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ECM 50 TOUCHSTONES


Sedan starten 1969 har ECM stått för pionjäranda och kompromisslöst högklassiga musikproduktioner. ECM tar tillfället i akt att blicka tillbaka på dessa 50 år med hjälp av en ny Touchstone-serie med återutgivningar av kända ECM-album.

Utvalda milstolpar ur jazz- och improvisationshistorien i ny förpackning, till specialpris! Nu släpps 25 titlar. Senare i vår släpps ytterligare 25.

“One of the defining sound-worlds of the past half-century of recorded music is the distinguished repertory of ECM Records, founded by Manfred Eicher in 1969.” - Richard Brody, The New Yorker

Visar 25 artiklar
Image War Orphans
Bobo Stenson piano
Anders Jormin double-bass
Jon Christensen drums
Recorded May 1997 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Following a memorable return on 1996’s Reflections, the Bobo Stenson Trio strengthened its resolve with the release of War Orphans. Like the Ornette Coleman tune that gives the album its title, the flow borne out on these proceedings is attentive and sincere. The footfall of the same, tender as if not wanting to wake a sleeping child, lends this and its surroundings a natural feel. Yet it is “Oleo de mujer con sombrero” by Cuban folk singer and nueva trova pioneer Silvio Rodriguez that prefaces. A tender intro from Stenson leads us into the album cover’s barren vista, a place where memories and souls intermingle like characters in a Theo Angelopoulos film. Anders Jormin grows from the piano like a melodic appendage into the waters of his own “Natt.” The first of three tunes by the bassist, its current rolls stones into smooth jewels, while “Eleventh Of January” and “Sediment” bring synergy and whimsy in turn. Captivating solos in both cast him as the hub of this emotional wheel. Coleman resurfaces in “All My Life,” to which drummer Jon Christensen adds his skipping crosscurrents, setting off another star turn from Jormin, whose fingers dance their fretless way into the heart of Stenson’s lone original, “Bengali Blue.” This smooth joint crashes against the rhythm section’s shore before a surprisingly buoyant version of Duke Ellington’s “Melancholia” woos us into the piano’s final words, receding like a sun dipping its ladle into steaming ocean.

War Orphans has a feeling of clockwork, intimate gears set by key to turn and melodize. It is a salve to our innermost wounds. Like ripples in a pond from three stones, these minds naturally find ways to commingle.



99 kr
Image Standards Vol. 1
Keith Jarrett piano
Gary Peacock double-bass
Jack DeJohnette drums

With Standards, Vol. 1 (ECM 1255) Jarrett and company set things straight from the get-go by showing us the “Meaning Of The Blues.” This swath of melodious rain is the trio form at its best and never lets up until the very end. DeJohnette’s charcoal sketches in background add a quiet boldness. “All The Things You Are” is a more lighthearted, though no less intense, construction, and haunts Peacock’s nimble fingerwork with a visceral chord progression. Smoothness abounds in “It Never Entered My Mind,” a gentle tune that puts a new twist on the pessimism of balladry by resolving itself at moments into a hopeful groove. A hefty splash of freedom awaits us in “The Masquerade Is Over.” Peacock is on fire here, giving just the sort of fuel that Jarrett sets to such glorious conflagration. The latter’s soloing proves that not only is the masquerade over, but also that these musicians never hid behind masks in the first place. If any single facet of this jewel can be singled out, it is the stunning fifteen-and-a-half-minute rendition of “God Bless The Child” that concludes it. Peacock excels, taking the swing around the bar and back again.



99 kr
Image Piano Improvisations Vol.1
Piano Improvisations Vol. 1 is an album recorded by Chick Corea and released in 1971.




Released 1971
Recorded April 21 & 22, 1971 Ame Bendiksen Studio, Oslo, Norway
Label ECM
Producer Manfred Eicher

The album, along with its counterpart Piano Improvisations Vol. 2, was recorded over the course of two days in Oslo, Norway. The two albums in the Piano Improvisations series serve as a sort of bridge between Corea's other works in Circle and Return to Forever. The only musician featured on the album is Chick Corea on piano.

On the back cover of the album Corea writes, "This music was created out of the desire to communicate and share the dream of a better life with people everywhere."



99 kr
Image Watercolors
Pat Metheny guitars
Lyle Mays piano
Eberhard Weber bass
Dan Gottlieb drums
Recorded February 1977 at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

From the opening strains of Pat Metheny’s second album, we immediately know that we have a calming yet powerful journey ahead of us. The present company—among which keyboardist Lyle Mays, a Pet Metheny Group fixture, makes his first appearance—renders his characteristic combination of form and style into an instinctive wash of comfort. Mays’s pianism proves the perfect complement to the guitarist’s untainted sound. Just listen to the way he buoys the music in the opening title track, and his fluent solo in “River Quay,” and you will hardly be able to imagine the music without him. We get a lingering look at Metheny’s own abilities in “Icefire,” in which he solos on a cleverly tuned 12-string that lobs between solid chords and higher callings. Midway through, the music melts into its second titular half, flowering in a cluster of Ralph Towner-esque harmonics. “Oasis” introduces the harp guitar, a sympathetically strung instrument that shines in Metheny’s hands like the charango in Gustavo Santaolalla’s. A mournful electric sings at its center, ever shielded by an unrequited embrace of acoustics. Varied rhythms and bold chord changes animate its otherwise stagnant beauty. After these quiet submersions, we come up into air, and into light, with the beautiful “Lakes,” which positively glows with quiet ecstasies. Again, Mays broadens the edges to new waterlines, cresting like a wave that never crashes upon its thematic shores. A two-part suite proves a complex call and response with the self before the 10-minute “Sea Song” reprises the harp guitar for its swan song. The music here is beyond aquatic, and could easily have seeded a Ketil Bjørnstad project. Eberhard Weber’s smooth bass introduces the morning’s regular activities with the first rays of sunrise in countless awakening eyes, before rolling out once again, drawn back into the depths like the tide that gives them life.



