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July 26 , 2013

Reviews of the Week

The Guardian on the box set Selected Signs – Music selected for the exhibition ECM – A Cultural Archaeology at Haus der Kunst Munich

No prizes for guessing that a six-disc box-set in which Steve Reich, Jan Garbarek, CPE Bach, Norma Winstone, Arvo Pärt and dozens of others rub shoulders is an ECM production. This seven-hour compilation was made for a major Munich exhibition entitled ECM - A Cultural Archaeology, emphasising ECM music's links with other arts. So there are big roles for Georgian film-composer Andrey Dergachev's fusions of electronics, speech and whirring machinery, Greek theatre and film scorer Eleni Karaindrou's romantic orchestral pieces (with Garbarek's sax and Kim Kashkashian's viola among the solo instruments), and many other absorbing crossovers. But at least 30% of the set has clear jazz roots - from clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre's cool-bop ‘Jesus Maria’ from 1961 with Paul Bley on piano, to John Surman and Barre Phillips' ferocious, synth-thundering ‘Mountainscapes V’ from 1976, or the Old and New Dreams band's blues-steeped rendition of ‘Lonely Woman’. Five stars for mostly reissued music might seem generous, but the way this set has been assembled creates transporting new narratives - or meditations - from sequences that were never meant to coexist.
John Fordham, The Guardian


More US reactions to the recording of Morton Feldman's Violin and Orchestra by Carolin Widmann and the hr-Sinfonieorchester directed by Emilio Pomàrico

Morton Feldman’s 1979 Violin and Orchestra – this being the only major-label performance I know of – engages on a couple of counts. Feldman’s fans (oneself as an exemplar in dayglo) will recognize its composer near to instantly by way of the music’s structure and sound. And they will also remark, again near to instantly, how differently the concerto unfolds as compared with Feldman’s later – largely chamber – works.
The music opens with a thick-textured, short-lived squabble from which the violin emerges, muted to the very end, in a Feldmanesque chain of self-contained events. Differences with his later music have largely to do with dynamics and orchestral effects. The scoring includes (I take this from the annotator): quadruple and triple winds and brass, four percussionists, two harps, two pianos and a ‘corresponding body of strings’, which Feldman deploys sparingly. The music’s timbral variety and assaultive fortes set the concerto well apart from the lucidity and calm of the long-duration music Feldman wrote to the time of his death in 1987. [...]
The fortes of an earlier work, Piano and Orchestra of 1975, put Violin and Orchestra’s extroversions in diminished context. The more mature his music, the more given over to subtler strategies. And yet, for those of us under Morty’s spell, Violin and Orchestra, with the most excellent Carolin Widmann, violin, Emilio Pomàrico conducting the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra provides a precious connection to the masterworks to follow.
Mike Silverton, La Folia

It’s almost impossible to speak of musical ‘progress’ in a piece like this; instead you drift from one set of sounds to another. Most of these are very soft, but they lodge themselves in an attentive listener’s mind and substitute for memorable tnes or vivid clashes betwee the two forces. They are, if you will, the payoff for the listening expereince, which is why Feldman’s music infuriates on casual listening but rewards a patient, trancelike absorption. The excellent performers here offer the chance for exactly that. Widmann, Pomàrico, and the Frankfurt Orchestra creep quietly yet precisely through the minefield that is Feldman’s score. The result is remarkable for anyone willing to abandon him or herself into it.
David Feininger, Boston Sunday Globe


An Italian reaction to the music of Dobrinka Tabakova as recorded on String Paths

Un viso da attrice, uno sguardo che cattura la scena, una musica che è qui e altrove. Dobrinka Tabakova nasce in Bulgaria nel 1980, studia alla Royal Academy of Music e si diploma in composizione al King’s College di Londra. Pubblica quest’anno, per la Ecm, “String Paths”: una raccolta di brani dal forte carattere e sapientemente costruiti – quasi fossero porte scorrevoli tra l’Europa dell’Est e l’Ovest – nei quali il mestiere del compositore contemporaneo (non tradire se stesso ma neppure il pubblico) si fa trasparente e sensuale. Erede della grande lezione del Novecento, la Tabakova esplora nuove strade senza rinunciare alla melodia più golosa e vivace. Con spirito innovativo, e curiosità quasi archeologica, nella “Suite in Old Style” ispirata da Philippe Rameau.
Davide Lelmini, Varese News


