24.11.2023 | Reviews of the week

Reviews of the week

The freshly released piano solo album Call On The Old Wise by Nitai Hershkovits is welcomed by international media

 

This is the latest in the long and illustrious line of solo piano albums from estimable German label ECM – a tradition that stretches back to the astonishing 1970s recordings of Keith Jarrett, whose landmark triple LP, ‘Solo Concerts: Bremen/Lausanne’, has recently been reissued on ‘audiophile vinyl’ to mark its 50th anniversary. On his debut album for the label, the 35-year-old Israeli pianist Nitai Hershkovits adopts, similar to Jarrett, a ‘largely improvised’ approach to the challenge of maintaining colour and momentum over the course of 50 minutes or more. […] Hershkovits, born to a Moroccan mother and a Polish father, is a fascinating and gifted player who has been a vital member of forward-thinking groups led by the bassist Avishai Cohen and the saxophonist Oded Tzur. […] ‘Call on the Old Wise’ leans more firmly on the pianist’s classical inclinations and soundworld; these are exquisitely executed inventions, full of surprise, sensitivity and no small amount of romanticism, that emerge like spontaneous real-time compositions.

Philip Watson, The Irish Times

 

The ECM catalogue boasts a long line in solo piano recordings, and with ‘Call on the Old Wise,’ it has another impressive album to add to the library. Previously heard on ‘Here Be Dragons’ and ‘Isabela’ with tenor saxophonist Oded Tzur, this is Hershkovits’s debut under his own name for the label in a beguiling and constantly shifting set of pieces that appear to explore multiple ideas and directions simultaneously. In this mostly improvised set of eighteen pieces, none of which exceed four and a half minutes, each appears as a fully formed miniature. All are just the right length; there are no static or dull spots, and even when at their briefest and done in little more than a minute, there is a sense of completeness and that playing anything more would destroy the mood and balance of the composition. […] The music throughout is wide-ranging and leaves Hershkovits free to explore not just his interest in jazz but also his extensive knowledge of classical music. […] An album that has been on repeat since its arrival for review, this is a more than worthy addition to the ECM solo piano catalogue and will delight followers of both the jazz-related releases and New Series recordings of the imprint.

Nick Lea, Jazz Views

 

‘Call on the Old Wise’ is his ECM solo debut—though he has appeared on two of saxophonist Oded Tzur’s projects. Further, it shows off his ability to craft careful and thoughtful compositions that don’t run away from melodic inclinations. Instead, they have a fluidity to them that also encompasses memorable themes and motifs that also have a rather Claude Debussy sound to them. From the start of Hershkovits’ fifth studio album, the rippling runs mixed with more jagged or syncopated playing sets the style and overall tone […] The French Impressionist style runs through the whole album, giving it a warmth and a delicateness that more free form jazz doesn’t always contain. […] here, the solo piano works its magic and fills the space with lovely, sad, joyous, melancholy and so many more emotions and colors. From one piece to the next, the rhythmic and tonal shifts are never violent. Really, the flow both creates connection and singularity. Each composition is itself but also a part of this whole project. […] Hershkovits hits so many high points that the anticipation for the next album is already bubbling up.

Konstantin N. Rega, Spectrum Culture

 

À la fois envoûtant et rafraîchissant, envirant et très groovy:  le cinquiéme disque de Nitai Hershkovits, son deuxième en solo, confirme l’étendue du talent du pianiste israélien, la puissance de son inspiration, son sens de la composition aboutie. […] Foisonnant de couleurs et de timbres, cet album de Nitai Hershkovits est un pur ravissment.

Yvan Duvivier, Ouest France Dimanche

 

C’est avant tout un jeu funambule que propose le pianist Nitai Hershkovits […] ce pianist aux origins multiples s’échappe des évidences standardisées pour explorer des mondes qui se frôlent, celui du jazz, de la musique classique, de la creation contemporaine, du néo-classicisme et pas seulement. La sagesse des anciens que convoque le titre de’l album résonne comme une conscience de l’histoire dans une musique bigarrée […] Les 18 pièces qui font cet album sont un voyage où les questions de style et de genre sont abandonnées au profit d’un syncrétisme naturel et presque naïf  qui réjouit doucement l’oreille. […] Le jeu du pianist est délicat, un peu pointu, à la limite de la fragilité. Il n’y a ni force ni violence: Nitai Hershkovits semble une route musicale, donner la main à l’auditeur mais sans leporter, pour s’autoriser le voyage d’un disque qu’il est conseillé d’ écouterd’un bout à l’autre pour en percevoir les amours multiples.

