23.02.2024 | Reviews of the week

Reviews of the week

UK music magazines on the new album Songs Of Fate by Gidon Kremer with the Kremerata Baltica and Vida Miknevičiūtė


‘Songs of Fate’ presents a fascinating and expertly performed programme of unfamiliar repertoire that mirrors as well as celebrates Gidon Kremer’s Jewish and Baltic heritage. Central to the programme is a sequence of relatively early but immensely attractive works by Mieczyslaw Weinberg, the Polish-Jewish composer who has been championed by Kremer in recent years.

Erik Levi, BBC Music Magazine


Gidon Kremer has compiled an eloquent evocation and celebration of his Jewish heritage in an eclectic programme of music written since 1942. His choices offer stylistic variety and timbral diversity, but naturally much of the sentiment is melancholic and searching. Kremer ensures every violin note is vivid; his musical voice whispers and shouts, depicts fury and repose, weeping and sighing. He imbues a wide range of emotion with compelling character. Alongside his artistry, the soprano Vida Miknevičiutė is mesmerising, and Kremerata Baltica is beautifully honed, imbuing everything with great atmosphere.

Joanne Talbot, The Strad

US, UK and German media react to the freshly released album Words Unspoken by John Surman


Through an extended string of notable works as a reedist, composer, bandleader and sideman — and by sheer longevity- – John Surman had risen up the ranks of the UK jazz society and now he’s practically the dean of it. Arguably so for European jazz as a whole as well, and a stalwart of ECM Records’ lineup of legends since the mid 70s. But the seventy-nine year old saxophonist is not coasting to the sunset; he remains a very viable force still making music that pushes himself and the musicians with which he surrounds himself. ‘Words Unspoken’ is Surman’s latest case in point. For this project, Surman employed the ‘open composition’ approach, whereby he brought rough sketches and building blocks and left it to his band to work out together how these pieces of clay would be shaped into complete songs. For his ensemble, Surman chose Rob Luft (guitar), Rob Waring (vibraphone) and Thomas Strønen (drums, percussion), accomplished musicians from the UK, US and Norway, respectively. […] By painting impressionistic portraits out of cues and basic figures, John Surman got the best contributions from his quartet, as well as from himself. ‘Words Unspoken’ is a stunningly gorgeous record from an artist who long ago proved all he needed to prove.

Victor S. Aaron, Something Else Reviews


English multi-reedist John Surman makes a captivating return with this quartet album, ‘Words Unspoken’, featuring bandmates guitarist Rob Luft, vibraphonist Rob Waring, and Norwegian drummer Thomas Stronen. The title aptly reflects the group’s approach to music, and the words intuition and illumination come to mind whenever the pragmatic harmonic circularity of Surman’s modal pieces is on display as well as the outstanding improvisational prowess of all band members. There’s an ancient allure in this music that compels listeners to search as they navigate vivid sonic landscapes, both real and imaginary. […] The album’s perfect blend of sounds manifests Surman’s consummate musicality and artistic vision. ‘Words Unspoken’ is another winning album in a catalog full of them.

Filipe Freitas, Jazz Trail


It’s very much an ensemble set, full of interlocking lines, rolling-and-tumbling cyclic elements and subtle yet unpredictable melodic excursions, all of which bring a freshly minted quality to this lively and engaging album.

Roger Thomas, BBC Music Magazine (Five stars)


Surman turns 80 this August, but his restless imagination and urge to explore show little sign of diminishing. For his latest album he’s assembled  a brand new band featuring US vibraphonist Rob Waring, who played on Surman’s latest release, 2018’s ’Invisible Threads’, plus two new younger collaborators, UK guitarist Rob Luft and Norwegian drummer Thomas Strønen. Much of the album basks in the spacious ambient jazz waft that ECM’s legendarily pristine production values have allowed him to hone. The title track is a mirage of shimmering vibes, lightly shushing brushes and Bill Frisell-ish guitar swells and backwards curlicues, over which Surman’s baritone sax unfolds a melancholy lyricism.   Elsewhere, however, Surman makes the most of his nimble new group to stir up other energies. […]  Most striking of all is opening track ’Pebble Dance’ in which guitar and vibes set up a simple chiming figure with a hint of American minimalism, allowing Surman to blow an astonishing solo on soprano, bending the notes like an Arabic ney, trembling with emotion, intensely full and rich, desperately tragic and hopeful. It might be the most human sound you’ll hear this year.

Daniel Spicer, The Wire


Was für ein schönes Album! Der britische Saxofonist John Surman hatte schon immer einen unvergleichlich kultivierten Ton, den er auf Sopran- und Baritonsaxophon sowie auf der Bassklarinette auch auf seinem neuen Album abzurufen weiß. Mit Gitarrist Rob Luft, Vibrafonist Rob Waring und Schlagzeuger Thomas Strønen schließt der79-Jährige an die großen Erfolge seiner ECM-Alben aus den1970er und 80erJahren an. Er ist ein romantisch expressiver Landschaftsmaler, dessen Klangfarbenauftrag stets an seinen Landsmann William Turner erinnert. Sein Farbauftrag ist kräftig und doch transparent, das Klanglicht seiner Kompositionen suggeriert kosmische Weite.

