The Study Of Touch

Django Bates' Belovèd

British pianist Django Bates returns to ECM with one of his very finest constellations, the trio Belovèd, with Swedish bassist Petter Eldh and Danish drummer Peter Bruun, and an aptly named album, The Study of Touch. All three musicians are highly individual players, subtly challenging the conventions of the jazz piano trio. The group came together a decade ago when Bates was teaching at Copenhagen’s Rhythmic Music Conservatory. The shared work has included inspired reconstructions of pieces associated with Charlie Parker – a formative influence for both Bates and bassist Eldh – and in this new album, Parker’s tune “Passport” is set amid Django originals, and played with respect, contemporary sensibility and joy. Some of Django’s own tunes here – such as “Senza Bitterness”, “Sadness All The Way Down” and “We Are Not Lost, We Are Simply Finding Our Way” have become core pieces in Belovèd’s repertoire, continually remodeled by this trio of improvisers. Bates’ composing and arranging skills are much in evidence, along with his freewheeling, free-flowing virtuosic melodic sense. The terse, percussive edge of Petter Eldh’s bass provides momentum and drummer Peter Bruun details the music with an almost painterly touch. In the crowded world of the piano trio, Belovèd has developed a sound all its own. The Study of Touch was recorded at Oslo’s Rainbow Studio in June 2016, and produced by Manfred Eicher.
Der britische Pianist Django Bates kehrt mit einer seiner besten Formationen, dem Trio Belovèd mit dem schwedischen Bassisten Petter Eldh und dem dänischen Schlagzeuger Peter Bruun und dem passend betitelten Album The Study of Touch zu ECM zurück. Alle drei sind hoch individuelle Musiker, die die Konventionen des Jazz-Piano Trios subtil herausfordern. Die Gruppe entstand vor gut einem Jahrzehnt, als Bates am Kopenhagener Rytmisk Musikkonservatorium lehrte. Zu ihren gemeinsamen Arbeiten gehörten unter anderem inspirierte Rekonstruktionen von Stücken, die gemeinhin mit Charlie Parker assoziiert werden – einem prägenden Einfluss sowohl für Bates wie für Bassist Eldh. Auf diesem neuen Album findet sich Parkers Stück „Passport“ zwischen Eigenkompositionen von Django – gespielt aus zeitgenössischer Perspektive, voller Respekt und Freude. Einige von Djangos eigenen Stücken, etwa “Senza Bitterness”, “Sadness All The Way Down” und “We Are Not Lost, We Are Simply Finding Our Way”, gehören zum Kernrepertoire im Belovèd-Repertoire, wo sie von den drei Improvisatoren allerdings ständig umgeformt werden. Unter den Piano Trios hat Belovèd einen ganz eigenen Sound für sich entwickelt. The Study of Touch wurde im Juni 2016 von Manfred Eicher im Rainbow Studio in Oslo produziert.
Featured Artists Recorded

June 2016, Rainbow Studio, Oslo

Original Release Date


  • 1Sadness All The Way Down
    (Django Bates)
  • 2Giorgiantics
    (Django Bates)
  • 3Little Petherick
    (Django Bates)
  • 4Senza Bitterness
    (Django Bates)
  • 5We Are Not Lost, We Are Simply Finding Our Way
    (Django Bates)
  • 6This World
    (Iain Ballamy)
  • 7The Study of Touch
    (Django Bates)
  • 8Passport
    (Charlie Parker)
  • 9Slippage Street
    (Django Bates)
  • 10Peonies As Promised
    (Django Bates)
  • 11Happiness All The Way Up
    (Django Bates)
This piano trio (has) been performing, on and off, for several years now and there is an intimacy in their playing that allows them to take even their most familiar pieces and work them into new ideas and sounds. Several of the tracks here are long-time favourites from the Beloved repertoire (…), but there is a feeling of discovery as they play each piece. It felt as if the players were constructing the tunes anew, working from the original idea and then exploring the implications of the idea, rather than just a straight playing of each piece.
Chris Baber, Jazz Views
Highlights sind das Titelstück ‚The Study of Touch‘, eine wunderschöne, fast zehnminütige Expedition in Bates’ eigentümlichen musikalischen Kosmos, oder das quicklebendige ‚Slippage Street‘ mit seinen wohldosierten Überraschungseffekten und seiner ausgeklügelten Dramaturgie. Schwachpunkt gibt es auf diesem genialen Album aber ohnehin keinen, und natürlich findet sich – eingebettet in die ganzen Bates-Kompositionen – mit ‚Passport‘ ein Charlie Parker-Verweis, war doch der Bebop-Übervater vor Jahren eine Art Inspirationsquelle und Startpunkt für dieses Trio, das es eigentlich gar nicht geben dürfte. Denn Django Bates vertrat stets die Meinung, es gäbe ohnehin schon viel zu viele Pianotrios – Gott sei Dank hat er seine Meinung längst geändert.