Chants by the Craig Taborn Trio is reviewed in British magazine Jazz Journal

Yes, yes and thrice yes. That’s one for each member of this trio and also three times for how emphatically this release will make my end of year list. For anyone who thinks – justifiably in this reviewer’s opinion – that the piano/bass/drums trio has reached saturation point in recorded terms this set is a reminder of how vital it can be. Throughout his career Taborn’s avoided the obvious.Comparing his work on this set with his playing in Farmers by Nature, a trio consisting of himself and Cleaver with bassist William Parker, reveals a multi-faceted musician. [...] This is not however the kind of set to appeal to those who take pleasure only in the reiteration of past glories, for the music has a contemporary air even while it’s an outcome of a rich heritage.
Nic Jones, Jazz Journal


US magazine Jazziz on Charles Lloyd and Jason Moran's duo recording Hagar's Song

Saxophonist Charles Lloyd and pianist Jason Moran are generations apart in age but musically they might as well be brothers. You can hear each musician sparking the other’s creativity throughout this elegant duo session. All you need to know about the rapport between Lloyd and Moran can be found on their luminous rendition of the Beach Boys’ classic ‘God Only Knows’. Moran takes startling harmonic turns, his phrases floating out of time as Lloyd teases the melody – it sounds like a version of the song you’d hear in a dream. Then Moran suddenly settles in to a steady rhythm that echoes the original as Lloyd takes the familiar tune straight on. It’s a perfomance that yields as much surprise as it does grace. That sense of each musician being willing to follow the other to unsuspected territory permeates the entire session. [...] Moran has been a member of Lloyd’s quartet since 2008. Regarded as one of the best modern pianists, Moran has the entire history of jazz at his fingertips. He sounds as natural playing stride phrases on a surprisingly jaunty version of ‘Mood Indigo’ as he does playing rambling, dissonant figures on Lloyd’s ‘Pictogram’. It’s hard to think of a lovelier musical dialogue than the one between Lloyd and Moran.
John Frederick Moore, Jazziz


German magazine Fono Forum on Lucian Ban and Mat Maneri's Transylvanian Concert

Der aus Rumänien stammende Pianist Lucian Ban und der Bratscher Mat Maneri sind klassisch geschult, aber in improvisierter Musik unterwegs. Bei einem Konzert in Bans Heimatregion, deren Volksmusik Béla Bartók einst sammelte und erforschte, betören sie mit Kammermusik zwischen Komposition (zumeist von Ban) und Improvisation, die sich aus all diesen Quellen speist. Von besonderem Reiz: Maneris Version des Spirituals ‚Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen' für Viola solo.
Berthold Klostermann, Fono Forum


A US reviewer on Into the Woodwork by the Steve Swallow Quintet

Steve Swallow has been making jazz fans sit up and take notice of the bass since 1960, the year he first met Carla Bley. Bley, as jazz fans know, is an esteemed keyboardist who has recorded with Swallow since 1978. You can hear the benefits of their long association on Into the Woodwork, a 12-song set of Swallow compositions that features Bley on organ, Chris Cheek on tenor sax, Steve Cardenas on guitar and Jorge Rossy on drums. All the players shine here on songs that feature some fine post-bop grooves and evoke pathos, and even some humor. There’s a little experimentation going on, but with a bassist like Swallow at the helm, the ensemble never loses its groove. From his days with the legendary horn player Eric Dolphy right down to this current recording, Swallow continues to command the kind of attention often denied to those unsung heroes of the rhythm section.
Jaime O'Neill, News And Review


Gary Peacock and Marilyn Crispell's duo recording Azure enchants a German reviewer

Welch zarte Melodie ('Waltz After David M'), gefolgt von einer markanteren, die sich aus einer mehrfachen Sequenz zusammensetzt (‚Lullaby'), sowie einer kleinen folkartigen (‚The Lea'). Diese Stücke stehen im Zentrum des Albums, an exponierter Stelle also, eingerahmt von abstrakteren Kompositionen, improvisierten Dialogen und je einer Solo-Piece für Klavier bzw. für Bass. Marilyn Crispell und Gary Peacock haben, jeder für sich, von expressivem Free Play zu verhalten lyrischen Ausdrucksformen des Improvisierens gefunden.
Berthold Klostermann, Fono Forum


