Hijaz Garaj Band was conceived as a compositional and improvisational project by Lincoln Frey. After some decades of working with a broad cross section of jazz and world music acts (Rembetika Hipsters, Susana Baca, Niamh Parsons, Alpha Yaya Diallo), and following a lengthy journey through Croatia and Bosnia, clarinet in hand, Lincoln came up with a plot to blend the ingredients used by jazz, classical and musicians of the current and former moslem worlds into a new recipe.
Hijaz is a common scale or mode throughout the Balkans, Anatolia, the levant and beyond. Garaj is, well garage. The idea was not for a well-bred North American jazz perfection, but rather the fun and chaos of youth banging out Louie Louie in the garage after school.
To find a place where dialogue amongst creative people was the real goal, not virtuosic perfection.
These pieces were presented to the performers as mere sketches at the time of recording. The act of talking together through music took it all to a destination without rehearsal.
Birthplace of the concept of Hijaz Garaj Band.
Like a human being, the city is a composite creature, only to be known through many a view from many a different point.
If you wander eastward from the old heart of Sarajevo, following Ulice Jekovac and picking a side street route up the hillside, you will come to the Žuta Tabija – the Yellow Bastion. From this prospect, well above the Milacka River and the Gradska Vijećnica, you no longer see the people who inhabit the city going about their business, living and dying and marrying and copulating as busily as anywhere else. You see the countless white markers where the dead lie. Graves in numbers as vast as the Children of Israel. You see that all human places have irreconcilable conflicts within them and are capable of self-destruction under specific circumstances.
If it’s a typical day, Sarajevo will have clothed itself in a heavy garment of fog, hiding a ruin, even 20 years after the conflict, beyond the power of imagination to reconstruct. But there was a time, during the height of the Ottoman centuries, when this city was second only to Istanbul in size and significance. All the business of empire passed through the mountain seray. All roads met at Baščaršija, all peoples dipped their hands in the Sebilj. Music didn’t come from any “place”, it came from everywhere to this place.
Here was born the idea of Hijaz Garaj Band.
To dip many creative hands into a fountain of possibilities; to mash together the improvisational music of east and west then reassemble the atomized particles. To take jazz away from the polite intellectual improvisations of colleges and concert halls and put it into a typical tavern in a typical Balkan town, where the air is thick with the yellow haze of cigarette smoke . . . the raucous, grunting intercourse of clarinets and drums . . . then late at night, through a thick furry warmth of sweat that makes the air taste twice used, you hear the crying game that is sevdalinka — or rembetika or fado: liturgy and folk and elegy combined into national myths, most of them contrived fictions — improvisations.