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March 1 , 2013

Reviews of the Week

Wislawa (ECM 2304-05), the first recording of the freshly formed Tomasz Stanko New York Quartet, impresses reviewers in Great Britain

Remaining true to his orginal influence, one is constantly reminded of Chet Baker’s fragile yet pristine trumpet sound, and it is remarkable how Stanko has forged a uniquely distinctive voice that is reminiscent of Baker’s vulnerabillity combined with the introverted lyricism and strength of Miles Davis. In a st of strong themes, the trumpeter introduces us to his new quartet featuring the extraordinary young pianist David Virelles, and the extremely capable and sympathetic rhythm team of bassist Thomas Morgan and Gerald Cleaver on drums. The ballads, such as the opening ‘Wislawa’ all have strong European undertones in both the melodic shape and harmonically abstract feel, but the influence of the young turks in the rhythm section give an appropriately New York vibe on the cooking ‘Faces’ on disc two, and the aptly titled ‘Assassins’ that is complete with driving rhythms and dynamic interplay between Stanko and the three New Yorkers, with the trumpeter’s daring lines and use of split tones.
A contender for album of the year, and recommended unreservedly.
Nick Lea, Jazz Views

Trumpeter Tomasz Stanko has made many superb recordings for ECM, often with excellent musicians from his native Poland, but this new double album is a truly inspired recording featuring pianist David Virelles, bassist Thomas Morgan and Drummer Gerald Cleaver. Stanko has a strongly individual sound, at times blending the brooding, passionate warmth of Miles Davis with the wild cries of Lester Bowie, but his style is very much his own.[...] The quartet works brilliantly as a unit, with trumpet soaring gloriously over the expertly controlled improvising of Virelles, Morgan and Cleaver.
John Watson, Jazzcamera

French magazine Jazz News on Chris Potter’s The Sirens (ECM 2258)

...ce disque, où le saxophoniste joue de toute la palette du jazz contemporain, lyrique et tellurique, plutôt platonique ou carrément épique. Unde odyssée (Homère serait derrière) aux vastes horizons, à l’image des compagnons première classe qui’il embarque (C. Taborn D. Virtelles, L. Grenadier, E. Harland).
Jacques Denis, Jazz News

Hagar’s Song (ECM 2311), the new duo recording by Charles Lloyd and Jason Moran, excites reviewers in the US and Europe alike

He left jazz for a while, but since he began recording again on ECM, in 1989, he’s attained a rare level of mastery and ease. His solos have a smart, conversational fluency, like someone thinking out loud—which could be said of any good improviser, but Lloyd’s playing has an especially tangible sense of personality. His partner here, Jason Moran, 38, is arguably the preeminent jazz pianist of his generation, fluent in hip-hop rhythms as well as swing. He and Lloyd have been playing together for several years in the latter’s quartet, but this is their first recording of duets. Moran is a great foil for Lloyd, sometimes spiky, sometimes enveloping, pushing here, coaxing there.
Bruce Handy, Vanity Fair

In a set that runs the gamut from well-known standards by George Gershwin, Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington to relatively more contemporary fare from Bob Dylan and Brian Wilson, Lloyd and Moran demonstrate the kind of empathy and trust that only comes from considerable time spent together. There are some spiritual and aesthetic similarities to Lloyd's deeply personal ‘Which Way is East’ (ECM, 2004), recorded with Billy Higgins at the saxophonist's home just a few months before the drummer's passing; but here, with Lloyd playing just saxophones and flutes, and Moran focusing solely on piano (with the occasional injection of tambourine), there's a greater intrinsic focus, albeit with a similar spirit of adventure. [...]
At the center of the 69-minute set is Lloyd's five-part nearly thirty-minute ‘Hagar Suite’, which references the multitude of touchstones that have long been a part of Lloyd's music and reflects the saxophonist's own diverse lineage. The meditative a cappella bass flute that opens ‘Journey Up River’ reflects Lloyd's partly Native American blood line, but when Moran enters with a pedal tone-centered accompaniment it slowly assumes trace elements of blues and middle eastern concerns/ Lloyd pulls back to allow the pianist to come to the fore—even as Moran injects the occasional sharp dissonance for tension—before resuming, layering darker lines that lead to a soft but unexpected pause from both players, as a change in key shifts first to a more positive vibe, but ultimately turns to darker territory once again. [...]
If ‘Hagar's Song’ is a revealing record for Moran, it's equally so for Lloyd who, as he approaches 75 in March, 2013, has simply never sounded better. His soft, buttery and immediately recognizable tone, and an ability to create flurries of sound that contrast with the tarter sheets of sound of an early influence, saxophonist John Coltrane, are combined with a more melodic bent that's still unafraid to skew into more angular terms. [...]
Despite a career that was already well-established when he was recruited by Lloyd, following Moran's progress with the saxophonist over three group recordings, and now this outstanding duo recording, also demonstrates that as much as Moran has benefited from the partnership so, too, has Lloyd. There's little that's predictable about either player, but with Hagar's Song—imbued, as it is, with constants of surprise, simpatico and stellar performances—both Lloyd and Moran have made the leap to a new plateau.
John Kelman, All About Jazz