Peter Füssl, Kultur
Often unfamiliarly tender and contemplative by Bates’s wayward standards, the session continues to foreground this close-knit threesome’s fondness for letting spontaneous ideas go where they will, rather than sustaining one dominant mood. The mixed-tempo dance of ‘Giorgiantics’ is full of one-touch dialogues with bassist Petter Eldh and drummer Peter Bruun; ‘We Are Not Lost, We Are Simply Finding Our Way’ imparts jolting Batesian disruptions to a sometimes Bill Evans-like grace; ‘Peonies As Promised’ suggests a Broadway standard in its lilting unison piano/bass theme, but nobody but Django Bates in its impulsive scurries toward resolutions. A session by a master improvising composer, and in ideal company.
John Fordham, The Guardian
The mood is reflective and it is the piano sound of Bill Evans that springs to mind, with a lightness of touch that Evans would surely have approved of. Bates, however, has his own individual voice and this has undoubtedly been greatly aided by his participation in so many disparate musical projects. Bates’ own compositional talents are wonderfully showcased here […] Django Bates has sprung a real surprise with this recording, and a most welcome one as this year draws to a close, and one longs for this outfit to be heard in a live setting.
Tim Stenhouse, UK Vibe
Zwei miteinander korrespondierende Miniaturen rahmen das Album ein, im Zentrum steht ein Motto: ‘We Are Not Lost, We Are Simply Finding Our Way‘. Und in der Tat scheint Bates neue Wege zu suchen, frischen Zugang zum Trioformat und zu seinen eigenen Stücken […] In ‚We Are Not Lost…‘ oder dem fast zehnminütigen Titelstück nimmt das Trio immer neuen Anlauf, setzt Brüche, Zäsuren, Stimmungswechsel, die bei wiederholtem Hören spannend bleiben. Wie selbstverständlich wissen Eldh und Bruun ihren Raum zu füllen und einfallsreich zu nutzen. Eine feine neue Farbe im Triokatalog von ECM.
Berthold Klostermann, Stereo
There’s a spaciousness, a meditative quality, a gorgeous love of melody that you’d more readily associate with Keith Jarrett: and Bates has few qualms in chiming with Jarrett’s great European band (check some of the runs on , say ‚Little Petherick’ or the hymnal ‘This World’). But this is in no way Bates mellowing out: as the title suggests, this is him exploring a different sound world, the world of touch, that mysterious relationship with those unforgiving keys. […] The album sighs and rises with endless delights.
Andy Robson, Jazzwise
A dozen years playing together gives Django Bates and his trio partners bassist Petter Eldh and drummer Peter Bruun the special understanding it’s hard to develop any other way. It shines through this set […] Bates’ mastery of shifting textures and unexpected turns of phrase ensures there is always something of interest happening. It does lend the whole a unity that hasn’t attended all his more orchestral projects, which sometimes jumble disparate episodes, or flirt with the boundary where quirkiness slips into whimsy. Here his prodigious flow of ideas is channeled into richly considered music, nicely pointed up by the complementary opener, ‘Sadness All the Way Down’, and new closer, ‘Happiness all the Way Up’. This is one of those sets that immediately seems destined to go down as an ECM classic.
Jon Turney, London Jazz News
En quête d’une inaccessible perfection, Bates reprend et modifie sans cesse ses compositions et leur apporte une fantaisie non nègligeable, des harmonies imprévisibles, des dissonances inattendues.
