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White Buses: Passage to Freedom
(2023 - Cowbell - Denmark)



  This recording sparked many levels of emotions for me, as it displays the raw evil of one part of humankind, yet reveals the resilience of a people who refuse to be put out like a weak candle. The iconic passions from the involved musicians says many things, and under the direction of Benjamin Koppel (son of Anders Koppel) speaks to the highest compliment any collection of inclusive participants can give.  This epic 'White Buses - Passage to freedom' involves deeper invasive memories, hurtful states of tragedy, and far more stress on the decision to define a degree of pleasure or displeasure. It demands the brave face of reality, and does not allow the ears to be numb to the history of he story line presented.

Because I would like to talk about the music in this review, I highly suggest all readers go to the Bandcamp link I provided below header, and read the long involved history of the Danish Jews that became subjects of the World War II, and events before. While Hitler used an ape-like reasoning to partly delay the full persecution of Danish Jews in that space in time, it was only a matter of convenience for the madman to wait for the more advantageous period. Yet, with the actual interviews that Benjamin Koppel gathered from real survivors of the camps all around, the evil was larger than life. But we still see the strengths and the struggles, just like we were exposed to in Benjamin's fathers masterpiece of last year (2022) Anders Koppel 'Mulberry Street Symphony', a TOP CHOICE of 2022 of mine. Most important is the kindness shown in humanity amongst the ugliness. The sunshine beaming past the dark clouds.   It is tough to imagine a more accurate musical presentation, of all thoughts I have stated. Hands down this is a hard listen, in the realm of sentiment, and the aural sense. The interviews with the voices of victims, and the musical score constantly expressing sometimes disparate atmospheres, suffering beyond what most humans have no idea of, and bravery for what is right in the eyes of what morals are at hand in this era. Benjamin Koppel took his time to study and absorb the entire theater. So like his father (Anders) he has an innate ability to condense, but still expand, the entire occurrences of an often huge event, and contain it to a musical score. Not an easy task to say the least. Here, Benjamin does a miraculous job of bringing to light, a time and story that strikes the nerve of even the numb. And how Benjamin works his magic to not only compose the music that lifts this story line to major heights, he also allows the whole piece to breathe, to mourn, to provoke, and to give rare insight to the listener.   

Like old skeletons, having new breath, the music is impossible to separate from the all too authentic voices of eye witnesses of the many accounts covered here on  'White Buses: Passage to Freedom'. The recording is filled with both life and death, attaching itself to the listeners, who cannot (and must not) try to approach this with a numb mind or trepid frame of mind. The thirty-one pieces hold one captive, and not only fill the air with musical brilliance (the imagery is amazing), but also shakes the soul to the core with the artistic haunt and conveyance  by the exclusive band members.

While the music has many colors, it also breaks over any preconceived notions. From astute classical ballad, to lyrical jazz, spacial moments, even a psychedelic excursion between epic statements of rich reverie (check out the mournful 'The Woman With Her Violin', a composition about how this woman got shot down while standing on a corner playing her violin, followed by the very trippy 'Testimonial III' which could have some audience recalling early celestial Gong with Gilli Smyth doing her space whispers). The  palettes are plenty.  Big splashes and robust notations are in abundance.  Some narration is quite striking, even shocking ('Two Birds in a Nest' describes how starvation was  part of this period, when a man found two live birds in a nest, and --well I will leave the rest out of this review). How the music translates the intense fear, panic,  an impossible plight of the people in this WW II event, is quite tough to adequately describe. It is with a high degree praise that I urge everyone to purchase and absorb this both beautiful (in a sad sense) and gripping presentation. I also recommend another just as vivid release by Benjamin Koppel, Scott Colley & Brian Blade, titled 'Perspective', as it includes all three of the members who also played on the fabulous 'Mulberry Street Symphony' release by Anders Koppel).  

  ©Reviewed by Lee Henderson  12 - 22 - 2023

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