99 kr
Image Aftenland

JAN GARBAREK & KJELL JOHNSEN: AFTENLAND (ECM 1169)
OCTOBER 1, 2011 | TYRAN GRILLO




Aftenland

Jan Garbarek tenor and soprano saxophones, wood flute
Kjell Johnsen pipe organ
Recorded December 1979 at Engelbrektskyrkan, Stockholm
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

If improvisation is a form of meditation, then meditation is also a form of improvisation. In being at peace with what one plays, one lives it.

Jan Garbarek is, of course, one of ECM’s longest standing composers and saxophonists, yet he is first and foremost a spectacular improviser who often manages to reach farther than (I imagine) even his own expectations in touching new melodic concepts. Paired with the Spheres-like church organ of Kjell Johnsen, he plumbs the depths of spiritual and physical awareness in a way that few of his albums have since. Here more than anywhere else, he shapes reverberation into its own spiritualism, exploring every curve of his surrounding architecture, every carved piece of wood and masonry.

The title track opens with a viscous solemnity, ever in shadow, while “Syn” reaps even more intense crops from the ethereal harvest it has sown. A trio of miniatures clustered around the session’s center reaches even more intimately into its heartbeat. “Kilden” seems to drip from the chapel ceiling like a weeping fresco. Garbarek unveils the rare recorders for a more playful exchange in “Spill.” “Iskirken” grips the heart with its piercing keen, dividing cloud and rain with the light of grief that shines like no other in times of greatest darkness. Lastly, the hurdy-gurdy drone of “Tegn” strings a delicate safety net for Garbarek’s robust defenestration.

This album predates his later Officium project by fourteen years, but is in parts just as effective in its vaulted evocations of hidden chants and invisible voices. At times, it also reminds me of the Licht/Haino/Hamilton/MLW one-off, Gerry Miles, only with less turbulent folds.



99 kr
Image Ballads
Paul Bley piano
Gary Peacock bass
Mark Levinson bass
Barry Altschul drums

Recording engineered by Tommy Nola, Nola Studios, NYC
Recorded 28 July 1967 (Side 1) and 31 March 1967 (Side 2)

Mixing engineer: David Baker
Produced by Paul Bley
Executive production by Manfred Eicher/ECM

Despite being a rather early ECM release, this all-Annette Peacock set already demonstrated the crystal clear recording and wide open spaces for which the label would come to be so well known. Throughout the long opener, ironically titled “Ending,” Bley handles most of the thematic legwork, while the Peacock and Altschul skitter across his ivory surface like ice skaters so skilled that they can stumble on cue. The title is multifarious. It is the ending of a turn; the ending not of a life, but of the fallacy of its fulfillment; an ending of circumstance; an ending of watersheds; an ending of all the things in this world that buy us freedom, only to spit it back in our face. Personally, I think Altschul steals the show here. It’s fascinating to hear a drummer soloing in such slow-moving surroundings. The lagging pace lends further prominence to his playing, underscoring far more than mere virtuosity. As the piece goes on, it trickles like water, perhaps cluing us in on the title’s central meaning: that is, the music’s own loss of energy and creative source, a broken dam letting out its final drops. This is incredibly restrained music-making by a trio we know can swing with the best of them. Next, we have “Circles,” which seems to sweep up the mess of a long-waged battle, all the while showing an immense amount of fortitude in dealing with the prospect of an unclear future. Lastly, “So Hard It Hurts” gives us a vivid sense of Annette Peacock’s compositional audacity and her unique way of turning gentility into pain, and vice versa. This time, Altschul is less cymbal-oriented and more focused on hitting the skins, providing ample room for Levinson’s own inspired fingerwork.



99 kr
Image Matchbook
Ralph Towner 12-string and classical guitars
Gary Burton vibraharp
Recorded July 26/27, 1974 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher

A matchbook doesn’t typically provide a surface for lasting statements. On its flap, one scrawls a phone number, an address, or any other piece of information as ephemeral as the flames for which it is mass-produced. Such is not the case with guitarist Ralph Towner and vibraphonist Gary Burton. Instead, we get indelible marks of grace and humility, each a brighter spark at the wick of our attention.

Towner originals form the bulk of this project, of which the opening “Drifting Petals” is a quintessentially evocative example. Between his 12-string and Burton’s plaintive returns, we get an emotive handful of light poured directly into our ears. This combination recurs in an intimately redacted version of “Icarus,” which paves new avenues of understanding through one of Towner’s most popular compositions. Burton’s touch adds a metallic fervor that contrasts well with the softer piano version on the previous year’s seminal Diary. Twelve strings of bliss continue in “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat.” In this delicate, dark arrangement, Mingus’s classic tune wilts into a devastating ending.

