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May 16 , 2014

Reviews of the week

The New York Times on Tigran Mansurian’s Quasi Parlando, with Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Anja Lechner and the Amsterdam Sinfonietta

The title of this emotionally riveting CD translates as ‘almost speaking.’ The speech of the Beirut-born Armenian composer Tigran Mansurian is colored with loss and longing and sometimes — as in the fierce Double Concerto for violin and cello — burning anger. There’s unspeakable tenderness in the Romance for violin, and raw vulnerability in the title track for cello.
Corinna da Fonseca Wollheim, The New York Times

US magazine Fanfare on Momo Kodama’s debut recording for ECM La Vallée des Cloches

Her opening performance of Ravel’s ‘Miroirs’ focuses on the mood of the piece, the notes literally swirling from the keyboard to create a beautiful ambience. She possesses the kind of touch that coaxes rather than pulls notes from the keyboard, even in the fastest and busiest passages. Nothing ever sounds strongly attacked, even the loud passages, but rather it swells and ebbs in the air as if played on the vibes rather than piano. This approach gives everything she does a shimmering quality, like the ping of fine crystal, and this in turn conveys her feelings about the music. [...] an excellent disc and a fine representation of the music chosen.
Lynn Renée Bayley, Fanfare

Acclaim from Switzerland and Germany for Paul Bley’s new solo recording Play Blue Oslo Concert

Solo kann nicht jeder. In etwas freier gestaltendem Jazz schon gar nicht. Zu groß ist die Gefahr, sich in Strukturlosigkeit zu verlieren. Paul Bley, der 81jährige Jazzpianist und Freigeist aus Montreal, kann das. Er hat sogar Soloauftritte mit zu seinem Markenzeichen gemacht. Für das deutsche Label ECM hat er allein am Klavier 1972 ‚Open, To Love‘ aufgenommen – ein Statement von bis heute anhaltender Wirkung, das mit Raum und Zeit tiefgreifend spielte und zudem Paul Bleys einmalig schlüssiges Abstraktionsvermögen zumindest der Jazzwelt deutlich einprägte. Nun aber wird sein Osloer Live-Auftritt von 2008 veröffentlicht, der im Grunde all das vorführt, was Bley ausmacht. Er ist im gekonnt vorgetragenen Zwiespalt zuhause; so wechselhaft wie variabel, autistisch und zugleich äußerst offen, der Melodie grundsätzlich zugeneigt, harmonisch geschmeidig und repetitiv, traditionsbezogen und lyrisch – aber immer nur zum Teil.
Adam Olschewski, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

Souverän und höchst gelassen formt er auch auf seiner jüngsten Solo-CD ‚Play Blue‘ musikalische Gebilde von hohem Reiz. Er ist ein großer Meister der Klarheit, der immer noch auf Anhieb fesseln kann – und in der Lage ist, eine Spannung zu entfalten, die sich über ganz lange Strecken aufbaut. Seine Musik klingt zärtlich und monumental zugleich. Sie ist kantig – und dabei lyrisch. In Momenten fast verspielt – und dabei kompromisslos. Sie ist die Musik eines Monolithen. Eines Musikers, der sich in der weiten Landschaft des Jazz wie ein unverkennbarer Fels ausnimmt. [...] Soghafte Schönheit entsteht da in Improvisationen voller Intensität. Enorme Ausdruckskraft findet zu wunderbarer Form und überrascht auch stets. Hypnotisch sind die Stücke zuweilen, Trance-Musik, die eines aber niemals ist: soft und modisch. ‚Play Blue‘ heißt diese neue CD mit Live-Aufnahmen, die 2008 in Oslo entstanden. Musik, die keinen Vergleich sucht – aber auch keinen zu scheuen braucht. Musik, die bei sich ist – und in sich aufgeht. Und die oft ganz kurze Wege zwischen sperriger Jazz-Spätmoderne und der nachtblauen Eleganz des Erbes etwa eines Duke Ellington findet.
Roland Spiegel, BR-Klassik

More American reactions to Vijay Iyer’s ECM debut Mutations

The CD is bookended by solo piano pieces: two at the front and one at the backend. Iyer mentions in his liner notes that “mutations are incremental changes in genetic material.” The lengthy title suite is also constructed from musical units and bits which veer through many impressions, from quietly sublime to driving and pushing. The general outcome is atmospheric and miles away from work Iyer has done with players such as Rudresh Mahanthappa. Also absent are Iyer’s fiery renderings of modern pop hits, his Hindustani or Indian influences, and his muscular post-bop and modal explorations. But that does not imply this is soothing music. The tracks are partially lyrical and at times luminous. But Iyer’s thematic movements, the way he interlaces acoustic and electronic textures, and his sometimes resolute improvisational interpolations, result in music which forces listeners out of any comfort zone. [...]. As the overall album design evolves over the course of an hour, attentive listeners will understand how Iyer’s complete program functions. [...].. ‘Mutations’ might not be a starting point for neophytes who are not familiar with Iyer, but longer-term fans will certainly find it interesting.
Doug Simpson, Audiophile Audition

This could possibly go into the jazz column, as Vijay Iyer is mostly known in that world as a brilliant progressive pianist. But he’s really trans-stylistic in his technique and aesthetic appetite, and in fact the vast majority of this disc is taken up with a piano quintet of classical instrumentation. Yes, it uses improvisatory structures throughout, but the same can be said of any number of composers, from Cage to Riley, and ever more frequently with younger ones. So hopefully any categorical carps are dispensed with here. Iyer establishes his improvising/performer bona fides at the beginning with two short piano pieces, the first with a strong lyric/Romantic bent, the other a more austere meditation with an accompaniment of dark and miniscule electronic sounds. Then ‘Mutations’ takes up the main stage. If one didn’t know in advance that the work—a series of 10 bagatelles—involves extensive performer choice, one would probably take it for a postmodern/postminimal work, mostly in fixed notation, as the authority of all the players is so great. But if one listens carefully with that foreknowledge, one starts to hear the interactions between the piano and strings, and sense the real-time decision-making occurring in the dialogue [...].this feels like music exceptionally of this time, blending traditions of improvisation and precise notation seamlessly, demanding and getting creative input for the final product from all performers, and integrating technology in a meaningful but unpretentious manner. Fresh and imaginative, with excellent performances all around.
Robert Carl, Fanfare