Wolf Kampmann, Eclipsed

The new duo album Touch of Time by Arve Henriksen and Harmen Fraanje is reviewed in the UK, US and Belgium


These ten mostly short tracks are full of subtle, aerated fragments that seem to imply rather than state melody and harmony, where the most subtracted  of musical gestures assume  significance against a backdrop of contemplative near-stillness.

Roger Thomas, BBC Music Magazine


What exactly is a ‘Redream?’ Yes, it’s the third piece on trumpeter Arve Henriksen and pianist Harmen Fraanje’s new collaborative album and one of Fraanje’s own compositions, but is it a dream reboot or a contemplative revisitation of somnolence, a ‘regard’ a la Messiaen in contemplation of the baby Jesus? Like the music on ‘Touch of Time’, that elusive title occupies a between space, a glance toward opposites that never quite solidify as expected but float by, imbued with  introspective calm. As with so many ECM albums, music and production were made for each other. Henriksen’s sound has been documented enough to need little description. Its combination of reed, flute and voice expands and obfuscates in tandem, but the breath supporting that constantly morphing timbre may never have been caught with just this level of detail in motion. It moves in physical space with the same easy grace carrying each note toward the myriad conclusions Henriksen has perfected […] Fraanje’s pianism is captured in similarly staggering detail. Every nuance of ‘Redream’’s pianism is front and center, and it’s as if we can watch him pedal, digging deep into each gesture as his foot teases phrases forth with rhythmic variation akin to Henriksen’s breath control. His incorporation of melodic fragments outside whatever scale the duo’s inhabiting demonstrates a masterful adventurousness, a subtly inquisitive nature tempering harmonic stasis, whispering mischievous implications at the boundaries of conventional expression. […] ‘Touch of Time’ is one of the label’s most stirring recent examples of double-narrative. Dig deeper into the electronics Henriksen employs to find worlds of undulant harmony in glorious states of becoming, and each note Fraanje plays decays with his instrument’s glorious overtones in full view. Go deeper still into each key stroke and sonic moment to find that timbre succumbs to similar flights of fancy. Are those metallic cube sounds peppering an atmosphere? Is there a ghost harmony just below a melodic surface? Did those notes external to the scale really fit perfectly after all? Re-audition tells one story, then another, and finally reiterates the first in a new way, a (re)experience well worth having.

Marc Medwin, Dusted


What a pleasure this album is — the first from Arve Henriksen and Harmen Fraanje working as a duo. […] Fraanje’s work is understated and subtle, with the whole record epitomising the quiet, minimalist music the German label is renowned for. What makes it distinctive is Henriksen’s signature playing, in which he fashions a muted flute-like sound unlike any other trumpet player I can think of.

Ian Sinclair, Morning Star


Des lignes de trompette, souvent ornée d’électronique, des lignes de piano, qui se rejoignent, s’assemblent, forment corps tendrement, délicatement, fragilement. Les compositions des deux artistes sont des structures dans lesquelles l’un et l’autre s’engouffrent avec sensibilité et douceur. Les dix plages de cet album, ‘Touch of Time’, sont d’une esthétique particulière, faite d’acuité, de grâce, de minimalisme, de lyrisme, de romantisme même.

Jean-Claude Vantroyen, Le Soir

Another US reaction to the new album Compassion by Vijay Iyer with Linda May Han Oh and Tyshawn Sorey


The disjunct octaves don’t so much unfurl as radiate from a center of spinning molecules, masses and dotted planes gradually expanding, like a universe or a long-contained breath, elements in flux as they escape, coalesce and disperse. ‘Nonaah’ is the perfect vehicle for the trio of Vijay Iyer, Linda May Han Oh and Tyshawn Sorey and a stunningly vibrant distillation of what sets the group, and this album, apart from so many others. Roscoe Mitchell’s now-iconic piece is itself a flame of many colors, changing states with each varied-ensemble iteration. This version, a kind of nucleus in flux lasting a mere 2:30, reveals its secrets only as the miniature rushes toward its denouement. Each piece on this trio’s sophomore album inhabits a similar place of mystery. […] Sorey pushes, pulls, cajoles, confronts and rides each rhythmic rapid ‘Maelstrom’ offers up, driving hard as the trio kicks that open modal sound to the next level. His cymbal work opening the album is nothing less than magical, and here, the hat must be doffed to ECM’s production wizardry. They capture each interplay of wire, metal and skin as Sorey swings the group along its delicate way through a brilliantly novel take on Stevie Wonder’s ‘Overjoyed,’ itself a nod to the late lamented Chick Corea.

Marc Medwin, Dusted Magazine


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'

Nik Bärtsch's Ronin performs in the US, Mexico and Switzerland.