The album’s remainder gives us Towner in a more classical mode, thereby halving the number of strings at his disposal, but with no loss of distance. “Some Other Time” builds an enchanting synchronicity, throughout which both instruments connect and drift apart like memories and expectations. Burton’s plush chords give Towner’s fingers plenty of forgiving terrain. The two switch roles, as they often do, for their respective solos. “Song For A Friend” is a bleaker piece wrapped around a gentle persuasion. As an affirmation of beauty, it is sometimes painful, shaded by the same colors with which all relationships are rendered. Towner draws the album’s most endearing solo here across an ideal tidal accompaniment. A notable highlight is Towner’s buzzed introduction of the title track, achieved by weaving a matchbook into the strings of his guitar. This sets off a flurry of whimsical activity and attentive soloing, meshing in a tightly knit cloth that leaves no dangling thread.



99 kr
Image Mountainscapes
Barre Phillips bass
John Surman soprano and baritone saxophones, bass clarinet, synthesizer
Dieter Feichtner synthesizer
Stu Martin drums, synthesizer
John Abercrombie guitar
Recorded March 1976, Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher

In his classic case study of Melanesian cargo cults, Mambu, anthropologist Kenelm Burridge introduced the concept of the myth-dream, which he reduces to “a series of themes, propositions, and problems which are to be found in myths, in dreams, in the half-lights of conversation, and in the emotional responses to a variety of actions, and questions asked.” According to Burridge, what makes any such cult successful is the immediacy with which its figurehead is able to articulate the myth-dream, unleashing a barely conscious longing to know and resolve that which lurks in our mental shadows. The resulting destabilization is a shared process of salvation. I dare to claim the music of Barre Phillips as providing that same function. It embodies a psychological imperative to bring into focus that which inhabits the half-light of our awareness, and fulfills that need through sound. The only difference is that, here, there is neither the promise of salvation nor of migration, but rather the simple need to soak in the immediate essence of wherever one may stand.

Mountainscapes is divided into eight parts of spirit-tugging magnificence, products of a mind that, though only cursorily represented on ECM, has done us a great service in recording his sounds for posterity. Mountainscape I hovers at the margins before unleashing a crackling free groove. The beautifully synthesized sounds and enthralling bass playing, not to mention an absolutely captivating soprano solo from reedman extraordinaire John Surman, give us a rich taste of resolution. It is an unexpected transition, one that jolts the heart into awareness every time. II is a quieter follow-up, enigmatic, peripheral. Like the myth-dream, it lingers just beyond our reach, baiting our desire to know it in full. III is an exquisite piece enhanced by organ and electronics. In IV, the bass becomes a huge rope hefted and swung like a mast cord in a seasoned shipmate’s hands before a saxophonic wind illuminates its sails. The drums never quite stand upright, crossing their feet instead in a continual swagger. V fades in with a synthesized arpeggio. Some sinuous bass notes and a stellar saxophone peek out from the woodwork here. The bass thrums like a groaning in the earth. Meanwhile, a synthesizer bubbles to the surface before fading into transfiguration. VI begins with a lavish wash of electronics embroidered by Phillips’s harmonic threads. It’s a short track, but for me the most effective on the album. VII begins with more pulchritudinous arpeggiation. The sax trails along, trying to place its footsteps in the same imprints as the bass trails not to far behind: the trio as mise-en-abyme. An electric guitar surprises us in the final part, wound by an enthralling sax to feverish heights and playing us out in a gentle finale.

In the end, this is music to be experienced rather than described. And so, I will stop trying.



99 kr
Image The Following Morning
Eberhard Weber bass
Rainer Brüninghaus piano
Members of Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra celli, French horns, oboe
Recorded August 1976 at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

The title of Eberhard Weber’s classic 1977 album is as evocative as they come. At once cryptic and expository, the image calls up a host of associations, plays of light and shadow.

“T. On A White Horse” establishes the album’s solemn mood as Weber’s distinctive electrobass springs to life against an aquatic electric piano. A small orchestral section weaves its way in, painting chromatic oboe lines onto a droning canvas of cellos. As the strings intensify, bass and woodwinds share a plaintive synchronicity. The bass holds its breath, cupping its hands around Brüninghaus’s delicate flame. Oboes carry their lilting harmony across the oceans, fading into the bell-like call of sunrise.

“Moana I” feels less like a journey with a goal and more like a testing ground for confluence. The orchestra sprouts like a forest through which Weber must limp on his way toward dawn. The piano’s melodic charge, however, helps to cut this tension. Once the French horns offer their own desultory commentary, morning light pours in. The electric piano buffs the music to a crystalline sheen while horns and winds work their way back into rest. They find their beds and sleep, having reached the summit of their dreams.



99 kr
Image In Pas(s)ing
Mick Goodrick guitar
John Surman soprano and baritone saxophones, bass clarinet
Eddie Gomez bass
Jack DeJohnette drums
Recorded November 1978 at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

After guesting on three Gary Burton collaborations (The New Quartet, Ring, and Dreams So Real), guitarist Mick Goodrick broke out with his first album as leader—and what better place than ECM to open his art to its fullest, for this would be his last recording for the label. In Pas(s)ing consists entirely of Goodrick originals, save for the collectively improvised title cut, giving us an unassuming view of the thoroughly sanded figures that are his themes.