Das Zentrum des Albums bildet […] die fünfteilige ‚Hagar Suite’, die die Lebensstationen von Lloyds Ururgroßmutter Hagar thematisiert: Sie wurde als Zehnjährige aus ihrer Familie herausgerissen und als Sklavin verkauft. Es verwundert nicht, dass Lloyds Spiel in diesem Stück die größte Intensität erreicht, oft ganz puristisch begleitet von Moran auf dem Tambourin oder in eindringlich repetierten Einzeltönen auf dem Flügel. Doch auch in den anderen Nummern zeigt er, dass er viel zu erzählen hat und trotz seines Alters ungeheuer kraftvoll und virtuos unterwegs ist. […] Und Moran zieht traumwandlerisch sicher mit, steuert bluesige und funkige Begleitpatterns bei oder fegt wie sein Vorbild Don Pullen über die tasten. Das ist Duojazz at its best.
Mario-Felix Vogt, Stereo

Das ist ein Duo von einer Innigkeit, die selbst die abgebrühtesten Jazz-Hörer fast zu Tränen rühren kann. Der Saxophonist und Mentor vieler Jazzstars, Charles Lloyd, und der Pianist Jason Moran spielen auf dieser CD so aufregend und ungeschönt-zärtlich zusammen, wie man es auch auf ganz hohem Niveau nur selten erlebt.
Wie sie hier etwa in Klassikern von Duke Ellington („Mood indigo“) und dessen Alter ego Billy Strayhorn („Pretty girl“), in Stücken von Gershwin („Bess, you is my woman now“) und Earl Hines („Rosetta“) sowie in Instrumentalversionen je eines Songs von Bob Dylan („I shall be released“) und Brian Wilson („God only knows“) einander mit den Stimmen umkreisen, umtanzen und im nächsten Augenblick sanft miteinander verschmelzen, ist Takt für Takt ein Hochgenuss. Souverän setzen beide Musiker ihre Spieltechnik nie ein, um zu beeindrucken, sondern durchweg, um Momente von zwingender Atmosphäre zu schaffen. Das tun sie, und ihre Musik entfaltet eine große, ungemein natürlich wirkende und viel im Blues wurzelnde Schönheit. Vielleicht sogar: Anmut. Letzteres auf jeden Fall bei jener Suite, die der CD den Namen gab. Die „Hagar Suite“ ist Lloyds Ur-Ur-Großmutter gewidmet, die als Zehnjährige ihren Eltern entrissen und an einen Sklavenbesitzer verkauft worden war, dann weiterverkauft an einen anderen Sklavenhalter, der sie schwängerte, als sie 14 war und dann wieder weiterreichte. Erst vor kurzem erfuhr Lloyd von diesem Schicksal, und er widmete der Vorfahrin - und damit den Vielen, die solch eine Lebensgeschichte teilen - ein fünfsätziges Musikstück, das in der vorliegenden Aufnahme fast eine halbe Stunde dauert und das Kernstück der CD ist. Bewegende Musik, die die vielen ergreifenden Momente dieser CD um eine Dimension erweitert, die wesentlich zur Geschichte des Jazz gehört.
Roland Spiegel, BR-Klassik

Jack DeJohnette’s Special Edition (ECM 2296-99) box set is reviewed in Jazz news

...ce coffret rassemble quatre albums de début des années quatre-vingt par un percussioniste kaléidoscopique, et quelques créatifs à l’imaginaire bien trempé, de David Murray à Chico Freeman, en passant par Arthur Blythe ou Howard Johnson. […] Le témoignage de l’un des ensembles les plus inventifs d’une décennie.
Christian Larrede, Jazz news

British HI-Fi News on Anna Gourari’s Canto Oscuro (ECM New Series 2255)

When she won the 1994 Düsseldorf Shumann Competition she was thought to show ‘an almost mystical quality’ while the critic Harold Schonberg found her playing ‘free but never eccentric’. Much of this programme is contemplative but she’s nonetheless a powerful player in the counterbalancing Chaconnes: the inevitable Bach/Busoni and a dissonant one by Sofia Gubaidulina (very compelling). [...] The piano recording has real presence.
Christopher Breunig, Hi-Fi News