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November 22 , 2013

Reviews of the Week

German public radio WDR3 on The Zehetmair Quartett’s new recording of music by Beethoven Bruckner Hartmann Holliger

Gerade bei Beethoven – wie hier in seinem letzten Streichquartett - muss man genau nachdenken, damit am Ende alles selbstverständlich klingt und einem der Hörer den nötigen Ernst, den versteckten Humor, den virtuosen Glanz und die erforderliche Balance abnimmt.
Dem Zehetmair Quartett gelingt der Ausdruck fabelhaft. Alles ist vorhanden: Natürlichkeit, Raffinement, Spontaneität, Kraft, Geist. Auf diesem Beethoven liegt kein Gramm Staub, auch nicht auf den plötzlichen Umschwüngen im Finalsatz. Die neue Doppel-CD enthält auch das weniger bekannte Streichquartett von Anton Bruckner. Was für ein Kontrast! Zuerst der ausgefeilte, stil-sichere Beethoven, dann der knapp 40-jährige Bruckner, der noch bei einem zehn Jahre jüngeren Lehrer Unterricht nimmt, weil er sich noch nicht weit genug fühlt, obwohl er den Kontrapunkt längst bis ins Detail beherrscht. Man könnte denken, dass sich das Zehetmair Quartett mit seinem ungemein schlanken Klang schwer tut mit diesem romantisch-warm tönenden Bruckner. Aber dieses Werk wirkt in dieser Aufnahme wie gereinigt, unmittelbar, direkt, frisch. Auch im Trio, wo sich der Symphoniker Bruckner zu erkennen gibt, mit seiner Vorliebe für österreichische Ländler. […] Das Zehetmair Quartett beweist mit diesen Einspielungen seine außergewöhnliche Qualität. Das Musizieren spielt sich für dieses Ensemble nie im Mittelfeld ab, es begnügt sich nicht mit gefälligem Geplänkel. Es scheint, als wollten die vier Streicher stets die Linie des Normalen überschreiten – Musik als Grenzerfahrung!
Christoph Vratz, WDR 3


Leading French daily Le Monde on Keith Jarrett's No End

Keith Jarrett ne se sera rien refusé. ‘No End’, ces vingt pièces enregistrées la nuit dans son studio, seul, sans titres, ont le sens de cette liberté illimitée. Mélange de naiveté et de folie douce. Si l’on admet que l’instrumentiste Jarrett, le compositeur, le sideman, est un partenaire essentiel de ces cinquante dernières années. ‘No End’ laisse pantois. Ici ou là, fait rire. [...] Dans un coin, petite table de mixage et un poil de réverbe pour brider le son. Nul projet d’oeuvre ou de composition. La joie de jouer la batterie, de sentir les instruments (batterie, guitare). Amour des fusées de guitare électrique. [...] Keith Jarrett, n’ajoute rien, ne se disqualifie en rien. Le résultat? Gracieux, enfantin, la musique du possible, l’ouverture au monde. La réponse la plus simple aux exigences d’un marché anxieux (celui du disque), aux errances d’une esthétique paumée, aux diktats et au bon goût. Exquis.
Francis Marmande, Le Monde


Michelle Makarski and Keith Jarrett’s recording of Six Sonatas for Violin and Piano by Johann Sebastian Bach is reviewed on Music Web International

Michelle Makarski has been a friend of Jarrett’s for many years, and they would often play these sonatas for their own pleasure. The warmth and amicable nature of the playing in this recording is no doubt a result of these musicians’ familiarity with the works and with their own responses. All technical issues are swept aside in fine music-making, even in really tricky movements such as the first Allegro of BWV 1017. Makarski’s fairly silvery tones contrast with a nicely rounded piano sound to create an airy but direct effect which makes no moves towards added or artificial profundity. [...] Jarrett’s colour and relaxed weight of touch at the keyboard keeps everything transparent without becoming precious and fragile, and Makarski’s melodic phrasing, dynamics and articulation are usually very refined. She performs with a restraint in vibrato which on occasion leans towards ‘authentic’ Bach, but she keeps plenty of life in the sound, responding to Jarrett’s unpretentious playing with an equality of expression which makes for very satisfying listening.
Dominy Clements, Music Web International


All About Jazz’ John Kelman is happy about the release of Keith Jarrett’s Concerts Bregenz München in their entirety on CD

Jarrett's virtuosity was long past something he had to prove, and the result is music that, beyond its depth, is also, at times, actually fun, Jarrett's playful nature no more evident than at the end of ‘Part I’ from Bregenz where, amidst complex contrapuntal ideas, Jarrett pops in and out of the piano box, adding sharp percussive punctuations and zither-like timbres. He's also at his most beautiful, in particular during both shows' encores, including the gentle, Midwestern vibe of Bregenz's ‘Heartland’ and, from München, the more decidedly jazz-flavored ‘Mon Couer est Rouge.’ This overdue release of Concerts in its entirety finally makes all of Jarrett's solo piano releases for ECM available on CD. As strong a set, thirty years later, as it was when it was first released, Concerts easily rivals—perhaps, even, betters— Köln Concert as some of Jarrett's most profoundly deep yet user-friendly music.
John Kelman, All About Jazz