“Feebles, Fables And Ferns” is morning and dusk, a crepuscular confection wrapped in drums (DeJohnette), bass (Gomez), and tenor sax (Surman), and all tied with Goodrick’s sonic filaments. The latter’s airy, John Abercrombie-like tone is pensive and glows like embers. The bass is shallowly miked, making it seem an extension of the guitar. Its player often vocally anticipates his supporting lines, as in the lovely solo granted passage here. Surman’s equally mellifluous sound rolls off the tongue like a poem. “In The Tavern Of Ruin” continues the lush quartet sound, only this time with a brittle edge. Surman leads a slow procession of hooded figures before his soprano trails into Goodrick’s darkening clouds. Distant cries seize us as Surman again wraps his cosmic fabric around our ears. This makes “Summer Band Camp,” the album’s shortest track, all the brighter in its nostalgia. Surman smiles through his sound, as do all gathered, gently kissing the art into which they have grown. Gomez’s doublings add a chorused, rhythmic aphasia that foreshadows an ecstatic close. A tender bass clarinet lacquers “Pedalpusher” with molasses, sealing in an array of tactful changes which do nothing to obscure the phenomenal bass work therein. In closing, we find ourselves “In Passing,” which throbs with yielding yet intense sentiment. DeJohnette stitches a fine seam here, even as Surman cuts his thematic restraints in favor of more visceral forms of communication.



99 kr
Image Sound Suggestions
George Adams tenor saxophone, vocal
Heinz Sauer tenor saxophone
Kenny Wheeler trumpet, fluegelhorn
Richard Beirach piano
Dave Holland bass
Jack DeJohnette drums
Recorded May 1979 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher

The intensities of Mingus veteran George Adams (1940-1992) took their only dip in the ECM pool with Sound Suggestions. Bringing characteristic fire to every lick, Adams was a force to be reckoned with, as evidenced in his later quartet recordings with Don Pullen for Blue Note. Joined by a stellar cast of label veterans, Adams sets alight the fringes of our expectations. His tenor is so luscious in the opener, “Baba,” that we swear we’ve heard it before, the lingering soundtrack to some dream or distant memory. Kenny Wheeler’s flugel paints a high-reaching arc under which Richie Beirach (piano) and Jack DeJohnette (drums) spread their blanket of sand. A lyrical solo from Wheeler bleeds into an equally robust turn from Adams, ending with an exclamation mark. Uplifting themes abound in “Imani’s Dance,” each linked by a mid-tempo groove of finely honed horns. Though head-nodding solos all around make this one a winner, it’s an especially glorious vehicle for DeJohnette’s mastery at the kit. Each of his gestures is one of a base pair, linking into the perfect helix that is “Stay Informed.” Here, a robust tenor gene manifests itself in the album’s most enthralling flight, rendered all the more intense by Beirach’s majestic trails. Segueing into “A Spire,” we find wider spaces, across which both Adams and German reedman Heinz Sauer level their weary songs, all the while backed by chattering cymbals and a rolling snare. The bluesy “Got Somethin’ Good For You” serves up a healthy portion of the voice behind the mouthpiece. Though a knot in the album’s smooth grain, the track is enlivened by a whirlwind of horns.

The musicianship on Sound Suggestions is as tight as the walls at Sacasyhuamán. Adams’s strokes are bold and direct, each a snowflake bronzed and offered to time with ceremonial care. And let us not forget the extraordinary talents of Sauer, whose tenor also graces Adelhard Roidinger’s underappreciated gem, Schattseite. Surely, this is one of ECM’s hottest joints.



99 kr
Image Divine Love
Wadada Leo Smith trumpet, fluegelhorn, steel-o-phone, gongs, percussion
Dwight Andrews alto flute, bass clarinet , tenor saxophone, triangles, mbira
Bobby Naughton vibraharp, marimba, bells
Charlie Haden double-bass
Lester Bowie trumpet
Kenny Wheeler trumpet
Recorded September 1978 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Wadada Leo Smith’s Divine Love is one of ECM’s most tantalizing jewels, the result of many years ignoring the label’s advances. I can only speculate this was because the immediacy of his craft might have been adversely affected by the interventions of any svelte postproduction. Thankfully, and not surprisingly, Eicher and company gave this effort all the space it needed to breathe, for breath is precisely what this imaginative session is all about.

Since 1970, Smith has been utilizing two systems of musical production: a) rhythm-units, which balance every note produced with an equivalent unit of silence, and b) ahkreanvention, an amalgamated method of “scored improvisation.” The album’s two bookends exemplify the former, while the latter animates the single piece at their center. This structure gilds the recording with a cyclical feel that deepens with every listen. Drifting through the waves of mallet percussion (courtesy of Bobby Naughton) of the title track, each cry materializes as a vessel of indeterminate origin until we lose ourselves in the eddy of “Tastalun,” where muted trumpets (Lester Bowie and Kenny Wheeler join in here) streak the music’s inner language with deep gashes of spontaneous intent. With “Spirituals: The Language Of Love,” we return to where the album began, sailing forth into waters at once opaque and teeming with unseen light.