Pierre Solot, RTBF Musiq 3 (Choix Musical)

US and German reviewers on the new live album Strands by Palle Mikkelborg, Jakob Bro and Marilyn Mazur

 

A Danish jazz summit, the concert captured on Strands brings together three different generations of Denmark-born or based improvisers. Trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg is the connecting thread here: the elder statesman has worked extensively with both percussionist Marilyn Mazur (including on the mid-eighties Miles Davis album ‘Aura’, a suite composed by Mikkelborg) and guitarist Jakob Bro (cf. the 2018 signpost ‘Returnings’). This show recorded in Copenhagen puts Mazur in the middle of the ongoing Bro-Mikkelborg collaboration. Performing mostly the guitarist’s tunes, the arrangements lean heavily on the mystical atmosphere both men emit at their most comfortable, Bro’s liquid guitar lines and psychedelic loops setting the pace for Mikkelborg to ornate with sinuous trumpet or flugelhorn melodies. But Mazur adds a whimsical air, her trademark percussion insertions more about making the songs playful than keeping the beat. […] ‘Strands’ is a gorgeous record that makes us wish we’d been there that night.

Michael Toland, The Big Takeover

 

Das Repertoire, das überwiegend Stücke des Gitarristen Jakob Bro aus seinen Alben ‘Returnings’ und ‘Gefion’ enthielt (sowie Mikkelborgs Stück ‘Youth’ und ‘Returnings’, das Palle und Jakob gemeinsam geschrieben haben), bietet den drei Protagonisten den perfekten Rahmen. […] Percussionistin Marilyn Mazurs subtiles und akzentuierendes Spiel mit bedachtem Einsatz von Gongs und Metallen und polternden Trommeln harmoniert perfekt mit Bros weitläufigen und fluiden Klangflächen. Beides bildet den atmosphärischen Boden für Mikkelborgs ausdrucksstarke Zeitraffer-Melodien. So entsteht eine dichte Klanglandschaft, in der das Gefühl mehr zählt als der Verstand. […] Noch mehr als in den Studio-Versionen ist hier der Moment greifbar, nimmt Gestalt an und zieht weiter. Die Musik auf dieser Aufnahme funkelt trotz aller Schwermütigkeit lichterloh.

Sebastian Meißner, Sounds and Books

Early reactions to the freshly released album Zartir by Levon Eskenian and the Gurdjieff Ensemble

 

In the realm of contemporary music, the Gurdjieff Ensemble, led by Levon Eskenian, embarks on a journey of rediscovery and reinvention with ‘Zartir,’ its third opus. The album delves into various aspects of the life of Armenian mystic G.I. Gurdjieff, offering an opportunity to explore the origins and influences that shaped this enigmatic esoteric teacher, philosopher, and composer. Dedicated to the intricacies of Gurdjieff’s compositions, ‘Zartir’ encapsulates an unparalleled journey through music, paying homage to the illustrious Armenian bards and troubadours and seamlessly fusing spirituality with tradition. […] This cultural fusion of Gurdjieff’s compositions and Armenian folk heritage speaks to the ensemble’s dedication to preserving and celebrating their musical roots. Meticulous arrangements for folk instrumentation by Eskenian uncover hidden nuances in Gurdjieff’s compositions, providing fresh insights into the inspirations behind the Armenian-born visionary. […] Intricate arrangements in ‘Zartir’ pay homage to the work of Gurdjieff’s amanuensis, Thomas de Hartmann, who painstakingly transcribed and scored Gurdjieff’s compositions. However, Eskenian’s innovative interpretations breathe new life into the music, infusing the compositions with radiant colors, returning them to their natural context and ensuring the essence of Gurdjieff’s work shines through with clarity and authenticity. ‘Zartir’ is a powerfully evocative album, paying heartfelt tribute to Gurdjieff’s compositions while immersing the listener in the rich tapestry of Armenian and Middle Eastern musical traditions. Delicate, haunting, and atmospheric instrumental pieces invite the listener to become part of a deep and mysterious soundscape.

Nenad Georgievsky, Vintage Café

 

While Gurdjieff’s identity, beliefs and music are elusive, what The Gurdjieff Ensemble have created here is an atmospheric collection of mystical songs, contemplative pieces – the keening duduks of ’Introduction and Funeral March’ are beautiful  – and spiritual dances like the Mevlevi-inspired ’Trembling Dervish’. ‘Zartir’culminates in ‘The GreatPrayer’, a solemn finale with choir, supposedly based on a ritual from the Silk road city of Kashgar.

