excess of groups skillfully raiding the Jewish tradition. But few offer as classy an act as this Polish quartet, whose The Warriors runs tackle for John Zorn's Radical Jewish Culture series. With exquisite, delicate phrasing, violin, accordion, clarinet and double bass create a world of melody as comfortable as your favourite armchair, as nimble as a kitten.

Almost everything on this set is written by accordeonist Jarek Bester, starting totally within a klezmer tradition, but branching out to showcase the remarkable talents of the ensemble's members. In this, The Bester Quartet (CKB) resemble Astor Piazzolla's equally virtuoso quintet, and the ghoulishly improvised intro to "Memento Mori" recalls Piazzolla's group invoking the Buenos Aires rush hour traffic. From the racing seven-time of "The Amorous Dance Of The Orchid" to the luxuriating Latin rhythms of the title track, every piece is a sophisticated delight.
- Clive Bell (The Wire) - "The Warriors

"Concerts critique"

There's still plenty to be heard in this last weekend of the World Music Festival, but the performance that the Bester Quartet (Cracow Klezmer Band) gave Thursday night at the Chicago Cultural Center will be difficult to top.

The great find of this year's festival, this ensemble dares to view klezmer music not as rowdy entertainment but as sublime, high art. In an era in which many would-be klezmer bands including several in the United States exaggerate and vulgarize klezmer traditions, the Cracow players go in the other direction. They refuse to exploit the most obvious mannerisms of klezmer music, instead regarding this art form as a concert music to be performed with utmost polish, care and subtlety.

Rather than dispatch well-worn repertoire in conventional or stereotypical ways, the Cracow musicians create original compositions and intricate improvisations based upon particular elements of klezmer tradition. Thus a specific dance rhythm or turn of phrase or chord progression will become the driving force of an entire work. After unveiling the musical motif at hand, the musicians will develop it as a brilliant jazz musician might to do, transforming a theme until it becomes something new.

Yet for all the harmonic and rhythmic sophistication of their work, the Cracow players take pains to keep even the most casual listener engaged. The sheen of their ensemble sound, the virtuosity of their solos and the intelligence and drama of their performances easily persuade listeners to hang on to every note.

Perhaps that's why the standing-room-only crowd at the Chicago Cultural Center barely stirred during this performance. Every composition whether exploring ebullient, age-old dance forms or investigating ancient cantorial melody painted an alluring portrait of Eastern European life and culture.

At the same time, however, the Cracow players were not trapped in the past. You could hear the freshness of their music in the free-form improvisations that opened many of their pieces, and in the bristling dissonance and freely bent pitches that they wove into klezmer tradition.

None of this would have been possible to achieve, however, were it not for the technical and musical accomplishments of this band. Accordionist Jaroslaw Bester drew sonic effects from his instrument that one might not have thought possible. Violinist Jaroslaw Tyrala played with such impeccable intonation and beauty of tone that he probably would have been equally persuasive in a concerto by Mendelssohn or Brahms. Oleg Dyyak was the chameleon of the band, his work on accordion, clarinet and percussion proving remarkably adept and giving the band much of its expressive range. And bassist Wojciech Front helped the ensemble seamlessly finesse changes of meter and tempo.

Together, these four musicians created music of extraordinary tonal luster, thanks, in part, to the ingenuity of their arrangements. When Bester and Dyyak played two-accordion passages, with Tyrala's violin singing imploringly in its high register, the effect was haunting.

Of all the ensembles that have emerged in recent years to explore the meaning of klezmer in a new era, few have reached as high as the Bester Quartet (Cracow Klezmer Band), and fewer still have attained comparable results.
- Howard Reich (Chicago Tribune) - "Chicago Cultural Center"

""Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass""

John Zorn's Masada songbooks have surrendered themselves to many modern genres and styles—free jazz with the original Masada Quartet, contemporary improvised music with the Masada String Trio and the duo of Mark Feldman and Sylvie Courvoisier, 1970s electric fusion meets today's electronica with Electric Masada, power rock with Rashanim, and a dozen others in the various tributes to the first Masada songbook (Masada Guitars; Voices in the Wilderness; and The Unknown Masada, all Tzadik, 2003). But only now, with the release of the Polish Cracow Klezmer Band's fourth disc on Tzadik, are they interpreted in the Old World Eastern European klezmer form. Many Masada interpretations have referenced, abstracted, or suggested new readings of this genre which is so identified with Jewish music.

The four members of the Cracow Klezmer Band - leader, arranger, and bayan (accordion) player Jaroslaw Bester; violinist Jaroslaw Tyrala; bayan player, clarinetist, and percussionist Oleg Dyyak; and double bass Wojciech Front - are augmented by singer Grazyna Auguscik, who has collaborated with them before, not only to tackle John Zorn's Masada Songbooks One and Two, but also to use these tunes to paint a heartfelt tribute to the Polish-Jewish writer and artist Bruno Schultz (1892-1942), whose character still inspires contemporary writers like the Israeli author David Grossman (See Under: Love) and Americans Cynthia Ozick (The Messiah of Stockholm) and Phillip Roth (The Prague Orgy). This release is named after Schultz's second collection of short stories, published in 1936, and its official title is The Cracow Klezmer Band plays the music of John Zorn—Sanatorium Under Sign of the Hourglass: A Tribute to Bruno Schultz.