Pierre de Chocqueuse, Jazz Magazine
Jeder Ton überrascht: Immer geht es ein bisschen anders weiter, als man zunächst glaubt. Dieses Hinauszögern von Zielpunkten. Dann dieses Pulsieren und spannende Zeit-Gewinnen. Diese Reihe aus suchenden Einzeltönen, die nicht da endet, wo man es am ehesten erwartet. Dieses Abschreiten eines rätselhaft anderen Raums. ‚Sadness all the way down‘, heißt das erste Stück – und man fragt sich: Geht es hier eigentlich abwärts oder aufwärts? Gewitzt komponierte Gegenläufigkeit. Typisch für diesen Pianisten […] Herrlich sind Bates‘ Verwirrspiele der Metren und der Tonfolgen: Musik, die manchmal mit sich selber Fangen zu spielen scheint, plötzlich aufspringt, davonflitzt, um die Ecke saust, um sich dann wieder überraschend wegzuducken im Schatten der Aufmerksamkeit. Es ist ein Hörvergnügen ganz eigener Art, voller Witz, Verspieltheit und zugleich mit ganz hohem Grad an klanglicher Kontrolle. […] Viel schöner kann Klaviertrio-Musik kaum sein. Und dabei biedert sich diese hier nie an: Es gibt keine Zugeständnisse an Hörer, die es gern ein bisschen bequemer haben, keine Lieblichkeiten. Aber hinreißenden Sinn für Klänge – und das bei Django Bates‘ beiden Traumpartnern, dem schwedischen Bassisten Petter Eldh und dem dänischen Schlagzeuger Peter Bruun, ganz genauso wie beim Leader des Trios selbst. Drei, die jede noch so subtile Phrase gemeinsam atmen.
Roland Spiegel, Bayrischer Rundfunk
Von berauschender Kraft, Virtuosität und Innigkeit.
Gregor Dotzauer, Tagesspiegel
Bates plays flowing, emotionally involving melodies, Eldh keeping the piece rhythmically focused while providing melodic counterpoint. The music goes through several variations, Eldh and Bruun responding to each shift by adding strength and color. […] (Bates’) talent lies in effortlessly blending these disparate strains. He gives Eldh and Bruun room to help bring his songs to life, and the enjoyment of listening to this album comes from hearing the three interact and let their ideas flow as they build on these challenging compositions.
Joseph Taylor, Soundstage Access
Allerfeinster kammermusikalischer Jazz  mit einem Mix aus aufeinander abgestimmten Melodielinien, Tontrauben, Akkorden und Rhythmen. Dabei wirkt alles herrlich offen und transparent, als sei es zärtlich hingetupft. Ein Traum.
Werner Stiefele, Stereoplay
Mit ‚The Study of Touch‘ liefert Django Bates und sein Trio bei manchen Stücken herrlich groovende Musik, die mitreißend vorwärts drängt. Dann gibt es wieder Ruheinseln, die geradezu der Entdeckung der Langsamkeit gewidmet sind. Frappierend ist der Ideenreichtum, den die drei Ausnahmekünstler wie mit einem Füllhorn über dem Hörer ausschütten. Kein Stück marschiert dorthin, wo man erst einmal das Ziel vermutet. […] Manche Stücke auf der neuen CD sind auskomponiert ohne jeglichen Improvisationsanteil. Hier erreicht das Trio eine selten zu hörende Dichte und Stringenz der musikalischen Aussage. ‚The Study of Touch‘ ist sicher keine Veröffentlichung zum Eben-mal-so-nebenbei-Hören, sondern fordert und verdient Aufmerksamkeit.
Georg Waßmuth, Südwestrundfunk
Despite the previous familiarity of some of the pieces ‘The Study Of Touch’ is an excellent album and one senses that Bates and his colleagues have approached the material from an entirely new perspective, with Eicher also bringing his influence to bear on the music. As one would expect from ECM the album is immaculately recorded and all the nuances of this finely calibrated trio are captured in the pinpoint mix. Eldh and Bruun have grown in stature during the ten years of Beloved’s existence and there’s a sense that this is now much more a trio of equals. Both musicians acquit themselves superbly on this recording. The album serves as a welcome reminder of Bates’ abilities as both a composer and a pianist and it’s a recording that should enhance his international reputation yet further.
Ian Mann, The Jazzmann
Django Bates is a major presence in ECM’s schedule this season. Last month, he was featured in Tunisian oud master Anouar Brahem’s new trans-idiomatic international quartet on the album Blue Maqams, alongside Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette. Now comes Django’s own leader date with the trio Belovèd, in which the British keyboardist/composer/arranger addresses his first love, the piano.
Bates, who once vowed never to front a piano trio on grounds that there were enough in the world, found his resolve weakening in 2005 when he began teaching at Copenhagen’s Rhythmic Music Academy. “I was walking along its corridors when I heard a drummer and a bass player playing in an ensemble in one of the practise rooms, and thought ‘If I ever changed my mind about piano trios I’d definitely want to use those two guys’”. Before long, the idea became irresistible, and Bates, bassist Petter Eldh and drummer Peter Bruun met to play together on a weekly basis. “We did that for a whole year, just improvising, and it was fantastic.” In response to a commission from Copenhagen Jazz House, Bates then wrote arrangements of music by or associated with Charlie Parker, one of his earliest heroes, and recorded them with Eldh and Bruun for an album called Belovèd Bird, issued on Django’s own Lost Marble label. “It was incredible to me how quickly we could learn written music together, after all the free playing: I’d never experienced that process in that way.” Imaginative arrangements of Parker began to alternate with Django’s own tunes in the repertoire of Belovèd, as the trio was now known, “to see how the two composers would play with each other.” On The Study of Touch, recorded at Oslo’s Rainbow Studio and produced by Manfred Eicher, the band’s origins are acknowledged with a single Parker miniature, an incisively realized version of Bird’s tune “Passport”. Almost all of the rest of the programme is from Django’s pen: “It felt like it was time to let Parker go, and to go back to being the composer in the band myself.”