A French reaction to Ralph Alessi’s Baida

L'arrivée sur ECM de Ralph Alessi marque un vrai tournant pour ce trompettiste californien de 50 ans, établi à New York, et qui jusqu'ici s'est surtout fait remarquer du monde musical, plus que du grand public, dans les groupes de Steve Coleman, Uri Caine, Ravi Coltrane, Don Byron et en duo avec le pianiste Fred Hersch. Pour son premier album sous la direction artistique de Manfred Eicher, Alessi a choisi une rythmique qui sait constamment garder la tension de la recherche tout en offrant à la trompette une musicalité séduisante : le monkien Jason Moran au piano, l'enveloppant Drew Gress à la contrebasse, l'excitant Nasheet Waits à la batterie. Le son pur, rond, élégant comme une pleine lune du soliste principal est ainsi mis en valeur par cette rythmique active qui ne joue jamais fort et pourtant pousse à l'expressivité. On a l'impression d'assister en douce à une session d'intense créativité sur des thèmes d'allure libre dus au leader.’Gobble Goblins’, un morceau de forme inusitée avec un riff rythmique obsédant, est tout à fait caractéristique de cette musique qui cherche moins l'effusion lyrique (encore que, de ce point de vue, Alessi ne lésine pas non plus) que l'agitation énergique des neurones pour aboutir à ce qu'il faut bien appeler une belle sérénité. Un disque qui se réécoute de découverte étonnée en découverte heureuse.
Michel Contat, Telerama


Il Pergolese, the new project of Maria Pia de Vito, François Couturier, Anja Lechner and Michele Rabbia, enchants a reviewer in the United Kingdom

Fragility is not usually a characteristic associated with improvised music, but the sounds on this new recording seem at times to be as delicate as fine porcelein. Il Pergolese is a highly original interpretation of works by the 18th Century Italian composer Giovanni Battista Pergolesi. [...] The nine tracks are inspired by Pergolesi works including the celebrated ‘Stabat Mater’, with Maria Pia De Vito’s rich and warm voice floating exquisitely over the gentle piano chords, the long, yearning cello notes, and the subtle whispers of percussion. One of the most effective tracks is ‘Chi Disse Ca la Femmena’, from Pergolesi’s musical portrait of women, ‘Lo Frate ‘nnamorato’. The theme is stated simply, but then the group doubles the tempo – the effect is almost startling – and De Vito’s voice begins a delightful sequence of punchy scatting over the lively pulse of the instruments. An absorbing album, well worth exploring.
John Watson, Jazz Camera



Carla Bley, Andy Sheppard and Steve Swallow’s first common ECM album Trios continues to delight critics in the US and Europe alike


Giving herself fully to the direction of producer Manfred Eicher for – somewhat unbelievably – her ECM debut as a leader, Bley repurposes some works for trio, while others are heard in unusual context. Regardless of the approach, the result allows light to illuminate unfamilar curves and crevices in these well-worn pieces.
James Hale, Downbeat

La belleza che sperimenta [...] Andy Sheppard sempre pronto a far da perno melodico all’oscillare ritmico e armonico di pianoforte e basso. I un progressivo gioco a levare, ritocccare, lisciare, il trio affronta e rimodella come creta vergine composizioni scritte es registrate dalla pianista in epoche diverse.
(Experimenting Beauty [...] The ever-present Andy Sheppard adds melodic support to the rhythmic and harmonic fluctuations of piano and bass. Progressively removing, adjusting, and smoothening elements, the trio tackles and reshapes the material of the pianist's compositions from various periods, as if it were fresh clay. )
Paolo Odello, L'unità


Shadow Man by Tim Berne’s Snakeoil impresses American and British reviewers

Alto saxophonist Tim Berne's Snakeoil is a group that bonds asymmetrical contours into the big picture, where many progressive jazz aficionados often expect the unexpected from this artist who radiates an antithesis to conventional norms. More of the gradual ascensions, tricky time signatures, fractured flows and odd-metered unison choruses come into play on Shadow Man. Berne's neural vibrato lines in tandem with his foil, clarinetist Oscar Noriega ride above complex rhythmic patterns, designed with changeable metrics and alternating discourses. Hence, they keep the listener on the edge with a composite based on discord and ominously crafted melodies. [...]Among other positive accolades, Snakeoil is a band defined by the musicians' distinctive styles cloaked in cunning artistic expressionism and heart- pumping compositions.
Glenn Astarita, All About Jazz

Tim Berne is on record as stating that his Snakeoil ensemble is a band that loves to rehearse. And, boy, does it show on this follow-up to their eponymous 2012 debut. On pieces like ‘Static’ and ‘OC/DC’, his dense and complex themes are compressed into almost neurotically tight bursts, negotiated with a jumpy, hypersensitive alertness by a strictly drilled squad. You can virtually smell the concentration. And, while it’s becoming more and more of a cliché for jazz musicians to talk about blurring the lines between composition and improvisation, there are few doing it with as much élan as Berne and his collaborators.
Daniel Spicer, Jazzwise