Simon Broughton, Songlines

 

‘Zartir’ bedeutet übersetzt so viel wie ‘Wach auf’. Und es steht exemplarisch für die Musik Musik auf dieser Platte. Mit reichlich Ambitionen, Botschaften und Tatendrang geht das elfköpfige Ensemble zur Sache, unterstützt vom National Chambers Chor of Armenia. Dass Eskenian diesmal den Schwerpunkt auf Text und Gesang legt, gibt den Stücken einen anderen Twist. Gurdjieff wird so in die Tradition der armenischen Barden und Troubadoure wie Ashugh Jivani, Baghdasar Tbir und dem legendären Sayat-Nova eingerahmt. Doch es gibt auf ‘Zartir’ auch Stücke, die für den sakralen Tanz geschrieben wurden. Vor allem ‘The Great Player’ sticht hervor. […] Es ist auch sein feinsinniges Gespür für das Arrangement, das den Aufnahmen ihren starken Zauber verleiht. Eskenian beherrscht die Opulenz ebenso wie die kleinen Gesten und bleibt stets nah am Gemeinten. ‘Zartir’ ist ein ganz großer Wurf. Ein bemerkenswerter Beitrag zum Erhalt und zur Weiterentwicklung des Lebenswerks eines musikalischen Visionärs und Einzelgängers. Das Album steckt voller ansteckender Lebendigkeit und aufrührerischer Kraft, die wach macht. Und gleichzeitig voller Anmut, Eleganz und Sanftmut.

Sebastian Meißner, Sounds and Books

 

A UK reviewer on the album Dance of the Elders by Wolfgang Muthspiel with Scott Colley and Brian Blade

 

‘Dance of the Elders’ is the third ECM trio album led by Austrian guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel. It follows on from ‘Angular Blues’ (2020), which had the same line-up of Scott Colley on double bass and Brian Blade on drums; and ‘Driftwood’ (2014), on which the bassist was Larry Grenadier.Of the first of these albums Muthspiel said, ‘I wanted to feature the liquidity and wide horizon of the guitar while also approaching the contrapuntal possibilities of a piano trio.’ Driftwood fully met this brief, Muthspiel’s classical and electric guitar – ably supported by two highly sensitive and responsive conversationalists – weaving an exquisite sonic filigree. And on the album Angular Blues, Muthspiel widened the horizon with techniques such as using delay to create intricate counterpoints. But on ‘Dance of the Elders’ the horizon feels even wider, especially on the first and longest piece, the hypnotic and aptly named ‘Invocation.’ […] Completing the track list are two covers. ‘Liebeslied’ (Kurt Weill / Bertolt Brecht), from ‘The Threepenny Opera’, is a surprising choice but successfully subsumed into the ECM aesthetic of the rest of the album. And to conclude, a heartfelt ‘Amelia’ that captures the languid feel of Joni Mitchell’s much-covered original. In summary, three simpatico players at the top of their game, broadening the horizons of the guitar trio.

Julian Maynard-Smith, London Jazz News

A Belgian reaction to Frozen Silence by Maciej Obara with Dominik Wania, Ole Morten Vågan and Gard Nilssen

 

Le travail d’Obara et Wania est superbe, et superbement soutenu par la rythmique norvégienne. Leur interactivité est exemplaire. Ecoutez ’Dry Mountain’, ’Frozen Silence’, ’Rainbow Leaves’, c’est formidable de tension, d’émotion et de beauté.

Jean-Claude Vantroyen, Le Soir

A leading UK daily on the vinyl re-issue of Keith Jarrett’s legendary Solo Concerts Bremen / Lausanne within the Luminessence series

 

Keith Jarrett has said that hearing Jamal for the first time changed his life. You can hear it in the first of the American pianist’s ‘Solo concerts: Bremen Lausanne’, which has been reissued for its 50th anniversary. With no rhythm section, he can’t use space like Jamal, but there is that same air of relaxed tension, while vamps and switches in style are used to hold the attention. Elements of everything from Ravel to ragtime, Gershwin to gospel are added to make something all his own. Fifty years on, it remains an impressive achievement.

Chris Pearson, The Times

An Austrian reaction to the recording of Henry Purcell Fantazias by the John Holloway Ensemble

 

Henry Purcell ist heute vor allem für seine Opern bekannt. Dabei schuf der barocke Starkomponist auch viel Vokal- und Instrumentalmusik, darunter zwölf ‘Fantazias’ für Gambenkonsort. Der englische Barockgeiger John Holloway hat die anmutigen, drei-und vierstimmigen Stücke in leicht abgeänderter Besetzung (zwei Bratschen, Cello) eingespielt. Purcells Beherrschung des Kontrapunkts, die unvermuteten Dissonanzen und exquisite Melodien beglücken ebenso wie das expressive Spiel der vier Musiker.

Miriam Damev, Falter

Current Concerts
& Events

Dominic Miller is playing almost 50 concerts across the globe in the cominig months

John Scofield and his trio are performing in the US and Asia in April and June. Throughout the year, more solo and quartet concerts are scheduled.

Fred Hersch is touring in support of his piano solo album 'Silent, Listening'