The new album, Bates explains, is shaped around its title tune. “The Study of Touch had been performed a lot, in many different contexts [including a premiere at The Proms at the Royal Albert Hall] and I really wanted to document it. And it also seemed a good name for an album, so we started to build pieces around it to tell a story. And they could be old pieces or newer pieces, it didn’t really matter to me, because our music is always changing and evolving.”
The first new piece created for this set was “Slippage Street”, written to “counterbalance the beauty of The Study of Touch”: it was composed “picturing the trio in Rainbow Studio with Manfred as our audience. I really wrote it for him to listen to,” says Bates.
The album opens, however, with an older composition, “Sadness All The Way Down” which “starts at the very top of the keyboard and works its way down to the very bottom, but with a lot of subtlety in the journey.” It’s a piece that gives notice of the special qualities of Belovéd. “I play a lot more in Belovèd than I do in my other projects, which often have a huge density of sound. Nothing is lost, nothing is hidden in the trio. Everything I play has a space to have a meaning.” His cohorts help to shape that space in their own, idiosyncratic ways, Eldh with his polyrhythmic approach to the bass, Bruun with his almost painterly sense for coloration. These are highly original players. “What Petter and Peter bring to this music of mine is a refusal to play what I’ve written. It’s difficult for a composer to learn that this can be the best way, and hard to explain why it works. I write very detailed music, there’s no lack of detail, and I have my dream sound in mind. Then these guys, each of them, adds at least one other layer of their own. And they bring their own personalities to the music, and then it really takes off…” As the BBC Music Magazine has written: “The rhythm section of Bruun and Eldh does a staggering job of matching and anticipating Bates’ synaptic-fast soliloquies.”
The music is in movement throughout, all the way to its concluding piece, “Happiness All The Way Up” which swiftly bubbles out of the piano’s deep regions and leaps beyond the top notes with what Django describes as “a kind of pentatonic harp sound”, ending the album in an optimistic spirit.
Django Bates has credited the variety of musical influences in his work to his childhood, his father being a collector of jazz, African, and Romanian folk music. A founder member of the collective Loose Tubes, his bands have included Human Chain, Delightful Precipice, and stoRMChaser. Bates has also appeared alongside Bill Bruford, Dudu Pukwana, Wynton Marsalis, Michael Brecker, Tim Berne, and Ronnie Scott. He has written for The Dutch Metropole Orchestra, The Brodsky Quartet, Joanna MacGregor, Britten Sinfonia, Royal Shakespeare Company, the Duisburg Philharmonic, the Norrbotten Big Band, and many others. Django made his ECM debut in 1985 with the band First House, and in the early 1990s recorded with Sidsel Endresen’s group, appearing on the albums So I Write and Exile. Bates was appointed Denmark’s first professor of rhythmic music at Rhythmic Music Conservatory in Copenhagen, Denmark, a position he held until 2011 when he left to take up a position as professor of jazz at the Berne University of the Arts in Switzerland.
Peter Bruun began playing drums at age three at Rythmic Childrens School in Vesterbro in Copenhagen, gateway to “a life-long immersion into drums, music and composition”. At 18 he entered Copenhagen’s Rhythmic Music Academy, discontinuing his formal musical education after three years to study on his own while travelling through India and Brazil. In addition to his work with Belovéd, Bruun plays in a number of other bands including All Too Human, with Marc Ducret, Kasper Tranberg and Simon Toldam, and the Samuel Blaser Trio.
Swedish-born bassist Petter Eldh started his musical life as guitarist, switching to double bass in his early teens. As with Django Bates, it was the music of Charlie Parker which sparked his interest in jazz. He currently plays across a broad range of contemporary jazz and free improvising contexts including the group Enemy with Kit Downes and James Maddren, Speak Low with Lucia Cadotsch and Otis Sandsjö, Amok Amor with Peter Evans, Gard Nilssen’s Acoustic Unity and more.