Witness Medna Roso, a testament to transcendent musical communion. This particular
recording features BBC Jazz Award-winning and Mercury nominated solo artist Kit Downes on
organ, New Zealand saxophonist Hayden Chisholm–known for his distinct microtonal tuning
system–contributing on alto saxophone, shruti box, analogue synthesizer, throat singing, and
vocals from PJEV, a female a cappella vocal quintet from Zagreb that preserves and cherishes
traditional vocal music from Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The stars began to align when PJEV’s director Jovana Lukic fittingly first crossed paths with
Chisholm, who now calls Zagreb home, at a kafana–a restaurant with smoking and live music–
in Dorcol, an old part of Belgrade, Serbia, for which the Turkish name of Dort-yol translates to
crossroad. “You don't meet people like him everyday, especially in Belgrade. He is a true artist
and lover of life, so I embraced and appreciated this, and I was truly inspired by this encounter,
too,” explains Lukic.
capella singing that he became enchanted by when moving to Belgrade in 2016. Soon after
PJEV and Chisholm began experimenting, by adding saxophone as he gradually began to learn
more about the songs and styles of performance.
“The first qualities which caught me were the emotional directness, close harmonies, pure
intervals, and the raw physicality of the sound,” he says. “Then began the journey of learning
more about the meaning of the lyrics, where and how the songs are sung, and how the tradition
has been gradually fading away from cultural prominence in the last decades.”
The eight traditional songs here represent different regions of the Balkans, reflecting the distinct
vocal styles that have developed over the passing centuries. Included in the recording are
extensive notes with titles, lyrics and translations of the songs to guide the curious listener
through the wondrous music.
“Even to this day I am not sure what happened there in Cologne. During the rehearsal we were
struggling with the church acoustics and didn't quite understand how we would fit into the
concept,” admits Lukic. But the next day when the concert began they just flew off the ground.
“It felt from the very first moment that we’d suddenly received big wide stork wings. Their strong
and deep music gave us so much support and powerful wind in our backs, so we just had to
carefully surf on it. The exciting feeling of flickering and daring organ harmonies of Kit and the
image of church space filled with many colorful butterflies of Hayden’s unique improvisations are
something to remember.”
As Downes attests, the night captured on this recording was not only magical, but a really
beautiful example of what can happen when strong musical personalities from different worlds
embrace the adventure of improvising together. For Downes, one of the newer musical
encounters was the grand 3-manual Rieger Organ, that he describes as “a large instrument with
a very generous acoustic to play in, booming 32' reeds in the pedals, twinkling Cymbelstern,
glass-like Nazard and Tierce partials and soft ascending strings on the swell.”
The combination of sounds echoed mightily and timelessly in the ancient acoustic of the
Agneskirche in Cologne, where the ensemble performed this spellbinding concert for a sold-out
concert at the Cologne Jazz Week Festival in September 2021, which lives on now thanks to
this pristine live recording issuing on Red Hook Records. More