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January 24 , 2014

Reviews of the week

German and British media welcome Dance Without Answer by Norma Winstone, Glauco Venier and Klaus Gesing

Vocalist Norma Winstone is good at small musical families who converse with quiet uninhibitedness and last for years – like the trio Azimuth from 1977 into the 1990s, and in this ensemble with Italian pianist Glauco Venier and German reeds player Klaus Gesing since 2002. As with the group's acclaimed earlier sessions for ECM, Dance Without Answer mingles Winstone lyrics to her partners' tunes with diverse and audaciously reimagined covers – of material from Tom Waits's ‘San Diego Serenade’ and Nick Drake's ‘Time of No Reply’ to the 1985 Madonna song ‘Live to Tell’. Not much hurries, flusters or intensifies Winstone's cool delivery, but her range, control and relaxation in open musical spaces remain awesome, and her pure tones are acquiring a more gravelly informality with the years. Gesing is magnificent, bending slow bass-clarinet sounds on the title track of unstated goodbyes, whooping and wheeling across Venier's adaptation of the Italian poem Gust da Essi Viva.
John Fordham, The Guardian

This is now the third album for ECM by this remarkable trio, and it is difficult to supress the urge to declare that it is also their best to date. On closer acquaintance and after revisiting ‘Distances’ from 2007 and ‘Stories Yet To Tell’ recorded in 2009 it is apparent all are on a par in terms of their excellence and consistency. Norma Winstone is perhaps singing better than at any time in her long and distinguished career, and there can be few on the world stage to seriously rival the sheer beauty and emotional depth of her voice. In Klaus Gesing the trio have a versatile reedsman with a sensual and moving, yet playful turn of phrase locked in the purity of his tone on soprano saxophone; and a bass clarinettist of genuine and unique originality. Pianist Glauco Venier brings to this a sense of formality and harmonic awareness that, rather than being the glue that holds the fabric of the material together, suggests new directions for both voice and horns. [...] All in all this is a superb album from start to finish.
Nick Lea, Jazz Views

Die delikaten Dialoge des Italieners Glauco Venier (Piano) und des Deutschen Klaus Gesing (Sax, Klarinette) münden in feingliedrigen Kammer-Jazz. Die so zarte wie nachdrückliche Stimmpräsenz der Britin Norma Winstone wiederum ist für sich schon atemberaubend.
Matthias Inhoffen, Stereoplay

Dublin daily Irish Times on Il Pergolese, the new project of Maria Pia de Vito, François Couturier, Anja Lechner and Michele Rabbia

In the end, it’s jazz musicians who will save the world from the genre police. For proof, check out this genre-busting reinterpretation of Italian opera composer Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s music. Neapolitan singer Maria Pia de Vito is well known for her category blindness, and here she teams up with three musicians with form in blurring the lines between jazz and classical: cellist Anja Lechner, pianist Francois Couturier, and percussion/electronica wizard Michele Rabbia. The essential character of Pergolesi’s sacred and profane melodies is retained, by turns somber, elegiac and whimsical. But here new layers of meaning are added through improvisation by a quartet of equals in total command of their material and their instruments.
Cormac Larkin, Irish Times

Acclaim from America and Germany for Arild Andersen`s new trio recording Mira with Tommy Smith and Paolo Vinaccia

A long overdue and equally impressive follow-up—albeit for different reasons—‘Mira’ presents this trio in a different light to its 2008 debut; still, it's no surprise that Andersen, Vinaccia and Smith prove as capable of darker intents as they do more energetic exchanges. Studio recordings inherently present alternative perspectives, and with ‘Mira’, the possibilities both delivered and alluded to on ‘Live at Belleville’ now possess an evolved simpatico, greater attention to space and more expansive, expressive vernacular that, despite allowing so much time to pass since the trio's last recording, is the direct result of its working regularly in the six years between them.
John Kelman, All About Jazz

Die drei beteiligten Musiker haben eine sehr ansprechende Klangkultur entwickelt, die sich sehr gut in den Kosmos ihres Labels ECM einfügt. Songs, die sehr transparent, ätherisch und zerbrechlich beginnen, die sich aber in der Regel nach ein paar Minuten Spieldauer sehr schön verdichten und unglaublich aufladen. Es sind Songs mit einer großen Intensität und einer verblüffenden Geschmackssicherheit, die fast alle aus der Feder des Bandleaders stammen.
Matthias Wegner, Deutschlandradio

Extended Circle, the new recording by the Tord Gustavsen Quartet, is reviewed in English weekly Independent on Sunday

‘Extended Circle’ is certainly a satisfying synthesis of his quiet and stately, Nordic-hymn-meets-mildly-funky-groove style as well as suggesting possible new beginnings. Meditative and swinging in turns, the 12 pieces (including the actual hymn ‘Eg Veit I Himmerik Ei borg’) feel like one extended suite, while the best of the group’s playing recalls , as on ‘the Gift’ Keith Jarrett and Jan Garbarek’s 1978 album on the ECM label ‘My Song’ which is no mean praise.
Phil Johnson, Independent On Sunday

Guitarist Zsófia Boros’ ECM-debut En otra parte enchants the reviewer from US magazine Fanfare

Listening to Zsofia Boros’ ‘En otra parte’ I was immediately captivated by her expressive artistry: the clear, beautiful tone, liquid phrasing, precise layering of melody and accompaniment, effortless runs, fluid figuration, stylistic comprehension, and the emphatic sense of mood and emotion. While most of the pieces unfold at a leisurely pace, several are more rhythmically assertive – Vincente Amigo’s flamenco-inspired ‘Callejon de la luna’ for example. Boros has thoroughly assimilated the style, delivering the ‘rasguedos’ and other flourishes with aplomb, but not emplaying the full complement of martial or metallic coloring; it’s worth rembering that there’s more to flamenco than stamping feet, raw vocals, and throbbing guitars. [...] a memorable recital performed by a sensitive musician, captured in an acoustic that appealingly balances clarity with resonance.
Robert Schulslaper, Fanfare

The Hilliard Ensemble’s new album Il Cor Tristo is reviewed in Choir & Organ magazine

It is titled after Roger Marsh’s ‘Il Cor Tristo’, a setting of cantos 32 and 33 from Dante’s ‘Inferno’ interspersed with pieces by the 16th-century Barnardo Pissano and Jacques Acadelt in which Petrarch love poems wallow in their own misery over the ironies of love. The music dances, the voices soar and the Hilliards are in their element. This is a very different world from Dante’s depiction of Hell. Marsh captures the chilling, frightening darkness with great skill, the narrative using some of the techniques of the early madrigal composers, isolating critical words where voices separate and then come together. It is cleverly exclamatory and unsettling, the repetitive phrasing sticking in the mind, and the scenario is brilliantly depicted by the singers.
Shirley Ratcliffe, Choir & Organ

András Schiff’s recording of the Diabelli Variationen by Ludwig van Beethoven impresses the Irish Times

A set of two performances of the Diabelli Variations by the one performer? [...] András Schiff has chosen an 1820-ish fortepiano by Franz Brodmann, an original not a copy, and a 1921 Bechstein that was used by Wilhelm Backhaus in concerts and recordings. Both are quite different in sound to a modern Steinway, less thick and bulky in tone in ways that allow Schiff’s playing to seem unusally lithe. And Schiff’s management of the sound world facilitates the fantasy and wit of the music as well as its breathtaking chutzpah in the way it takes Diabelli’s trivial theme through complex transmogrifications. A must for anyone seriously interested in the piano or the Diabellis.
Michael Dervan, Irish Times