99 kr
Image Northern Song
Steve Tibbetts guitars, kalimba, tape loops
Marc Anderson congas, bongos, percussion
Recorded October 26-28, 1981, at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

With Nothern Song, Steve Tibbetts made his ECM debut and introduced listeners to what remains one of the label’s most enchanting, if slowly unfolding, maps. The cover seems to tell us everything: silhouettes of islands superimposed on the journey that takes us to them, as if the dream of arrival were potent enough to burn itself across the rearview mirror of our lives. Tibbetts leaves a trail of quiet footprints easily obscured by “The Big Wind,” yet whose direction is not so easily forgotten. With circumpolar affinity and a sensitivity that is for all intents historical, Tibbetts traces the borders of our lives in “Form.” His shimmering guitar finds spirit in Marc Anderson’s verdant whispers. “Walking” continues in very much the same vein, only this time with a more pronounced wash of 12-string steel that eventually lifts us into an “Aerial View.” And because so much of the Northern Song experience is above ground, we are able to slip more intensely into the meditations of “Nine Doors / Breathing Space,” throughout which strings creak like an old house, if not an old body.



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Image Ondas
Mike Nock piano
Eddie Gomez bass
Jon Christensen drums
Recorded November 1981, Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

How can one not marvel at Mike Nock’s Ondas? Drawing as much from Keith Jarrett as Bill Evans, and in the enviable company of Eddie Gomez and Jon Christensen no less, the sadly overlooked New Zealander left us with one of ECM’s most enduring documents at a time when the label was really getting its bearings. Nock’s pianism gives the illusion of distance, even when up close and personal, as if it were some long shadow, the feet of which are obscured by the horizon. It is also a magnifying glass of vast insight.

Central to this circumscribed detail is the 16-minute opener, “Forgotten Love.” Before a lacy ostinato it unfolds a sheet of paper as landscape, sketching fleeting affections and unrequited maybes. This sets Gomez up for a moth-like solo, as earthbound as it is winged, which then blends into the piano’s left hand. The right, meanwhile, stumbles off and returns with recollections of its travels, each framed by the thinnest of photographic borders. Christensen’s characteristic cymbals patter like rainfall across the title track and on through “Visionary,” in which he also foregrounds a touch-and-go snare. Yet against such a sweeping backdrop, these gestures forget their search for a groove and look more ponderously at where their feet are already planted. Plaintiveness thrives in “Land Of The Long White Cloud” and reveals the set’s most cinematic moments. Nock’s turns of phrase gnarl into a lichen-covered network of roots through which an insectile bass crawls, leaving a melodic honey trail for us to follow in its wake. With such a solemn road behind us, we open ecstatic “Doors” to our final destination.



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Image Double, Double You
Kenny Wheeler trumpet, fluegelhorn
Michael Brecker tenor saxophone
John Taylor piano
Dave Holland bass
Jack DeJohnette drums
Recorded May 1983 at Power Station, New York
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

One can always count on trumpeter Kenney Wheeler for three things: (1) rounded writing contrasted with pointed soloing, (2) an always-engaging sound, whether alone or surrounded by a large band, and (3) a perfect marriage with ECM production values. For this modest set, we get two epic cuts bookending two shorter ones, and the results do not disappoint. As if having the talents of Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland, and Mike Brecker along for the ride weren’t enough, Wheeler is also joined by John Taylor, whose sweeping pianism tempers the trumpeter’s fire just enough to keep it from scalding us, and whose resplendence could alone carry the album. The potent lyricism of the entire congregation is on full display in “Foxy Trot.” Holland and DeJohnette bring on their own heat, as well as a live, exuberant energy to the proceedings that provides an ideal carpet of hot coals for Brecker’s carefully measured walk. After an unremarkable duet between Wheeler and Taylor (“Ma Bel”), he and Brecker spin a duet in “W. W.” that bowls us over once the rhythm section kicks in. The two horns are superbly attuned here, and Brecker in particular in his soaring solo, which burns up all of its available oxygen and leaves Holland to dance among the ashes. Last is a triptych of compositions that begins in bliss with Brecker and Taylor, wrought through by Wheeler’s sunshine and the glistening accents of DeJohnette and Holland. We also get an effervescent solo from Taylor, who draws the curtains around us like a silo of intimate memories. Wheeler’s resolutions seem to trace a life of contented solitude and bring closure to an album of high energy.

Wheeler hits his stride at every turn with his unabashed brand of exposition, which defines new sonic territory with every project. One could easy gush at length about his lyricism, but on this album we also get an even clearer sense his rhythmic sensibilities. Ignore the filler of “Ma Bel,” and you have an almost perfect album.



99 kr
Image Night
John Abercrombie guitar
Jan Hammer keyboards
Jack DeJohnette drums
Michael Brecker tenor saxophone
Recorded April 1984 at Power Station, New York
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

As its cover indicates, Night gives us a colorful, collage-like portrait of John Abercrombie, who jumps here into the urban deep end with smoky club atmospheres and tight jams. It’s a joy to see the guitarist working with Jan Hammer again, and the inclusion of Mike Brecker on tenor and Jack DeJohnette on drums make for a winning formula. Hammer adds a particular spike to this sonic punch, competently filling the session’s lack of bass while also fleshing out the production with an evocative sweep. Between the idiomatic blend of “Ethereggae” and the Timeless heat distortion of “3 East,” his billowing keys give Brecker more than enough room to show off his chops (he has hardly sounded better). This date isn’t all fun and games, however, for the rain-slicked streets of “Look Around” give us pause for reflection. Hammer reignites things in “Believe You Me,” which despite being the most straightforward track compositionally sports Brecker’s most uninhibited solo yet. The band saves the best for last with “Four On One,” which draws another ring of fire in an enthralling closer. DeJohnette gets his moment in the sun here as well.