The Cracow Klezmer Band's beautiful arrangements are faithful to the original versions. In the opening track, “Meshakh,” and on “Regalim,” these four musicians even manage to capture the same dynamic telepathic coordination that is so identified with the original Masada quartet. But soon as Tyrala begins his magnificent solo on “Galgalim,” you realize that their music is more faithful to the klezmer tradition than any other Masada incarnations or interpretations: klezmer music as a high art concert music that must be performed with subtlety, finesse, and great passion.

”Tirzah,” with Auguscik's dreamy wordless vocals, and “Hamadah” both succeed in capturing the sensual atmosphere of Schulz's fantastical stories. Tyrala introduces “Adithaim” with a virtuosic, lyrical violin solo, slowly turning the piece into a gentle dance tune. “Pagiel” is the only tune from Zorn's second Masada songbook, Book of Angels, and is performed as a passionate Astor Piazzolla tune. “Meholalot” is interpreted slightly differently than the version the Cracow Klezmer Band did on Voices in the Wilderness, this time stressing its driving rhythms, as its Hebrew title suggests, and highlighting the captivating vocals of Grazyna Auguscik.

A brilliant release that blends Old World with New World, an almost vanished culture with a vital resurrecting one, by one of the world's most extraordinary new klezmer outfits.
- Eyal Hareuveni (


The first striking thing about the Cracow Klezmer Band's reading of John Zorn's tunes from his Book of Angels, on Balan, is the sound -- crystalline, full of separation and space. The next is Jaroslaw Bester's bayan -- hunted, witchy, signaling from some far-off place to Oleg Dyyak's hand drums, Wojciech Front's double bass, and then the small army of strings provided by the band's own violinist, Jaroslaw Tyrala, and the DAFO String Quartet.

They respond as if gathering in some hidden terrain, and begin to dance. And it is about dancing, folks. Thus begins "Zuriel," the first cut from this entrancing, ingenious, and by all means exotic recording. On the following cut, "Suria," the seemingly random guttural vocals of Jorgos Skolias enter into the mix along with Ireneusz Socha's minimal electronics. Skolias becomes an Eastern soul singer by the track's middle as the strings envelope him in ether. On "Kadosh," the track melds traditional klezmer, symphonic cadenzas, and free improvisation into the mix, but the result is no less songlike. Bester's bayan commences "Asbeel," with a single note played obsessively and repeatedly, which is answered at first by Tyrala's plucked violin and then the entire band swirling like drunken Gypsies around the lone note that has now become one song, then another, and then yet another ranging from classic klezmer and Yiddish folk melodies to manic Gypsy tunes and even French bistro pop amid crazily shifting dynamics between group play and soloists. Bester arranged all of this material, and has done something utterly unexpected -- something, ironically, that listeners have come to expect from this entire series of recordings -- in pushing the klezmer genre to its limit and then past it, letting in a flood of other musical approaches and ideas. While all of Zorn's Book of Angels recordings have been wonderful thus far, Koby Israelite's beautifully intoxicating Orobas and this volume push the Masada material into entirely new sound worlds. Beguiling.
- Thom Jurek ©


Bester Quartet:

1.De Profundis (TZ 7143)
2.The Warriors (TZ 7157)
3.Bereshit (TZ 7183)
4.Sanatorium under the Sign of the Hourglass (TZ 7349)
5.Balan (TZ 7358)
6.Remembrance (TZ 8116)

Grazyna Auguscik:

Solo albums:

2008 Andanca GMA Records
2007 Sounds Live Sounds GMA Records
2005 Lulajze The Lullaby for Jesus - GMA Records
2005 The Light - GMA Records
2003 Past Forward - GMA Records / Jazz Institute of Chicago Sound Archive And Recordings
2002 HomageThree for Brazil - Pony Canyon Records (Japan)
2001 River - GMA Records
2001 Don't Let Me Go - GMA Records (Remastered Rerelease + BT featuring Michal Urbaniak)
2000 Fragile- GMA Records
2000 To i Hola - Selles Records
1998 Pastels - GMA Records
1997 Koledy - Voice Magic Records
1996 Don’t Let Me Go - GMA Records
1989 Sunrise Sunset - Polskie Nagrania

