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January 31 , 2014

Reviews of the week

British magazine Gramophone on Il Pergolese, the new project of Maria Pia de Vito, François Couturier, Anja Lechner and Michele Rabbia

Neapolitan singer Maria Pia de Vito’s first recording for ECM sees her joining forces with three of the label’s regulars, and the results are imaginative, varied and wholly satisfying. Pergolesi is never far away – his thumbprint is there in recognisable fragments from the ‘Stabat Mater’ and ‘Pulcinella’, as well as less predictably in a batch of less well-known opera arias – but the quality of these four musicians is such that they can take his distinctive melodic energy and carry it into an improvisatory world very much of their own making.
De Vito sings it relatively straight some of the time, her voice tending more towards a sweet folk-like sound than a jazz one, but at other times she reels off into an expressive spectrum of riffs, scats and virtuoso extended vocal techniques; Anja Lechner, formerly of the Rosamunde Quartet, improvises with extraordinary lyrical beauty; François Couturier contributes cool wisdom and gentility; and Michele Rabbia’s ‘concrète’ and transformative electronics add atmospheric magic. This isn’t ‘jazzed-up’ baroque but high-class contemporary improv that draws on those styles to create a fascinating range of sounds and textures that constantly develops within a certain emotional framework of restrained intensity. [...] This is one of the most creative projects of its kind that I have come across.
Lindsay Kemp, Gramophone

The reviewer from leading German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine is excited by the freshness of The Hilliard Ensemble’s voices on their new album Il Cor Tristo

Gut gepflegte Stimmen wie die der Hilliards altern nicht. Die Stimme von James, dem Einzigen, der schon seit der Gründung des Ensembles dazugehört, trägt bis heute immer noch ihre gelbe Werther-Weste. Und hört man den Hilliards zu, am besten mit guten Kopfhörern, wie sie da auf ihrem neuen Album wieder einmal sehr alte und sehr neue Musik miteinander kreuzen, beides mit Mitteln höchster vokaler Perfektion, in der hilliardtypischen, leicht fließenden Eleganz – dann sieht man vier blonde, schöne, smarte Jünglinge vor dem inneren Auge, wie sie gerade Handstandüberschlag, Salto und Pyramidenbau üben, auf einer frisch gemähten Sommerwiese.
Eleonore Büning, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Dance Without Answer by Norma Winstone, Glauco Venier and Klaus Gesing, is reviewed in English daily The Evening Standard

An unusually like-minded cooperative of coolly lyrical performers, their tranquil brand of ballad-tempo music has established a solid market across the Channel. This is their third album for the German ECM label and the most assured yet, a serene selection of unfamiliar melodies, pure-toned clarinet solos, warm acoustic pianistics and silky vocals delivered in English and Friulian, a regional Italian dialect. A long way from the Great American Songbook.
Jack Massarik, The Evening Standard

German daily ‘Die Welt’ on Arild Andersen`s new trio recording Mira with Tommy Smith and Paolo Vinaccia

Auch wenn Andersen auf seiner Balladen-Einspielung ‚Mira’ hier und da Gebrauch von elektronischen Effekten wie Flageolett-Loops oder verhallten Intro-Soundscapes macht – mit den modischen Klangspielereien seiner beiden musikalischen Ziehsöhne hat er nichts am Hut. Langer Atem und Zeitlosigkeit, verbunden mit einem Faible für Ausflüge ins Folkloristische: Das sind die Haupterkennungszeichen von Andersens Musik, die von dem schottischen Saxofonisten und Shakuhachi-Bambusflöten-Spieler Tommy Smith mit seinem uncharakteristisch höhenlastigen Tenor-Ton sowie dem italienisch-norwegischen Sonderwegs-Trommler Paolo Vinaccia adäquat in die Luft gemalt werden. Warmherziger Kammer-Jazz irgendwo zwischen Gershwin, Grieg und Garbarek.
Josef Engels, Die Welt

Extended Circle, the new recording by the Tord Gustavsen Quartet, finds acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic

Trés structuré, organisé come peut l’être office liturgique, ‘Extended Circle’ renferme des pièces lentes, contemplatives, rarement troublées par des tempos rapides. Tempérés par le lyrisme du saxophone, par le chant d’un piano imbibé de blues dont le groove est souvent plus suggéré que marqué, les rythmes à peine plus vifs de ‘The Embrace’ et de ‘Staying There’ portent l’ émotion à bonne température. Le groupe n’hésite pas non plus à dynamiser rythmiquement ‘Eg Veit I Himmerik Ei borg’ (‘Je sais que dans le ciel se trouve un château’), vieil hymne norvégien que le pianiste connaît depuis l’enfance. Tranquilles et intimistes, les autres morceaux invitent aussi à la prière, à la méditation.
Pierre de Chocqueuse, Jazz Magazine

The evolution of Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen and his relationship with ECM Records has always been more about expansion rather than linear forward motion. [...] It's no surprise, then, that the third album to feature the pianist's recent quartet is called ‘Extended Circle’, as it possesses numerous meanings, all with their own significance, amongst them the growing community of players with whom he has interacted over the past decade, as well as the culmination of Gustavsen's two ECM tryptichs, beginning with the trio recordings ‘Changing Places’, ‘The Ground’ (2005) and ‘Being There’ (2007), and continuing with the quartet sessions ‘Restored, Returned’ (2009), ‘The Well’, and now,’Extended Circle’. But most importantly ‘Extended Circle’ refers to the manner in which the introspective and thoughtful Gustavsen has patiently evolved his music, largely mining a narrow range of tempos but demonstrating just how much can be found in such a seemingly restrictive context. [... ] And while Gustavsen has always been about slow tempos, the quartet's interpretation of the traditional Norwegian hymn, ‘Eg Veit I Himmerik El Borg’ (A Castle in Heaven) demonstrates that simmering heat is not beyond its reach. Vespestad's gentle but frenetic drumming and Eilertsen's soft but insistent support provide a foundation over which Gustavsen's meditative ruminations float initially, but gradually pick up steam over the course of five minutes, as Brunborg's tenor building from a whisper to a scream before returning to the hymn's singable theme. All of which makes Extended Circle's suite-like 50-minute program Gustavsen's most diverse and satisfying to date.
John Kelman, All About Jazz

Praise from the United Kingdom for Eleni Karaindrou’s Medea

Eleni Karaindrou has created some beautiful music despite the dark undercurrents of the drama that it depicts. [...] Despite the fury and rage that unfurls as the plot unfolds, much of the music is calm and tranquil with Karaindrou’s tremendous orchestrations bringing together traditional instruments such as santori, ney and lyra with the more familiar sound of the clarinets. The voice of Karaindrou is heard on ‘Medea’s Lament I’ with its mournful lyrics of self-pity and despair and joined the female chorus under the direction of Antonis Kontogeorgiou for ‘Medea’s lament II’, and it is the blending of female voices with the gentle restraint of the instrumental pieces that combine to create a music that is quietly and enigmatically compelling and disturbing by turns. The depth of the music can often be at odds with the darkness of the play itself, and this lends a delicious tension to this beautiful album.
Nick Lea, Jazz Views