Though something of an blip in the Abercrombie back catalogue, Night is far from benign. Aside from the effusive music, what really distinguishes this album is its sound. Another slam-dunk for engineer Jan Erik Kongshaug.



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Image Seeds Of Time
99 kr
Image Cloud About Mercury
David Torn guitars
Mark Isham trumpets, synthesizer
Tony Levin bass
Bill Bruford drums, percussion
Recorded March 1986 at Audio International, London
Engineer: Andy Jackson
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Guitarist David Torn defines jazz fusion, proving that the genre is more than add and stir. With cloud about mercury he made his most personal statement to date. The album sounds like many things: a sweep of Steve Tibbetts dimensions, a Jon Hassell think piece, a tree with many cultural branches, a spider’s web in sound. Torn roams freely throughout these territories, shouldering a vast load of thematic material. The opening wash of heaven that is “Suyafhu Skin…Snapping The Hollow Reed” condenses much of that material, letting fall a quiet storm of continental activity. Detuned guitars and a bubbling synthesizer part the way for Tony Levin’s grounded bass lines and trumpeter Mark Isham’s sustained flights, while drummer Bill Bruford chases after, somehow keeping pace. Next is “The Mercury Grid,” another engaging rhythm piece that boasts Isham in a Molværian mode. Torn flexes acrobatically here, swinging from every branch of this sonic corridor. The curiously titled “3 Minutes Of Pure Entertainment” is a mid-tempo groove that again features soaring guitar. Torn’s fractal precision speckles “Previous Man,” which begins with two guitars before engaging drums and synth bass in staggered syncopations. The likeminded “Network Of Sparks: The Delicate Code” sets off an intriguing chain of electric events, all the more enigmatic for their brevity. Which brings us to “Network Of Sparks: Egg Learns To Walk…Suyafhu Seal,” a warm, gelatinous mosaic that slices the night into ribbons like light through a window blind, rendering empty space into a virtual stairway by curls of cigarette smoke.

cloud about mercury represents a pinnacle of Torn’s craft and is must-have for the adventurous.



99 kr
Image Blue
Terje Rypdal electric guitar, keyboards
Bjørn Kjellemyr electric and acoustic bass
Audun Kleive drums, percussion
Recorded November 1986 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Terje Rypdal, Bjørn Kjellemyr, and Audun Kleive continue where they left off on Chaser with this equally memorable set. Blue is not a companion album, however. It is the yin to the other’s yang: on the surface they are solid teardrops of color, but closer listening reveals an eye of one in the other. Swiveling in at a mere 90 seconds, “The Curse” provides an alluring introduction that fades all too quickly into the bass-driven groove of “Kompet Går.” Rypdal may run like a melodic rat with his tail on fire at first, but soon paints the sky with cool winds in a free anthem of strings and rhythms. These last are ever an audible undercurrent to what’s going on above the surface. Their analog warmth lends particular comfort to “I Disremember Quite Well,” where it is enhanced by a hum of bass. Rypdal’s inescapable lyricism is the calm before a quiet storm that rains liquid flame into the cauldron of “Og Hva Synes Vi Om Det.” Every utterance of the bass is like a bubble of lava popping, every echo a dying bird going down in smoke. Even the drum machine in “Last Nite” somehow enchants us, holding on to Rypdal’s feathered back as he peaks above the clouds in denial of the deserts below. The title track lowers us slowly on the bass’s thickly wound strings, Rypdal the melodic bait on this hook, twirled like a ribbon around the finger of a forgetful deity. “Tanga” gets us back into the swing of things with a catchy vamp, even as Rypdal works a magical mood far away. This excursion grinds to a halt in a crunchy solo before “Om Bare,” a solo punctuated by outbursts from synth, casts us into the sea.

Essential for the Rypdal fan.



99 kr
Image Andina
Dino Saluzzi bandoneón, flute
Recorded May 1988 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Each title on Andina, Dino Saluzzi’s second solo album for ECM, describes a different facet of the bandoneón prodigy’s creative process. He is the forlorn sonic architect, using melody to construct a world of indelible impressions, and perhaps nowhere more so than in “Memories,” which in both concept and execution seems the culmination of his notecraft and the spirit on which it thrives. Saluzzi makes an organ of his instrument, suspending a new ornament from every echoed moment, each a forgiving step into a shaded past. And in that past we encounter a life in miniature. A lively “Dance” introduces us to the music’s silver screen, on which rich insights flicker like a trailer for all that follows. “Winter” leaves a chain of cautious footsteps imprinted on the blanketed landscape. The promise of a warm hearth quivers in a single lit window, a beacon in the snowdrift. We feel this domestic comfort in every key change, in every “Transmutation” that balances agitation with resignation. The overwhelming solitude then splits into the eerie “Tango Of Oblivion,” moving with light footwork across heavy sentiments into “Choral.” This slow hymn-like progression is the one of the album’s most endearing, sounding for all like an organ touched by the fingers of a lone Kapellmeister, whose only muse is the absence of light. In contrast, the chording of “Waltz For Verena” twirls joyfully like a gymnast’s ribbon. And if by the time the title piece unleashes its emotional reserves you aren’t fully immersed, then you may want to get an EKG.

