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August 8 , 2014

Reviews of the week

Leading German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung on Harrison Birtwistle’s Chamber Music

In ‘Bogenstrich – Meditations on a poem of Rilke’ illustriert die Komposition Rilkes ‘Liebes-Lied’ nicht, sondern macht das Gedicht zum Rahmen für eine wie oft bei Birtwistle vielschichtige und komplexe Form. Und im Klaviertrio (Lisa Batiashvili, Adrian Brendel, Till Fellner) herrscht eine herbdunkle Klanglichkeit, aus der gelegentlich heftige Eruptionen hervorbrechen. Birtwistles Musik gilt nicht als leicht zugänglich. Aber die vergrübelten Formen verleihen ihr auch den melancholischen bis pessimistischen Zug, der auf den Hörer eine unergründliche Sogwirkung ausübt.
Michael Stallknecht, Süddeutsche Zeitung

American classical music magazine Strings on the new recording by Italian Duo Gazzana with music by Schnittke, Poulenc, Silvestrov, Walton, Dallapiccola

Duo Gazzana bring Baroque charm to modern works for violin and piano. Sisters Natascia and Raffaella Gazzana really shine in the first recording of Valentin Silvestrov’s remarkably beautiful, fragile ‘Hommage à J.S.B.’, written in 2010 for violinist Gidon Kremer. These siblings, both born in Sora, near Rome, also lavish the full Duo Gazzana treatment on Alfred Schnittke’s ‘Suite in the Old Style’, Poulenc’s ‘Violin Sonata’, and Luigi Dallapiccola’s ‘Tatrinia Seconda’ […] Playing an exquisite Pierre Hel (Lille, 1911), Natascia brings to Schnittke and (surprisingly, but effectively) Poulenc an earthy, tawny joy – she plays the Dallapiccola fantasy with hair-trigger timing and magical, feline glee.
Laurence Vittes, Strings

More American reactions to Last Dance by Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden

‘Last Dance’ is many intended things – an album of understated but extraordinary beauty; a subtle and soulful conversation by two jazz titans, Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden, whose friendship spans nearly a half-century; and a loving representation of a jazz standard’s seemingly limitless interpretative possibilities […] a reflection of the musical camaraderie that began in the 1960s and hit its first pinnacle with several 1970s collaborations for the European ECM label. The communication between the two players on the new album is so heightened and exact that you can almost picture them playing this music in your living room […] It all makes for the most touching of parting shots: the kind that was never intended to be one.
Walter Tunis, Lexington Herald Leader

Charlie Haden’s final recording, ‘Last Dance,’ is a gem. His work with pianist Keith Jarrett goes back for more than 40 years. This is their 19th recording together; and it is a true work of art. What a lovely way to finish a distinguished career. The song selections on this project include well-known jazz classics and some love songs. The duo treats the listener to an hour of exceptional music by two jazz masters. […]. These are two old friends having a musical conversation and really listening, carefully, to each other. As Haden stated, ‘Keith really listens, and I listen.’ Both have ‘big ears.’ […]This last release by Mr. Haden is, by all standards, a five star winner.
Paul Pearce, Bass World Magazine

This beautiful and deftly played collection of American jazz standards by two masters at the pinnacle of their art makes you feel like a privileged eavesdropper on an intimate conversation. Haden will be missed, but his gift will shine on with recordings like this.
Christian Science Monitor Staff Pick

British critic Richard Williams on the DVD Arrows into Infinity on the life of Charles Lloyd

Dorothy Darr has produced and directed ‘Arrows into Infinity’ with Jeffery Morse, gathering historic TV and concert footage from the ’60s (London, Newport, Antibes, Tallinn etc), film of recent performances with the current quartet, and of duets with Billy Higgins, giving us a chance to enjoy again the drummer’s matchless sense of swing and unforgettable smile. There are interviews with Herbie Hancock, Jack DeJohnette, Robbie Robertson, Jim Keltner, Don Was, Zakir Hussain, Geri Allen and many others — including, amazingly, Lewis Steinberg, the original bass player with Booker T and the MGs, who knew the young Lloyd in Memphis. There’s also a delightful sequence of Lloyd playing pool with Ornette Coleman; the two were friends in LA in the ’50s. Lloyd himself, however, is the most interesting witness to the journey that took him from Howlin’ Wolf to Zakir Hussain. The film tells a fascinating story of survival and self-realisation in which his gentle wisdom is an impressive as his music.
Richard Williams, The Blue Moment

Ben Ratliff from The New York Times on Karen Mantler’s Business Is Bad

Karen Mantler’s wry, bluntly elegant songs on “Business Is Bad,” her first album in 14 years, are about nuisances that nobody wants to dwell on without recourse to, at the very least, a nap. There are tunes about overdrawn bank accounts; about limitations in composing, in improvising and in learning French; about expensive lawyers; about volcanic ash disruptions to international flight patterns; and about death. All that sounds like one big ball and chain, but Ms. Mantler, singing and playing piano and chromatic harmonica, slips free. She keeps negative forces in their place, disciplining them with persistence; humor; piano improvising so simple that it’s almost a form of Zen; and clipped, no-vibrato, contralto-range vocal phrasing — like Suzanne Vega, but 10 degrees cooler, generally doling out one note per syllable. […] She’s a cartoonist, not an oil painter, and the dimensions of her new band suit her: Doug Weiselman on guitar and bass clarinet, and Kato Hideki on electric bass. No drums, no brass, no sonic effects other than a bit of reverb on the guitar, and no distracting virtuosity. Her songs rely on the force of her personality, and on the style of her storytelling.
Ben Ratfliff, The New York Times

Jacob Young's Forever Young is reviewed in Jazz Weekly

Guitarist Jacob Young mixes electric, acoustic and classical guitar with a subtly bopping team of Trygve Seim/ts-ss, Marcin Wasilewski/p, Slawomir Kurkiewicz/b and Michal Miskiewicz/dr through a collection of originals. The intriguing part of this disc is how easily Young can mix sounds that range from indie rock to low key bop make it all sound cohesive. […] On the acoustic side, some lovely classical guitar mixes with Seim’s low key tenor on ‘Therese’s Gate’ and some Middle Eastern moods mix with jazz on ‘Sofia’s Dance’ creating some delightful sounds. Prancing rhythms dance underneath Youngs acoustic strumming on the spaciously stated ‘Beauty’ making this a well rounded session in depth and width.
George W. Harris, Jazz Weekly