US online magazine Jazzpolice on Chris Potter's The Sirens

Saxophonist Chris Potter has a thick resume dating back to his first gig in 1989 with Red Rodney, including his selection as the youngest winner of the Danish Jazzpar Prize, releasing 19 albums as leader, and playing with such stars as Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Jim Hall, Paul Motian, Ray Brown, John Scofield, Dave Douglas, Steve Swallow, Jason Moran, Steely Dan and the Mingus Big Band. He's led his own ensembles including the electrifying Underground and was a member of Dave Holland's famed Quintet and Big Band. Sirens is Potter's first effort as leader for ECM, and he spared nothing in securing sympathetic cohorts-Craig Taborn (piano), David Virelles (prepared piano, celeste and harmonium), Larry Grenadier (bass) and Eric Harland (drums).
‘The Sirens’ is an unusual project for Potter, a wordless song cycle inspired by Homer's The Odyssey. ‘I came up with all the music in about two weeks, writing with a theme in mind,’ Potter explains. ‘I'd re-read The Odyssey after many years and was inspired to write music with that epic, mythic mood in mind. The Odyssey is all about the big themes set in bold relief - romantic adventure and a return to home, temptation and identity, life and death… things we all deal with today. The stories are ancient, but human emotions never change.’ All but one of the ‘stories’ is from Potter; the final track is a free improvisation credited to the two pianists, Taborn and Virelles. [...]
There's plenty of fire to propel The Sirens, but here we are surrounded more by elegant tapestries and shifting textures than by hard edges. Hopefully, there will be more stories coming Potter and this exquisite collaboration.
Andrea Canter, Jazzpolice


England's Financial Times on Terje Rypdal's Melodic Warrior

There’s nothing understated to guitarist Terje rypdal’s orchestral collaboration with the Hilliard Ensemble, recorded in concert in 2003, with the Bruckner Orchester Linz. Rypdal’s guitar takes the lead role as a mythological Native-American warrior flitting shadow-like through the landscape, the Hilliards provide narrative and the orchestra delivers thunder and calm. Rypdal’s writing, like his playing, is heavily referenced, but the ambitious piece hangs together well and the voices are lovely.
Mike Hobart, Financial Times


US jazz magazine Jazziz on Wislawa by the Tomasz Stanko New York Quartet

Trumpeter Tomasz Stanko splits his time between musical worlds. As one of Poland’s premier instrumentalists, he’s led bands featuring some of the best improvisers in Europe. He also lives in New York City for part of the year, where he’s built ensembles from the deep pool of talent available on this side of the pond. This two-disc offering captures this geographic duality – it’s the leader’s first recording with one his NYC bands, while simultaneously drawing inspiration in title and substance from the Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska.
Stanko remains a consistent if idiosyncratic musician. He’s said that he never stops playing the same song, and his sound is built upon a tableau of dark hues and cutting trumpet vocalisations. Here, those smoky sighs and trembling wails pierce his warm ballads and bop-noir themes as clearly as ever. But it’s the rhythm section that frames the music anew. The distinctive voices of pianist David Virelles, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Gerald Cleaver combine to create a reactive, stormy atmosphere for improvising.
Warren Allen, Jazziz


An Australian voice on City Of Broken Dreams by the Giovanni Guidi Trio

Some people still refer to Euro jazz with a sneer, the term infected with connotations of music that is insufficiently African-American. Of course, the argument is absurd; for 50 years jazz has been a language rather than a style, and surely the broader the use of that language, the better.
Enter a brave new voice on piano: young Italian Giovanni Guidi, a protege of brilliant trumpeter Enrico Rava. He has penned 12 pieces for which the word ‘compositions’ seems too hard-edged. They are more like aural dreams enacted by his piano, Thomas Morgan's bass and the drums of Portugal's Joao Lobo. Guidi is a minimalist who likes merely to sketch his pieces at the piano and leave much of the colouring to Morgan. The bassist's extensive work with the late Paul Motian bequeathed him an almost unparalleled instinct for leaving space. This ability to phrase unexpectedly but tellingly is ideal for Guidi's material, and the sheer sonic mass of his bass grounds the fragility and flitting figures of the songs. Lobo, meanwhile, does not so much colour as shade, his sparse drumming forms the shadows behind Morgan's monstrous notes and Guidi's more delicate ones. One of Guidi's melodies, Leonie, borders on being too sweet, but even this is saved by Morgan's idiosyncratic placement of notes. A couple of pieces are sinewy and the rest more wistful, with four (including the title track) so beautiful they almost hurt.
John Shand, The Sydney Morning Herald