Another quiet stunner from Saluzzi, Andina is lovingly recorded, allowing perfect separation between both sides of the bellows. His leading lines in the right hand move like ice skaters across the blackened surfaces of the left. And while an unaccompanied squeezebox recital may not sound like everyone’s idea of a good time, Saluzzi holds rapt attention through a constantly metamorphosing array of moods, melodies, and atmospheres. Nothing short of magical.



99 kr
Image Rouge
ouis Sclavis clarinets, soprano saxophone
Dominique Pifarély violin
Bruno Chevillon bass
François Raulin piano, synthesizer
Christian Ville drums
Recorded September 1991 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Rouge is the magical label debut from clarinetist and soprano saxophonist Louis Sclavis, fronting here a group whose unity betrays an innocence honed to a galactic edge.

The album works as an organically connected unit, a suit of sights and sounds working in concert toward a vastness that outstrips them all. I cannot help, from the vantage point of retrospection, draw certain musical connections throughout this hour-long journey. First are the Edward Vasala-like touches of “Kali la nuit,” which like the enigmatic drummer paints a veritable field whose constellations are marked by the hoof-prints of wild horses. Tales of war and tradition intermingle until they become one unbreakable braid, contrasting visceral screams with old-school togetherness. One then encounters the specter of minimalism in “Reeves,” which seems fed through a kaleidoscope filled with shards of Philip Glass. These are merely an exploratory introduction to the intense electric violin of Dominique Pifarély, who stirs the drink until there’s only ice left in the glass. A heady piano trio fills out the backdrop all the while with a glittering appliqué of finely wrought support. “Les bouteilles” is perhaps the most eclectic. With head nods ranging from John Surman (in its exquisite attention to melodic and technical detail), Steve Reich (in the string playing), and Pat Metheney (in the exuberant close), it’s a fantastic ride.

These trite comparisons do nothing to rob Sclavis of his originality, for he clearly casts a shadow from a distinct angle of mind and experience. As in the dawn-drenched threads of “One,” he draws his craft through varicolored needles. His flair for the programmatic is also notable, as in “Nacht,” in which bassist Bruno Chevillon folds his alchemy into the batter of the evening sky, baked to a crisp by distant stars and glazed with a sugary free jazz concoction courtesy of drummer Christian Ville. “Reflet” is an even starrier affair, one of many celestial moments in the album’s remainder, all of which find rest in “Face Nord.” Like a rewound VHS tape, this highly cinematic track spools back through a climax, tragedy, romance, and into an innocent beginning. This we find fleshed forward in “Yes love,” the album’s last, stringing us across pianist François Raulin’s web of emotional power, innocence, and honesty—the tenets by which this groups lives, breathes, and plays.



99 kr
Image Atmos
Miroslav Vitous double-bass
Jan Garbarek soprano and tenor saxophones
Recorded February 1992 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

For me, Jan Garbarek excels in his more intimate and intensely collaborative settings, and this date with Miroslav Vitous makes for some fine synergy indeed. Vitous takes light steps, if with heavy intent, through the introductory “Pegasos.” Garbarek, meanwhile, is content in hanging his throaty songs from high rafters. Like its eponymous animal, this music and all that follows is a mythic blend of strength and finesse, joining feathery appendages to a robust body that soars wherever it may. “Goddess” treads more carefully and seems to regress even as it grows, achieving a balance of proportion between body and mind, transcending the plains even as it plants its feet to the earth’s core. Vitous elicits some lovely percussiveness here, drumming his bass to send Garbarek on a lyrical scouting journey. The rhythmic ruminations continue in “Forthcoming,” giving the saxophonist all the inspiration he needs to dig deep and pluck out the ponderous jewel that is the title track. Here we encounter some beautiful thoughts from soprano, threading the ever-growing loom of Vitous’s strings. A captivating track that takes a delicate swing of its melodic compass into a direction of utter stillness. Unfortunately, “Time Out” (Parts I and II) detracts from the album’s tender atmosphere. Its horn-blasted interjections are grossly out of place. In between them, however, is “Dirvision,” a heart-tugging solo from Vitous that precludes two meditative numbers to close.

All in all, despite a brief misstep, a fascinating and worthy excursion from two far-reaching talents. How fortuitous to have them both here, telling stories timeless and sincere.



99 kr
Image The Brass Project
John Surman saxophones, alto and bass clarinets, piano
Henry Lowther trumpet
Stephen Waterman trumpet
Stuart Brooks trumpet
Malcolm Griffiths trombone
Chris Pyne trombone
David Stewart bass trombone
Richard Edwards bass trombone
Chris Laurence bass
John Marshall drums, percussion
John Warren conductor
Recorded April 1992 at Angel Studios, London
Engineer: Gary Thomas
Produced by John Surman and Steve Lake

John Surman makes an indelible statement with The Brass Project, for which conductor John Warren leads a fine set of ensemble interpretations of the English saxophonist’s engaging compositions. The result is an album of many moods, beginning with the pensive horns and bass clarinet mesh of “The Returning Exile” and ending with the likeminded haunts of “All For A Shadow.” The filling is equally rich, boasting such deftly realized swings as the Wheelerian “The New One Two,” of which Part 2 showcases Surman’s uplifting soprano work. With the grace of a falcon, he navigates the great brass divide, casting a far-reaching shadow with his outstretched wings. That same soprano mesmerizes in “Mellstock Quire/Tantrum Clangley,” which despite its quiet sheen enables the album’s most spirited playing. The Brass Project is not without its surreal moments, as in the burnished drones of “Spacial Motive,” but for the most part we get such groovier shades as “Wider Vision” (a.k.a., baritone chocolate) and some straightforward balladry in “Silent Lake.”

