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January 17 , 2014

Reviews of the week

A first English press reaction to Extended Circle, the new recording by the Tord Gustavsen Quartet

Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen's quartet sounded discreetly funkier than formerly on their 2012 album, The Well, and another veil of that discretion is peeled off with Extended Circles – a delicious collage of hypnotic grooving, softly stroked gospel themes, and perhaps more gloves-off jazz piano from the leader than on all five of his previous ECM albums. The short opener, ‘Right There’, is a classic Gustavsen piano theme of gently soulful enquiries. Then saxophonist Tore Brunborg fuels an intense account of the traditional Norwegian hymn ‘Eg Veit I Himmerik Ei Borg’, built on Jarle Vespestad's snare-drum patterns and swelling to a warbling incantation. ‘The Gift’ is an episode of eerily slow jazz balladeering, ‘Staying There’ a gripping passage of snorty tenor-sax over a seamless Jarrett-like thunder, but there's also plenty of evidence – such as the static yet vibrant ‘Glow’ – that Gustavsen's persuasive fragility is still intact.
John Fordham, The Guardian

British website Jazz Views on the Arild Andersen trio recording Mira with Tommy Smith and Paolo Vinaccia

This is the long awaited follow up to the ‘Live At Belleville’ set that was recorded in 2008, and the intervening years have seen the trio tour extensively and the close rapport and cohesiveness of the
unit is immediately apparent in the music presented here. Recorded at the famous Rainbow Studio in Oslo, the three musicians have brought together a programme consisting of ballads and mid tempo free-floating sound explorations. Having said that some of Andersen’s themes are strong enough to keep everyone firmly grounded and thus the emphasis remains on the collective as a whole. This trait is clearly in evidence on ‘Reparte’ with Andersen’s solo introduction that leads into a beautiful melody stated by Tommy Smith’s tenor and then joined by Vinaccia’s commentary from the drums in a genuinely compelling three way conversation. Sounding much greater than the sum of its parts, the trio establish a degree of empathy that is quite astonishing. [...] ‘Mira’ is the work of a truly collective trio that is reaching an artistic peak, yet is also hinting at new directions that may be pursued to continue their musical journey.
Nick Lea, Jazz Views

German daily Mannheimer Morgen is impressed by Il Pergolese, the new project of Maria Pia de Vito, François Couturier, Anja Lechner and Michele Rabbia

Entstanden ist ein grandioses Album, das Grenzgänge zwischen Barock und Jazz präsentiert, wie sie in dieser Homogenität selten zuvor zu hören waren. Das Quartett erweist dem Komponisten mit viel improvisatorischem Freiraum, aber auch respektvoller Sensibilität seine Reverenz. Anja Lechners sehnsuchtsvollem Cello-Ton und Maria Pia De Vitos hingebungsvollem Gesang zu lauschen, ist Labsal für die Seele. Couturiers perlende Pianoläufe und Rabbias raffinierte Rhythmen fügen sich wunderbar in die fein gewebten Klangtexturen ein.
Georg Spindler, Mannheimer Morgen

Jazz critic Peter Margasak from American weekly Chicago Reader lists Chants by the Craig Taborn Trio among his ten favourite albums of 2013

Perhaps the most versatile, mercurial pianist in jazz, Craig Taborn delivers another stunning statement. He's led his fantastic trio with bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Gerald Cleaver since 2007, and you can hear that shared history in how thoroughly Taborn and his bandmates seem to have internalized the material on Chants. His shape-shifting compositions add to the fluid complexity of the songs—despite their many interlocking parts, they never feel halting or mechanical, and their constant destabilizing motion is offset by meticulous construction that allows each player great improvisational latitude.
Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader

UK Website London Jazz is enchanted by Yeahwon Shin's ECM debut Lua Ya

Yeahwon Shin’s subtle vocals possess an endearing range of timbres, colours and percussive techniques – always sensitive and warm; often bright with a gentle vibrato; but then also displaying a charming, breathy, childlike innocence. The connection here between pianist and vocalist is something special, the magic further woven by the blurring of written and improvised material – indeed, much of the recorded performance emanates simply from quotation beforehand of these traditional melodies. Shin has me hanging on her every (Korean) word and phrase; Aaron Parks’ limpid, restrained, solo touch and chordal shifts are seriously spellbinding; and augmenting both on a good number of the thirteen tracks is the delicate, intuitive accordion of Rob Curto (Shin and Curto share a deep affinity for Brazilian music and have worked together previously). The entire sequence is well balanced (pin-sharp ECM recording and mixing, as always), the wonder of the whole experience gradually unfolding throughout its forty minutes.
Adrian Pallant, London Jazz

The Hilliard Ensemble’s new album Il Cor Tristo is reviewed on The Arts Desk

‘Il Cor Tristo’ programmes 16th-century Italian madrigals on Petrarch texts with new settings of cantos from Dante's ‘Inferno’ by Roger Marsh. Marsh writes that his main aim was ‘to keep Dante's words clear at all times, and thus you will find in this contemporary music many devices usually encountered in music of much earlier times.’ There's also the matter of getting through an awful lot of Dante's text in a very short time. Marsh manages this beautifully, and listening to the Hilliards perform his sequence is an entertaining, theatrical experience.
Speech patterns dictate the flexibility of the rhythms, and the harmonies sound refreshingly modern but never at odds with the earlier madrigals. There are so many felicitous touches – sample baritone Gordon Jones's steady tread at the close of the first number, while the other three voices scamper above. Marsh's extended third movement is spellbinding. Elsewhere, six madrigals by Bernardo Pisano are sublime – their sophistication effortlessly projected by these voices. Three more by Jacques Arcadelt complete the sequence, their brighter, more open textures a welcome contrast. It's all excellent, and handsomely recorded in rich, resonant sound.
Graham Rickson, The Arts Desk