Featuring as a guest (selected projects):
2011 Muzyka Polska, Andrzej Jagodzinskki Trio,
2010 Kobiety i Jazz, Trio Inspiracje, GRAMI Records
2010 Komeda-Inspiration Jan Bokszczanin ARMS Records
2009 Krzysztof Komeda, Agora
2008 Matt Ulery’s Loom-Music Box Ballerina
2007 John McLean Better Angels - Origin
2005 John McLean - Welcome Everything Guitar Madness- JohnMcLeanMusic
2005 Cracow Klezmer Band -Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass - Tzadik
2003 Cracow Klezmer Band –Bereshit - Tzadik
2003 Batizado Scottinho - Scott Anderson
2003 Widow's First Dawn Rope - Family Vineyard
2000 Gephart Long Quartet - Corners Gephart/Long Records
2000 The City of Strangers - Sepia Records
2000 The Surrender - Sepia Records
1999 Primordial Passage vinyl Peacefrog Records London
1999 Primordial Passage CD Peacefrog Records London
1999 The Sacred Spaces EpÓ - Underground Evolution Records
1998 Fernando Huergo Living these Times - Browstone Records
1998 Women Who Swing Chicago - Big Chicago Records



Bester Quartet is a phenomenon on the global music market. The group is made up of four superior instrumentalists, classically trained musicians. The quartet’s trademark is performance of the music of a vast stylistic range that assimilates some selected elements borrowed from classical, jazz and vanguard music, including the best of achievements of the contemporary chamber music where improvisation constitutes a foundation to build some unique instrumental forms on.

The ensemble is a new edition of the legendary The Cracow Klezmer Band that was formed back in 1997 in Krakow, Poland as an initiative of Jaroslaw Bester – a young musician, composer and accordionist.

As a result of development of an original and artistically daring repertoire, based chiefly on own compositions or arrangements designed specifically for the instrumental setting, the quartet continues to win recognition among music critics and audience worldwide.
Bester Quartet has made numberless TV and radio recordings and has cooperated with many exceptional jazz, klezmer and vanguard musicians, including John Zorn, Tomasz Stanko, Grazyna Auguscik, John McLean, Don Byron, Frank London, Jorgos Skolias, Aaron Alexander, Ireneusz Socha and others.

The quartet has performed in many prestigious venues around the world, including Poland, USA, UK, Taiwan, Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, Estonia, France, Ukraine, Hungary, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Holland, Germany and Canada.

The quartet has got a long-standing cooperation track with John Zorn’s NYC based prestigious Tzadik label that has resulted in releasing 6 CDs.

Grazyna Auguscik - vocal

Singer, composer, arranger, and producer Grazyna Auguscik has won the praise and admiration of music critics, jazz enthusiasts and even non-jazz audiences with a singular voice that speaks a universal language.
She is one of the most intriguing contemporary vocalists on today’s world jazz scene. Her elusive style challenges traditional definitions of jazz and show vocalist and musician without boundaries. Her unorthodox approach to rewriting classic works is at once a tribute to its authors as well as an adventure into uncharted territory. Her originals give a fresh taste of uncanny flavor.
Professional music career she began in Europe, completed her studies in 1992 at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, and has since become a prolific collaborator shearing the stage with such jazz notables as Michael and Randy Brecker, Jim Hall, John Medeski, Paul Wertico, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Robert Irving III, Michal Urbaniak, Urszula Dudziak, Terry Callier, Patricia Barber, John McLean, Ron Perrillo, and many others.
Grazyna has managed to record, produce and distribute 13th albums, 9 under her own record label, GMA Records, and appearing on as many projects as a guest.
Her album Pastels was one of the best in 1998, chosen by National Public Radio listeners.
Her "River" 2002 release placed her as one of the hottest young jazz talents in the country.
In Year 2003 Grazyna is receiving Twirlie Nomination for Top 15 FEMALE VOCALISTS and she is nominated by 22nd Annual Chicago Music Awards for Best Female Vocalist of 2002. She was awarded as Best Jazz Vocal of 2002, 2003 , 2004, 2006 by a prestigious European "Jazz Forum Magazine".
Also 2002 Fujitsu Concord Jazz Festival awarded her as TOP VOCAL, and the album “Hamage” Three for Brazil recorded for Pony Canyon Records in Japan was on TOP 20 JAZZ ALBUMS in Asia.
2003 release "Past Forward" by Grazyna Auguscik though it once again resists easy classification because of its musical eclecticism, is jazz in all its contemporary potential, pulsating, exhilarating, eastern musical origins leading to the past, uncanny impression of wholeness, featuring remarkably talented accordion player Jarek Bester..

Auguscik may be on the brink of innovation says Chicago Tribune critics review .
Find out why the LA Times says "Grazyna Auguscik is doing important work in advancing the potential for imaginative jazz singing. She is a singer to be watched.

The Grazyna Auguscik Orkestar Universale Project, presented at Millennium Park in Chicago in 2006, received a standing ovation, reaffirming that music can communicate across boundaries of language. Howard Reich of the Chicago Tribune said of her performance "Auguscik and her ensemble sound like nothing else you ever heard; they are out of this world. This must-see performer is one of the best voices to be heard today.

Latest album "Andanca" received great review at "DownBeat Magazine" radio stations around the country and abroad.
Her last concert Chopin World Sound at Millennium Park in Chicago on July 25, 2010 with 14 musicians on stage gathered over 10,000 people in the audience and was chosen as one of the 10 most important performances during last three decades in Chicago area among names like :Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Wynton Marsalis Septet, Frank Sinatra, Marcus Rober