As with the last, the arrangements here explore the full benefit of Surman’s music with the musicians at hand and give us unique insight into the mind of an artist who never ceases to grow. Fans of his solo work wanting to branch out: look no further.



99 kr
Image To The Evening Child
Stephan Micus steel drums, voice, dilruba, suling, kortholt, ney, sinding. Recorded January and Feburary 1992 at MCM Studios Digital mastering: Tonstudio Mahne, Dießen

Stephan Micus’s fifth album for ECM is a lullaby. I know nothing of its origins, but I would be surprised if he hadn’t just become a father before recording it, so freshly paternal are its meditations. This time, Micus turns the kaleidoscope of his endless talent to reveal steel drums as the sound color of the moment. These provide a resonant, gamelan-like undercurrent throughout and become more biologically attuned as they sing beneath his mallets. Yet it is his actual voice that awakens the heart in “Nomad Song,” scooping earth in such a way that all life falls through its fingers unharmed, leaving only a heap of unconditional love. The newness of creation abounds in “Yuko’s Eyes,” in which Micus sings now through a bowed dilruba, turning infancy inside out to reveal a future of hope and dreams fulfilled. “Young Moon” pairs that constant steel drum with suling (an Indonesian bamboo flute) and kortholt (a capped reed instrument popular during the Renaissance) for a softly glittering wave of light, given corporeal shape through open-throated calls. The title track welcomes ney, through it gilding the album’s aquatic themes with moonlight. It grows a feather for every breath that falls, as if reaching out to any and all children who slumber in fear and security alike. From these Micus spins a wealth of comfort, trembling to the tune of his heartbeat. There is perpetuity in this dream, from which one is born and to which one returns when circadian rhythms have become a thread of silence. “Morgenstern” stretches a sky bridge from cloud to cloud with steel-drummed steps, while “Equinox” lives in penumbral shadow, crowning a procession of closed-mouthed reverence. Each pair of hands offers a flower to “Desert Poem.” Eyes shielded by sleep, Micus dips his toes in the Milky Way’s waters and dries himself against a tree that grows alone, save for the fallen seed who awaits for the light of dawn to bless it with the kiss of tomorrow.

This music sounds in those hushed spaces where the universe inhales, the sound that keeps all celestial bodies spinning. Like the language in which Micus sings, its words convey meaning to a part of us deep and out of grasp. But for the duration of an album, at least, we can feel it as presently as the rain on our faces.



99 kr
Image Juni
Peter Erskine drums
John Taylor piano
Palle Danielsson double-bass
Recorded July 1997 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

ECM’s fourth album by drummer Peter Erskine with pianist John Taylor and bassist Palle Danielsson, JUNI perhaps best realizes the balance between fullness and sparseness the three have been seeking since their debut, You Never Know. Consequently, the Bill Evans influence—lifeblood of everything this trio plays—is even more nakedly portrayed. “The forming of this trio was partly a reaction to a lot of stuff that’s out there,” notes Erskine. “There’s so much music that’s just thrown at you, and it’s loud and it has no real dynamic range and all the spaces in the music are filled up. I wanted to oppose that trend.” To that end, if not beginning, Erskine and company enable a delicate asymmetry in which transformation is a necessary condition of life. Whereas before they created epic swaths of watery goodness, this time they concentrate on a subtler array of themes and moods.

Taylor contributes the most tunes of the set and opens with his wavering “Prelude Nr 2.” Raindrops seem to fall from his fingers in an abstract introduction, dark though chambering a shining heart. “Windfall,” previously heard on Journey’s End by the Miroslav Vitous Group, plots a smoother, Brazilian-flavored journey. Supple flowers grow wherever Danielsson treads, and his rounded solo foils Taylor’s dialogue with Erskine to remarkable effect. “Fable” rounds out the Taylor compositions with a ray of golden light and feathered shadow evoked by him and Danielsson respectively, and strung by the restless air currents of Erskine’s brushes. The latter add paternal love to the plush emotional exchanges of Danielsson’s “Siri,” in which Taylor is the true standout.

Erskine himself counters with a twofer of his own, including the fragmentary and whimsical “The Ant & The Elk” (notable for his subdued yet popping aside) and “Twelve,” from which the album gets its title (juni ?? means “twelve” in Japanese) and which evokes the barest whispers of swing, maintaining the album’s purposeful ambiance even at its most straightforward. “For Jan”—by Kenny Wheeler, for his relative of the same name—reflects Erskine’s work with Taylor in Wheeler-led ensembles. From a skittering drum intro it unfolds into a sparkling anthem with gorgeous slides from Danielsson, who polishes the edges of Taylor’s keys.

Like the second hand of a schoolroom analog clock, “Namasti” (Diana Taylor) passes smoothly through the minutes with precision. Its face may be secular, but its implications are spiritual and take things for the illusions that they are.

JUNI thus brands a perfect yin yang onto Erskine’s résumé. He holds the world on a wire, eliciting from his sidemen a most sonorous gravitation. He is the sun of these sessions. May his light touch your heart.



99 kr
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